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|Film review: The Dark Knight Rises (spoiler-free)|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Thursday, 19 July 2012 08:26|
Director: Christopher Nolan
“A storm is coming…” The last time we heard those words, it was back in 2005 and Bruce Wayne (Bale) was putting on his Batsuit for the first time. It’s no mistake that we hear them again now, at the conclusion of The Dark Knight trilogy: Christopher Nolan’s epic finale is full of flashbacks and echoes that pick up on the smallest of details from the preceding instalments: tiny asides turned into big, loud plot points.
And when I say "big", I mean BIG. The same goes for LOUD.
Things start off super-sized, with the arrival of Bane (Hardy), a beast of man with a Gotham-sized beef. We meet him in a heist that suspends disbelief – literally. The opening recalls the introduction of Heath Ledger’s Joker (and License to Kill), almost to a flaw, but the way Nolan just casually tosses aside an airplane is what sets the tone for this ambitious, epic piece of block-busting.
Things get bigger - and louder - from here.
Rising from the city sewers, Bane wields the city’s credit-crunched citizens like a timebomb, setting them on a revolution that erupts into full-on civil war. It’s a surprisingly plausible scenario, a sea of grey morals that's sold by the generous ensemble of Lucius Fox (Freeman), the "quite lovely" Miranda Tate (Cotillard) and Commissioner Gordon (Oldman, as well-moustached as ever). It’s just a shame the set-up is so messy.
It’s a strange thing to say about Nolan’s troupe of Batvets: Lee Smith’s editing is breathtakingly economical, ramming together set pieces like little bricks of Lego; Wally Pfister’s cinematography is crisp; and yet there are characters and scenes that could be removed from the movie altogether, an accusation that could never be levelled at Batman Begins.
As Nolan pushes for bigger and better, we start to see the Batman Lego pieces being lined for the first time. Characters’ journeys are clearly mapped out and storylines flagged up way in advance. Occasionally inaudible dialogue doesn’t help either – for all the furore surrounding Bane’s masked vocals (which mostly resemble a chain-smoking Scooby Doo), it’s just as difficult to understand some of Oldman’s injured mumbling. And, of course, there’s still Bale’s hoarse barking to decipher (Lucius still hasn’t invented the Batlozenge).
But like The Dark Knight before it, Rises oddly benefits from its bloated girth. The sheer scale of the thing keeps you watching: as much an adaptation of A Tale of Two Cites as a comic book strip, its scope really is Dickensian, packed with sweeping cityscapes and humanised characters.
Mopey as ever, Bruce Wayne’s self-imposed isolation is agonising, given real heart by Michael Caine’s loyal butler and real pain by Hardy’s back-breaking antagonist. Catwoman, meanwhile, has never seemed more real; in Hathaway’s hands, Selina Kyle is as much a social statement as a sex symbol.
Between her steel stilettos and Bane’s massive biceps, it’s astonishing to think how far we’ve come from the last Batman finale. Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin would never go near this clash of right-wing establishment and liberalising upstarts, let alone create a world believable enough for it to inhabit. After two character-driven crime thrillers, Christopher and his brother Jonathan understand the psychology – and philosophy – of DC's caped crusader. Hell, Batman’s barely in the film, spending most of the 2 hours and 45 minutes as a chalk drawing on the pavement rather than a physical presence.
“Do you think he’s coming back?” one kid asks Joseph Gordon Levitt’s idealist cop John Blake. His belief in the symbol of Batman is as much a part of Nolan’s vision as Wayne’s own journey – and despite some clunky dialogue, it’s Gordon Levitt’s earnest newcomer that sells the last 45 minutes, a well-orchestrated explosion of action, people, vehicles and, yes, emotion.
While Gotham regresses to the 18th Century, Hans Zimmer's relentless score gets more and more apocalyptic, building up to a booming finale. (Don't take pregnant women or small children into the screen without protection: when that moving two-note melody finally flies out of the screen, their eardrums are likely to burst.)
Where were we? Yes, big and loud. There's no drowning out the feeling, though, that this is the weakest of the trilogy. But after a messy first half, The Dark Knight Rises to an end that's just satisfying enough to work. Big, loud - and clever - it concludes the heck out of an awesome trilogy.