“The Dark Knight Rises”
The latest Batman movie is a mess. It’s too long for no reason. The sound is muddy and the harsh background music unnecessarily competes with the dialogue at the same decibel level. There’s lots more anarchy and chaos and suffering than anything else, including anything appealing, like humor, or love, or romance, or happiness. There’s nothing cute or winsome here. Just rough characters and hard circumstances, and at the end, we only wonder who’s going to be standing alone in the smoking rubble, trying to recover from all the catastrophic disasters. Are we having fun yet?
Christian Bale reprises his role as Bruce Wayne, the wealthy entrepreneur/Batman, the caped crusader against crime. But he appears to be broken down, reclusive, and inert. It seems he’s still recovering from the physical injuries suffered during his last bout with evil, where he got blamed for the slaughter of the innocent. His brooding indifference has caused his financial empire to begin to crumble, also. Even his loyal servant, Alfred (Michael Caine, in a brilliant secondary role) worries that his “master” has lost his will and his verve, and is really only waiting to die ingloriously.
Enter evil, both in forms that are recognizable, and also cleverly hidden under a couple of disguises. This leaves the viewer at least a little suspense: is the Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) merely an accomplished thief, or could she be the crook with the heart of gold? Is it Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman, in a convincing portrayal) who has blood on his hands and larceny in his heart? True, Bane (Tom Hardy) never pretended to be anything but a growling warlord, but could he possibly have a softer side, which might turn out to be a weakness? And is the helpful policeman John (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) somehow auditioning for the role of Robin? Marion Cotillard as a beautiful chameleon? Liam Neeson ironically appearing just when they’re talking about, Jedi-like, tapping into internal energy?
Yes, there’s a kind of implied assumption of The Force at work here, energizing and helping, but also seducing people to their darker sides. And while we’re discussing implications, who would have thought of Batman as a Christ figure, a kind of self-sacrificial save-the-world type of Messiah? Well, at least he saves New York City.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is indeed dark. And gloomy. And painfully slow in places. We seem to spend a lot of time in dungeons and underground prisons, and blowing things up. Yes, we know it’s a film-noir comic book. But perhaps a little lighter touch, and a little milk of human kindness, and a little hint of occasional levity could have improved it greatly. Not to mention a good editor.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving, Texas