The Dark Knight Rises – Review

Ever since 2005, director Christopher Nolan has been re-inventing the Batman franchise. Starting out with ‘Batman Begins’, Nolan followed up with one of the most successful films of the decade, ‘The Dark Knight’, in 2008. However, Nolan began to tire of his dark comic-book storytelling, and went to on to make ‘Inception’ in 2010. Now, under pressure to seal the trilogy and the legacy of the caped crusader, Nolan brings super-villain Bane to the forefront – the iconic bad guy of the comics who effectively ended Bruce Wayne’s vigilante career once and for all. Can the film withhold the legacy?

Although not specified at the start, this story takes place roughly eight years after the events of ‘The Dark Knight’. No, we never do find out what eventually happened to The Joker, but Nolan perhaps thought it best to leave that character to rest (for obvious reasons). We quickly move onto the main story arc of this film, with a decisively older Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) now needing a stick to walk around on, and having adapted to a reclusive life in his new manor house, after the events of the second film. However, finding his jewelry getting robbed by the ‘Cat Woman’ (Anne Hathaway) one night prompts him to venture out into the world once more, following the slinky anti-heroine into Gotham’s new underworld, where he finds an enhanced soldier called Bane (Tom Hardy) raising a mercenary army in preparation for an uprising. Despite the objections of his butler Alfred (Michael Caine), the past-it playboy decides he may just need to don the cape one last time.

This is a very long film. I’ll give an idea of how this will go down right now by saying that the experienced film goer will be able to tell this movie is going to be a messy business from the opening twenty minutes. There’s a shootout on a plane, Wayne gets robbed, and then we’re talking about stock shares. This approach to film-making is pretty much consistent throughout, and unless you’ve seen the first two films (and also know them pretty well), your enjoyment of this third film will most definitely be affected.

I’ll start with a classic point of discussion – can you tell what Bane is saying behind his mask? Simple answer – no, you can’t. His voice is reverberated to sound something like an upper-class Sean Connery, but despite what some people argue about it being about ‘not being able to see lips’, the fact of the matter is that people talk very fast in this film, and the main antagonist’s voice is muffled throughout. That was always going to be a bad production choice – Bane really needed to speak slowly if his voice was to become that distorted. If you’re hearing is great, you’ll have difficulty understanding him. If you have difficulty hearing, you will miss entire sections of the central plot.

I use the term ‘central’ there to highlight the main plot about Batman saving Gotham City. That is to say, there are around fifteen different stories going on in this film – the future of Wayne Enterprises, Bruce Wayne’s love-life, Bane’s past, commissioner Gordon’s secret about Harvey Dent’s true fate – just to name some of the plot lines off the top of my head. Watch out for cameos from previous villains throughout the film – further plot strands to add to the higgledy-piggledy. You’d think just under three hours of film would cover all of it. It just about does. Just.

My criticism also turns to one of the most obvious points – there is very little of Batman. In the two hour and forty-four minute running time, the bat armour comes out a sacred three times. The vast majority of this film is about Bruce Wayne, Bane’s uprising, and said multiple plot strands. Perhaps too much attention is given at things other than what we would expect – that is, Batman kicking ass.

Performances are good all round, though the script is somewhat lacking this time round. Opportunities for quirky quips and memorable one-liners are missed at many different points, which were really the only window left to insert any laughs into this film. Batman Begins had humour, and The Dark Knight had dark humour, even if only for the comic villain. Here, all humour has vanished – the film is jet black (even darker than the second film, if at all possible) and the laughs are few and far between, and not even that good when they arrive.

To try and wrap this up, the special effects are great as always, but the film is too long and too complex for what it is, attempting far too hard to live up to expectations and become the big all-inclusive finale to the trilogy we were expecting. There are lots of guns and lots of violence for a 12A certificate again – particularly on Bane’s part (though the violence is actually toned down in this one compared to the previous film).

The film lacks any great spectacle – there’s no Hong Kong skyscraper or ninjas in this film, and neither a charismatic villain. Bane’s character is essentially two-dimensional (sinister though he is), but there is no real depth to his character that I feel we had in the villains from the first two installments. Fight sequences generally take place in back alleys, streets and office buildings, and only the final battle provoked any sort of excitement for me. The climax is definitely not the major, epic, ‘Sixth Sense’ plot twist that everyone has hyped-up on social media platforms. Ultimately, I thought the finale was convoluted, and the way Batman eventually overcomes his seemingly invincible arch-enemy is a complete and utter cop-out.

I would like to say for all it’s sins that this is still a good film, but I might be pushing it. Christopher Nolan is known for pushing the boundaries of film-making and doing new things, but he’s just tried far too hard here, and it shows. It’s well-shot, and everything is in place for an epic climax, but even with a major budget and star-value, the final word is decided on the script and the plot. These are two things that everyone knows Nolan can do well, and yet here we have a muddled and complex story that could have just been really easy. These complications lead to the biggest plot holes of the trilogy (mostly around the aforementioned final twist). Overall, it’s worth watching if you’re a fan, just to see how it ends. But this is by FAR the worst film of the three.

7/10

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