Review: The Dark Knight Rises
It's amazing what a bit of hype can do for a film. It can turn ordinary, well-meaning folk into the most boorish and obnoxious of fanboys, who will swear allegiance to a film, regardless of whether it's actually any good or not. The Dark Knight trilogy could be considered the Holy Grail for film zealots in recent years; Christopher Nolan's two previous bat outings were subjected to almost religious fervour by its fanboy followers.
In fairness, director Nolan gave Bruce Wayne and his alter ego a thorough cinematic make-over, giving the series a contemporary feel over, say, Tim Burton's more comic book approach with his 1989 Batman and its 1992 sequel Batman Returns.
For Nolan, this final part of his trilogy is his swansong to the franchise, and it will no doubt prove to be a satisfying conclusion for the loyalist of fans. But does it do enough for those who aren't so emotionally attached to the material?
It's been eight years since Batman (Christian Bale) told Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) that he would take the rap for the trouble that Two Face caused, just so that Harvey Dent's legacy wouldn't be tainted.
Since then, Bruce Wayne has let himself and Wayne Industries go a bit, deciding to lock himself away in a private wing of his manor and withdraw himself from society completely. But since there's not much in the way of crime in Gotham City anymore, there isn't any real need for him.
A run in with a cat burglar by the name of Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) however, makes Bruce perk up and take notice; not only does she steal some family jewellery, she also dusts his safe for finger prints.
Meanwhile, something dark and ominous is occurring under the streets of Gotham; a character known as Bane (Tom Hardy) is planning something heinous. His activity is enough to stir Batman from his self-imposed retirement, but he's far from being in his best shape; and he'll need to be, as Bane just so happens to also be an alumnus from The League of Shadows, as Bruce once was.
Even if he managed to get physically fit in time, it looks like Batman may need the help of those around him if he's to tackle one of his trickiest of foes.
Now this won't go down at all well with the fanboys, but Nolan's finale is sadly an all too flat farewell.
It sounds almost ludicrous to suggest this but the film has far too much story crammed into its two hour and forty four minutes duration. There's the main plot, with a number of sub-plots scurrying around it. And then there's the fleshing out of a number of characters, old and new, to deal with. This leaves what feels like twenty six minutes left for some action. And what there is of that is truly disappointing. Batman wrestles with Bane a couple of times and that's about it.
Apparently the bright star that is Tom Hardy plays Bane – not that you would really know; not only is the majority of his face covered by a breathing mask, his voice is disguised to sound like a distant relative of Darth Vader. Physically he's imposing, but as far as his character is concerned, he has to be considered one of the most superfluous bat-villains yet. The truth is, any old actor could have played the part with exactly the same results.
One of the nicest surprises the film has to offer is Anne Hathaway; she may look like a fragile china doll, but she more than looks and acts the part as Catwoman.
After the scenes he shot with IMAX cameras in The Dark Knight made such an impact, Nolan chose to shoot almost half of The Dark Knight Rises in this costly format. The problem is, without any real set pieces in the film, the IMAX scenes have no punch at all, instead resorting to a number of humdrum cityscape shots. And considering the Gotham looks a dead ringer for New York City, it's just a number of familiar-looking skyscrapers up on the screen.
And as far the material goes, it isn't terribly dark. The truth of the matter is, the film's 12A certificate restricts any real sense of dark foreboding or violence, so what you get is about as disturbing as anything Adam West did in his clingy bat outfit all those years ago.
What does make a welcome return is the Batcycle, although it doesn't really get that much to do. Completed omitted is the Batmobile; instead it's replaced by a dull Batcopter vehicle that looks about as interesting as your standard Prius. There's also no sign of any other gadgets either, leaving Batman to mostly punch villains in the face, without so much as a BAAAMMM!!!
Nolan does get some nice relationship stuff though, with the scenes between Bruce and his loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine) being particularly touching.
Maybe it was Nolan's decision to dig deeper into the psyche of Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, and to explore his relationships with those around him. Sadly, this touchy feely stuff comes at a price: no action. If anything, Nolan has made an interesting Superhero costume drama. But if you're after thrills, you've got more chance of getting them from opening up a can of Pringles than watching this.
The Dark Knight Rises looks and feels like a great adaptation of a graphic novel, but as a pure cinematic experience it's completely devoid of spectacle.
Of course fanboys will hail it as the perfect conclusion to this more mature franchise; everyone else however, who can maintain objectivity, may just be left somewhat disappointed by this final chapter, leaving many of us in the dark as to what all the fuss was about.
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