Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises

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The Hardy Boys

Warning: This review discusses aspects of the plot.

Could a bat and a cat really breed? They share two of their three letters. That’s just one of many questions that doths its cap to your brain as you watch Christopher Nolan’s overwrought, overlong, sometimes disjointed third Bat-Pic. Because it doesn’t have the focus or coherence of Ledger’s requiem, the mind’s roving mic gets passed around quite a bit. Voices from cinema’s past torment you: there’s the twang of Mike Myers’ Doctor Evil talking about “easily escapable situations”, there’s Peter O’Toole in Supergirl, discussing the ascent from the phantom zone, ah yes and Michelle Pfeiffer, a siren in latex, all those years ago, saying “yes Miss Kitty, I feel so much better”, and you were so much better Michelle – you had a real part for one thing. Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle wouldn’t have settled for being a human panacea for Bruce Wayne’s woes.

In a movie with many problems: it’s a necropolis for style, the story pivots on a plot hole the size of Christian Bale’s adrenal gland (just how the hell did Wayne get from his foreign prison to a locked down Gotham with no money and no resources?), there’s none more discombobulating than Nolan’s dour realism.

It’s turned the Batman experience into something like a sexless Eyes Wide Shut party. You’re invited to join a room full of earnest types, the kind that never laughed as children – Bertrams and Belindas who’d tug at mother’s skirt and say, “ignore papa, I want a teat”, though they were 8 years old, indulging in masked horseplay. It’s oddball fetishism in a world with pretensions to reality.

Frankly, I blame 9/11. I blame it for everything from that sour look on your face to the rolling back of the imagination. It’s this idea, now sorely dated, that fantasy’s grounded and adult entertainment must have a fist up the zeitgeist. Which ridiculant decided that artifice was passé? Not a movie lover. The Dark Knight Rises, like its po-faced predecessors, courts relevance. It wants to talk about terrorism and civilisation, wealth and power. We see bankers strapped to motorcycles and the rich dragged from their homes by a baying mob. Future film historians will have no trouble marking this as a post-financial crisis blockbuster. Fine, but Bane and Catwoman talk like student revolutionaries. The content of their characters is emptier than Bruce Wayne’s safe.

All three movies experiment with the idea that flat characters can move through a film, their shallows unmarked, provided they become spokespeople for an idea. They talk about their respective preoccupations and exchange bios. Imagine the Godfather, one of many movies aped by Nolan, being made the same way: Coppola saying to Brando and Pacino, “Marlon, you represent traditional gangsterism, you know, honour amongst thieves, that flavour of bullshit, and Al, you’re a realist. No need for either of you to project any kind of inner life, just talk about your respective points of view – the audience will get the idea.”

Ignore the dressed up simplicity and you could imagine that this was the Bugatti Veyron of popular entertainment; it’s the most expensive around; but the truth is that Batman works best when the story is about his world, not ours. In the Gotham of DC comics and yes, a couple of vintage Tim Burton adaptations, Bob Kane’s characters didn’t have to apologise for their theatricality, nor adjust for credibility.

Given the hysteria around Nolan’s trilogy, though with deafening silence from fems we may need another word for it, it’s now considered heretical to say that the 1989 take on the character and his backyard was better conceived, so let’s say it. Burton’s films took place in a world framed by sets and punctuated by frames. It was grand artifice; a hyper-real noir stocked with glorious grotesques. In the movie world of Batman, it was possible to imagine an Out of the Past era Kirk Douglas occupying the same skyscraper as Jack Palance’s mob boss. Sure, the movie struggled to tell its story, like a constipated man trying to squeeze waste through uncooperative guts, but the design, the mise-en-scene, the score – all served to give this hermetically sealed world dimensionality. It’s a quality that Nolan’s flat and matter-of-fact universe lacks.

In this featureless, often boring Bat-scape, psychological depth is an illusion achieved by decking the film with real world furniture. It’s a good trick (and Jokers are wild) because it flatters critics’ intellectual vanity, allowing them to wax lyrical about comic book characters in terms usually reserved for literary ones. There’s intensity, certainly, and someone should buy Nolan a drink for refusing to saturate his frames with pixels, but the lack of shade, of life, makes the experience of these pictures like watching TV through your neighbour’s window. You just can’t get into it. Hans Zimmer’s musical foreshadowing – that’s the term used to describe a score without melodic value – is married with dramatic foreshadowing. It’s an innovative approach to realising heightened realities that should never be repeated.

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Country: US

Year: 2012

Running Time: 164 mins

Certificate: 12A for hype, odd voices, fetishism, Anne Hathaway's rump and sustained crying from Michael Caine.

18 Responses

  1. Please close your holes, Ed. says:

    You’re hilarious, but not in a good way. You should be reviewing a movie with the consideration for how well it did what it intended to do, not based on your opinion of what the tone should’ve been. You clearly don’t recognize that comics (which this movie character is derived from) is steeped in social relevance, which automatically forces the viewer psychologically to become invested in Batman’s because that world IS THEN THE VIEWER’S WORLD, thus a heightened sense of actual stakes. Chris Nolan always intended this to be a Batman for the real world. We’ve already had hyper ridiculous implausible fantasy. It was called “Batman Forever” and “Batman and Robin”. Are you telling me, those were the way to go? Really Ed?

    • Please close your holes, Ed. says:

      *…recognize that comics are…*

      • BraD says:

        That’s all you came up with?

        • Kyle says:

          You are right. This review is total trash. I have seen the movie twice and I might got a third time. Why? Because it’s a good movie.

          • no2 bat-nerds says:

            You bat-nerds are really sad. It’s well known that Nolan thinks that more is more in a movie..any movie..and it is..NOT.This movie was as convoluted as the darknight, only he didn’t have Ledger to save the film this time. Go watch it for a 4th or 5th time and see the movie for what it is, and while you’re at it, try to ignore your bat-boner when you’re at it..cause it might help you be less of a bat-nerd and more of what we grown ups call ” objective”

  2. Dusan says:

    I totally agree. These new Batman movies are superficially philosophical and only interesting to watch sociologically (considering art and film history) for how badly the pseudo-artistic/acclaimed blockbuster directors of today want their superhero films to be “important” in a post-911 world.

    The Nolan films are boring, pretentious, and totally lacking in creativity. I loved Memento, Following, and Insomnia. But Nolan’s Batman films are crap. I’ve never read the comics. I don’t care for comics. But these are MOVIES, NOT COMIC BOOKS!

    Tim Burton’s movies were cheesy. And maybe not as “true to the comics”. I don’t know about that. But I do know that as cheesy as they were, they were never boring. And I actually remember them. The only thing I remember from any of the Nolan films is Heath Ledger.

    • Edindro says:

      You should have stopped at “I don’t know about that” – because you’re right.

      What Christopher Nolan did was adapt his films to the way Batman comics have been since the 80’s…they are more serious and more socially/politically relevant than other long-standing heroes like Superman or Spider-man etc. You don’t know the comics so you don’t understand why this isn’t Nolan’s fault…he did with Batman what comics did with him decades ago.

      So it’s not Nolan’s take on it you don’t like. What you don’t like is that comic book writers consider themselves to be real writers. And often they take their heroes, and they make them relevant.

      Stick with Marvel movies. I have a feeling you’ll hate the new Superman.

  3. BraD says:

    Wow. You sir, need a vacation. That was the longest rant I read for a “review”. Heath is dead, you need to accept that. He was great, turn that page already.

    Please realize this is a movie of a comic book character, for entertainment only. He chose to venture Batman in a much darker way than others, as the name The Dark Knight intends to be.

    Anyways, I won’t start to argue, but the tone of this artcile is as dark as these movies, however I enjoyed the movies, and wasted time here typing away at something I did not.

    • Jason says:

      All of the Nolan movies ask the question, “should costume vigilantes exist?”.

      That question makes no sense when framed in a Burton/Schumacher/Marvel universe.

    • Yokel says:

      You want your films taken seriously, you don’t want your films to take seriously. The fuck is the matter with you Nolan Batwimps ?!?

      See, crap is crap, and you should just learn to accept that.

      Plus, be careful what you wish for. You don’t want ‘the people’ taking on its seriously fucked-up politics. Geez.

  4. Robert says:

    Just saw the film. This is right on the money. Please keep writing.

  5. miguel says:

    Great review! The font youu chose is cool but very hard to read, esp on ipads

  6. Jonathan says:

    YES. Somewhere Tim Burton must be thinking “Really? My Batman was enigmatic, cool and fun.”

  7. james says:

    what a pretentious, pompous excuse for a movie review, someone who’s drowning in the thought of their “superior” intelligence making him more significant than he really is, while dealing with the fact that they are only reviewing movies on a website. you’re not going to be winning any pulitzers sir. So don’t try and make the medial task of a review into a personal challenge of outsmarting christopher nolan. Im quite confident he can care less about your take on his adaptation. though the movie has its holes, it serves the purpose of the third/last instalment to a trilogy perfectly. It surpasses its predeccessors in terms of scale and severity while returning the story full circle to the original instalment. the primary issue with all sequels that people trouble to accept are these tasks. escalating the story, performances, action, and severity while keeping the world within realistic parameters and relatable to the audience. The movie plays long but it outperformed others in its ambition of combining the sheer number of story lines it attempted to introduce/incorporate and conclude within a single film. on it’s own, the dark knight rises is perhaps not an excellent film. but in its role. . . it accomplishes its position in the series with near unmatched perfection.

  8. Sam says:

    Everyone has got the right to voice their opinion but unfortunately, this piece does not sound like a review but rather a 3 page long rant. Mr Reviewer appears to have no idea about the comic books and this smells strongly of elitism. It seems that he does not like or rather does not want to like movies based on comic books and considers both movies and their source material as crass literature unworthy of any praise and that what makes this review extremely biased. I guess people will be reviewing this review for a while.

    • no2 bat-nerds says:

      Nolan is no hitchcock , that’s for sure. Accept it man, Nolan has alot of weaknesses as a director and his movies lack the spark which great movies are made of. Ledger was great, but the darkknight without ledger was as memorable as something you’d forget.

  9. Mark Selby says:

    Forget Nolan’s pretentious twaddle…bring back Adam West!! Now he WAS Batman/Bruce Wayne! 😉

    Nice review, by the way!

  10. Pedro says:

    Wow, that’s the purest rant I’ve ever came across about the Nolan version of Batman. What a bunch of pretensious self indulgent words. I get it, you don’t like Nolan’s view of this universe, but please stop hating and analyze the plot/characters/composition/visuals next time you write a review.
    This is a comic book adaptation buddy. Stop looking for references about classic movies in it.
    BTW, i don’t like Burton’s version of the Batman, but I CAN SEE the merit of his approach. And Nolan’s version is WAY more accurate, like it or not.
    Read some comics, know the characters better, than we can talk.