Sunday, 22 July 2012

REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises

The last of the trilogy is upon us, people are dying to see it, literally, so is it worth it?

No matter what people say, for me The Dark Knight was an incredible film and one of my favourite movies of all time, so it is very hard to think of another Batman film that could trump it. Unfortunately, I don't think this is it.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great movie. The action is great, it's sheer scale and spectacle is incredible but it falls short on a lot of things. Lets begin with the plot, we begin eight years after the Joker and Wayne is a little worse for wear let's say. It's a time of peace and Harvey Dent is still seen as a hero with Batman as the villain, however we are told 'a storm is coming' and Bane brings with him a chaos that puts Gotham in a lot of jeopardy.

Before going any further, I think it's worth mentioning that if you look at the evolution from Batman Begins to the Dark Knight, the leap is rather more significant than you would have first thought. It's worth revisiting both these films if you haven't done so recently, watching Rises, I felt Nolan had tied himself down with having to conclude the story the same as Begins is preoccupied with having to be an 'origins' tale at heart. With Dark Knight, I felt Nolan was able to relax in having established Batman and could have some fun with him and in the Gotham world - something I did not feel in Rises. In fact, I didn't feel Gotham was a character at all.

Of course, the entire Batman saga is not just about the idea of self-sacrifice (the 'symbol'), but also a man conquering his inner demons. Rises deals with this, but not in the same subtle way as Dark Knight. Instead it takes the whole 'humanity is corrupt' nature and exploits it, almost going completely against what the Batman saga has built up so far. When the city is plunged in chaos, I don't get a feel for what is actually going on apart from a few sweeping shots. Where is everyone? What exactly is going on? Why doesn't anyone do anything? I felt cheated and the city in anarchy isn't represented very well at all. It just looks like a few people dithering about every now and then. Even the people trapped don't seem too hard up. In fact it just looks, empty, and I don't know what blowing a lot of stuff up really did as well, apart from ease access to and from the city. Apart from for Wayne of course.

The new flying vehicle the Bat also makes matters worse. The toys that he has played with before in the previous films made some kind of sense in that this could happen in our real world, however the Bat feels a little too sci-fi for me. Also, everything I disliked about Batman Begins comes back up - the League of Shadows, terrorism through the economy (hinted at by Liam Neeson in the Begins), the sense of 'training' (do I have to see him in the middle east again? Even if he seems to be ... oh ... right by a city?) and by introducing characters that I don't want to work at getting to know by a third film. Where Dark Knight had every scene being needed, moving the story forward, being full of action, not a line of dialogue wasted - there were times in Rises where I felt it could have been cut completely, or some parts expanded upon. It wasn't as tight as Dark Knight was in the slightest and not near as interesting or action packed. There's also a bit of humour which was scarce in Dark Knight but feels like the jokes that were on the cutting room floor of Begins - why are we putting jokes in? To alleviate the tension? I like the tension, it's what I enjoy.

So, let's move onto characters. Bale shines again as Batman, going from skinny hermit to the bulky mass he was before but he has lost his enthusiasm. There's not been any real reason for this except for what happened to Rachel, he's made no attempt to clear his name and to be honest, I thought there was very little actual Batman time, he doesn't turn up for a while for a start. However, his journey as a character does conclude nicely and I think with something that befits what Wayne was truly about.

Moving on from this is it gets worse. Even Alfred becomes nothing but a nuisance, and with a script that has some pretty poor dialogue, Alfred definitely gets the brunt of it. Catwoman is boring and tries to be femme fatale but completely falls flat. She talks of her stealing to get by when she couldn't look more posh and well groomed. Her story is just boring, Anne Hathaway not being sexy at all and neither giving much away in terms of depth. All we know is that she's supposed to have a bit of a heart, however when her and Batman are standing together I can't help but feel that I'm definitely watching a comic book movie, something I really wish I wasn't thinking.

Then there's Blake, Gordon-Levitt's cop, who if you ask me, apart from one reason, should have been cut out altogether. These little B stories are nothing compared to Dent's, who actually had an impact on the main narrative. Blake just feels like he's something to keep our attention going while other things are going on. Levitt does a good job but every time he came on screen I was just waiting for the next scene. Same goes with Cotillard's Miranda Tate as, apart from near the end, she's completely disposable.

So let's move onto Bane. Firstly, they have cranked up the volume of his mask from the IMAX preview, which is great but then completely jars with the film as it's not mixed into the scene, so no matter what, it sounds like he's standing right next to you shouting in your ear. Bane is the antithesis of Batman, it's his alter ego, his own personal devil. Batman states that he wears a mask for other people, Bane's mask is for himself, but they don't really go into what the mask is actually for. Why is he living in a sewer like the Turtles? Surely the whole point of League of Shadows was that people are inherently evil and Gotham inparticular. Well if Gotham has no crime, why are the League even bothering? If it is because Bane is a madman, then it still makes no sense as he doesn't have any real motive, not even when we find out about his backstory are we still given an absolute clear motive, and it's also very, very creepy. How old is he supposed to be then? It's all very strange.

There is also the fact that all you can see is his eyes, there's only so much eye acting someone can do, even Tom Hardy, and because of his size I was just thinking it was Bronson back again. His talking like a posh English lord is also offputting, why does everything sound so strange that he says? There is also the argument that he has thought up this amazing plan to plunge Gotham into chaos but in no way is this anything like the intricacy of Joker's plans. That's what made Joker so interesting, he thrived on chaos when in fact the whole progression of events were planned with ingenuity. Bane just doesn't cut it - he's not scary, neither twisted and is just a big macho strongman who speaks posh in a Darth vader toy mask. Neither does he make Batman question himself like Joker did, Joker was from nowhere - he was almost an apparition sent to test Batman and it became a personal rivalry. You went away from Dark Knight thinking that if Joker had failed everything, that if he had made Batman doubt his own integrity it would have been worth it. Not the same for Bane. His weird leadership of Gotham for it being to pure anarchy just feels a bit ... stupid dare I say. Why is he so intent on it? I just didn't get it. Joker also truly tested the people of Gotham, all the anarchy and chaos that happened was almost the result of being self-inflicted or taking advantage of people's horrid nature. Rises just doesn't have that depth.

Where Dark Knight was dark in nature, Rises feels like it's been forced to try and be dark, to be completely hopeless and in despair so the 'rising' can be more dramatic - and it is dramatic. You can't help but root for Batman throughout but I really did feel that this last appearance was let down. It was a step backward rather than a step forward and it makes me wonder if they might have used Heath Ledger again had he been alive, would we have had a different film? Perhaps. The film was way too long and takes place over an extremely long period of time where you can't help but think it's all a bit stupid, baring in mind Dark Knight takes place over a matter of days.

I really wish I could sit here and say this film was incredible because a lot of people are. But it's not. It's good but where Dark Knight was perfection, Rises has too much to live up to and loses its way (but it's better than Begins I'd say). It doesn't continue even in the same vein, it's almost as if (apart from Dent/Rachel) it's completely forgotten what happened in the previous film. I really do wish that Nolan hadn't said just three, he could have really explored the world and characters a little longer. I mean, hell, it's been going on for decades in the comics. Not enough action, too much talking, not a great script, ties up ends from first film but loses a lot along the way. Good effort, but next time try harder. Oh wait ....

Rating: 7/10

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