No film this year faces higher expectations than "The Dark Knight Rises," the ambitious conclusion to Christopher Nolan's pitch-black Batman trilogy. And yet, like the caped crusader himself, Nolan has been known to pull off some pretty remarkable feats — the latest being that "Rises" appears to live up to the hype.
The Times' own Kenneth Turan calls "The Dark Knight Rises" a "dazzling conclusion" that "is more than an exceptional superhero movie, it is masterful filmmaking by any standard." Although it "might be the bleakest, most despairing superhero film ever made," it remains "potent, persuasive and hypnotic" and matches the quality of the previous two films. The script, by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, with a story credit for David S. Goyer, "brings a whiff of contemporary societal trends," a rare but welcome element in the superhero genre.
New cast members Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Anne Hathaway all perform admirably, and Nolan's "top-flight crew" — including cinematographer Wally Pfister and composer Hans Zimmer — delivers the goods once again.
Ty Burr of the Boston Globe chimes in with a helpful reminder: "In case you’d forgotten … this is what a superhero movie is supposed to look like." Nolan, he writes, "brings his Batman trilogy to a close with a majestic, almost completely satisfying crash." As Batman, Christian Bale "brings the crazy-eyed intensity that makes him so alarmingly enjoyable to watch," and Hardy "disappears far beneath the surface of this character while suggesting hideous depths." Even so, Hathaway is unexpectedly "the film's chief delight, completely at home in ball gown or cat suit, kickboxing thugs with a serrated stiletto heel, and keeping Wayne/Batman off-balance with acidly deployed taunts."
Though less taken with the film, the New York Times' Manohla Dargis still declares "Rises" a "grave and satisfying finish to Mr. Nolan’s operatic bat-trilogy." Nolan delivers a "grim, unsettling vision of a lawless city," but he also entertains, "for the most part effortlessly." The film is "at once lighter and darker than its antecedents … believable and preposterous, effective as a closing chapter and somewhat of a letdown if only because Mr. Nolan … hasn’t surmounted 'The Dark Knight' or coaxed forth another performance as mesmerizingly vital as Heath Ledger’s Joker in that film."
Like Burr and Dargis, the Washington Post's Ann Hornaday also invokes the word "satisfying,"writing that Nolan "has made a completely satisfying movie with 'The Dark Knight Rises,' one steeped enough in self-contained mythology to reward hard-core fans while giving less invested viewers a rousing, adroitly executed piece of popcorn entertainment."
Among the film's detractors is Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune, who describes it as "more of a 164-minute anxiety disorder than a movie." He concedes, "There are many things to admire in 'The Dark Knight Rises,' and Nolan’s bombast is a far, far higher grade than you’d find in a 'Transformers' movie." On the other hand, Phillips says, "nothing in the film … meets or exceeds the crises of 'The Dark Knight.'"
Perhaps that's another thing Nolan and Batman have in common: Their pasts are always looming over them.
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