Disappointing... yet brilliant

Random and not-so-random thoughts about movies

The Dark Knight Rises

Director Christopher Nolan

Stars Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman

USA 2012

Language English

2hr 48mins

Colour

Conclusion of Nolan’s Bat trilogy

[NB: This was largely written before the terrible murders in a Colorado cinema. I’ve left them largely as they were. For a bit of perspective on events (not always welcome in the immediate aftermath, I realise), here’s a piece I wrote about the impact of the Columbine massacre on the entertainment industry one year on].

Christopher Nolan’s bloated Bat saga comes to a climax with another film that is ridiculously and unnecessarily long, although not actually painful to sit through. Like Batman Begins, it is both enjoyable and heavily flawed. The difference is that this one is almost scuppered by a messy closing race against time with too many storylines.

Several years after the events of The Dark Knight, the Batman has vanished, millionaire Bruce Wayne is a Howard Hughes-like recluse. Crime is down, but the tough laws brought in to clean up Gotham after the events of The Dark Knight are about to expire. Obscure foreign superbaddy Bane, muscle-bound and with a weird face mask, has arrived and is assembling a (literal) underground army. And the safe in Wayne Manor is broken into by a slinky jewel thief…

 So:

 1. Having thought about it for several days, I believe the fact it is impossible to make out most of what Bane (Tom Hardy) says has to be deliberate. As to why, I’m none the wiser. But whatever the reason, it’s bloody annoying – although the dialogue is consistently terrible, so it maybe a small mercy.

2. And it’s not just that the script is so wretched, but there is so much talking. Just shut up and punch someone, please.

3. I don’t want to see Michael Caine cry, or keep saying ‘Master Wayne…’ in a despairing manner. It’s not touching, it’s ugly.

4. There’s far too much of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a tediously idealistic young(ish) cop.

5. Despite/because of its stone-faced self-importance and lack of humour, this version of Batman is every bit as camp as the Adam West TV series. And considerably less clever. I think Christian Bale does a good job, but West is still my favourite of the (non-animated) Caped Crusaders.

6. What I guess is meant to be the big twist is one of the oldest in the history of storytelling, and a great favourite with directors of Agatha Christie TV adaptations.

7. The film essentially offers us a choice between two competing forms of fascism – one offering the silent brutal promise of Bat justice, the other the Occupy movement as read through right-wing paranoia - demagogic, pretending to be anarchism but actually a form of societal death wish. Neither is terribly appealing.

8. The Daily Telegraph has hailed Batman as a conservative hero, which is true. But it also describes him as a good capitalist, which is far less accurate. In fact, Bruce Wayne is the classic neglectful heir, discarding the profit motive to pursue utopian schemes that not only put his family’s company at risk, but the whole city.

9. Over the trilogy as a whole, Bruce Wayne spends a lot of time before being Batman, then retired as Batman, then out of service as Batman. Is Nolan afraid of having too much of a man in a cape and silly mask on screen? Then he shouldn’t be directing this movie.

10. For some strange reason, the richly imagined Gotham of Batman Begins has now been traded for in for a city that often seems to be a fairly undisguised New York City. This is a big backwards step.

11. A mostly decent cast is packed with familiar faces, with a terrific cameo from a villain from earlier in the series. And Anne Hathaway looks like she’s properly grateful for the chance to play Catwoman. 

12. The Rocky montage is much mocked, but also an excellent device in the right hands. Here, Nolan demonstrates how excruciatingly slowly time can pass if you don’t use it. 

13. This year, it seems, superheroes are allowed to have sex lives. Presumably to make the whole men in tights thing seem less sad/creepy.

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