STS goes to the movies: The Dark Knight Rises
First, a couple of prescriptive notes. I am not an expert on the history of batman and the various manifestations the character has appeared as in comics down the years, nor, I must confess, have I seen Batman Begins. As such, any of the comments that follow below should be taken with a pinch of salt and with tolerance for my ignorance. Having spent the past weekend in the company of friends who are versed in the films and the comics, I am glad that I withheld this post until now, as my views have been tempered and have matured. As such, I feel this review will provide a fairer picture of the film that my initial luke-warm review might have done.
I rate Christopher Nolan quite highly as a director – The Dark Knight stands, in my mind, as his directorial masterpiece (though that said, Batman Begins was talked of in reverent terms over the weekend, so this assessment may well change when I view that film). I thoroughly enjoyed The Prestige – a brilliant bit of Victorian noir, almost steampunk at times. Inception left me rather cold, however – the concept was sound, and the visuals were quite special, but it was all rather too Matrix for me. It just seemed unfocused, and, if anything, rushed. I’m glad that I’ve seen it as I do recognise it as an important film but I wouldn’t rush to see it again.
I’m glad that Nolan stuck around to see out the trilogy – conceptual and artistic completion are vital to the vitality and viability of cinema. Same goes for the cast – again, Christian Bale proved himself a fine Batman, a fine emotive actor. I loved him in The Fighter, and while there is less ‘acting’ involved while playing Batman, his performance was on par with the rest of the trilogy. I had thought Bale was a bit quiet, dispassionate as Batman, but with reflection it has become clear to me that Bale plays the role very well – dedicated, disciplined, conflicted and compromised. A truly psychological, distant batman, as hard for the audience to get to know, to understand, as for the people of Gotham.
Gary Oldman was rather fine as well – the make-up and costume crews aged him perfectly and he had a delightful tiredness about him. You really felt for him, the long-suffering, yet still dedicated man of the people. That said, seeing him monkey about on the bomb truck like a teenage gymnast was a little far fetched…
Tom Hardy isn’t an actor I have experienced much, but by the looks of his past acting roles (Bronson, RockNRolla, Warrior) he does seem typecast to a degree as a muscle presence. Much as with Batman, there is little facial acting involved – just the eyes and the brows – all the acting has to come from the voice and the body. He pulls it off pretty well, all told – his is a menacing, looming presence, his physicality juxtaposed wonderfully by his Caribbean accent. But…somehow, Bane isn’t that menacing – he seems an ideologue, a revolutionary a man driven by purpose, rather than the agent of pure chaos The Joker was. The Joker may have had a lesser impact overall compared to Bane, but The Joker had a deeper psychology, something truly horrifying, subhuman about him. There is no empathy to be felt for The Joker, whereas Bane has a degree of humanity about him. But then, Heath Ledger nailed the Joker and made the role, and the film, his own. Tom Hardy, with the greatest of respect, is no Heath Ledger.
Anne Hathaway was decent as Catwoman, I guess, but her presence was largely superfluous. She added little to the film bar a touch of romance with Batman. The Robin character was rather better – a history, a psychology and a purpose in the plot. Morgan Freeman pretty much had a bit part, and while Caine had some emotive scenes with Bale, his final graveside scene was godawful to say the least.
In the main the film held together pretty well – it is persistently dark, even fatalistic. It is a case of damage limitation, rather than resurrection for Gotham. Batman can only prevent the utter devastation of the city, rather than its rebirth – but then, that is all he has ever been capable of. It was nice to see some social commentary scattered throughout the film – the kangaroo courts, the sack of the stock exchange, the Bane revolution. The philosophy behind the climb and the cave was rather interesting – the Dark Knight rose indeed. How he then managed to best Bane in the main fight scene I do not know – sure, punches to his mask would make an impact, but Bane snapped his fucking SPINE for crying out loud…Speaking of the spine, the film needed to be a 15, as without that extra degree of darkness and violence it lacked a certain edge.
I also raise issue with how Bane was killed – in a flash, hit by the bike or a bullet? Who knows? He should have been afforded a decent end, not an afterthought. Perhaps, it having been revealed that Bane is not the Ra’s al Ghul’s child, his off-hand, near off-scene destruction mirrors how his importance in the revolution has suddenly been turned on its head – from saviour to servant. In a film that was two and a half hours long, the most important scenes – the demise of Bane, of Talia, of Batman, were all neglected.
It also needs to be said that the final atomic explosion was utter shit. For a film with a budget in the hundreds of millions, a crappy explosion like that – too far from shore, no blastwave, and as for how the Batplane managed to get beyond the six mile blast radius before detonation…Its a minor issue, sure, but I want at least a measure of realism, damnit! [A friend of mine has just informed me that at one point in the film the bomb was named as a neutron bomb, which is actually rather appropriate, as it would leave Gotham a ghost city. But still, it was a damp squib of an ending]
To sum, I rather enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises. The acting was decent, the script was involved and thought-provoking, and, discounting the bloated nature of the film and the flaws already explored, it remains a fine finish to the Nolan Batman triptych.
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- August 14, 2012 / 6:03 am