Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Title: The Dark Knight Rises
Director: Christopher Nolan
Year Released: 2012
Running Time: 165 minutes
Classification: PG-13
Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure, Science fiction

The Dark Knight Rises is the last of Christopher Nolan's dark and gritty Batman films, and though it may not surpass the excellent The Dark Knight (2008), it at least matches the standard of Batman Begins (2005). While some may argue about whether the film is true to the Batman character, I would say that Nolan's interpretation should be appreciated for what it is, and for me, The Dark Knight Rises is a satisfying conclusion to one of the better movie trilogies in recent times.

The first thing I'll mention is that it's best to have seen the previous movies (or at least know what happened) before watching this one. It's possible to follow the film without the prior knowledge, but it'd be kind of a waste, and you'd be confused for at least part of the film.

So what happens? To sum up the premise without giving too much away, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a crippled recluse since the events of the last film, but finds himself being drawn back into the Batman persona when Gotham is terrorised by a masked fellow named Bane (Tom Hardy). A partially recycled Inception (2010) cast play out the other parts in the drama, and the story is enriched by the fact that each character has their own story arc and motivations.

The style and feel of the previous films is maintained, which is to say The Dark Knight Rises is stylish and serious and leaves you with the impression you just watched something intelligent. The relevancy of Gotham's (fictional) social issues to our reality has always been one of the trilogy's great strengths, and this aspect is played up in The Dark Knight Rises. The epic, monologue-y dialogue is still there, and again it somehow works. The story itself is cleverly structured in that typical Christopher Nolan way, bringing together various characters and story-lines to create various conflicts and reveals. It's the kind of film that warrants discussion, the kind of film that rewards you with subsequent viewings.

However, a few days later, when the dazzle of the film's cleverness and stylishness had worn off, I found myself thinking about its flaws. These mainly have to do with the world of Gotham, which straddles the line between fantasy and reality when compared to ours. For me, The Dark Knight Rises crosses the line too far into fantasy, which is jarring given the world established in previous films. Amongst Gotham's gritty realism, you get someone as cartoonish as Bane, who is a physically menacing but often incomprehensible brute with a speech pattern somewhere between Darth Vader and a corny Bond villain. You also have a vehicle that looks like it belongs in Transformers, and then there are Batman's miraculous powers of recovery and the whole thing with the Pit. Especially the Pit. And especially Bane. I realise this is a subjective thing; to others, such aspects may fit perfectly into a world in which something like the League of Shadows exists.

In essence, my problems with the film have to do with the fact I keep comparing it with its predecessor. For all its structure, it felt like the film was composed of a hodgepodge of ideas and plots which fit together as part of a grand scheme, but which don't play off each other in the way that they did in The Dark Knight. This is especially true of the characters. In that movie, the three central characters Batman, the Joker (Heath Ledger) and Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) worked wonderfully together, with each character holding a unique moral position that was challenged by the others. In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman has to deal with the ridiculous Bane and cat burglar Selina Kyle (who I can't help but see as Anne Hathaway, with the usual Anne Hathaway perkiness/snarkiness combo), neither of whom prove to be as interesting or challenging as Harvey Dent and the Joker.

In the end, the only characters I cared about were the ones who had been in previous films and maybe Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). I liked this movie, but when you compare it to The Dark Knight, it's a bit of a let down. While you've still got an intricate plot and dark realism, the characters – particularly the villains – just aren't as compelling. But hey, it's still a good film and a good ending to the trilogy. I, for one, will be looking forward to marathoning all three movies in years to come.

Alex's Rating: 3.5/5

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