“The Dark Knight Rises”

Richard’s Review:  4 1/2 stars

It is ironic that Mitt Romney’s former company Bain shares a pronunciation but not a spelling with the villain in “The Dark Knight Rises.” I say ironic because in the film it is Batman and not the burly bad guy who takes on the Occupy movement.   Eight movie years have passed since Batman (Christian Bale) last donned the cape. He’s become a recluse, having assumed responsibility for District Attorney Harvey Dent’s crimes in the hopes that if the Dent anti-crime act worked Gotham would become a peaceful city. That move proved successful until a cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) instigated a series of events that would draw the caped Crusader from retirement to fight his mightiest foe yet, Bane (Tom Hardy).

In a battle that will delight and confound Occupy veterans, Wall Streeters are gunned down and a billionaire strives to take back the streets from the “one per cent.” 

It’s a story that seems like it played out in real life on our streets, albeit without capes, gadgets and murderous villains. When Selina purrs "You're all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us,” into Bruce Wayne’s ear, it sounds ripped from the headlines. Such is the timeliness of the film, but let’s not forget that this is a summer blockbuster, not a treatise on the haves and the have-nots. 

The film aspires to be “A Tale of Two Cities” with a cowl, and there’s lots of talk of “restoring the balance of civilization.” But it is also a very entertaining action movie. The first seven minutes provide as wild a scene as has ever been captured by IMAX cameras. As well, the film has no shortage of colorful characters. 

Bale grimaces and growls with the best of them in this franchise entry.  Loyal manservant Alfred (Michael Caine) emotes more feeling than usual for a superhero flick and Morgan Freeman is an oasis of calm amid the film’s chaos. Gary Oldham is also the model of steely determination as Commissioner Gordon.

The expected complexity of these characters is on ample display, but it is the new characters that shine in this movie.

As the brooding hulk that speaks like a slightly loony Shakespearian villain, Hardy is an imposing presence. Grandiose though he is Bane lacks the chaotic charm of Heath Ledger’s Joker. However, as sadistic scoundrels go he’s one part modern-day terrorist and two parts Attila the Hun.

Anne Hathaway had to overcome the memory of a much-loved performance by Michelle Pfeiffer, but from her first appearance the slate is wiped clean.

Charismatic, charming and sexy, Hathaway dropped Pfeifer’s paw-licking cat mannerisms for this film and presents a physical, complex character whose chemistry with Bale burns up the screen.        

On the side of law and order is idealistic Gotham cop John Blake, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He’s heavy on the exposition, but what could have been a throw-a-way role is transformed into a real person in a film filled with super villains and improbable situations. 

Nolan favorite Marion Cotillard also brings a feminine touch and some mystery to an enigmatic, plot-heavy story.

Is “The Dark Knight Rises” a perfect summer movie? It’s certainly in the running, but there are a few let downs. 

It is a heroic tale and the beautiful IMAX photography creates a larger-than-life feel for the epic story. That said it also exposes some missteps in the fight choreography. With the picture blown up to the size of a football field, some of the fighting is just this side of convincing.

Also, The Dark Knight himself spends relatively little time in the cape. Instead we’re shown more of the inner life of the character. That’s not a bad thing, but let’s face it -- clothes make the man and the Bat suit is one of the key props in the series. 

The early fear that Bane’s dialogue would be unintelligible isn’t completely unfounded. With his mouth hidden beneath a mask Hardy delivers an effective performance with just his eyes. Unfortunately, lines like 'There can be no true despair without hope!'' often end up sounding like a garbled mixture of drunken whispers and baby talk.

“The Dark Knight Rises” is a very accomplished blockbuster. At two-hours-and-forty-four minutes it manages to provide the thrills associated with the genre, but also takes time to create memorable characters.

It’s a grand finale to Nolan’s Batman movies.