Fans of Christopher Nolan’s dark, brooding Batman trilogy will probably read every review out there on his final installment, The Dark Knight Rises. Expectations are that high. Can this compete with the mind-boggling, Mack truck–flipping display in The Dark Knight? Will Tom Hardy as Bane even come close to Heath Ledger’s sadistic, Oscar-winning Joker? And what is Anne Hathaway doing in this movie?
I’ll add one more voice to the chorus: I wanted another experience like The Dark Knight, and this wasn’t it. Closer in tone to the first installment, Batman Begins, DKR relies less on nerve-wracking at maximum velocity, and instead delves deeper into Batman’s psyche. Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne is (once again) a broken man, a Batman forced out of retirement by the rise of the terrorist Bane, who’s threatening to level Gotham with a nuclear bomb. While Tom Hardy (who got his big break in Nolan’s Inception ) looks the part of terrifying wackjob with the Ace Hardware mask covering his face, when he opens his mouth, he’s more a British Darth Vader—hard to understand, and a little sad. Don’t get me wrong: The Bane-Batman faceoffs are thunderous throwdowns, like Zeus and Thor in a Friday night fight, but Bane doesn’t inspire the kind of chaos that the Joker and Two-Face did. He’s leading an army of former orphans, sewer dwellers, and 99 percenters in a more high-minded siege on Gotham’s 1 percent; they turn the New York Stock Exchange into a shooting gallery, but not without some well-timed commentary.
Weasely day trader: "This is the stock exchange. There’s no money you can steal."
Bad guy: "Really? Then why are you here?"
Zing! This movie also has its share of ponderous life philosophies—no one ever called Christian Bale a comedian—but the best banter we get comes from Anne Hathaway as a masked cat burglar (they never call her Catwoman, but, you know…). I’ll be the first to admit, I was wrong about Hathaway. She’s one of the best things in this movie, a sleek sneak who toes the line between friend and foe with a knowing smile, and maybe a little nibble if you get too close. Along with Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, a philanthropist and Bruce Wayne love interest, the ladies keep things interesting.
Though the movie’s trailer—with city stadiums and bridges collapsing in IMAX and HD glory—might have drawn us in, those special effects weren’t the biggest spectacle in this movie. It was the thrilling final hour, where the trilogy’s story comes full circle just as a nuke is about to explode, that Nolan does his finest work. It’s worth the wait.