Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises - Reviews #123

The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, 2012)
- Patrick Batman (Christian Bale) has spent eight years in hiding. Confined to the east wing of Bat Towers and reduced to resting on a walking cane, he's forced to come out of retirement so he can be really badly beaten up by hulking, masked former mercenary Bane (Tom Hardy), who has designs on a nuclear bomb. The film does a good job of reducing Batman to nothing: robbing him of his wealth, his hero status, his health, his stoutest ally (Michael Caine) and finally his freedom, but then isn't quite sure what to do next. The script has moments of profundity - particularly the "Not everything; not yet" exchange so nicely used in the trailer - but the whole thing sags under the weight of its self-importance, and has some strangely weak dialogue ("I needed you for your infrastructure," the psychotic Bane tells a redundant pawn, declining to add: "Now we've streamlined the operation, your resources are superfluous"). That's when you can tell what anyone is saying, which is about 30 per cent of the time, thanks to the pounding music, some ridiculous accents, and Bane's Vader-esque muffler. The bits where indecipherable Russian-Connery Hardy and Batman Voice are shouting at each other are just too funny to carry much import.

The film is rarely boring (though I think I have a far lower tolerance for vehicles chasing other vehicles than most people), and it has a few nice set-pieces - particularly the Star Spangled Banner bit, which is so pictorially impressive and full of conviction that it overcomes the slightly trite concept - while there's a good performance from Caine, a surprisingly lively one from Anne Hathaway (as the perma-quipping Catwoman) and a superb characterisation from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, playing a loyal, troubled cop, whose early heart-to-heart with Bats is easily the best scene in the movie. But the film is sloppily plotted - the relationship between our hero and would-be girlfriend Marion Cotillard is negligibly developed, the detonator concept doesn't make much sense, and Nolan's twist-itis is undone by a rug-pull that's just not very interesting - and it's not sufficiently different to The Dark Knight, with the exception that Bane lacks the mercurial charisma of Keith Ledger's Joker, and Bats spends much of the film off-screen or down a hole. All this is irrelevant, of course, as IMDb and the emerging critical consensus is showing, but I just don't understand why this film or its predecessor have the reputation they do, unless you're just a huge fan of extreme humourlessness and vehicles with fat wheels. The Amazing Spider-Man may lack this film's crashing sense of portentousness, but it's a far more coherent, engaging and exciting movie. (2.5)

(Please note: I do know that Heath Ledger isn't called Keith, but one of my friends thought he was, and the idea is too funny for me to let go.)


  1. You've just expressed all my thoughts about TDKR is an hilarious review. This movie is muddled junk, just like the first two.

  2. I wandered to this review via your rather spiffing 2012 appraisal. One of the few pieces on the Dark Knight Rises brave enough to express the truth. And I very much agree that the twists don't work.

    What is worse is that the final twist deprives the viewer of a much needed conclusion to the confrontation between American Psycho and Bronson that the earlier part of the film builds towards.

    2.5/4 seems fair though, as it is is watchable junk.

  3. Cheers Neville. :-) I agree about the final twist. It seems as if Nolan can't make a movie without a big climactic rug-pull, and this was a movie that really didn't need one. What it did need was a better script.

  4. popcornflix - I have enjoyed batman for a long time and despite my rabid fanaticism this movie took me to a whole new level. This is barely a superhero movie; it's utterly devoted from start to finish as an action-drama and could stand alone by all means. I admit I was skeptical of what it would be like, what with the list of villains potentially bogging down the story, the change of actress for the character Rachel Dawes and of course Heath Ledger's death which I feared might make the movie a target for his fans to run wild. However I have never been so overjoyed to be so wrong; Maggie Gylennhal is a wonderful actress as Katie Holmes' replacement; her character was good enough to avoid the melodramatic angle and was rather sublime about any of the relationships, none of the villains took away from the movie or cluttered it in the least, and Heath Ledger was absolutely fantastic as the clown prince of crime; he deserves all the praise he gets for his performance which was scary and funny at the same time. Not once did it seem that the actor was tooting his own thespian horn (as I think jack Nicholson did when he played the joker) in fact I got the feeling Ledger was determined to have fun with it and I hope he did because he made a wonderful last impression with this skeptic. You don't have to be a fan to recognize what a thrill ride this movie is; my only warning to you is that you are not in for a mindless bubble-gum superhero flick that is short and simple; this is quality cinema and batman has never had so much solid footing in this area. My hats off to all who were involved. Go watch this movie now!
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