Monday, July 23, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan's trilogy-concluding "The Dark Knight Rises" assaults the viewer with the unrelenting bass thump of a Hans Zimmer score (which also marred "Inception"), its queasily violent vision of a downtrodden Gotham held hostage by an unremarkable villain, and endless, nothing-special scenes of hand-to-hand combat, CGI effects, and green-screen projections. At 165 bloated minutes, it's boring beyond belief.

Batman took the fall for the death of Harvey Dent and has gone off-grid at Wayne Manor, where Michael Caine as Alfred delivers a series of meaningless pep talks. He finally returns to action when Bane, a bald terrorist with a gas mask for a mouth, brings a nuclear bomb to a football game and announces plans to detonate it the next day. (The mask is one of several terrible ideas in the movie, preventing actor Tom Hardy from projecting any villainous emotion.) For a storyline with such high stakes, it's astonishing how many dull fistfights Nolan fills the movie with, all of them using the Colorado College system (take on one enemy at a time).

The voices of both Batman and Bane are muffled by masks. I have no idea why this was done, but the effect is to ensure that the audience misses every fifth word spoken by each of them. Christian Bale, a giving and talented actor, is hamstrung by the part, unable to generate any emotional response or moment of resonance. An A-list of actors inhabits secondary roles, from Marion Cotillard and Morgan Freeman to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Liam Neeson and Gary Oldman. None makes an impression.

Only Anne Hathaway surprises in a counterintuitive bit of casting as Selina Kyle, the Catwoman. But Hathaway is not an actress to whom audiences connect, and even her scenes fail to zing. Little in the movie feels fresh, from flooded subterranean laboratories to mano-a-mano battles to the death in abandoned buildings. Even the best effect, shown in the trailer, of the ground coming apart behind a rushing football player, lacks that wow factor. "The Dark Night Rises" is the kind of blockbuster spectacle you experience, not the kind you enjoy.

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