The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

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As if you didn’t expect it, let me begin with this reminder of my look at the whole franchise.

Well, it’s all been getting a bit ridiculous and distressing lately, wouldn’t you agree? The release of The Dark Knight Rises should have been a joyous occasion, a time for Nolan fanboys and superhero fans and Batfans and cinema lovers to collectively come together and bask in the glow emanating from a silver screen full from side to side and top to bottom by cinematic perfection. Then we had the news that critics who didn’t like the movie had been subjected to numerous threats and insults (on the internet? never!!!). THEN there was the tragic and horrifying shooting spree that happened in Aurora, Denver. I’m not commenting on that here, and I’m certainly not going to say that the movie CAUSED any of this madness, but I think that viewing and reviewing this movie after the events of the opening weekend make a bit of context necessary, along with a plea to politely disagree with my opinion and state your case without resorting to the behaviour that has been seen on other sites. Because most people will disagree with my opinion. I am not going to be popular. I’ve already asked Robin (our editor) to make sure that nobody can get hold of my address.

To be blunt, The Dark Knight Rises was something I didn’t care for a few months ago. I was hoping it would be good and I thought I might go and see it at the cinema. Then the hype began to build. And build. And build. I got swept up with it all and knew that I had to see the movie. I also knew that I should expect some disappointment so this review is not simply someone expecting the holy grail of modern cinema and instead being handed something that falls just a bit short. Oh no. In my opinion, The Dark Knight Rises is the worst of the three Batman movies helmed by Christopher Nolan and it’s the worst blockbuster that I’ve sat through in the cinema in recent years. Things got so bad at one point that I considered walking out, something I haven’t ever done at a cinema showing.

Technically, everything is certainly on a par with whatever you could wish for. Starting with a great set-piece and then including one or two great moments throughout the ridiculously overextended runtime, there’s no way that I could ever be petty enough to discard the film with a less than average score. Nolan once again supplies audiences with some great visuals and style and, as shallow as it may seem, the overwhelming coolness of the maneuvering capabilities of the “bat-bike” cannot be praised highly enough. That’s about all I can praise without hesitation though.

The story follows on from the events of The Dark Knight – Gotham is a better place to live after the introduction of “the Harvey Dent act” but Batman is still known as the man who killed Dent. Of course, this is all a lie but it’s a lie that stays in place for the greater good. Well, that’s what Batman/Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale) believes while he keeps himself in self-imposed isolation from the other residents of Gotham. His loyal butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) don’t quite feel the same way but while things remain nicely balanced it gets harder and harder to finally reveal the truth. Things may come out in the open, however, with the subtle help of Selina Kyle AKA Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and the full-blown carnage of big, bad Bane (Tom Hardy).

Let’s get back to some praise for the film. I didn’t think Anne Hathaway would live up to any of the previous incarnations of Catwoman and she doesn’t BUT she’s very good and I enjoyed almost every moment that her sassy character was onscreen. Tom Hardy is physically impressive in the role of Bane, it’s just a shame that he decided to give his character the voice of a young and fiery Brian Blessed advertising Werther’s Originals. Michael Caine gives one of his best performances, he’s absolutely wonderful, and Gary Oldman is good value once more. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman and Marion Cottilard are all excellent and there are a few performers returning to please fans of what we can now refer to as The Dark Knight Trilogy. Matthew Modine is okay, if I’m being charitable.

So much for the praise, here is where I roll up my sleeves and upset 75% of the planet, apparently, by spelling out what I saw as the major flaws in the movie. It’s genuinely difficult to know just where to begin. The script by Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan has some good lines but it’s also full of horribly overwrought emotional manipulation, unsurprising twists that it thinks are oh-so-clever and a worrying allegory this time around for the whole 1% vs the 99% issue (worrying because the Nolan brothers SEEM to be very much on the side of the 1%).

Bane should be a good, scene-stealing, villain and for many moments this is the case. But he’s not the definitive Bane I wanted. He’s close, but no cigar (the lack of Venom is, for me, just an unforgivable exclusion). That wouldn’t be so irritating if Batman was at his best but it seems that Bale can’t remember when he struck a balance, when he could do Bruce Wayne AND Batman and blend the two. The performance veered into parody in The Dark Knight and goes right over the edge this time around.

Then we have the lack of logic and the downright laughable aspects that make up many of the big plot points. If you thought Prometheus stretched credibility in places then you may well find yourself rolling your eyes just as I did while trying to suspend your disbelief during this movie.

As long as you do that while knowing that you’re WRONG. Because this movie is EPIC, it’s EMOTIONAL, it”s full of BIG moments. You will know this because the score continues to rise and rise as if ascending some kind of Escher-designed staircase and the movie becomes so full of its own self-importance that it’s hard to figure out what blows around the screen the most – Batman’s cape or the hot air that Nolan expects audiences to take seriously. Grandiosity piles on top of grandiosity so quickly that the fact it doesn’t all completely fall apart before the end credits roll is almost a miracle.

People have said that this is a mix of both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and they’re correct. It takes the worst aspects of both movies – the flawed action footage of the former and the preachy nature of the second – and blends them into something that just, and only just, stays ahead of Batman & Robin in the pecking order of the Batflicks.

DIRECTOR: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN
WRITER: CHRISTOPHER NOLAN, JONATHAN NOLAN
STARS: CHRISTIAN BALE, MICHAEL CAINE, TOM HARDY, ANNE HATHAWAY, GARY OLDMAN, JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT, MARION COTILLARD, MORGAN FREEMAN, MATTHEW MODINE
RUNTIME: 164 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA/UK

Film Rating: ★★½☆☆

2 Comments
  1. Olly Buxton says

    Right on the money Kev – i was thoroughly disappointed when I saw it last night. 5 is generous, and I do think Prometheus, however flawed that film was, was significantly better than this. Good review.

  2. Kevin Matthews says

    Thanks Olly, it’s good that so many people have enjoyed it (there are certainly many worse blockbusters out there IMO) but it’s also good to know that I’m not alone in my thoughts 🙂

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