Thursday, July 19, 2012
Movie review: The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan's mind may have gotten the better of him here.
Christopher Nolan never has been, nor will he ever be, your typical blockbuster movie director. Nolan’s preferred method of storytelling involves engaging his audience’s minds, with even extravagant action sequences often taking a backseat to his ruminations. So it should be no surprise that the man responsible for Memento, Inception, and The Dark Knight would take much the same path with The Dark Knight Rises (also showing on IMAX screens).
The conclusion of the latest Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises finds Nolan at his most ponderous. Picking up eight years (!) after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) continues to live in exile while Gotham City is enjoying record-low crime levels thanks to an initiative put in place following the death of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). But things won’t stay that way for long, with people like Bane (Tom Hardy) and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), aka Catwoman, looking to shake things up.
The rest of the plot defies easy description, partly because doing so would give too much away and partly because there’s just so much going on. Suffice it to say that Wayne finally brings Batman out of retirement thanks to the machinations of Bane and Catwoman, and because of personal appeals from Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), and newcomers Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a socialite who has supported Wayne’s causes in the past, and John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a young cop who’s idolized Batman for years.
Nolan’s style of filmmaking has led to much praise, mainly because his mixture of brain and brawn has usually blended well. But whether it’s the weight of delivering a fitting conclusion to this Batman saga or a loss of perspective, Nolan’s chemistry is significantly off this time around. First of all, the film clocks in at a whopping 164 minutes, a length that wouldn’t be an issue if the story warranted it. But Nolan takes his sweet time setting up various plot elements, the biggest being Batman’s re-emergence, and tests the audience’s patience mightily in doing so.
A big part of the reason The Dark Knight was as praised so highly was because of the mesmerizing, Oscar-winning performance from Heath Ledger as the Joker. Unfortunately for TDKR, its villains pale in comparison. While the performances given by Hardy and Hathaway are compelling, their respective character arcs are lacking overall. In fact, the most memorable part of either one of them is Bane’s voice. Augmented by a mask he wears for somewhat nebulous reasons, he sounds like a demented version of Sean Connery – in a good way.
Nolan had previously seemed to know his way around a good action scene, but many of the ones in TDKR seem rote and uninspired. A scene early in the film involving two airplanes in mid-flight sets the bar, and yet nothing after that comes close to that level, not even the much ballyhooed football scene glimpsed in the trailer. It’s as if Nolan scripted the action merely because it is expected of a Batman movie, and not because they’re actually essential.
There are many good reasons to see The Dark Knight Rises, not least because of the multiple surprises it has in store. But Nolan would have done well to trim at least a half hour off the running time in order to make it feel more like a celebratory end to the series and less like a depressing slog.