The Dark Knight Rises review

Banana Rating: 3 out of 5

The middle bit of any story is sup­posed to be the most dif­fi­cult to get right. How­ever, take a look at movie tri­lo­gies and it seems the third film, the “end­ing”, is often the tricky bit, as everything that needs to be said has usu­ally been covered in the first two films. The third film, per­haps low on ideas, may pil­fer from the first two. To a cer­tain extent, it’s okay to do that. End­ings can be at their best when hark­ing back to their beginning.

If not done quite right, the third film in a tri­logy feels like it’s just trad­ing on past glor­ies rather than offer­ing any­thing new or genu­inely insight­ful. Two examples of tri­lo­gies with weaker third parts are The God­father series, and epis­odes 4 to 6 of Star Wars. I think The Dark Knight Rises can safely be added to this list.

Con­trary to what you might think, it’s not about Bat­man rising early in the even­ing from his lux­ury four poster Bat-bed, eat­ing a bowl of Coco-Pops at the Bat-Breakfast Table, drink­ing a Bat-Cup of Bat-Coffee, then clean­ing his teeth with the Bat-Brush, whilst rumin­at­ing on the nature of revenge, his own psy­chosis, and how dress­ing in triple-weave kevlar gives him a bit of a semi.

It’s actu­ally about his fall from grace that happened at the end of the second film, and how he rises back to prom­in­ence. Not just once, but twice.

Myth versus reality

It’s eight years after The Dark Knight, and Bruce Wayne is a recluse, unshaven, hob­bling on a walk­ing stick, in self imposed exile from his crime fight­ing life as Bat­man. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns is an influ­ence here, and when Bruce feels com­pelled to don the bat suit again, for a short time there’s the same feel­ing of want­ing to punch the air at his tri­umphant return, and revel in the impact he’ll make on a new gen­er­a­tion who may only remem­ber the myth rather than the real­ity. An example of this is a cool moment where a naive young police officer is quickly humbled when he tries to tazer Bat­man, the response being an over the shoulder look from the Caped Cru­sader, as if to say, “Really?”

Batman’s return is short-lived after his first bruis­ing encounter with new vil­lain, Bane. Spe­cial men­tion must go to Tom Hardy’s mod­i­fied voice, filtered through a mask that cov­ers the bot­tom half of his face. It would’ve been easy for Chris­topher Nolan (or Tom Hardy) to make the more obvi­ous choice, and just make Bane’s voice deep and one-note, the kind of “evil” rumble we’ve all heard a mil­lion times before.

The rum­bling bass is still there, but a high pitched twang at strange, unex­pec­ted moments, make the voice creepy, the speech of a man barely hold­ing his psy­chosis in check. The voice can be funny as well. But mar­ried to the sheer bulk of Tom Hardy, no sooner has a slightly nervous snig­ger left your lips, a shiver of dread is run­ning down your spine.

Batman’s spine on the other hand ends up with a bit more than dread run­ning down it. It’s at this point that the film starts to go downhill.

The worst type of Bond villain

The story slows to a crawl. There’s less Bat­man onscreen and Nolan tries to cir­cum­vent the slow pace with more time given to the vil­lain and other side char­ac­ters, some of them brand new to the tri­logy. Instead, it makes for a skit­tish pace, lack­ing in focus. There’s no real sense that Bruce has bounced back from any­thing par­tic­u­larly life threat­en­ing, or even learnt much from his exper­i­ence before con­front­ing Bane again.

The Dark Knight Rises struggles to recover, des­pite some impress­ively staged action. Bane has, by this point, become less inter­est­ing. In the com­ics he’s sup­posed to be a mas­ter tac­ti­cian, but he some­times dis­plays all the traits of the worst type of Bond vil­lain, going to extraordin­ary lengths to defeat one guy when a single bul­let would prob­ably do the job. It’s no sur­prise really: Chris­topher Nolan is a Bond nut, and this is pos­sibly his most Bond-esque movie yet. The open­ing scene even pays homage to the begin­ning of Licence to Kill.

Expect­a­tions, after The Dark Knight, were pretty high. There’s a fair bit to like. Bane and Bat­man going toe-to-toe in their first meet­ing, and Anne Hath­awayplay­ing a more com­plic­ated, less sexu­ally aggress­ive Cat­wo­man than the Michelle Pfeif­fer ver­sion (although Hath­away is still pretty damn sexy) are highlights.

But it’s hard to escape the feel­ing that more could have been done. Even though Nolan ties things in with Bat­man Begins and The Dark Knight, and there’s some great scenes, and some great char­ac­ters, they some­how don’t add up to make a great film. Still, Nolan’s reboot­ing of Bat­man has been impress­ive over­all, and the final film isn’t so bad that it ruins the ones that come before it. It’s just a little bit dis­ap­point­ing, a vic­tim of that tricky last part of a tri­logy, and it’s own soggy centre.

A case of The Dark Night Rises being more The Dark Knight Wakes Up Hits Snooze And Rolls Over For An Extra Five Minutes.