In light of the atrocious marketing campaign, the hype and the pressure, this film has unfortunately failed to accomplish that which only one cinematic franchise has achieved: growing excellence. In this case I’m referring to the Toy Story films and before you harp on about Lord Of The Rings, that was an adaptation of an already established trilogy.. very different. Oh, and if you even whisper the words Star Wars at me, so help me God, I’ll rob you of your genitalia in one swift kick. But I digress, this is an exceptional attempt at a closing chapter but falls short of its predecessor’s accomplishments by a long shot.
Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Gotham has been experiencing a period of unprecedentedly low crime rates. The Batman [Bale] has been absent from the public eye and the Dent Act (a prosecution law, named after Gotham’s former District Attorney) has ensured criminals have been kept off the streets. Unbeknownst to everyone, a ruthless terrorist, Bane [Hardy], has been slowly amassing a loyal army with the intent of spreading panic throughout Gotham. Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon [Gary Oldman] is racked with guilt for misleading the public in accusing Batman of killing Gotham’s white knight, Harvey Dent; at the same time he’s being ousted from his position by his peers who believe it’s time for a change in leadership. Having spent so long on the side-lines, Bruce Wayne soon realises that he needs a great deal of assistance, with his company, his crime-fighting life and the long-term symbol of justice he’s strived to establish. And that’s as much as I can reveal without broadly strolling into spoiler territory.
Taking into account the scope, scale and presentation, this film aims for gloriousness and at times achieves it; the cinematography is pitch perfect, the direction is precise and succinct, the production values are extraordinary but the ambitious plot doesn’t pay off with the inspirational resonance it was desperately trying to strike. What’s more, Hans Zimmer’s score wasn’t as strong as his previous contributions. Sure, the familiar tones are still present and the new Bane theme worked reasonably well but a lot of it fell into obscurity and background ambience; having said that, it’s still better than most efforts. Technically, Nolan is in complete command of his abilities and knows how to produce something truly stunning, whilst retaining a surprising amount of drama and emotional undercurrent but his inability to process genuine human interaction and the pace dragging on so frequently for so long causes the film to suffer heavily, in spite of the stellar casting.
But as much as this is a decent close to the Dark Knight trilogy, it’s far from a perfect film. Sure, it’s gritty, dark, edgy and captivating but it’s also plastered with several negative Nolan traits. To explain, every director has a distinctive signature which can take the form of a particular filming style, same collaborators, favoured shots, etc but this also includes detrimental elements. In Nolan’s case he has a tendency to come off as pretentious, portentous, stodgy and arrogantly dismissive of glaring plot holes. Personally, I’m a fan of Nolan’s work and can happily dismiss these frustrations, even to go so far as to justify them as distinctive signatures in their own right. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that this film is heavily set with these drawbacks; the opening third act is so exposition heavy and laboured in its pacing that audiences really have to sit up and focus. If you watch all three films back-to-back, it makes sense to have a slow and steady build for your third act (an inhalation before the final blow-out) but as a standalone release, there was just a slight stagnation that kept the story from really taking off. In a way, you could compare it to The Lord Of The Rings or Game Of Thrones in the sense that the payoff is thrilling but you have to sit through a lot of cable laying in order to really appreciate the closing encounter. Which brings me back to the Nolan traits, that delightful cocky arrogance that I both respect and bemoan, that attitude of giving the people the same schlock but gift wrapping it in verbose dialogue and praiseworthy performances, to elevate the finished product. A good comparison could be Transformers: The Dark Of The Moon: long torrid opening act, momentum building second act and all-out final act. That film, as trashy as it was, had the same basic structure as The Dark Knight Rises but this film presented it better. A controversial statement, maybe, but one I stand by.
Finally, from a comic fanboy’s point of view, this still isn’t Batman. I love what Nolan and co. have done with this trilogy but in a way, this series’ success pisses me off a little. You see, as great as the films are, they are shitty Batman adaptations and venture into weird highly convenient James bloody Bond territory. A lot is done right but by grounding everything so heavily in reality, the second you try and introduce a truly ‘comic book’ element, it can come off as jarring. Bale has embodied Bruce Wayne and Batman closer than anyone to date but he still sounds like a moron when getting worked up during his bouts with Bane, all that screaming and roaring like a horny walrus, it just makes him seem a little silly. It’s almost as if Nolan is so ashamed of the Batman concept that he has to pick and mix elements of characters in order to come out with something he feels is justifiably credible and by doing so, he has paved the way for future adaptations to do the same. It’s for that reason that I’m actually looking forward to a reboot, in the right hands, we could see a Batman/Bat-Family closer to the comics but because Nolan’s done such an entertaining job, anything that follows is going to have several detractors – the same problem that The Amazing Spider-Man encountered. So, as a film, it’s commendable, as a trilogy is pretty impressive, as a comic book movie, it’s not bad; The Dark Knight Trilogy is ball-shatteringly good cinema but to my mind, The Avengers is the perfect comic book movie. But that’s neither here nor there, just a little commentary on adaptations.
As stated, this isn’t a perfect film but it’s a gripping close to a powerful series that tells a genuinely engrossing story while tying up so many plot points and loose ends that have been raised since 2005.
20th July 2012
The Scene To Look Out For:
One thing the Dark Knight trilogy lacks (and the same could be said for the Batman comics) is a sense of fun. Batman has always been the dark, brooding, distrusting type and any appearance in other DC comics cements this buzz-kill attitude. As such, any semblance of ‘fun’ is greatly appreciated and it’s usually in the form of a villain. In this case, my most memorable scene would be the kangaroo court presided over by the eccentric judge (excuse the vagueness, don’t intend on ruining anything). With a plot of this nature, it’s hard to inject a little humour without coming off as hammy or distracting, thankfully this was the perfect way to avoid just that.
It’s very easy to forget the established characters/cast in favour of the new faces, so I’ll quickly state that anyone who reprised a role did so brilliantly. Now, with regards to the four new key players: Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard, to come into a successful franchise so late in the game is a brave thing and while they make valiant attempts any effect they have on the plot is a exiting one with no follow-up or consequence. No one performance outweighed the others and yet everyone had their moment on-screen to produce something wholly memorable.
“Suffering builds character”
In A Few Words:
“My initial reaction is one of great joy at what this film strived to achieve and delivered but I maintain concern that with repeat viewing it could suffer the same retrospective fate as Avatar”