July 26, 2012

'Dark Knight Rises' a satisfying conclusion to trilogy


---- — Earlier this month, “The Amazing Spider-Man” took to the screen in a superhero remake that no one asked for.

This weekend, however, “The Dark Knight Rises” — a sequel that moviegoers demanded following Christopher Nolan’s brilliant “The Dark Knight” — reached theaters and showed what a superhero movie can be.

Quite possibly the first comic book movie that can seriously be called an epic, “The Dark Knight Rises” is flawed and nearly three hours long, but it’s a completely satisfying conclusion to Nolan’s trilogy.

The film is complex and unrelentingly grim, but it’s made on a majestic scale, offering jaw-dropping effects and action set pieces to go with deep characters and excellent performances.

“The Dark Knight Rises” picks up eight years from where “The Dark Knight” left off. Batman, having nobly taken the fall for the death of district attorney Harvey Dent, is out of action, but Gotham City’s streets have been cleaned without him. Alter-ego Bruce Wayne is similarly missing — now a billionaire hermit, with his body and his spirit broken.

A new imposing super-villain, Bane, and a new threat to Gotham City might just be the things to get Batman to don the cowl one more time, however.

Christian Bale is almost understated as the brooding title character, tackling doubts and emotional issues on top of bad guys.

He’s still got the old band together — Michael Caine as an emotional Alfred, Morgan Freeman providing gadgets as Lucius Fox, Gary Oldman as a mostly bed-ridden Commissioner Gordon.

The cast’s newcomers add quite a bit to the mix as well, with Nolan staging an “Inception” reunion, minus Leonardo DiCaprio.

Marion Cotillard plays Miranda Tate, a rich philanthropist and potential love interest. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is John Blake, an honest young beat cop who admires Batman.

Most significant is an unrecognizable — physically and vocally — Tom Hardy as the villain Bane. Bane has bulging muscles, a face obscured by a mask and a creepily enhanced voice that hints of a more ruthless Darth Vader.

The ogre-like Bane wants to free the oppressed masses of Gotham City … apparently by blowing them up. Can no one stop this madman?

Anne Hathaway had nothing to do with “Inception,” but she’s another welcome addition to “The Dark Knight Rises,” playing Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman). Hathaway’s talented burglar tiptoes between the hero and villain, looks spectacular in tight leather and generates what little humor the movie has.

The film tackles big philosophical questions and perhaps takes itself too seriously. There is much exposition, and in retrospect certain scenes aren’t very logical. Nolan, however, has built such a thrilling and complicated world that the tiny flaws are obscured.

Though this is purportedly the final chapter in Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, I have a feeling someone new will pick up Batman’s body armor and run with it.

Rental Recommendation: After a grim “Dark Knight” trilogy, you’ll want to giggle a little with Adam West’s camp classic “Batman: The Movie.” Grade: B.