The Dark Knight Rises – A Review

I finally saw The Dark Knight Rises yesterday and before I get on to the review proper there’s two things I need to get clear right from the outset.

1. I’m not a super fan. I think Batman is awesome and I’ve read some of the comic books and watched the films and animated series. I’ve also played Arkham Asylum and Arkahm City to death. I say this so you understand that I have some knowledge, but I’m not an expert so please don’t fanrage me if I get something wrong.

2. Anne Hathaway has a cracking arse.

Anyway, it’s been 8 Batman years since the Dark Knight and Gotham City is all lovely and peaceful thanks to a handy-dandy and thoroughly draconian bit of legislation called the Dent Act, passed in honour of Harvey Dent because everyone thinks he’s awesome and not a massive wanker. Bruce Wayne, meanwhile, has hidden himself away in Wayne manor and become a whiney little bitch. That is until Anne Hathaway turns up and steals his mum’s necklace. The gets gooey of eye and stiff of something else. I’ve heard a few people say some unkind things about this alabaster beauty but I’ve always quite liked her. Add a leather catsuit into the mix and you’ve got yourself a movie. One to be enjoyed alone but still…

In fairness, Anne Hathaway, I think, does very well as the sultry cat burglary and switches between minx and cold criminal with a bat of an eye. Plus she’s undeniably beautiful and feminine and seemed to understand the character far more than Michelle Pfeiffer ever did. Unfortunately she’s the only member of the main cast that does. But more on that later.

Bane turns up and starts plotting and scheming and generally scaring people with his weird voice. And all the while Batman is chasing Catwoman about Gotham like a teenager with hard on that hasn’t discovered masturbation yet. And in so doing starts to pick apart Bane’s plot to destroy the city.

And destroy it he does. The film doesn’t lack for scale or ambition or a weaving plot. And it’s pretty bleak viewing. A lot of people die and the city is torn asunder by its own citizens. Bane and his personal army take control of the city all the while Batman is off trying to remember how to kick ass and take names.

Now, Batman fans will be irritated by the TDKR version of Bane as, apart from being mad strong, he has sod all to do with the character we first met in the awesome Knightfall series beyond breaking Batman’s back. Except he can’t even do that right. To be fair Tom Hardy exudes menace and his casual disregard for life rivals that of the Joker but depressingly the Bane featured in the God-awful Batman & Robin was more accurate.

Which sums up The Dark Knight Rises. It’s just a mess. The story is confused and can’t decide if it’s wrapping things up or leaving it open for a sequel which by the end there is no doubt. Bane’s character is torn to pieces and shared out between Bane and another character which I can’t expand upon without ruining the end.

But more significantly both the script and Bale lets Batman down. Neither seem to understand the character they’re bringing to life in this film. Batman is a psychopath. Strong words but true. Bruce Wayne is the alter ego not the other way around. He is an extraordinary intellect and trained in criminology, psychology, forensics, martial arts, mechanical engineering, science etc etc etc. And all of it tempered through a life time of suffering and trauma. Every trauma strengthens his resolve to fight the darkness not give in to it. Yet in The Dark Knight Rises none of that comes through.

The few fight seems that do occur are done well enough but all of them are brief they feel more of an inconvenience to Nolan than of no consequence to Batman. The fight scene with Batman and Catwoman working together on a roof top was the only one sequence that caught my attention.

Batman is totally overshadowed by every other character in the film. Catwoman steals every scene, partly because of the leather body suit and Anne Hathaway’s aforementioned arse, but it’s because she’s the only character that actually rises to the occasion throughout the whole film. I know there’s the point that Batman is a symbol to inspire people – and that point is laboured enough throughout – but when the chips are down they all turn to old soppy bollocks to do the business. And although in its darkest hour Gotham rises up but it lacks gravitas and occasion and when it happens and is all but wasted. It’s also the backdrop for the climatic battle between Bane and Batman, but it feels slow and under rehearsed. And how it ends is lame. There is a plot twist prompting a Return of the King-esque drawn out ending and you don’t see it coming but that’s only because of the of the horrible characterisation.

I really wanted to enjoy TDKR and as film I did. As a Batman film it had more plot holes than a  sieve, some character re-writes that made no sense and would annoy fans and ultimately didn’t feel like a Batman film. It’s an absolute tragedy because the first two films in the trilogy were fantastic. For all the film is long it just lacks heart. Yes its got big explosions and lots of human suffering but considering so much of it is supposed to be directed at Batman I just spent the film waiting for him to sack up.

My opinion is partly eschewed having just read the Court of Owls story arc which is, to be honest, fucked up. During the 11 comic arc Batman is hunted, tortured, tormented, stabbed and driven to the edge of sanity but keeps coming back for more, each time more determined. With the TDKR crew at the helm Batman would have been found sobbing in the darkest corner of the Bat Cave.

Ultimately the biggest problem with The Dark Knight Rises, and, the more I thought about it, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight as well, is they’re just not as cool as Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. For the uninitiated, these are video games that came out in 2009 and 2011 respectively in which you take command of Batman and fight your way through Arkham Asylum (in one form or another) to ultimately thwart one of Joker’s diabolical schemes. And that’s the thing, the sense of peril and general revulsion you experience both in the comics and in those games has never made it to the big screen. We saw glimpses of it in The Dark Knight but it never fully delivered on that promise. Both games capture the grim reality of life in Gotham, the mind bending horror of some of the city’s inhabitants and the cold, unstoppable force that is Batman. And it does it all within the limitations of games consoles that are reaching the end of their life spans. That’s not to say the games are perfect it’s just that with The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises a lot of what makes Batman awesome got forgotten.

With movie making at the level it’s at, with movies like Inception being made, there’s simply no excuse of for half measures. Especially when it comes to an IP as beloved, as written about and as embraced as Batman.

Ultimately, the Dark Knight did rise, but only for the last half an hour by which point I’d stopped caring which is a crying shame. It is an enjoyable film, although what you’ve read may say otherwise. There are some very cool scenes in it and when Batman does make appearances he does bring it and bring it hard. Mostly. It just felt, all the way through, like it was being phoned in. And it was yet another case of writers thinking they know better than the creators of the IP which never ends well.

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