Sam Strange Remembers: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES

Batman battles a grassroots socialist communist movement after losing all his taxable assets.

A week out, it's probably already too late to talk about The Dark Knight Rises. The film was not really made to entertain but rather move us past this dark and realistic Bat-Universe. This whole idea was fun at first, inspired even. But the fact remains: You invite a sad-sack to only so many BBQs, even if he's Batman.

In the last Batmovie, the one all about dogs, we ended with Batman killing Harvey Dent, then heroically taking the fall for Harvey Dent's murder. The idea for this was extremely complicated. See, Harvey Dent was a public hero, while Batman was a gutter hero. But the Joker ruined Harvey Dent by blowing half his face off with a magical face bomb. People can't love ugly. Knowing this, Batman murdered Harvey Dent before anyone could see him, forever preserving his White Knight image, while simultaneously solidifying his own stance as a public menace.

So the film ended with Batman as a villain, truly embracing his Dark Knight persona, which is useful because all Gotham's dogs had gotten wise to the idea that Batman only kills criminals passive aggressively. Now they have reason to fear him.

What a great launching point for a sequel! Maybe someday somebody will make it!

Because I'm kind of all fed up with this Batman shit, I decided to fill The Dark Knight Rises with stuff no one really cares to see. So instead of exploring how Batman deals with his new criminal status, I just skip eight years ahead. The challenges we imagined after seeing The Dark Knight were just too daunting for Bruce Wayne, so he quit and became a hermit. One day while doing nothing for eight years, he slipped on a banana peel and broke his leg, leaving him with a permanent limp. Truly a hero for the ages.

Amazingly enough, Gotham is okay without Batman thanks to a bit of legislation called "The Dent Act," which gives police officers and rich people the right to exercise corporate punishment on any criminals they see fit, essentially skipping Batpowers and giving the whole city elite Punisherpowers instead.

That sounds good since it wipes out crime overnight. But because no one's robbing rich people anymore, a huge income inequality develops. It turns out the mob was good for Gotham's middle class and extremely good for Gotham's poor people because non-bootlegged booze and pornography is freaking pricey. As a result, the Gotham underworld boils with anger. They call themselves the 99% and need only a leader.

Enter Bane, this film's big villain. Bane is an interesting character to say the least. Last time, we had The Joker, performed with tons of nuance and flair by Heath Ledger. I knew I couldn't top that, so I turned to parody instead and borrowed the villain I'd invented for my planned MacGruber sequel, KFBR392.

Bane looks like a Soldier of Fortune S&M Teddy Bear mixed with just a hint of Mayor McCheese's regality. He also has a very particular voice, not just because he speaks from behind a tin can, but because the actor, Tom Hardy, delivered all his dialog while trying to hold in a warm enema.

Bane has this weird mask on because a bunch of prisoners once beat him up. Batman's computer says Bane needs the mask to stay alive, but it's also slowly killing him since it makes eating food and drinking water nearly impossible. It supposedly delivers laughing gas directly into his brain. The fact is, he could go without the gas, but he's really scared of pain.

Bane thinks it's unfair that all the rich people in Gotham have all the money. So he gets this idea to steal Bruce Wayne's fortune since he's the city's number billionaire. To do this, he hires a cat burglar named Selina Kyle from out of town (crime has been abolished in Gotham, remember) to steal Bruce Wayne's fingerprints. Apparently, that's all terrorists need to fraudulently transfer billions of dollars.

Selina Kyle has an easy time stealing Bruce Wayne's fingerprints. She just kicks his bad leg out from under him and pulls out her ink pad and some paper. Both he and his butler Alfred try to chase after her, but they keep tripping over each other's caines.

Their failure to catch the cat burglar upsets Alfred so much that he starts crying and never really stops, forcing Bruce to fire him. It's really heartbreaking.

The next day Bruce decides that he should be Batman again since apparently Gotham's lousy with sexy cat burglars all the sudden. First he needs to find his suit, so he calls Alfred. All Alfred wants to do, though, is cry and talk about how he hopes to see Bruce in the tropics but not actually talk to him. It's hard to tell what he's saying because he has a Cockney accent and he's crying.

Bruce next needs to wrap himself in a bunch of robotic bands that instantly supplement the bone cartilage, muscle mass, and will to live he misplaced during his mopey sabbatical. Normally, we'd have a training montage, but technology negates that sort of thing with this guy. Besides, I needed to save my montage allowance for the really big one later where I quickly gloss over the film most people came to see.

So now Bruce is Batman again. He finds out the cat burglar was working for this Bane guy. Then this Bane guy steals all his money. So now Bruce is kind of unsure whether he can afford to be Batman long enough to get his money back. Confusing matters further, some pretty lady he just hired at Batcorp comes over to kiss him. They end up making out so much they take their clothes off and cuddle under a big bear skin blanket. Bruce has never come this close to having sex before, and it further rattles his Batbrains.

Just as he's wrapping his head around this, the sexy cat burglar claims to know where he can find Bane. Bruce eagerly follows her so he can go kick Bane's ass. On the way, he occasionally looks at the cat burglar's butt now that he's all sexually awakened. Actually, her butt distracts him right into a trap. Instead of leading him to Bane she betrays him by leading him to Bane. It's a fine line based 100% on outcome rather than intent.

Batman tries to fight Bane but can't gain any traction because he insists on striking Bane's thick camo-vest rather than the giant bullseye on his mouth. After espousing a bunch of mumbo jumbo like "VICTORY IS YOUR DEFEAT" and whatever else, Bane breaks Batman's back. Then Bane breaks Batman's floor, revealing all Batman's Battoys. So now Batman really will be the city's villain symbol-wise, though Bane throws his two cents in by keeping the Batmobiles camouflage colored.

But that's not all. Rather than killing Bruce, Bane transports him to a big well in Egypt used to jail vague criminals. Amazingly enough, this Well Jail has a television. Bane's plan is to make Bruce watch as he destroys Gotham, after that's all done, he'll come back and break Bruce's neck (Bane's obsession with neck-breaking made more sense back when he was a MacGruber villain). As a twist of the knife, he chooses MSNBC as Bruce's news provider.

So back in Gotham, Bane blows all the bridges and declares himself the law of the land. Basically, all the really poor people get to kill all the really rich people. No one can have private property, and higher taxes distribute the city's wealth among all remaining Gothamites equally. Just like in real life, the system may work but it costs personal liberty and results in a dictator figure killing whomever he pleases with his rogue military force. Essentially, The Dark Knight Rises is what will happen if Occupy Wall Street ever succeeds. It could have been worse, though. Bane's original plan was to kill all the city's young boys, but while waiting to blow up a football game, he fell in love with the voice of the little guy singing the national anthem and his heart grew three sizes.

Bruce Wayne likes breaking the law for the forces of good. Bane rewriting those laws for his own benefit really confuses him, but he's pretty sure he doesn't like it. Unfortunately, the prison has none of those cool muscle bands. He's going to have to fix his broken back the old fashioned way: By having some guy hit it really hard.

With this done, he has to get out of the Well Jail. Only one person has ever climbed out, some bald kid everyone just assumes was Bane since he, too, is bald. Bruce tries and tries to escape but can't seem to get it. Each time he goes, the rope he's tethered to catches him and re-breaks his back, necessitating yet another rise. He rises like six or seven times in this film.

Eventually, the guy in the next cell gets fed up and tells him what we're all thinking: "How are you supposed to climb out of here when you're attached to a rope? Take that stupid thing off, you moron. Jesus Christ, I thought Batman was supposed to be a detective."

With that, Bruce gets out and takes a transporter back to Gotham. Then he transports to wherever the sexy cat burglar is to get her on his team. You may wonder why he would do this. The answer is simple. Due to his limited time with both ladies, he has 100% mixed up the sexy cat burglar and the rich business lady he made out with earlier. So he mistakenly assumes he and the sexy cat burglar are boyfriend-girlfriend now, and just by virtue of asserting their relationship, he wins her cold heart over and makes it so.

Then he transports to a new Batman costume. Then he transports to a paintable gasoline store. Then he paints the bat symbol in gasoline onto a big bridge. Then he saves a bunch of police officers. Then he tells one of them to light it up. Then Bane knows he's back in town. Then none of that really matters.

Batman gets a bunch of cops together to fight Bane's army. In the midst of all this, Batman and Bane duke it out, only this time Batman thinks to punch his mask. One accidental limp wristed slap later, Bane's totally defeated. Batman tries to come up with some way to passively kill Bane, but the sexy cat burglar blows him up with one of Batman's "car cannons" used primarily to blow cars out of his way so he doesn't have to slow down.

But just as Batman's about to celebrate, a vaguely familiar lady stabs him in the side. Whoops! It's the lady he almost slept with! It turns out she was (blah blah blah fanservice) all along. Can you believe it? Listening to the convoluted backstory, the sexy cat burglar gets the idea she should be jealous, so she blasts her with the "car cannon" as well. Then she and Batman transport to France or somewhere. While eating lunch one day, a crying Alfred sees them and does not say hello, and everyone involved is happier than they've every been in their whole life. Meanwhile, Gotham city never has any crime ever again because the Dent Act is still in place doing its job as intended.

(three stars)