Sunday, 29 July 2012

"The Dark Knight Rises" Review

by Alex Hill


Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb.

I still remember the enormous triumph of "The Dark Knight". I walked out of the theatre a drooling idiot. I couldn't remember where I lived, because that beautiful thing came and shattered my mind. I knew better than to expect the last installment of this Batman trilogy to surpass that. But I was not prepared for this. When we left the theatre, my friend and I looked at each other. He said to me:

"...Did that actually happen???".

I know I saw it. I know I've been waiting for four years to see it. I have witnesses who can vouch for my whereabouts. I have the receipt! But in many ways, I'm still waiting for that proper conclusion. This movie is a bad dream.

The face of evil is... Goatse, apparently.

A bad guy with no personality has plans for Gotham city which we don't understand, because he talks like he has a dick in his mouth. Tom Hardy has a unique bad guy voice, and muffling him behind a face-mask is wasteful. The most common complaint about these films is how no one can make sense of what Christian Bale is saying as Batman. Now, at the climax of the franchise, all of the suspense rests on two incoherent brutes.

The rest of the cast is a steady mix of returning players and new faces, and to it's credit these are standout players. Freeman, Oldman and Caine are a sight for sore eyes, but there's not a whole lot for them to do here. And while Joseph Gordon-Levitt's good-guy cop "John Blake", and Anne Hathaway's shifty cat-burglar "Selina Kyle" are performed well enough... I'm not totally certain they were necessary. It doesn't feel like they evolved naturally from the demands of the plot. I'd have liked to see these actors and characters in material better-suited for them. The few clever moments only bring attention to where "Rises" falls.

There is a curious matter of the trailers promising a better product than they offer. The official score is outdone by the music in the commercials. The best line in the screenplay, spoken by Michael Caine in a preview is shamefully absent. Too many characters hinted at dying miraculously survive. Background characters of little importance are killed off for desperate sympathy. The jumpy flow and rhythm feels like they made the trailers first, and then tried to make the rest of the movie around them. This is not a labour of love, is what I'm saying.

Batman's a scientist.

And it takes it's sweet time. I remember how long the first two films were, and how they needed every second of it. Because every second was in service to the next moment. But a certain plot-point halfway through renders the first hour or so largely worthless. I've seen straight-to-DVD cartoons that better honoured these characters and situations.

Perhaps all of that could be tolerated, but the lack of any central theme is too much. I am still amazed at how pointless this film is. "Batman Begins" revolved around Fear. What it is, what it does, how we react to it, how it can drive us to do things we'd never imagine we could. "The Dark Knight" was about Chaos. The coiling, bubbling chaos just under the skin of society, and in the hearts of all men. The wild, dangerous thing that just needs one bad day to be unleashed. In both films, all of the events seem born from those two themes.

I could not tell you what the theme to "Rises" would be. Not in one word. The issue of trust comes up, but that's more of a secondary objective. The film comments on the disparity between wage classes, but that's an aside. Fear and Chaos both make cameos, but neither are at the core. It feels as if the writer and director felt they could compensate for a lack of a single coherent theme, if they just stitched smaller objectives together.

(And without spoiling anything, I will say an ending that... cute does not belong in a gritty Batman movie. In the last five minutes, "Rises" mutates into such dribbling fan-fiction, I'd swear I was playing Mass Effect 3.)

It would be less retarded if all of these people started doing the Batusi.

"The Dark Knight Rises" may be the emptiest film in Chris Nolan's career. He has nothing to say here, and relies on bits and pieces too weak to sustain its' premise. I had made peace with the fact that it would not be the Batman conclusion I wanted. I'm not even sure it's the conclusion Nolan wanted. It's not the movie we need, or the movie we deserve. And I think we can all agree that those people in Colorado deserved a lot better.

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