• Click here to see video of moviegoers waiting in line for the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."
Not bad. Not great, either.
“The Dark Knight Rises” boasts a strong setup, some snappy one-on-one dialogue, great art direction and special effects and flashes of excellent character acting.
But I've seen better Batman movies, including director Christopher Nolan's first two in this trilogy.
And I've seen better bomb-hostage beat-the-clock movies, which is what “The Dark Knight Rises” boils down to, with a whole lot of myth and legend tacked on.
Still, Nolan's much-vaunted effort to bring some realism to the comic-book genre has not gone missing.
As with his first two chapters, the central theme of the movie resonates with our time, pitting the haves (Gotham City's power elite) against the have-nots — a terrorist group fronted by masked villain Bane (Tom Hardy) that raids the stock exchange, determined to “restore balance to civilization.”
Unfortunately, their idea of balance is treating Gotham City like a biblical Gomorrah, wiping it off the map by turning a clean-energy experiment into a nuclear bomb. Naturally, the fusion device is in a Wayne Enterprises secret research chamber.
The movie opens eight years after “The Dark Knight.” Batman is stuck in self-imposed exile and mourning since he took the rap for Harvey Dent's crimes.
“You've hung up your cape and your cowl, but you didn't move on,” butler Alfred (Michael Caine) tells Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale). “This isn't living.”
Alfred wants Wayne to find a girl and settle down. And fusion-energy investor Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) would like to be that girl.
But a cat burglar (Anne Hathaway, near perfect as Catwoman) and an honest cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, also spot-on) soon put Wayne on the trail of a new underground plot — in Gotham's sewers.
By the time they've figured out what's happening, Bane has gained control of Gotham, imprisoned Batman, and started that ticking clock. How he does it, and the pushback, aren't compelling enough to make 2 hours and 44 minutes feel like less.
What was best about this movie? The most human moments, as when Alfred confronts Wayne about his future, or when Gordon-Levitt talks about masking the anger he feels in his bones, or flashbacks that show us the forces that shaped Bane into who he has become. Plus a couple of clever surprise twists.
What's worst? Gasbag sermons about freedom and justice and plot points that pass from credible to nonsensical.
Fans of the action genre will appreciate a midair kidnapping from one plane to another, a chase scene in which police pursue Batman, and explosions in a football stadium. A climactic chase in the final moments did not rise to edge-of-your-seat status, however.
Hathaway makes such a great Catwoman, you can't tell from one moment to the next whose side she's on — a guessing game Nolan keeps going almost to the end.
Bane can't compete with past villains, particularly Heath Ledger's Joker, because a mask and an electronic voice rob him of expression or the ability to connect with the audience.
As for brooding Bruce/Batman himself, Bale registers more emotion this time than last, but that's not setting the bar terribly high. Gary Oldman does better as Police Commissioner Gordon, feeling the weight of his past compromises.
A closing coda should satiate those who like tidy endings. It also leaves open the door for rabid fans to clamor for more.
Contact the writer:
Video: Batman fans tell us how big of fans they are at midnight premier of "The Dark Knight Rises."