"Mmmph blrrg grug Batman glogg freedom raaar!"
–Christian Bane, The Dark Knight Rises
The movie's gimp mask-wearing, MMA fighter-like villain no doubt has many profound things to say. But he talks like he's got an Egg McMuffin lodged in his trachia, so you're left to guess as to his motives for destroying a city, trapping every single police officer in a sewer, beating up Batman and rocking a smelly tanktop.
Bane stands as a symbol for his movie, which may as well be called The Dark Knight Bloats. Christopher Nolan followed up his two Caped Crusader masterpieces with a dud of a finale that, like Bane, is giant, slow-moving, talks too much and doesn't have a heck of a lot of reason to exist.
The movie runs a little long at nearly three hours, but I recommend taking a nap for an hour or so in the middle to make it pass quicker. Nolan helps you out with that by making the mid-section into a sort of cinematic lullaby that rocks you to sleep with board meetings, emo conversations and many, many, many scenes that do not show Batman being Batman.
This is not a movie to watch if you'd care to see Batman in action, doing Batman-like things like catching crooks or swooping down and punching people in the back of the head. The first act is mostly a poetry slam of one character after another reciting expositional monologues about how and why Batman has been away for eight years, and why that's a good thing or a bad thing.
Bruce Wayne is holed up in his stately manor, which really should be called Wayne's World, limping around with a cane like Willy Wonka when he first appears in his 1970s movie. Bruce Wayne has made some questionable business decisions, such as hiring Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) as a maid and spent all his money on a nuclear fusion bomb that could either provide the world an eternity of free energy or explode the city, depending on who's got it at the time.
You know how Bruce Wayne always kept it a deep, dark, double secret that he was Batman? Well, he's pretty much done with that now, willing to have a heart to heart about it with a cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) he's just met. Bane also knows, probably because he's — as Rush Limbaugh has cleverly deduced — a stand-in for Mitt Romney, and figured it out because he's best pals with many billionaires. Also, I'm pretty sure Catwoman figures it out, unless Batman has a special Bat-kiss that differentiates his Bruce Wayne smooching experience.
It doesn't really matter that people know Bruce Wayne is Batman because he doesn't want to be Batman anymore. It takes a heck of a lot of boringness to get him back in his suit, and shortly thereafter something bad happens and he's no longer Batman again until just in time at the very end.
If I'm being a little hard on the movie, it's because I expected so much more from it, and because it does a great job of reminding you how good the other two were by flashing back to scenes from those films again and again. The point of the flashbacks is to restate profound philosophical points from those movies, I guess to avoid having to come up with any new ones of its own.
The Dark Knight Rises isn't awful and is perfectly watchable, but just doesn't make much sense or build upon the groundwork laid by the earlier movies. It's this series' version of The Matrix Revolutions, The Godfather Part III or Caddyshack 2. Nolan's other Batman movies were stylish, deep, exciting and shocking. This one is just content to sort of hang out on the porch and watch the cars pass by.
I'll close with a quote from Bane: "Mrkl mumf unite argyle frankensense blarg."
The words are as true today as they were during the midnight screening.
Starring Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, based on a story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, using characters created by Bob Kane. Directed by Christopher Nolan. Rated PG-13. 165 minutes.