The Dark Knight Rises (PG-13, 2 hours, 45 minutes): When I was eight years old, I couldn’t have been a bigger fan of the Batman TV series. Like every kid back then, we were glued to our seats for two episodes each week. The first set up the second with a harrowing cliffhanger involving the Dynamic Duo, Batman and Robin.
It was genius programming.
In the first episode, Batman and Robin would encounter some costumed villain, get into a fistfight with hapless henchmen — POW! BIFF! — somehow get themselves captured and be put in a precarious predicament just as the show ended.
On playgrounds the next day, we’d re-enact that episode. Then, we’d hurry home to watch that night’s second part of the programming to see how Batman and Robin would escape their fix — which they always did.
However, one particular week, we were thrown a curve.
For two episodes, Batman and Robin had sparred with the Joker. But as the second episode was winding down, Batman and Robin found themselves in ANOTHER predicament. Huh?!? We knew the show’s format. How are they going to resolve this deathtrap in two minutes?
Trapped in a water-filled tank, a giant clam moves toward Batman and Robin. Somehow, the clam swallows Robin — to Batman’s dismay. As the show ends and the cliffhanger’s text flashes on the screen and is dramatically read aloud, all that we shocked viewers could see was Robin’s foot hanging out of the clam. Holy crap! We’d have to wait until next week to see whether Robin survived.
We were all dazed the next day at school. Now, we were going to have to wait over the weekend to see how the episode would turn out. That kind of stress is tough on a bunch of third-graders.
I bring this up because The Dark Knight Rises also knows how to ratchet up the stress. It’s much more violent than an onomatopoeia (yes, I had to Google that) POW flashing on the screen.
With that resolute Irish accent, super-villain Bane casts an imposing presence in The Dark Knight Rises. About halfway through the movie, Batman engages Bane in a fierce fistfight. My stress rises — just as it did 45 years ago when Robin was eaten by that giant clam. On the upside, at least you don’t have to wait a few days to see how it all turned out.
THE PLOT: Eight years after Batman took the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Caped Crusader (Is he still called that?) is forced out of self-imposed exile when super-villain Bane shows up and creates havoc in Gotham City. Anne Hathaway is introduced as a sleek cat burglar, but she doesn’t have the campy “meow” this time (she’s the best catwoman yet). Alfred (Michael Caine) , Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) are back as Bruce Wayne’s enablers. John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young cop who still looks like the kid from Third Rock from the Sun. Before you know it, you’ve got exploding bridges, Matthew Modine sighting, awesome bat-vehicles, an atom bomb, Braveheart charge between criminals and cops, an unforgettable kickoff return.
CLOSED-CAPTIONING NEEDED: Holy mushmouth! When this thing comes out on DVD, I’m popping it into the player and program for closed-captioning. Between Bane’s muffled Sean Connery-esque growl and Batman’s gravelly mumble, you’re not sure what’s been said during the villain-to-hero dialogue.
BEST TIME FOR A BATHROOM BREAK: RunPee.com suggests a few options, but the part where Bruce Wayne ends up in a prison pit is a bit long in the tooth.
DATE MOVIE: My wife was drifting in and out of sleep. I bet she wouldn’t be doing that if a giant clam was eating superheroes.