- Monday, 23 July 2012
The finale of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, has been so anticipated that advance tickets sales alone indicate it might be biggest box office hit since movies were invented. No fan who has waited since Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005 to see how it all ends, and no hyped-up movie goer is going to care what the critics say. And critics cannot say much without being reproached for giving away the plot, or even the plot holes.
Audiences who enjoy big Hollywood action thrillers born of comic book heroes and who don’t mind a bit of incomprehensible dialogue or cartoon characters will be satisfied and even dazzled -- particularly if they seek out a (highly recommended) Imax screen. Nolan is craftsman who eschews CGI when possible to give his audiences a visceral, you-are-there experience. The Dark Knight Rises is majestic, but oddly, lacking in magic.
What Christopher Nolan’s trilogy has going for, beside its huge budget ($250 million) is its unity of vision and continuity of Director, cast and story. The first BATMAN comic books appeared in 1940 and there have been dozens of television and theatrical adaptations right up to Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin in 1997, starring George Clooney!
Nolan’s is the first uninterrupted theatrical Batman series with the same Director (Christopher Nolan), key cast, and writers (Bob Kane, David S Goyer and Chris Nolan, co-writing the script with his brother Jonathan in both of the Dark Knight films). All three films feature the handsome, versatile Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne, Batman), Michael Caine (Alfred), Gary Oldman (Police Commissioner Gordon), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox) and Cillian Murphy (Dr Jonathan Crane/the Scarecrow). Liam Neeson (Ducard/Ra’s Al Ghul) reprises his role in Batman Begins.
At the end of 2008’s The Dark Knight, Batman disappears, assuming the blame for District Attorney Harvey Dent’s death. This lie enables the tough new Dent Act to fight Gotham City’s criminal activity and corruption. Only Bruce Wayne/Batman (Bale) and Commissioner Gordon (Oldman) are in on the secret and Wayne’s sacrifice paid off – until now.
When Wayne learns about two new evil forces set to destroy the peace in Gotham, he dusts off his Batsuit and emerges from hiding in a big way. If Batman meets his match with the seductive thief, Selina Kyle, AKA Catwoman, (Anne Hathaway), in terms of brute force, he is outmatched by the terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy).
Bane, supported by Dr Jonathan Crane and a mystery controller from the League of Shadows, is the new Joker, but he’s deadly serious. He wears a metal, pig-snout mask over most of his face, making him look like Hannibal Lecter in prison. He shares Lecter’s evil nature, but lacks his wit, eloquence and diction. Hardy (Tinker Tailor, Soldier Spy, Inception, Bronson) is a charismatic, good-looking and extremely talented actor, but here you can’t see his face, hear his dialogue through the mask, or, due to his bulky black body armour and the way he’s shot, see his movements and body.
Wayne’s first stop in combating Bane is the basement of Wayne Industries. Here, trusty Lucius Fox (Freeman) offers him a state-of-the-art Bat-Pod, designed for tricky corners and narrow manoeuvres; and the Bat, a new airborne car that is part helicopter, part jet and part 007, eat-your-heart-out. For the most part, we’re denied the thrill of the ride inside, and because we don’t know what it can and cannot do, there’s not much tension when it’s being chased around Gotham’s skyscrapers.
As a long-term strategy, the idea of Batman assuming Dent’s guilt never made much sense, and in The Dark Knight Rises we see why. When Bane first attacks the city, and Batman reappears to retaliate, the police believe that Batman is the enemy and deploy their resources and manpower chasing him, weakening them to face the real threat. As a plot device it makes even less sense. The film is just over three hours and the police’s tedious and futile pursuit of Batman contributes to the unnecessarily long running time.
Nolan updates the story by introducing stock market manipulation, but in a superficial way. Catwoman steals Wayne’s finger prints to enable Bane/the League of Shadows, to bankrupt him and force him to give up control of Wayne Industries. It is curious that Wayne appears mystified as to why anyone would want to steal his fingerprints when security access is frequently fingerprint driven. Nolan also offers a nod to clean energy although Batman’s vehicles hardly seem the plug-in variety. Wayne entrusts Wayne Industries environmental and energy interests to board member and pillar-of-society Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). The last thing he wants is for its nuclear facility to end up in the hands of the League of Shadows!
The film is so plot-thick and has so many characters that even Nolan can’t squeeze it all in. There’s little chemistry or romance in the gratuitous, fleeting romantic scenes, while what seems like hours is devoted to the Zen task of escaping from the Chinese mountain prison where /Wayne was trained and is now sent to die. But we are left to wonder how he returns to Gotham so quickly with no passport, airline ticket, money, food, or credit cards.
Underneath all the fast-edited action and battles, The Dark Knight Rises is the saga of two children; each obsessed with avenging their murdered father’s death by fulfilling their respective destinies. Like his philanthropist father, Bruce Wayne wants to reform Gotham constructively, while Ducard’s child, (whose identity is finally revealed near the end), has been taught that the only way to redeem Gotham is to destroy it. You could almost plug in Afghanistan for Gotham: a lawless territory torn between the democratic, capitalist ideals of the USA and the fundamentalist Taliban. But for a film like The Dark Knight Rises to be taken seriously, it has to lighten up a little.