By this time of summer, many of the big budget blockbusters start to look the same. And The Dark Knight Rises is no exception.
This Dark Knight does not actually rise, but it also never completely falters either. It hovers in mediocre middle ground, never catching fire and actually becoming fun to watch.
This slackness, noticeable in a movie nearing three hours, would previously seem impossible for a highly regarded franchise overseen by respected director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Batman Begins).
In trying to narrow down what throws this latest Batman saga off course, a good place to begin would be with the main villain, Bane (insert political joke here), a nearly anonymous figure despite the retrofitted goalie mask he wears throughout.
Unfortunately, this facial adornment makes almost everything he says unintelligible, a disservice to Tom Hardy, the otherwise fine actor stuck behind the mask.
The other main objection comes in the overwritten, over-plotted script by Nolan and his brother Jonathan. They simply cram in too much, obscuring plot lines along with motivations, explanations and various character stories.
Among several options, the plot itself centers mainly around a nuclear device that Bane and his seemingly massive army steal and then threaten to use to blow up New York — uh, Gotham.
And of course this propels Batman (Christian Bale) to come out of his self-imposed funk and save the day in a succession of face-offs and battle sequences.
Other crises faced by Batman and Police Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) focus on a device that wipes out identities, as well as a financial collapse triggered by Bane’s attack on Wall Street. In addition, some odd sort of Occupy movement’s activity seems to be taking place in the midst of the chaos.
Marion Cotillard and Anne Hathaway inject some needed flavor by taking the gratuitous good and bad female roles, although which is which is left open. As the unnamed Catwoman figure, Hathaway delivers some of the film’s few attempts at humor.
The Dark Knight Rises takes a gritty approach, looking rougher and hazier than its glossy predecessor, even though both were photographed by Wally Pfister. Hans Zimmer supplies the non-stop pulsating musical score that threatens to drown out every scene.
But the cast ranks as possibly the year’s best, with even the many minor roles taken by quality talent.
Yet despite the expected overall high production values, the film never takes off.
The Dark Knight Rises
Rated PG-13, 164 minutes.