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FTN reviews The Dark Knight Rises

July 19th, 2012 by Marc 4 Comments

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…

Marc Savage
3 out of 5 Nerds

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Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….

4 Responses

  1. Matthew Maidment Matthew M says:

    ace review man, still going to see it though EEEEEEE!!

  2. Stuart Miller stuart miller says:

    i can’t wait for monday then when we talk about the film on the monday movie show

  3. Jake Murrin says:

    “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?”
    I don’t see how either of those examples qualify as genuine “plotholes”. In the first scene you mention, Batman slides down a part of the building, glides on his cape to break the fall, and launds on a car (with Rachel never touching anything). His suit absorbs some of the impact. As for the second, the police presumably arrested the Joker, who was bound by Batman’s rope (and his thugs were all incapacitated). Police were on the scene, and Batman gave them time to arrive! Is the Joker’s arrest really something that needs to be shown in detail to avoid any ambiguity? I’ve literally never heard anyone describe that scene as problematic before. Further, this misuse of language–in terming everything from Bane’s “must teach hero a lesson first” logic to the absence of the Joker in “Rises” to Harvey Dent’s sudden descent into madness to Batman’s “cell phone” technology to Bale’s “Batman voice” a “plothole”–is plainly inaccurate and misleading. I’ve been trying to find someone who HAS uncovered a real plothole in the film, and they all give examples like this. Some of these aforementioned complaints may, in fact, be real flaws. Others, like Dent’s transformation, are actually wise artistic choices (portraying Dent as an unstable alcoholic abused by his father would have weakened the Joker’s thesis). But they are NOT plotholes, if by that term you are referring to internal contradictions in the story.
    Your review seems entirely too subjective and emotional. Hathaway may not “feel” “right” to you, but that means nothing to me! Personally, I thought she portrayed the essence of Catwoman better than anyone ever has. What, exactly, did you dislike in her performance? While Bane wasn’t as mesmerizing as Ledger’s Joker, your comment that “anybody” could have replaced Hardy is either an ad hominem slur or a remark not intended for literal interpretation.
    Nevertheless, your general remarks about pacing and missed opportunities are surely true. Personally, I found the ethical dilemna of Batman recruiting an army to fight Bane’s loyal followers–but not killing himself–to be rather odd. He was in that huge plane (“The Bat”), with tons of weapons, but didn’t kill anyone. He lead the police, but allowed them to die in unneccessary numbers by not getting his hands dirty himself. And there was no internal debate or analysis regarding his motives. The moral questions were not addressed as they were in Dark Knight.

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