The Dark Knight Rises (12a)
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman
Running time: 164mins
After the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham has been living in a state of relative peace, with crime at an all-time low there is a sense of foreboding, as everyone remembers the anniversary of Harvey Dent’s death and the dawn of peace, a new threat is planning to make its move in the form of muscular crime-genius Bane…
Oh my. There’s so much riding on this one. The end of the Dark Knight trilogy. The pressure on Christopher Nolan and the crew is immense. Can they avoid the curse of the trilogy (Jedi, Godfather, Matrix) and build on what has gone before? Or, more realistically, can they top The Dark Knight?
The Dark Knight Rises is, let’s get it out of the way quickly, the weakest of the trilogy. But, given the first two chapters, this is not necessarily a disaster.
With all the principals returning to their now familiar roles, it’s a quick jump into the story. And for the sake of spoilers, I’m loathe to go into much detail. All I will say is the story is a natural progression from The Dark Knight, that said it’s a very different beast right out of the stables. Oh and the movie you think you’ve already mapped in your head based on trailers and rumours? It’s unlikely you’ve worked this all out.
Gotham’s peace is very quickly pulled back to reveal a Bruce Wayne (Bale), Alfred (Caine) and Commissioner Gordon (Oldman) who are all haunted in different ways by the events of the last movie. A dark passenger rests in all the principal characters that is fighting to get out and tell the truth about past events.
The death of Harvey and the sacrifice of Batman weighs heavily on everyone. Instead of leaving them in peace it tears them apart and right away we know that things are going to be much, much darker than before. From the fresh enthusiam and idealism of Batman Begins through the confidence of The Dark Knight, we now reach the dark, unforgiving and relentless third act and we are left in no doubt that there is suffering to come.
And come it does as Gotham plays host to two new – but very different – villains: Hathaway’s Selina Kyle (never called Catwoman), a cat burglar who is in deep with ‘the wrong crowd’ and Hardy’s Bane, a pumped-up monster of a man who is not only blessed with the strength to kill with one blow, but the brains to bring down governments. A lethal combination.
And while both actors are great, Hathaway is very solid in the role but never feels quite right and Hardy does the best he can behind a mask that sadly allows little expression of character and while his Bane has a great presence and certainly comes across as the terrifying man he should be, the role could really have been played by anyone. And that’s a big part of the problem with The Dark Knight Rises. Eveyone does solid work but the movie really lacks a performance like Ledger’s Joker and sadly no-one comes close and although we knew this going in, the movie feels the void.
Another problem is plot holes – remember the scene in The Dark Knight where Batman dives out the window and rescues Rachel after Joker drops her? Well, remember the way no-one mentioned how Batman actually left the Joker and his henchmen in the penthouse full of prisoners? Well, this movie have many similar plotholes that are never resolved. And while The Dark Knight was so good we let them slide, The Dark Knight Rises is slowly paced (and could have been easily fifteen minutes shorter) and these things stick in the memory.
Joseph Gordon Levitts’ character, John Blake, is the new addition to the side of the angels but sadly feels very much like a wasted opportunity, with little development. And Batman has shockingly little screen time, which is very disappointing.
Ok, enough of the negative. What are the pluses? Well the performances are all great, and you know that scene in the trailer where Bane blows up the football field? Well there’s a lot more to that whole sequence than the trailer shows and it’s superb. As the tension builds as Bane makes his move on Gotham it’s pulse-racing stuff and Nolan, as we come to expect, handles it with aplomb. And there are several set pieces throughout the movie that are stunning – the opening sequence is incredible, especially when you realise it was all done practically.
And what of THAT scene? The breaking of the bat? Well, I’m not going to spoil it but I personally felt a little underwhelmed by it. As a fan of the Knightfall story arc (where Bane is introduced and breaks Batman’s back) I expected to be rocked to my core by it, but sadly it just didn’t have the impact (no pun intended) that I hoped for.
Nolan shows the confidence we expect and his direction is mostly solid here, but his pacing, especially in the mid-section is too slow and some of the movie feels disjointed.
This all said it is still a good movie and I feel that expectation was a big part of the problem, with my hopes raised unachievably high. I also think that it suffers from Revenge of the Sith syndrome where there’s just too much to wrap up, but it’s clear that Nolan did have a vision for the whole trilogy whereby there are threads from the last two movies picked up and given a satisfactory finish. But there are a few left open-ended too. Deliberately? Perhaps. But I felt that the scale was just a little too epic in places as odd as it sounds with Nolan a little lost with just how to handle it; Batman Begins and Dark Knight both worked so well because they were blockbusters that had a small, personal movie at heart, and it feels like this movie tries too hard to be massive.
So all in all, solid performances and confident direction but there are loose ends and it’s poorly paced. However, the thing I’m most interested in seeing is fan reaction to the end, I have a feeling it’s going to split audiences right down the middle.
Much like Prometheus, I loved a lot of it but there were many little things that niggle at the back of my mind that leave me coming away feeling it is something of a missed opportunity.
But it certainly isn’t a disaster. After coming out of the Dark Knight I remember commenting that there was no way it would be topped and sadly I was right.
A good if deeply flawed ending to the trilogy. But not the barn-storming finale I hoped for…