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Dark Knight Rises

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  Dark Knight Rises Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
6.50 /10
Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard
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Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan , based on a story by Cristopher Nolan and Mark Goyer

Released: 2012
Origin: US/UK
Length: 165

Spectacular - but overlong and too often incomprehensible.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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This film is so eagerly awaited and has such a huge publicity budget, it is certain to be a hit. Most critics mindful of their backs Ė or, indeed, their fronts Ė will praise it to the proverbial skies. The last time I gave a movie like this fewer than five stars, I received death threats from people who hadnít even seen the movie in question.

I am not being perverse, however, in stating that this is a film with many glaring defects. How far you allow those to interfere with your enjoyment of the movie is, of course, up to you.

First, the positives.

Director Christopher Nolan has done an intelligent job, along with his brother Jonathan, of assembling a blockbuster finale that makes an emotionally satisfying conclusion to the trilogy of Batman films he has directed. The final half-hour is cleverly written and on a spectacular scale. You may have seen an American city trashed, but never quite like this.

The picture also has the courage to grapple, however superficially, with two big themes - the fear of terrorism and economic collapse. The bad guy, Bane (Tom Hardy), is like a French revolutionary of the 18th century, hoping to unite the oppressed masses against the capitalists, police and authorities who have kept them under control for so long. A ďpeopleís courtĒ dispenses death sentences to anyone deemed reactionary. Thatís me done for, then.

I wouldnít claim the film is a political heavyweight, but there are echoes of Dickensí big novels about rioting masses and political anarchy, Barnaby Rudge and A Tale of Two Cities, whose famous ending is even quoted at the end.

Unfortunately, the political agenda of the bad guys is muddled, to say the least, and itís hard to know if they have genuine sympathy for the masses, as Bane and his allies seem quite willing to ruin their football games and blow them all to kingdom come. Is it because the masses are sinful and corrupt? Or is it because they voted in anti-crime legislation that cleaned up the city?

I feel we had a right to know, and the movie wonít tell you. Itís too busy moving on to the next big action set-piece.

The other bad news is that the experience lasts two hours 45 minutes, which is astonishingly bloated Ė and unforgivable in a film that spends a long, ponderous hour getting started, despite a couple of well-staged action sequences.

When Bruce Wayne alias Batman (Christian Bale) eventually rides to the rescue, he comes as a man misunderstood by the public and authorities alike. Heís still blamed for the death of former crime-fighter Harvey Dent, architect of the Dent Act, the piece of miracle legislation that has rendered Gotham City virtually crime-free for eight years.

As Batman has long been retired in disgrace, and is apparently crippled physically and emotionally, it requires a major suspension of disbelief to understand why the bad guys bother to employ cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) to frame him for an attack on the New York Stock Exchange and ruin him financially with a number of disastrous investments.

The effect is, of course, counter-productive. It puts the fight back into Wayne Ė much to the concern of his trio of father figures: butler Alfred (Michael Caine), chief of police Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and technical genius Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). Batmanís only able-bodied ally is a fresh-faced cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who pretty much resembles his former chum Robin.

The job of being love interest/ femme fatale is split between Marion Cotillard, in a grievously underwritten role as an amorous member of Bruce Wayneís management board, and Hathawayís Selina, who appears for most of the movie to be a lesbian but whose girlfriend accomplice (played by Juno Temple) simply disappears, leaving Selina the chance to change personality overnight. I guess superheroes can do that kind of thing to a girl.

Other events requiring a suspension of intelligence include the moment when Bane doesnít kill Batman when he has the opportunity. Those of a sceptical nature may also ask how it is, in the last 45 minutes, that Batman has a habit of turning up unerringly in the apposite place in the nick of time, when for the previous two hours he has been unable to do anything right. Mind you, itís just as well he does, because otherwise the picture might never end.

Another fault is that Bane is a boring villain. Heath Ledgerís Joker in The Dark Knight was creepily memorable. Bane is just Darth Vader in a Hannibal Lecter mask, and his words are practically inaudible. For the first time in a blockbuster this year, an over-enthusiastic effects track, poor diction (not only by Hardy) and what sounds like hundreds of crazed Japanese taiko drummers make large stretches of dialogue incomprehensible. And in case you think Iím going deaf, my 21 year-old son sitting beside me found the dialogue equally difficult to hear.

Just when you think things canít get any worse, Tom Conti turns up after one a half hours and starts relating a back story in an accent that might as well be in Serbo-Croat.

As with all recent Batman films, the tone is humourless, bordering on reverential. There are even self-consciously mythic echoes of Jesus coming to save humanity, and itís a tribute to Baleís acting that he endows the role with agonized sincerity, even when asking us to believe in the wildly incredible.

Anyone who canít see enough big, loud movies that donít make sense can safely disregard this review. But the first of the trilogy, Batman Begins (which received 8/10 from me), remains the creative high point, partly because it didnít overreach itself and try to cram in too many arch-villains.

The Dark Knight Rises is not as repellently sadistic as its immediate predecessor, but it has pretensions vastly beyond its capabilities, the villains are ridiculous with tactics and agendas that donít make sense, and the bombastic special effects drown out the narrative.

I gather that one American reviewer, Marshall Fine, who attempted to write a serious analysis of Nolanís film and came to conclusions similar to mine, has already received death threats.

These are troubling times. Perhaps now we need a superhero to save the future of honest criticism.

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