The Dark Knight is operatic overkill

The last installation in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy often wobbles but is very entertaining.

The Dark Knight Rises often wobbles, but that hasn't stopped movie-goers from spending on the last work in Christopher Nolan's trilogy.

Christopher Nolan has brought his Batman trilogy to an end with equal parts grandness and grandiosity. Although hailed by many critics as the perfect mix of brain food and comic book panache, The Dark Knight Rises can be faulted in many areas: the convoluted plot is unrewardingly dense, the chief villain seems like a professional wrestler styled after one of the minor thugs in Mad Max, the soundtrack is a brutal aural assault, and fine actors like Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard and Morgan Freeman fade into the background of an over-busy film with an operatic length of nearly three hours. That said, this ride-along in the Batmobile is still a heck of a trip.

The film opens with a Bond-style stunt as a brilliant nuclear physicist is kidnapped from out of a plane in mid-air. This is our introduction to arch-terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy, Inception), who struts around like a Roman warrior and has a grotesque leather protector over his mouth (which has the unfortunate effect of muffling his menacing remarks). Cut to Gotham City, which has become mostly crime-free. It’s also been free of Batman, who vanished after taking the blame for the death of district attorney Harvey Dent, for the last eight years.

Billionaire philanthropist Bruce Wayne has become a notorious recluse, and Wayne Enterprises is in financial peril: a business rival is planning a very hostile takeover with the secret assistance of Bane — unaware he’s a crazed anarchist whose agenda is one of wholesale destruction. As these and other plot strands are slowly woven together, a despairing Wayne broods over the death of his girlfriend and his own failures as a caped crusader. But by the time Bane’s dire scheme to punish Gotham becomes terrifyingly clear, Wayne breaks out the Bat Suit and readies for battle.

Rises rises well above its comic book status, thanks mostly to complex characters and its many contemporary allusions. Well before Gotham (read: Manhattan) is isolated from the rest of the country and held hostage, strong whiffs of 9/11 are in the air. Similarly, the Occupy Movement gets a sly nod, as Gotham’s new warlord encourages the masses to rise up against their ultra-rich oppressors. And on a personal level, a lot of screen time is devoted to Batman’s struggles to overcome both spiritual and physical failings as he prepares for a showdown with a nemesis who has surprising ties to Batman’s origins as a crime fighter.

Nolan is a whiz at staging bravura action episodes, including the destruction of a football stadium that heralds a much more elaborate assault on Gotham itself. The camera whips along as both the Bat Cycle and a high-tech plane are deployed to electrifying effect. But the actual fights between Batman and Bane are unimaginative pummelings; add in Bane’s mumbles and Batman’s harsh baritone whispers and the effect is nearly comical. All in all, it’s a rich, uneven, wildly ambitious and often pretentious movie — but an entertaining one to be sure. M

The Dark Knight Rises ★★★

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Starring Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman

PG-13 – 164 minutes, Continues at the Capitol, SilverCity, Uni 4, & Westshore

 

Perfectly Potable

Dark doings demand an equally dark ale to soothe shattered nerves — it’s time for a hearty, mouth-coating stout. There’s nothing more iconic than Guinness of course, the coal black beer that made Dublin’s fortune. But fresh local brews have much to recommend them, whether made by Spinnakers, Swans, or Lighthouse. These all come in slightly different styles, but usually show strong notes of malt, toffee and chocolate. Yum!

 

Film Listings July 26-Aug.1

 

Opening

 

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD -(Odeon) Nothing but raves have greeted this unusual and touching drama, which uses touches of magic realism to portray the inner life of a young girl who is part of a small community of poor Louisiana folk who live entirely “off the grid.” Starts Fri.

STEP UP: REVOLUTION -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore) The series about hip hop dancers shifts to Miami, and seems to be having lots of fun choreographing flash mobs of radical dancers who are trying to use their art-smarts to defeat a rich developer who wants to trash their neighbourhood. Starts Fri.

THE WATCH -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) A group of bored dads forms a suburban watch group, only to find themselves defending Earth from an alien invasion. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill provide the laughs. Starts Fri.

★★ ROCK OF AGES -(Caprice) Tom Cruise stars in a flabby and unfunny rock musical paying tribute to the over-the-top world of 1980s heavy metal music. Starts Fri.

 

Continuing

 

★★★½ THE AMAZING SPIDER–MAN -(Capitol/SilverCity/Westshore) Little-known actor Andrew Garfield suits up as everyone’s favourite webslinger in what’s certain to be one of the summer’s monster hits. Co-starring Emma Stone.

★★★ THE AVENGERS -(Caprice) A mob of Marvel-ous superheroes comes together to help prevent a global apocalypse, in a decent but uninspired orgy of one-liners and special effects. The galaxy of greatness includes Iron Man (Robert Downey), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Captain America (Chris Evans).

★★★½ THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL -(Uni 4) A diverse group of British seniors seek out an affordable retirement hotel in India, only to find it in shabby disarray. But despite the initial disappointment, India’s exotic charms win them over. This heartfelt comedy-drama has a great cast that includes Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Judi Dench.

★★★ BRAVE -(Capitol/SilverCity) Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson provide the voices for Pixar’s animated tale that is set in ancient Scotland and tells of a headstrong young princess who must rely on her courage to undo a beastly curse. Decent entertainment, albeit occasionally a bit plodding.

★★★ THE DARK KNIGHT RISES -(Capitol/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore) A diabolical terrorist named Bane poses a terrible threat to Gotham, as Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy comes to an exciting but rather bloated conclusion. With Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Anne Hathaway. See review.

★★★ ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT -(Odeon/Uni 4/Westshore) After their continent is set adrift, Manny, Diego, and Sid have some crazy, rollicking, humour-filled adventures. This is very fine family entertainment.

★★★ INTOUCHABLES -(Odeon) This funny and heart-warming French film features a wealthy aristocrat, a quadriplegic after a hang-gliding accident, who gets more than he bargained for when he hires a rough-edged black man from the projects to be his care aid. Based on a true story.

★★★ MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED -(Capitol/Caprice) Those mouthy NYC zoo escapees are up to their usual colourful antics in a wittily entertaining animation romp.

★★★ MAGIC MIKE -(Capitol/SilverCity) Channing Tatum stars as a male stripper who takes a protegé under his wing, then eventually has to rethink his lifestyle. Directed by Steven Soderbergh.

MEN IN BLACK III -(Caprice) Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones reprise their roles as alien-bashing crime fighters in a third outing for this wacky sci-fi comedy series. And thanks to a time travel aspect, Josh Brolin has fun playing the younger version of Jones’ character.

THAT’S MY BOY -(Caprice) The egregious Adam Sandler is back with a new lowbrow “comedy,” this one featuring SNL’s Andy Samberg as his wayward son.

★★★½ MOONRISE KINGDOM -(Odeon) The ever-quirky Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Fantastic Mr. Fox) is in fine form as he tells a tale about two very young lovers who run away, thus sparking an unusual search. The great cast includes Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, and Frances McDormand.

★★★ SAVAGES -(SilverCity) Oliver Stone is in brutally fine form with this hyper-violent tale involving a pair of SoCal pot dealers who fall afoul of nasty Mexican gangsters and turn murderous in order to get back their kidnapped girlfriend.

SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN -(SilverCity/Caprice) Supposedly Charlize Theron steals the show as the evil queen, in an exotic retelling of the classic fairy tale. With Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame.

★★★½ TO ROME WITH LOVE -(Odeon/Uni 4) Woody Allen’s winning streak with glamorous European cities continues with his latest comedy, which takes a sly look at adultery, fame, and self-delusion. The great cast includes Penelope Cruz, Ellen Page, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg and Alec Baldwin.

Leaving Thurs.

★★★ SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED -(Odeon)

★★★ TAKE THIS WALTZ -(Capitol)

SCREENINGS

 

MOVIE MONDAY – Screening Foreverland. This drama by Vancouver filmmaker Max McGuire features a man terminally ill with cystic fibrosis who is taking his friend’s ashes to a healing shrine in Mexico. His travels turn into an epic adventure of friendship and life’s small blessings.By donation. 6:30pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. 595FLIC. moviemonday.ca.

 

Cinecenta

 

Cinecenta at UVic screens its films in the Student Union Building. Info: 721-8365. cinecenta.com.

JOFFREY: MAVERICKS OF AMERICAN DANCE -(Wed.-Thurs., July 25-26: 7:15, 9:00) Dance fans will love this portrait of the iconic and groundbreaking American dance company that merged modern dance with classical ballet.

darling companion -(Fri.-Sat., July 27-28: 7:10, 9:15) Lawrence Kasdan directs Diane Keaton in a small-scale drama about an under-appreciated wife whose unhappiness with her life begins to pour out when her beloved rescue dog goes missing. With Kevin Kline as the officious husband.

★★★ SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN -(Sun.-Mon., July 29-30: 7:00, 9:00) Lasse Hallstrom (Chocolat) directs Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt in a whimsical tale, part satire and part romantic comedy —  about a fisheries expert who becomes a consultant to a sheik who wants to bring the sport of fly fishing to the desert.

MARLEY -(Tues., July 31: 7:00 only) Reggae legend Bob Marley gets an in-depth and behind the scenes portrait with this elaborate documentary by the director of King of Scotland.

TREASURES FROM THE FAR FUR COUNTRY -(Wed., Aug. 1: 7:00 only) This half-hour presentation is based on 100-year-old films documenting Hudson Bay Company activities and First Nations communities in the Canadian north. This fascinating cinematic time capsule will be followed by a special presentation and Q&A session.

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