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The Dark Knight Rises

DRESSED TO IMPRESS: Christian Bale suits up one last time in Christopher Nolan's highly-anticipated, sure-to-be blockbuster, 'The Dark Knight Rises.'

It's big. And likely to the uninitiated, it's bad. Hans Zimmer's bellowing, foghorn notes, and the ticking time bomb finale aren't new. But to those enthralled by Christopher Nolan's mix of heavy machinery, heroic melodrama and political zeitgeist, The Dark Knight Rises is a mammoth superhero epic.

Batman absents himself a lot, which makes sense since he tends to turn tides. He's in retirement at first: Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne is a crippled hermit, tempted by a witty, appealing burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). The lady never actually answers to the name "Catwoman." She's a temporary business associate with Tom Hardy's Bane: a bald, sewer-dwelling muscleman, with a mouthpiece shaped like a metal tarantula.

If movies have a dark power, it's this: They tease you with what you might like to see. Then they fulfill your secret fantasy with such force as to cause as much horror as awe. Such things that an ornery person might want to see happen: the invasion of a stock trading floor by armed guerillas, or the punishment of a sold-out football stadium for the crime of dumb sports ecstasy.

You wanted social change? Nolan gets it from the French Revolution, as Gotham City falls into a new reign of terror. (A Tale of Two Cities is even quoted in the last scenes, and one villain from the earlier part of Nolan's trilogy is this Terror's Robespierre.)

The Dark Knight caught viewers in a political fork, between the unacceptability of masked vigilantism, and the exploits of the best and bravest masked man.

The Dark Knight Rises isn't that tricky. It has talk of the importance of symbols, of a mask anyone can wear. We see a small bat scribbled on walls, like the V sign chalked on the bricks of Nazi-occupied Europe.

Better subplotting could explain the dark side of the legend. We don't really see the unconstitutional wrongs done in the name of a Patriot Act—excuse me, "the Harvey Dent Act." The Dark Knight Rises' logical underpinnings aren't as worked out as the action. Happily, the action is exhilarating: the literal rise of the title, a police battle in the snowy streets, and a night sequence of an armada of cop cars chasing one masked, caped fugitive on a motorcycle.

The Dark Knight Rises

PG-13; 165 min.


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