Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Dark Knight Rises


If it were a comic book villain, Hollywood would be a snide little shite whose superpower was sucking the creativity out of innovative film-makers.

And so it is that, with The Dark Knight Rises (2012), bright spark wunderkind Christopher Nolan finally succumbs to the lowest common denominator demands of a Hollywood franchise. More characters! More explosions! More stuff! Less interest.

This bloated conclusion to his gritty Batman reboot is a misfiring attempt to tie up the trilogy’s loose ends by burying them in a morass of a plot, and hoping the audience will be too distracted by Christian Bale’s grating Barry White impersonation to notice.

Batman (Bale) is now a Howard Hughes-esque recluse, having retired from the crime-fighting game following the death of Harvey Dent and the misguided backlash from Gotham’s citizens. He cuts a pitiful figure as he mopes about Wayne Mansions eating Coco Pops in his pyjamas.

He’s awakened from his reverie by muscle-bound psychopath Bane (Tom Hardy) who, in traditional comic book fashion, has an inexplicable urge to blow up Gotham City – perhaps to compensate for his steroidally shrunken genitalia.

The pontificating beefcake steals one of Wayne Enterprises very own fusion reactors and holds the city to ransom. Of course, only one man can save them. Cue much chop-socky action, car chases and close ups of Anne Hathaway’s PVC-covered derriere.

This is a very long film – into which much plot, action, location-hopping and plot-twistery is squeezed – but precious little of it engages the audience, and there’s a rudimentary, by-the-numbers feel to much of it.

Similarly, the attempts to inject a meaningful credit-crunch zeitgeist into the carnage-strewn plot – with Bane’s socialist masses rising up to crush their bourgeois oppressors in a sub Occupy Gotham angle – feels largely like an clumsy attempt give the numerous fight scenes a worthy edge.

Finally, just as Gotham is about to be reduced to rubble, Batman hooks the nuclear bomb by cable to the underside of his one-of-a-kind Batcopter (a design inspired by crossing a V-22 Osprey and an AH 64 Apache) and rushes away from Gotham out to sea. As the timer ticks down, Batman gets further away until he is a mere speck on the horizon. Just then, the foreground is filled with a familiar mushroom cloud and it’s goodnight Vienna.

Artistic merit

There is no massive explosion, no aftershock, no carnage – just a puff of white smoke in the distance. The destruction of this helicopter and the hero within could have been the mother of all fireballs yet we are left with an almost zen-like explosion. The scene is completely at odds with the general ethos at Exploding Helicopter HQ, but in a perverse way you have to admire Nolan’s restraint and avoidance of cliché.

Exploding helicopter innovation

A helicopter killed by nuclear explosion. Seen it before, but perhaps not like this.

Do passengers survive?

That would be telling, wouldn’t it? But there are some clues towards the end that indicate there’s more cash left in the cow yet.

Positives

As you would expect from a mega-normous action blockbuster there are some adrenalin-pumping set pieces – such as the opening mid-air hijacking – which are delivered with Nolan’s customary directorial panache. The last five minutes of the film almost redeem Nolan’s reputation with the plotline twister par-excellence, but by this point you may have already slipped into a deep sleep.

Negatives

Despite a $300 million budget and a raft of top-notch actors, it renmains a severely underwhelming film. It’s way too long, pretty po-faced and contains some of the least plausible behaviour since Bean: The Movie.

For instance Bane, instead of stealing the bomb and detonating it immediately, decides it’d be more practical to just meaninglessly drive it round the city in the back of a transit van until the good guys have time to track it down before detonation. To further assist the good guys, there is a handy red LED countdown timer on the bomb conveniently informing the world how long it has until its impending combustion. Do they make these things at Argos?

Anne Hathaway is no Michelle Pfeiffer and really should stick to The Devil Wears Prada fluff leaving challenging roles to real actresses who are able to do more than just look good in a catsuit. Why Batman trusts her, despite being repeatedly double-crossed, can only be attributed to either deep-seated mental illness or an overwhelming urge to get into her pants.

Tom Hardy is a great actor but tragically wasted playing the one-dimensional Bane in a face-covering mask that forces him to act only with his eyes (I acknowledge Roger Moore did make a career out of similar restrictions). His voice is also overdubbed in post-production so really they could have just hired Ross Kemp and saved a few quid.

Favourite quote

Lucius Fox (on Batman’s one-of-a-kind helicopter): “Nothing like a little air superiority.”

Interesting fact

Nolan said that each of the Batman films have a central theme underpinning the story. For Batman Begins it was ‘Fear’, The Dark Knight deals with ’Chaos’ and this film's overarching emotion is ‘Pain’. After three hours trying to make sense of this mush with a surly 11-year- old absent-mindedly kicking the back of my chair, I couldn't fault the director for not delivering his promise.

Review by: Neon Messiah

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