24/07/12
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Review – The Dark Knight Rises


The end of any successful film trilogy bears with it the enormous weight of expectations. People want something spectacular, which also manages to provide an emotional send-off for the characters they have come to know and love.

Unfortunately Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t even come close to justifying the hype. From idiotic plotting to a cringe-worthy script, nearly every aspect of the film is broken. What we are left is a plodding, incoherent mess which, at least for me, is one of the greatest cinematic disappointments in recent years.

Despite a breath-taking opening scene, the film quickly gets bogged in tedious exposition explaining what has happened since the last film, as well as introducing a myriad of new characters. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse but reluctantly dons the cowl again as a masked vigilante named Bane (Tom Hardy) begins to wreak havoc upon Gotham. This central premise is mildly interesting, but it quickly becomes entangled with a bunch of dull sub-plots in which the film quickly gets lost. The first half of the film is messy, with a narrative that has no clear focus or drive. When Bane’s master plan is revealed the spectacle begins, but the odd change in pace is jarring and the plot device around which it revolves is completely illogical.

Adding to the narrative issues is the fact that nearly every character is merely a bland cipher, designed to espouse the film’s themes. Every piece of stilted and unnatural dialogue feels like Nolan is shouting “This is an idea and I am spelling it out for you!” Subtlety may as well be a foreign language here.

Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne is as dull as ever, whilst Bane proves to be a highly simplistic villain whose dialogue is barely audible. Tom Hardy does his best, but his efforts count for nil in light of the lack of any real characterisation beyond being evil. The only real highlight is Anne Hathaway who does a fantastic job as Selina Kyle, turning what has often been a campy role into something more intriguing. However, this is entirely due to Hathaway’s skill and comedic timing; without her the character would be devoid of humanity and the inconsistencies in her actions would be more glaring.

Nolan’s films have always had an air of smugness and self-importance, but this film takes it to the extreme. The film is so unbelievably earnest, whilst depicting events that are ludicrously silly. During one scene with a “people’s court” ala the French Revolution, I almost burst out laughing at how the film could treat something so absurd as a thoughtful piece of cinema.

This could be forgiven if Nolan actually had something intelligent to say, but his woeful script makes no thematic sense. Condemnation of inequality clashes with the forewarning of the dangers of the 99 per cent running amuck, and it isn’t clear what Nolan’s intentions are. By the end of the film, we have witnessed an incoherent piece of nonsense that abandons the more complex ideas of The Dark Knight in favour of some bizarre hero worship and contradictory political messages.

Unfortunately the threequel curse has struck again. Some will argue that this is merely a high-end blockbuster and shouldn’t be treated as anything more. However, Nolan clearly believes that he is telling an adult and complex story. Judged against those standards, The Dark Knight Rises is an unmitigated disaster, which fails to provoke, engage or thrill. Go see it if you must, but prepare to have your fond memories of this series obliterated.

THE VERDICT: 2/5. Well I’ll be damned. 

 

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  1. Craig says:

    Couldn’t agree more with this analysis. The film indeed presents a strange mix of political ideologies, from ‘Clean Energy is Bad’ to ‘The 99% Revolution can only end in disaster’ to ‘The Police are the heroes – subject yourselves to their rule’. Truly a haphazard film.

    Not to mention the ending is completely stolen from Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. Nuclear bomb carried off in a helicopter and the hero survives…Completely original.

  2. S. Mind says:

    I agree with a lot of your criticisms but don’t agree it was the unmitigated disaster you paint it as or that it is an example of the threequel curse. Structurally it was messy as Hell and I also don’t think it had much to say aside from the occasionally-touched-on matters of income inequality. But while Nolan may have seemed smug in his attempts to make Batman meaningful let’s remember that his source material is a billionaire who fixes society’s ills by beating up poor people. This is the same problem the previous two films faced and something the Joel Schumacher films easily avoided; making this sort of thing ‘serious’ isn’t easy. Criticisms of Nolan’s efforts to make Batman ernest seems to reek of snobbery in itself and I don’t see how the same attitudes can’t be levelled at the previous two films, particularly Knight.

    Also does accusing Batman of being dull warrant a mention any more? Batman has always been the most uninteresting part of Batman. To be honest I was actually impressed at the level of character development that Nolan and crew managed to squeeze out of him.

    The film had too many parts which when coupled by a ramshackle structure definitely didn’t work in its favour. It’s unfair to say though that the other parts didn’t work to at least make Rises passable. Personally I enjoyed the same feeling that Knight achieved with the little voice in the back of your head saying “surely it can’t get worse”, the increasing sense of hopelessness. Not to mention the scale which was admirable. I certainly didn’t view the film with any apathy.

    Decent review but I disagree with your general conclusion. Also it would have been nice if you’d elaborated more on the two points you did give the film instead of just on the three you took away.

  3. Keith Ng says:

    Re: Politics, sure, the showcase battle was between rich and poor/criminal, but that was explicitly a sideshow. An excuse, in the same way that Harvey Dent was used. The real politics was between individuals and systemic interests: Blake vs police, Wayne vs corporations, Bane vs Pit, Tate vs League of Shadows (kinda).

    It’s not particularly definitive, but it’s reasonably coherent.