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New Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises', falls flat

Peter RainerThe Christian Science Monitor

“The Dark Knight Rises” doesn’t really rise to the occasion. This concluding movie in the "Batman" trilogy isn’t just dark, it’s pitch black. Director Christopher Nolan has literally gone over to the dark side.

Of course, “The Dark Knight,” which I admired, was similarly hued; but that film had a grandeur, a tragic sense, that “Rises” lacks. It also had Heath Ledger’s Joker, whereas “Rises” has as Batman’s chief nemesis a brawny mercenary named Bane, played by Tom Hardy in a face mask with a breathing device conveniently attached. Please note: That’s spelled B-a-n-e, not B-a-i-n.

One of the reasons why nemeses are so important in the "Batman" series is because Batman himself, at least as played by Christian Bale, is not terribly galvanizing. In “Rises,” which begins eight years after “The Dark Knight,” Batman is no longer around and Bruce Wayne is in seclusion. Gotham City is relatively crime-free, although all that is about to change when Bane hulks onto the scene.

What follows is an extended sadomasochistic scenario in which Batman is clobbered within an inch of his life before coming around. I’ve always been partial to Batman as a superhero because, in fact, he has no superpowers. He’s an enhanced Everyman. But watching what happens to him in “Rises” made me wish he had something extra-human going on.

There’s a punitive, depressive edge to this film that isn’t fully warranted by its story – which, for all its pretensions, is a fairly conventional extension of the franchise. Were it not for Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman-ish Selina Kyle, there wouldn’t be a single character in “Rises” who cracks a smile. I’m not arguing that “Rises” should be “Singin’ in the Rain.” But its Wagnerian ambitions are not matched by its material. It hasn’t earned its darkness. Grade: C+ (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.)