Blu-ray/DVD Review ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

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As a longtime fan of the Batman character in print and on screen, I’m happy for the zillions of Bat-fans who adored the finale of director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, due Tuesday from Warner Bros. on Blu-ray and DVD. I’ve never told anyone they shouldn’t enjoy a movie just because I didn’t, and yes, I didn’t particularly enjoy this one. Of course, I hope the same tolerance of taste extends to me and I don’t get savaged for having my different opinion.

I know, I know. The reviews were ecstatic, and the public response huge, overcoming the horrible tragedy of the Colorado shooting at a midnight screening. And the cast is about as good as a comics-based movie gets, from a brooding Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman to weighty co-stars such as Gary Oldman (whose police commissioner is my favorite character of this series), Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. I interviewed them all in LA on a junket for the first film, so I feel a connection there with some fine actors doing their best for what’s still essentially a comics hero movie (note that, rightly, I didn’t say “superhero”).

But much as I love Anne Hathaway as an actress — and a face — her Catwoman left me cold, in large part because there was no underlying Selina Kyle to give the hard-nosed anti-heroine any depth. I’m sorry, but Michelle Pfeiffer set the standard for this part 20 years ago in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, not just as Catwoman, but as the humanized and tortured Selina, a woman whose essence is utterly lacking here.

Nor was I a fan of Tom Hardy’s Bane, a banal bully whose Darth Vader-lite voice box made him sound oddly like the guy who used to do folksy voice-overs for Smucker’s jelly commercials (Mason Adams). When your bad-ass villain makes a viewer snicker at such a contrast, that’s a glitch.

Beyond that, was this a Batman movie? For long stretches of its long (164-minute) length, Batman or Wayne weren’t anywhere to be seen. Instead, the film wallowed in violent domestic terrorism, and if you read a “reap what you sow” message into that, I won’t stop you. And how many films in film history have involved a race to stop a nuclear bomb from detonating? I mean, it feels almost as routine on screen as a serial-killer plot.

I’m not saying the film didn’t involve me, or that it wasn’t well executed in many respects, including the outstanding action scenes (examined in sharp detail in the  Blu-ray’s many fine extra features). I’m just saying that, while I appreciate the darker Batman of recent pop-cultural history, this dark movie, while ambitious as hell, didn’t do it for me.

— Bruce Westbrook

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