The Dark Knight Rises
This year seems to be the year of the "highly anticipated" movie: Avengers (Assemble), Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises. Avengers exceeded all expectations; Prometheus less so, let down by a script that wasn't sure what story it was telling; the Spidey reboot (or whatever term the marketing people are throwing around at the moment) was fun but divided critics and audiences - although it seems that literally everyone is a critic these days, except most lack in actual literary skills; and now Christopher Nolan has brought the final chapter of his Dark Knight trilogy to the big screen (and I mean big), with his use of IMAX cameras.
While Nolan may not have escaped the marketing hyperbole that created the "highly anticipated" phenomena in the first place, he has, to his credit, ignored the fad for 3D and has, in fact, remained resolutely old school, shooting on film and using, wherever possible, practical effects. This analogue man in a digital world brings a cold, hard reality to the film that the movie's dark story demands, separating it from the almost garish, CG-enhanced and obviously comic-book universe that Marvel delivers. However, I did find myself wondering about the logistics and costs of each set piece, which is not a good thing. And as the credits rolled I could almost see a running total of its $250m budget on the side of the screen.
Nolan set a new benchmark for comic-book movies with The Dark Knight, mostly thanks to Heath Ledger's bravura performance as The Joker, which completely overshadowed Bale and the rest of cast. Although he is ostensibly the hero of this latest movie, as with the previous one, Bruce Wayne's alter ego is more Bitman than Batman as the guest villains steal every scene.
Ever since photos of Anne Hathaway's leather catsuited lithesome form appeared on the net, fan boys (and girls) have been debating whether she was the right choice to play Catwoman. Rest well, she will forever remove from your minds the debacle of the Catwoman movie, although the sight of Sharon Stone and Halle Berry fighting is still worth remembering. Hathaway adds both class and much needed humour to the film, and not just kick-ass eye candy, which she does with such panache. As does Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, the rich energy philanthropist who is helping draw the reclusive Bruce Wayne out of his self-imposed exile (read: sulk).
Of course, it is Bane who makes the biggest impact, especially on Batman. The Dark Knight might have the Darth Vader costume (or vice versa), but Bane has the meglamaniac attitude, mojo moves and the voice of the Sith lord, thanks to the life-supporting mask. Tom Hardy's talents are almost wasted on the character. They could have easily used any musclebound actor to play the part and got Hardy to overdub the dialogue, which he clearly did anyway. When Bane and Batman tussle it gets pretty brutal, especially as Bane is said to have also been trained by Ra's Al Ghul.
All the old guys are still there - Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, although Caine gets landed with some of the worst dialogue in the film, and unfortunately there is quite a bit of not only bad dialogue, but also a lot of expositional dialogue. The sort of stuff that weighed down the later Harry Potter novels. Some of it could have easily mean removed from the butt-numbing 160-minute running time, especially as there was the almost rookie writer's error of it being delivered at a crucial dramatic moment. You know the one where the villain delivers a monologue just before he is about the kill the hero, to give the hero (or another crucial character) time to stop him. The other rookie mistake/cliche is the countdown clock on a bomb. It's been done so many times before it doesn't really increase the tension, even if, in this case, it does reveal lots of last act twists and turns, and a few surprise returns.
Speaking of rookies, the other big star of this movie has to be Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the young policeman John Blake. A vital character and a great performance. Nothing more needs to be said.
As with Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises delivers spectacle in spades, especially when seen on the IMAX screen (recommended). In fact, TDKR has already outsold the presale record at BFI IMAX recently set by Prometheus. While both films are engaging, in all their dark and gothic glory, and both address topical issues (the origins of Man and the 99% poverty/wealth divide), they both suffer from inconsistencies in the storytelling that don't stand up to too much post-screening scrutiny that their relentless pace makes you overlook whilst watching. And as with Spider-Man and Battleship the film suffers from some sentimental, patriotic US chest beating that doesn't appeal to anyone outside of its ever-expanding borders.
Dark and action-packed, this is a fitting swansong from Nolan, even if it doesn't quite live up to the previous two, and the ending does leave it open enough for another chapter, even if Nolan has decided not to helm it.
To fully enjoy the film, don't watch the trailer(s).