Dir: Christopher Nolan, 2012
After eight years of exile following the demise of Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne is drawn back into his cowl and cape when a threatening force, known only as Bane, vies to destroy Gotham City and finish the work of his late master, Ra’s al Ghul of the League of Shadows.
Nolan has always decorated his Batman trilogy with overtones of terrorism and The Dark Knight Rises is the most evident example. Bane’s airplane heist has eerie feels of 9/11 to it and the overthrowing of the stock exchange exaggerates but exemplifies current economic concerns. However, Nolan’s dabbling in neo-realism detracts from the overall purpose of a Batman film. The characters (Batman included), the plot and the action are all cast aside in favour of Nolan’s desire to film “scenes”. In this, The Dark Knight Rises is a spectacular failure as a Batman film.
The narrative is totally absent, driven by characters that make absurd decisions based upon scarcely-formulated motives. The piecing together of certain truths of identity are ludicrous, Batman’s trusting of morally ambiguous characters reflects idiocy upon the titular hero and to top it off, Bane sounding like an Englishman underwater does not do his supposedly villainous presence any favours. The Joker was entertaining, devilish and outright maniacal, played to perfection by the late Heath Ledger. Bane’s role is just about as compelling as an empty book.
Nolan’s addiction to gathering ensemble casts works against him now more than ever. The Dark Knight Rises is littered with arbitrary characters from Marion Cotilliard’s pointless contribution to Anne Hathaway’s muddled portrayal of Catwoman. Furthermore, the inclusion of a character arc for Matthew Modine’s deputy commissioner is preposterous and at a running length of 164 minutes, seems like an appendage we could have done without. Frustratingly, Nolan eliminates key characters to focus on the tertiary ones. Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon is predominantly confined to a hospital bed and Michael Caine, who is at a near-career best here, is withdrawn after an hour, in an act completely out of character.
As the trilogy has gone on, the story has become less and less about Bruce Wayne. Batman Begins reintroduced us to a character overcome with fear, anger and guilt who found the only way to stifle those emotions was to channel them into vigilantism. After a sequel burdened with an overabundance of Ledger due to his tragic demise, Nolan’s trilogy-closer appears as more of a resignation from Batman than a genuine pieces-form-the-whole feature film. The aspiration to warrant his films Schumacher-proof (a reason for the reboots in the first place) leave a dull, motionless, disaster of a movie that may, in time, prove to have been as fatal to the Caped Crusader as 1997’s Batman & Robin was. One can only hope not.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆