Monday, 6 August 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Okay, I need to admit I have enjoyed the two preceding Nolan Batman movies, and so my experience of The Dark Knight Rises was most likely coloured by those positive experiences. Which immediately leads me to say that I enjoyed it - a hell of a lot, and I do think it may be the best of the bunch.

It is not perfect - there are flaws for sure, but the same is true of pretty much any story and/or movie - but I found it absorbing to watch, as did Mrs Citizen who struggles with anything much longer than a 90 minute run time, and at two and three quarter hours, this was way past her usual comfort zone!

Structurally this felt more even and rounded than the Dark Knight which fell a bit flat for me once the Joker arc had been resolved; the Two Face stuff just prolonged the film without adding to Dark Knight in my opinion, although it does serve as the spring-board for the Dark Knight Rises and several of its character arcs.

I think Nolan does a masterful job of crafting doubt and tension around the ability and potential fragility of the Batman. We see a hero who may be truly vulnerable to the odds arrayed against him. We also see that the four principle males (Bruce Wayne/Batman, Alfred Pennyworth, Commissioner Gordon and Lucius Fox) from the trilogy are each flawed in their decisions over the course of those movies. Not from self-serving reasons, far from it, there are just motivations for all, yet each has taken a decision that is underlined in this film as being potentially harmful. Contrast that to the fate of the other male characters seen through preceding parts of the trilogy (Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow and Mayor Anthony Garcia), and it shows that Nolan has crafted a story about a (small) world (Gotham) as much about one hero.

The story is on reflection pretty straight-forwards, but various sub-plots and beats roll on which is what made the film compelling for me, even if I did anticipate two reveals (one key to the plot, the other key to the ending). the film did not sag for me as Dark Knight did after the aforementioned Joker arc ended.

This is not a super-hero film in the traditional sense. To me it is more of a thriller with super-hero trappings. Despite that I think it is well constructed and well-crafted and has some amazing set-pieces, though perhaps the sight of the truck flip from the Dark Knight is not quite topped. There are choices Nolan has made that I do not agree with. For example if you make a Batman film, accept his natural milieu is the night and roll with it - too many key day-time scenes for my taste, but hey, a minor flaw at best. The Dark Knight Rises does not have a villain as compelling as I found the Joker to be, yet it weaves a compelling narrative around a whole host of characters and even supporting players get moments to shine. I thought everyone played their parts well and the most difficult role was probably Bane. The theatrics that Ledger could use for the Joker were not available for Tom Hardy, so inevitably the character pales in some ways by comparison. The voice of Bane has been complained about, but the feel it gave me was that of melodramatic megalomaniac - almost as if Nolan was giving a knowing wink to the pulp-y origins of the Batman mythos while still attempting to retain his sense of stylistic verisimilitude. Therefore it worked for me, but I get why not for others, and Bane serves his function in the grander arc.

Lastly some have commented on ambiguity of the ending. Nonsense. It is clear for most characters and open for one in particular, and that was a good trick by Nolan. I was not let down by the ending which was signalled by Nolan through the film so to those who claim 'ambiguity' I saw piffle!

This is a film I look forwards to watching again, and re-watching the whole set from start to finish sometime. I loved it, but then I loved Batman Begins and Dark Knight, and I know neither is universally loved.

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