Can you please everyone?
Christopher Nolan, co-writer and director of the star-stuffed “The Dark Knight Rises,” sure tries.
Can you please the die-hard fans? (Yes.) Can you please the average movie-going public? (Yes.) Can you please the acid-tongued critics just waiting for a slip-up? (Kind of?) Can you please the historians, who will at least partly judge his visionary “Dark Knight” trilogy on the strength of what he’s promised is the final chapter, “The Dark Knight Rises”? (We’ll see.)
Nolan’s magnum opus is drenched in the obvious responsibility he feels to the millions of Batman fans, the ones he created and the ones he cultivated. They’re the same ones who turned out in droves to see his first two “Batman” films, the second of which (2008′s “The Dark Knight”) is as close to a perfect blockbuster movie as we’ve ever seen and may never see again.
We don’t see nearly that level of perfection in “Dark Knight Rises.” Instead, we get what we hoped for previously from the “Batman” franchise before he blew our minds with “The Dark Knight.”
Plodding yet powerful, political but playful, precise and still punchy, “The Dark Knight Rises” is a very, very good movie.
Eight years after Batman sped off into self-exile, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale, who isn’t nearly as good as he was in “Dark Knight”) is a shell of himself. His support system crashes down around him, leaving him no choice but to side with a common jewel thief (an almost painfully thin-looking Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman) when looking for new allies.
He’s met in battle by the ominous Bane (Tom Hardy, buff enough to be tested by Major League Baseball for PEDs), who can only be characterized as maniacally brute and brilliant at the same time. There’s a tricky B-story of ominous nuclear disaster and either a shot at or support of (still can’t figure out which) the already dated 99 percenters, but the movie puts all of its faith in good versus evil, Batman versus Bane and the ultimate chaos he represents.
Nolan likely knows better than anyone that perfection is a curse. When you attain it, people expect it again. And again. And again. And … yeah. When Nolan followed up the dizzying, sprawling perfection of “The Dark Knight” with the near-perfection of the controlled insanity of “Inception” in 2010, the fluke factor was over. Now Nolan put himself on a higher plane, one where perfection is almost routine. We don’t just want it from him. We expect it.
But what commoners like us tend to gloss over about perfection is the internal struggle within the person who reached that height. The outside pressures are a fraction of the expectations of what a Type-A personality perfectionist demands of himself. So while movie reviewers, fans and casual observers may praise or deride him, the only person whose opinion counts in this matter is Nolan himself.
And when he sits back 10 years from now to watch “The Dark Knight Rises” during a random viewing on FX, he’ll know it isn’t perfection. He’ll be madder than any die-hard fan, more critical than any reviewer, angrier than any movie historian.
Then he’ll shrug his shoulders, roll over and fall asleep. He’ll accept reality and, before he closes his eyes, he’ll mutter to himself the most appropriate compliment anyone can give “Dark Knight Rises”:
“It’s still pretty darn good.” GRADE: B