Oh Nolan, Nolan, Nolan. How you disappoint. And I was hopeful that with the success of “The Dark Knight” (2008) that you’d be able to pull off the conclusion to your Batman trilogy. But after seeing the recently released “The Dark Knight Rises” it is apparent that it was Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker that ultimately made the sequel, and without an actor and character like his, the final installment in this series wasn’t so much of a rise but a flop.
Since this is the final in Nolan’s trilogy, I must say “Batman Begins” (2005) wasn’t good. It was better than its Joel Schumacher predecessors, but that doesn’t make it good, it just makes it better than “Batman Forever” (1995) and “Batman and Robin” (1997), which weren’t high benchmarks to pass.
And “Batman Begins” was better. And the people rejoiced. Why? Because to each fan, Batman is theirs and for it to be depicted as a rave on PCP and home-brewed bourbon was disheartening and shameful. We were happy for some dignity to be returned to our caped crusader, which was good, but frankly speaking, for a story so rife with possibilities, I can’t applaud the achievement of slightly better than okay.
“The Dark Knight,” though with its oddly politically conservative undertones, was good and enjoyable. Heath definitely earned his posthumous Oscar, Batman going to Hong Kong gave the film depth, and personally I love doppelgangers so the whole dark knight/white knight thing was nice.
With “The Dark Knight Rises” director Christopher Nolan has created a sentimental film that lacks suspense, stakes, and good acting. It forces the audience to superimpose preexisting expectations about the characters (particularly of Batman and Catwoman) onto wafer-thin mannequins.
The film is not terrible; it really isn’t. What bothers this reviewer is that the ideas are all there, and it could have been great but it falls short. Like many artistic endeavours, it is not the story or the idea behind it that doesn’t work, it’s the execution.
The story begins eight years after “The Dark Knight” and with the Harvey Dent Act in place all is well in Gotham. Organized crime has been expunged from the streets and Batman is no longer needed. But the law is built upon a lie and the guilt is too much for the city’s beloved Commissioner Gordon (played by Gary Oldman) — the revelation of his guilt is, to say the least, very forced and contrived. I could go on about how this moment sets the tone for the rest of the film allowing Nolan’s hand to dip in and out of the screen almost at will, but I do not wish to add “contains spoilers” to the top of this review.
Now with Gotham at peace, and Batman (depicted by Christian Bale) playing the bad guy to keep it that way, there is no more need for Bruce Wayne to dress in the cape and cowl. He becomes a recluse in his mansion and no one has seen him for years. After years of physical abuse as the city’s saviour, his body is done and he walks with a cane. As Bale has said in previous interviews, he viewed Batman as the true identity of the character and Wayne as the mask. This is further highlighted by the fact that when Batman is called on again, Bruce uses his super power, money, to get himself back in crime-fighting shape.
Of the three portrayals of the Batman by Bale, this is least enjoyable. That might not be his fault though; the corny, cheesy moments of the script are heavy and are expected to be carried by Bale, and though a strong thespian, I can’t think of anyone who could have lifted those scenes to a realm of believability.
The villain of the film is Bane (played by Tom Hardy), a mercenary for hire, a terrorist without morals — essentially, as many other reviews have put it, the manifestation of evil. Unfortunately for this reviewer, due to sound editing (or possibly the state of the theatre I was in, but I doubt it) I could only hear/understand half of what he said. Whenever Bane spoke I was constantly turning to my Korean-speaking companion asking to translate the subtitles for me.
Bane and his henchmen live in the sewers of Gotham, a symbol that though evil may not be present it is never far away. There they concoct and wait for the time to strike and take over the city for Bane’s wealthy financial backers.
Like in the last Batman, Nolan keeps his fingers in the zeitgeist pie, and like in “The Dark Knight” he reveals his conservative side, this time against the occupy movement and the 99 percent. Which is fine, a movie may have themes that don’t coincide with the filmmaker or audiences, but subtlety is not a tool in Nolan’s utility belt, which is not fine with this reviewer.
And then there’s Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman, though she is never referred to as such in the film … I’d rather not waste word count. She was in the movie but … did she really need to be?
The one true little piece of perfection in this film is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of honest cop John Blake. Gordon-Levitt brings a believability to the role that much of the film lacks.
And I know many of you will say that ‘This is a movie about a man who dresses up as a bat, why are you talking about believability?’ You might also say that this is an overly critical review of the film and that it doesn’t deserve so much bile. But like I said, Batman is all of ours. Batman is mine and this trilogy, this film, does not do justice to my caped crusader. Nolan tried, and I give him credit for that. He took Batman out of the nipplesuited campy era and into a realm of complexity and depth, but it falls short and this reviewer appreciates a good effort, but doesn’t pretend a good effort is the same as a great film.
I will watch this film again, probably several times. And I may even grow to like it more. But in the end, the story just isn’t there and Gotham is still waiting for a batman to be its dark knight.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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