What’s the point in this review? Everybody desperately wants The Dark Knight Rises to top the previous, Rises-less entry in the series, and naturally that is going to taint our expectations. It tainted mine: I spent the first quarter of the movie furious at my disappointment, desperately cursing whichever god saw fit to plague this movie with only mere greatness.
The Dark Knight Rises is good enough to rate as one of the greatest comic book adaptations of all time. But in this case, good enough is simply just not good enough.
My capital beef lies with the characters: there’s too many of them, and none of them are the Joker. The Dark Knight changed the superhero genre forever, but it was only now, looking back through old youtube videos of Heath Ledger‘s face-meltery Jokering, that I remembered just how damn good the second movie was for his inclusion. The Dark Knight Rises does not have a Joker of its own to fill the void.
Bane is fine. He strikes me as a very comic-bookish character, in the sense that he’s interesting enough to hold our attention for a while, but a callous writer can chuck him at the end of a story arc and the audience will happily move on. I feel like a strong part of this is due to the gigantic mask he wears the whole time – Bruce Wayne takes his off every now and then, and that gives us an avenvue with which to connect with and empathize for his character. Bane doesn’t, all we ever really see of him is his eyes, and the human eye can only really look indimidating to a point. His voice is pretty cool, though, his dark brogue satisfying the comic-book-villain twitch we all came to feed, even if it can be juuust a touch comical at times. Basically I think te biggest problem with Bane is that he’s just too normal – he’s not so evil that we’re forced to hate him. He’s just a dude with a diction-obscuring mouthpiece. The Joker was great because we all loved him for his evil – Bane needed to be so twisted, so diabolical that we would have no choice but to hate him outright. As it is, we don’t.
It won’t make me popular, but I have to put it out there: Anne Hathaway fucking sucks as Catwoman. Not the character: Catwoman works well as a sort of foil for Batman, and the relationship between the two is well-written – I just feel that she has been tragically miscast: I get the vibe that Hathaway’s performance was directly inspired by Michelle Pfeiffer‘s in the comically shiteful Batman Returns (actually, Batman Returns was great, but copy + pasting that sort of acting into a Nolan classic is absolutely not a way to climb the Hollywood ladder). Every time she turns around she flicks her head like the betrayed lover in a bad rom-com, and the amount of crappy one-liners Nolan puts her through is just staggering. Actually the one-liner problem abounds equally amongst the cast in this Gotham, which is funny, since it’s never been a problem before. I get the feeling that some Hollywood exec’s girlfriend spent all night drawing them up, and she wouldn’t put out until he insisted they hit the script. Oh, the world we live in.
So there’s that. One other problem I have with the script lies with the classic philosophical conversations that we grew to love in Batman Begins, the one-on-one tête-à-têtes between Bruce Wayne and those close to him. Basically there are too many and they aren’t all that interesting; it’s all very well to have Alfred break down in front of a rapidly evolving Bruce, but at one point we have to sit through about four of these dialogues in a row, and even someone as metaphysically inclined as myself (LOL) can get a little bored. They’re all written in the same format, too, with two characters spitting short and sharp lines, one of them having a slight moral edge over the other, and ending on a note that would ordinarily give pause to think were it not immediately transitioning into more and more of the same. You can’t develop a characer by yelling words at him and then shooting a close-up of his serious face, especially when there are heads going unpunched all around us every second. Show, don’t tell, Mr. Nolan. He gets this right about three-quarters into the movie, where there is a long exposition of Bruce overcoming all of his weaknesses in order to become an entity that can truly save Gotham, which is really rather cool. In fact, by then, The Dark Knight Rises becomes a paragon model of filmmaking. I only wish that the movie was consistent in its quality; there are good bits and there are the less good bits, and frankly it’s a shame that they even exist at all.
The themes of the film are perhaps less subtle than they were previously. Bane’s pseudo-communist revolution is clearly a direct parallel of the anti-capitalist sentiment that has found footing in many since the Global Financial Crisis, but I feel like including a scene where Bane literally attacks the stock exchange, the very symbol of capitalism, before setting up a French Revolution-style revolutionary tribunal to sentence the idle wealthy to death is just a touch too heavy-handed. There’s even a shot of an American flag ripped to shreds by bullets. Traditionally most superhero sagas have been a bit coy about their settings, but let there be no doubt this film is set in modern ‘Murrica. Still, it gives rise to some great set-pieces – my favourite is the ‘sentencing’ room, where Cillian Murphy manages to sneak back into a minor but recurring role, which is quite nice, even if he has to do it all from atop a barricade of tables and chairs. Les Miserables, herro?
The film actually gets better and better as it trucks along, and the ending in particular is Macaulay Culkin-in-Home-Alone-slapping-his-cheeks-and-dropping-jaw-to-the-floor shockingly good, if I can call the final scene out on being just the weeniest titch predictable. The twists start piling in as we near closure, and I’m pleased to say that by and large my eagle eyes didn’t see them coming, and I was even wearing my glasses. The character of Batman grows in accordance with the coolness of his gagetry, and there are some very high-quality action sequences featuring The Bat, Batman’s personal flying tank, as well as his sweet little motorbike from the second film. I’d recommend this film as part of a trilogy movie marathon, as it makes very frequent reference to Batman Begins, and if you haven’t seen that yet, then I highly recommend you do so before the oxygen supply under your rock on Mars begins to dip too low.
Upon reflection, this has been quite a negative review, so it may come as a surprise to reiterate that it is really quite good. It’s just not as good as the last one. While The Dark Knight will go down as one of the most adored films of all time, the Empire Strikes Back of this generation, sadly The Dark Knight Rises will just have to do with only being really, really good. The action is great, the script not so much, Batman’s character development is fantastic, while Princess Hathaway can kindly fuck off back to Genovia. Gary Oldman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, underappreciated as they will be, rack up some nice screentime, and I highly recommend you slam one out before you lock eyes on Marion Cotillard; it’ll help you last longer.
All the same, this is just not the Batman of Batman films. It’s the ending we needed, but if I can be just disgustingly fan-servicery for one second, it’s not the one we deserve. Hence it is with a heavy heart that I condemn this film to a comparatively paltry 3 ½ Stiff & Erect Bat-Nipples out of 5, and yet unequivolcally recommend it to any and everyone who saw the first two, which is literally the entire population of Earth. What ho!
The Quibble – Unfortunately the frigid climes of Gotham Bay are too unwelcoming to the local selachian species; I was gunning for a little Bat-Shark Repellent action. Sadly this was not to be. On the other hand, if there’s something we really feel we ought to look back on and have a chuckle over, it’s the first time Hathaway is revealed as Catwoman. Oh my sweetest God that is some shocking acting.
Things to Click:
- Thoughts on “The Dark Knight Rises” (kylesmithonline.com)
- The Reviews Are In … (huffingtonpost.com)
- Dave’s ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Review: A Worthwhile Spectacle, a Storytelling Mess (slashfilm.com)
- people really like ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (wwtdd.com)
- The Dark Knight Rises to mixed reviews as critics miss Ledger (theweek.co.uk)
- Hype rises over The Dark Knight’s final installment (vancouversun.com)
- The Dark Knight Rises: reviews are popping up all over after Warner Bros. lifts embargo (blogs.montrealgazette.com)
- 15 things to know before ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (ibnlive.in.com)
- Stars turn out for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ world premiere (itv.com)
- Dark Knight Rises Is a Dark, Epic Blockbuster (newser.com)
- How the Dark Knight Rises reveals Batman’s Conservative soul (telegraph.co.uk)
- #TheDarkKnightRises: What the Critics are Saying? (muhsadam.wordpress.com)
- “THE EPIC ENDING WE’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR!” Flick Chick’s first reaction review to The Dark Knight Rises (blogs.todayonline.com)
- Mike Ryan: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’: Is It As Good As ‘The Dark Knight’? (huffingtonpost.com)