Saturday, 4 May 2013

Reviews@24Panels: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)

Calling The Dark Knight Rises ambitious is an understatement. Christopher Nolan’s final chapter in the Dark Knight Trilogy is epic in length, far-reaching in scope, complex and literary in its themes. Picking up eight years after the events in The Dark Knight, Batman has not been seen since the night Harvey Dent died. Yet, a new threat emerges in Bane (Tom Hardy), a terrorist determined to overturn the social classes of Gotham and make the wealthy confront their sins. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is coaxed out of a self-imposed exile by sexy cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). Plus there’s stuff involving beat cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and wealthy industrialist Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).

The first two-thirds of The Dark Knight Rises balance and pace all of these elements incredibly well, thanks to Nolan’s assured direction and very good screenplay; it’s nearly flawless. However, once the film moves into its final act, it begins to come apart. The action set pieces run a little long and the screenplay loses focus. The previous two chapters -- Batman Begins and The Dark Knight -- were concerned with exploring psychological realism and pushing the conventions of the superhero genre, but The Dark Knight Rises relies too heavily on those genre conventions without doing anything with them. Sure, it’s well-crafted, but it comes across as somewhat hollow.

That said, the rest of the film is borderline great. Nolan draws parallels and connects the previous two films thematically in a way that’s quite impressive. The film also has standout performances from those new to the series, particularly Hathaway and Hardy, whose Bane is as frightening and captivating as Heath Ledger’s Joker.

It may be heavily flawed at the end (and contains an egregious cheat), but The Dark Knight Rises is ultimately a satisfying conclusion to Nolan’s ambitious re-imagining of the Batman mythos.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012, USA/UK, 165 mins). Directed by Christopher Nolan. Written by Jonathon Nolan and Christopher Nolan. Starring Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Micahel Caine, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman.


  1. I'm actually just about to start writing about this film in my dissertation. I spent all day writing about The Dark Knight so I'm excited to move on. But I'm perhaps even more excited to move on to the next chapter...

  2. Upon further reflection, I'm wondering what you consider the "egregious cheat" to be? I can think of two equally egregious cheats in the third act...

  3. I'm curious to know the other cheat. The one I was thinking of was the shot of Bats in the 'Bat' literally seconds before the bomb goes off. It's a dirty, manipulative trick I thought Nolan was above using. Also, while we're at it, why is flying a bomb over the ocean still an acceptable thing in action film? I was hoping we'd move past this as a society. (Similarly, Dr. Connors' detonating the lizard gas over NYC at the end of THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was the low point of that film for me.)

  4. The other thing I'm thinking of is wayne's miraculous return to Gotham, despite it being on total lockdown (so no planes and bridges...) and that he had no money, passport or ID in the prison he escaped from, wherever that was.

    After rewatching the series recently for my dissertation, it occurred me me that Batman does have a superpower: he can teleport like Nightcrawler. It's the only explanation for the plot holes in Rises, and it also explains his sudden disappearances (some of which are mildly plausible, but some of which are inexcusable: how many people must he have pushed past to get out of the evidence locker before Gordon turned back around in TDK? Why doesn't the Joker see him in his peripheral vision at the party in the same film? The people are all backed away and it's brightly lit! How does he get up to all of those lookout points throughout the trilogy? And how does he get down? How did he make that fire bat logo on the top of the bridge? etc. etc...).

    Batman having the ability to teleport explains his sudden reappearance in Gotham and his disappearance from the 'Bat' before the bomb detonates. Nolan made such sloppy films that "Batman can teleport" is the best, most plausible explanation for about a dozen different things that happen throughout the trilogy.

    1. See, I don't consider the 'miraculous return to Gotham' a cheat, per se; it can just be chalked up to lazy scripting. Or I would accept the answer "Because he's Batman" sufficient explanation for how he made it from wherever back to Gotham. Yet, the tendency to get lazy around scripting is something plagues the genre: For whatever reason, writers and directors are content with solutions like ignoring how Bats gets back to Gotham, the 'Super kiss' from SUPERMAN II (or the cellophane S), or... well, pick a superhero film, I'm sure there's a flaw in the plotting somewhere.

      Funnily enough -- and this points to the difference between DARK KNIGHT and RISES -- I don't mind these clearly glaring gaps in logic in DARK KNIGHT, mainly because that film moves. After Bats jumps out the window to save Rachel, the story just keeps moving forward. The pace is so breakneck it's not until after do we think "Hey, why didn't he go back up to stop Joker?"