I'll log this for the record.
Christopher Nolan should learn how to end movies. The Dark Knight and Inception both have enjoyable setups before collapsing in ill-conceived third acts. The Dark Knight Rises continues this trend: an excellent first hour, middling second act, and tedious finale. Pity, as this ambitious blockbuster nearly achieves superhero greatness.http://nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-dark-knight-rises.html
Eight years after Harvey Dent's death, Bruce Wayne lives as a recluse and Gotham is nearly crime-free. When Wayne catches burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) stealing his fingerprints, he's intrigued enough to come out of hiding. Kyle (Catwoman) is working for Bane (Tom Hardy), a hulking mercenary with ties to the League of Shadows. Bane defeats Batman and takes over Gotham, using a jerry-rigged A-bomb to impose a tyrannical regime. While Batman slowly recovers, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and rookie cop Blake (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt) organize resistance to Bane's regime.
The Dark Knight Rises starts off swimmingly, with a thrilling midair action scene and respectable exposition. Nolan provides humor and playfulness previously lacking in this series, especially with Catwoman on the prowl. Yet he also allows the gravity of the situation to sink in. Compared to the Joker's existential threat, Bane makes a credibly nasty villain, at least early on. Alfred's (Michael Caine) growing despair over Bruce's lifestyle adds genuine pathos.
Indeed, Bruce is the film's greatest strength. Nolan scores points showing Wayne beaten down, physically and mentally, by years of crime fighting. A fusion generator designed to "save the world" ruined him financially and falls into Bane's hands. He still can't get over Rachel and is drawn too easily to both Selina and businesswoman Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), ignoring their obvious agendas. Then his less-than-great physical condition makes him an easy mark for Bane. This makes his redemption extremely satisfying. No longer overshadowed by villains, Nolan's Batman finally becomes compelling in his own right.
Then Nolan takes an abrupt turn into bizarre political commentary. Bane turns Gotham into a Jacobin society, with roving death squads and show trials for the rich and powerful. Co-opting French Revolution/Khmer Rouge imagery for a superhero flick is either inspired or crass. Regardless, these scenes drag on far too long, producing not suspense but frustration as we wait for Batman's inevitable return.
Predictably, later sequences amp up the action. The rumble at City Hall is fun but the chase scene is mind-numbing; we've already had two so why bother? The cast gets gypped, with Catwoman switching sides for no reason and not one, but two cringe-worthy character reveals. In the rush to a climax, certain plot elements are overlooked, like why the villains leave thousands of cops alive, with guns, after taking over the city. Batman flying a nuke into the sunset would be more effective if The Avengers hadn't come out two months ago.
Christian Bale enjoys the chance to finally show some acting range. Tom Hardy is an imposing villain (inexplicable Scots brogue and all) despite facile attempts at humanizing him. Anne Hathaway makes an agreeably sultry Catwoman, but her last-minute change of heart is unconvincing. Michael Caine finally transcends snarky sidekick shtick and becomes a poignant figure.
Nolan reassembles his stock company: not only regulars Caine, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman but Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt and Marion Cotillard from Inception return. Sadly, aside from Hardy and Caine none make much impression. Cotillard is particularly ill-served, existing solely for her "shocking" revelation. Buried deeper in the cast list are Tom Conti, Juno Temple, Matthew Modine and William Devane.
The Dark Knight Rises is another victim of Christopher Nolan Syndrome. It's fun for awhile, and I at least got a kick out of the familiar Pittsburgh locales. But at nearly three hours long it runs out of steam, resulting in another uneven outing for the Caped Crusader. 7/10