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Download The Dark Knight Rises

Download The Dark Knight Rises

Download The Dark Knight Rises

With his new film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” Christopher Nolan completes the triptych that he started with “Batman Begins” (2005) and continued with “The Dark Knight” (2008). So now we have the full saga of our hero, from childhood trauma to grand apotheosis. We see how Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), the compulsive loner and eccentric billionaire, has transformed himself into Batman, the scourge of evil and savior of Gotham City. At last, we are able to grasp what links these two incarnations: each, it turns out, is a pain in the neck.

Be honest. How badly would you not want Bruce—or Batman—to show up at one of your parties? He has no small talk (and Bale, as an actor, has charisma but no charm), although ask him about fear, anger, and other large abstract nouns, especially as they relate to him, and he’ll keep you in the corner all night. He doesn’t eat or drink, besides toying with a flute of champagne. Basic human tasks are beyond his reach; direct Batman to the bathroom, and it would take him twenty minutes of hydraulic shunting simply to unzip. On the rare occasions when Bruce, fresh from his helicopter or his Lamborghini, enters a reception with a girl or two on his arm, he looks deeply uncomfortable, and Nolan, as if sharing that unease, tends to hurry him through the moment. The point—and, after three installments, it seems a fatal one—is that the two halves of our hero form not a beguiling contrast but a dreary, perfect match. Both as Wayne and as super-Wayne he seems indifferent, as the films themselves are, to the activities of little people, and to the claims of the everyday, preferring to semi-purse his lips, as if preparing to whistle for an errant dog, and stare pensively into the distance. Caped or uncaped, the guy is a bore. He should have kids; that would pull him out of himself. Or else he should hang out with Iron Man and get wasted. He should have fun.

The third film picks up where its predecessors left off, the implication being that anyone unschooled in those two works is not worthy, and not welcome. “I knew Harvey Dent,” Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) says, in the opening scene, and if you murmur, “Harvey who?,” it’s time to bail. Harvey Dent, in “The Dark Knight,” was a good man turned bad, the district attorney who cleaned up Gotham City but sullied his soul; Gordon is the good cop who stayed good, his mustache and glasses, like Groucho’s, unchanged with the passing years. Newcomers include Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), another pure policeman, and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a businesswoman with a past even more loaded than her wallet; regulars include Alfred (Michael Caine), the butler-cum-pedagogue who has always dwelt by Bruce’s side, and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), who does pretty much what Q does in the Bond movies, except that he does it with the air of someone offering up pieces of the True Cross.

To give credit where it’s due, the spiffiness of the gadgets remains intact. We still have the Bat-Pod, which looks like a motorbike crossed with a very angry praying mantis. Its near-spherical wheels spin on some complicated gimbal system, allowing it to hang a sharp left without describing anything as tedious as a curve. Nothing was finer than its begetting, in “The Dark Knight,” when it burst forth from the body of the Tumbler, Batman’s four-wheeled vehicle of choice; the signature image of the trilogy, best viewed from a low angle, is of our guy crouched over his long machine, his cloak streaming behind him, as he powers through the night. This time, he has an addition to his stable: a flying craft, with two enclosed rotors underneath, which allow it to dink around tall buildings and, presumably, to chop vegetables in the event that Alfred wants to make a pot-au-feu. Visually, the new toy is less striking than the Pod, as you can tell from its unambitious name. “I just took to calling it the Bat,” Lucius says. Not so fantastic, Mr. Fox.

Batman needs all the gizmos he can muster, if he is to defeat his latest and most potent foe. Bane (Tom Hardy) is a muscleman, who was, we are told, “born and raised in Hell on earth,” which sounds like an unused lyric by Spinal Tap. Near the start, he is sprung from an airplane, in flight; later, with the push of a button, he sets off a train of explosions in the Gotham sewers, leading to extravagant results on a football field. Both scenes have appeared in trailers, which is a shame, because a Nolan spectacle is nothing without its detonation of surprise; he is an instinctive showman, who may be Kubrick-careful in his compositions but who harks back to De Mille in his unabashed devotion to the big event. When the edge of a city, in “Inception” (2010), curled up and ascended to the vertical, we goggled with joyous amazement, like infants turning the page of a pop-up book. Conversely, the earnest revelations allotted to Marion Cotillard, in that movie, seemed out of place, undone by the curious rule that governs Nolan’s oeuvre: the heavier the emotion, the less it means to us. We go to his films to gasp, not to yearn or pity or weep, except over the paucity of our own automobiles.

Who, then, in “The Dark Knight Rises” does the rising? Not Bruce; the slacker we see wandering through the Wayne mansion at the beginning can hardly get out of his pajamas. Carnally, too, he seems about as risen as flatbread; over three films, we have waited for him to have Bat-core sex, hanging upside down from a rafter and emitting cries of sonar, and what has he given us? Not a squeak. There is one canoodle here, in front of a homely hearth, but it’s laughably chaste, and our masochistic lover boy seems far more aroused by trading punches with Bane. We are left, then, with yeasty political risings: a resentful mob, summoned by Bane, who instructs the downtrodden of Gotham to surge up against their overlords.

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  • Posted On August 8, 2012
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