Friday, 20 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

The Second Coming of Christ has absolutely nothing on the Rising of The Dark Knight. Sure, the former is a hotly anticipated event in some circles, but I bet a trailer for it doesn't get fifty million hits on YouTube. I can't see people making the news by claiming that the reappearance of the Messiah "isn't all that" before they've even witnessed it. And when Jesus finally pops up and starts with all that judging business, don't count on Empire Magazine doing a three-week retrospective of his life on their website.

So has Christopher Nolan - who is basically God if you a) follow this analogy through or b) read any movie website forums - pulled off a miracle? Has he justified the ludicrous hype surrounding his creation's return to cinemas? Well, probably not, but then nothing could. Nolan doesn't really give a shit about fanboy satisfaction, though, and that's why The Dark Knight Rises is a complex, exhausting and flawed but quite brilliant film of breathtakingly epic scale and scope while The Amazing Spider-Man is a desperate-to-please pile of crap.

What Christopher Nolan does give a shit about, as he's said before, is escalation. He was testing the water with Batman Begins, and with The Dark Knight he proved that superhero sequels could be bigger, bolder and braver without sinking under the weight of their own effects, ambition or cast (of both actors and characters). His third Batfilm takes things to such an extent that you wonder if you could cope with a fourth without the assistance of mind-expanding drugs. But while The Dark Knight Rises achieves the near-impossible task of telling a sprawling story worthy of an extended comic book run in 164 minutes, it could still do with a further haircut of twenty minutes or so.

The first hour suffers from a lack of focus caused by the introduction of a host of characters whose motives remain unclear for too long: Tom Hardy's muffled, pumped-up weirdo Bane may be carefully laying the foundations of a master plan or simply carrying out orders for a mysterious higher power; Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle is a cat burglar with vague connections to corrupt businessmen; Marion Cotillard's Miranda Tate is a clean energy-obsessed businesswoman or something; Joseph Gordon-Levitt's idealistic cop John Blake is doing something or other with orphans; Matthew Modine and a Russian scientist are in there somewhere and Pope off of Animal Kingdom is also up to non-specific shenanigans. And that's not to mention the trilogy's regulars, none of whom seem to have any better idea of what's going on than we do.

As first acts go it's a little draining, and it leaves you in a less-than-ideal condition as you head into the rest of the film. Having said that, it does help you identify with some of the characters on screen who are also in no fit state for what's about to happen. Once all this is resolved - lots of it in satisfyingly unpredictable fashion (you genuinely don't know who will survive and what will be left of them) - and Bane's purpose finally comes into focus, The Dark Knight Rises really gets down to business and everyone gets their moment in the sun. And although he doesn't metaphorically jam a pencil in your eyeballs like the Joker did, Bane is very much the physical threat to Batman we've been waiting for.
I think Christopher Nolan is making a point here

The thrust of the story still has at its heart MacGuffins, cool gadgets and yer standard good-vs-evil business, but in Nolan's universe it all seems to matter so much more. Lives are changed, people are hurt and nothing will be the same again, either within the film or in the superhero genre. Nolan hasn't created a template for all future super-powered blockbusters to follow - God knows we still need well-crafted pop like Avengers Assemble - but he has proved once and for all that sprawling, character-led drama and superheroes aren't mutually exclusive.

Perhaps his greatest achievement is crafting a cohesive trilogy which successfully and satisfyingly comes full circle, even though that didn't seem to be the intention when Batman began in 2005. If Christopher Nolan had laid out a three-film arc on day one, it's unlikely he would have expected to be making part three on this scale. Yet here we are, and he's risen to the challenge. He's the hero Gotham deserved, and the one it needed.


  1. Apart from that, James Eagan Holmes, did you enjoy the film? "We're still reeling," Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said at a memorial late on Saturday for one young shooting victim. Well, I suppose the reeling has to be done in case anyone wants another shot at the special effects in the Colorado cinemas. Meanwhile The Incredible Suit writes "Once all this is resolved - lots of it in satisfyingly unpredictable fashion (you genuinely don't know who will survive and what will be left of them)". Yes, that was the case in Denver.

    Like Nolan, The Incredible Isolated Suit ignores reality because he "...doesn't really give a shit..."

    This film review is as welcome and sensitive as the question asked of Mrs. Kennedy in 1963 after the assassination of President Kennedy. "Apart from that, did you enjoy the ride?"

    1. you're a fool

    2. Tony,

      We've known each other a long time, which makes your comment even harder to fathom than if it had been from some random troll. You know me. You know I'm not insensitive. And you know that this is a review of a film, not of a tragic and horrible event. The two are completely unconnected except in the eyes of a desperate and pathetic press, which you seem to have swallowed despite your intelligence.

      That you have chosen to twist my words to fit your argument is particularly upsetting, and surprises and saddens me. Clearly any phrasing I have used is entirely irrelevant to the shootings; not that it matters, but I was completely unaware of the events in Colorado when I posted the review, having avoided the internet for fear of spoilers before seeing the film. And to suggest that I don't "really give a shit" about the murder of innocent people is both bizarre and insulting.

      I'm sorry if my review offended you, but how far does this go? Should we have a blanket ban on all reviews which discuss death? Or guns? Because not many films would be being reviewed if that were the case.

      I remain your friend but I hope you take a moment to think about your comments and how fair they are.


  2. Dear Anonymous, if I am the fool to whom your remark is addressed, then I reply by observing that being foolish and being wrong are not the same thing. Attack my ideas by all means. Argue with me. What is gained by an unsupported insult?

  3. Anonymous, so now I am a TROLL! in block capitals. A Troll is one who causes havoc with deliberately inflammatory remarks. The block capitals identify me as an extreme Troll. I happen to think that drawing attention to a review of a film that makes no mention of the shooting at the premier in in a Colorado cinema is a worthy area of debate. It is at least as important as the contents of the goody bags at press screenings which The Incredible Freeloading Suit has described in detail. This is his blog, so perhaps he may indicate if I should Troll off somewhere else or carry on as a sporadic contributing merry fool.

  4. Dear Incredible Suit. I believe you are absolutely right in your analysis of what words I have written or pasted out of context. I have challenged your integrity for no reason. I apologise without reservation. I offer no defence against your charges. But... there is always a but..but in this case there is no but. I really am sorry to have upset you and very much regret that.

  5. At the risk of adding fuel to this fire, I for one am grateful to read reviews of this film without what seems to the obligatory tie-in with the Aurora tragedy. We do not require that writers mention Mark Chapman every time they put ink to page about The Beatles, nor should we. By shackling the artists and their work to the acts of a psycho, we hand the psycho a kind of perpetual victory which is poor service to the victims of his crime, the audience and the artists who made the work in the first place.