The Dark Knight Rises Review

Why so serious Mr Nolan?

It’s been eight years since Gotham’s dark knight took the fall to protect the city he loves so much.

God only knows why though.

I mean, by the end of this nigh on three hour flick, I’d forgotten why he cared so much about it in the first place.

As will you in all likelihood.

But I do remember how great Batman Begins was.

And just how insanely magnetic Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker was in The Dark Knight.

But as we witness three masked men being captured by CIA operatives in The Dark Knight Rises opening gambit, everything feels a little too familiar.

Even worse, things unfold far too predictably.

Back in Gotham City, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse; driven into hiding by his sacrifice of preserving Harvey Dent’s reputation and rendered impotent by his grief.

Which is a common problem amongst old men, as I understand it.

And old is exactly what Wayne looks and feels like now.

Playing Gotham’s silent guardian has left its scars on his body as well as his mind, but when a new villain rises to wreak havoc upon both Wayne and the city he used to growl at night, the Batman comes out of retirement for one last act.

Like most every other fan of great film, I was eagerly anticipating the final chapter Christopher Nolan’s epic take on the Bruce Wayne legend.

The first two instalments had provided so much entertainment, in such different ways, that the hype surrounding The Dark Knight Rises felt almost impossible to live up to.

So it proves, and it’s hard to feel more disappointed with what the peerless British director has churned out for this final film.

The epic scale of Nolan’s vision, the incredible execution of these special effects and a frankly intimidating cast full of Hollywood’s greatest mainstream talent can’t be faulted.

As far as spectacle goes, you will not find a bigger or better cinematic event all summer.

So it’s a shame Nolan and his scriptwriting brother Jonathan didn’t invest as much time into the ridiculous script they’ve produced for The Dark Knight Rises.

Dull, leaden footed, conveniently nonsensical and unintentionally hilarious on so many occasions; I can scarcely believe this script came from such an excellent film maker as Nolan.

As big as his films have become, Nolan’s standout feature of his previous films – of which I’m a huge fan of nigh on every one – has been their great and imaginative storylines.

So it’s incredibly disappointing that The Dark Knight Rises fails to live up to these expectations.

Worse than that, it’s actually a terrible film.

Replacing Heath Ledger’s wonderfully compelling Joker was always going to be a herculean task, and so it proves for Tom Hardy’s muscle bound villain Bane.

Not that this is his fault, as the characterisation for Batman’s new nemesis is non-existent.

He’s big, he’s strong and he kills people. That’s apparently all we need to know about him.

Of course, Bane’s greatest crime is the incomprehensible voice Nolan’s come up with for him.

You won’t be able to understand half of anything he says, and the other half’s delivered in a ridiculous Queen’s English accent.

It’s a bizarre combination, veering from one extreme to the next, and frankly unbelievable that Nolan could think this was a good idea.

More so that no one on the film had the balls to tell him how bad this sounds.

You could almost forgive Bane’s unintelligible dialogue if his motives were easy to understand.

They’re not.

That’s not because of the complex nature of them, just that his actions don’t make sense in any form of reality.

And that’s what really troubled me about The Dark Knight Rises.

Improbable as it sounds for a man who chooses to dress up as a 6 foot bat to fight crime, what made Nolan’s first two Batman films so great was how believable they were.

In spite of the fantastical, comic book nature of the material, Nolan and Christian Bale brought a realistic credibility to the world of Bruce Wayne, and more improbably the Batman.

Not in this film though.

With the notable exception of Anne Hathaway’s suave and stylish portrayal of Selina Kyle, the actions and dialogue of every other character simply aren’t credible.

From the crippled state Wayne now finds himself in, the psychic insight new characters seem to be afforded for the Batman’s true identity, the shockingly awful analogy’s Alfred now comes out with to the marginalisation of great supporting characters like Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon and Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox.

Even worse than this that after two brilliantly entertaining films where brain triumphed over brawn, Nolan seems to have performed a dramatic role reversal for the final chapter of his trilogy.

In Batman Begins ideological values went to war with each other; in The Dark Knight the concept of escalation is theatrically brought to life by a character who’s cleverer than the Batman.

The Dark Knight Rises has replaced this intelligence with a man who’s been retired for eight years thinking he can take on a man mountain in straight out fist fight over and over again.

Even a child could tell you how smart this idea is, i.e. not very.

I could go on about all the flaws in The Dark Knight Rises, but seeing as religious fanboys are so zealous about these films now it’s probably best not to.

Having read only positive reviews in the media for this film so far, I’d suggest these are a result of death threats pathetic fanboys have made to any negative reviews of their beloved film.

And, of course, the PR suicide it would be for a mainstream publication to criticise a film with so many influential Hollywood stars and players involved.

But the truth is The Dark Knight Rises is just a bad film; incoherent, ridiculously convenient and dull.

It makes me wonder what the final Batman film would have been like if Heath Ledger hadn’t died in such unfortunate circumstances.

I’m sure the story of The Dark Knight Rises would have been very different then, and we may have got the epic finale to live with Nolan’s fantastic first two acts of the Batman.

Maybe this wouldn’t have been the film we deserved, but it sure would have been what we need right now.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

July 2012