Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay: Christopher Nolan, Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine
Producer: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas
Running Time: 165 min
BBFC Certificate: 12
What else is there left to say or write about this kind of film by the time it hits DVD and Blu Ray? There's a good chance that most film fans will have read all they want to prior to the theatrical release. Given that these tent pole movies are seen as critic proof anyway, does it even matter what is said or written about it? Certainly not from the perspective of convincing people to see the film. They come with a ready made fan base, who chatter excitedly online in the build up to the release, tweeting about every leaked production still and discussing every nugget of plot information. This overload of information means that by the time the film is actually released and you pitch up at your local multiplex (or make the pilgrimage to your nearest IMAX) there's a fair chance that you have a pre-conceived notion of whether the spectacle you're about to see is any good or not. It is difficult to ignore the brouhaha and cut through the hyperbole to judge the film on its own merits.
So perhaps the passing of time gives a bit of perspective, and an opportunity to re-evaluate the film on its DVD release. Or for people who missed or avoided the theatrical release (a group which includes this reviewer) a chance to watch the film for the first time long after the opening weekend and concomitant promotional distractions.
The Dark Knight Rises takes up the action 8 years after 'the batman' disappeared in disgrace having taken the fall for the murder of DA Harvey Dent. It begins with the obligatory action set piece as Aiden Gillen's CIA agent fails to notice the unusual voice of the masked prisoner and an audacious attempt to escape from an aeroplane is undertaken. Thankfully, we're then thrust back into the claustrophobic streets of Gotham, where a crippled, reclusive Bruce Wayne is enticed out of retirement. There are atmospheric aerial shots of skyscraper dominated city vistas, car chases (not to mention motorbike and batwing chases) through rain soaked streets, and fight scenes on gangways that are shot and cut like a computer game. Yep, the visual iconography is all present and correct. There is a violent assault on the stock exchange which leads to Bruce Wayne losing control of his company, and the city is 'liberated' by the mercenary Bane. Yep, the (somewhat confused) politics is there. Impressive fight and chase sequences juxtaposed with politicians quoting Dickens shows that this is a film that has aspirations to cater for a wider audience than your average blockbuster. So there is both brain and brawn here, as you'd expect from the Nolan brothers. And yet…
And yet, it really is quite a poor film. I imagine that watching it in an IMAX theatre the spectacle somewhat disguises the deficiencies in the script, but on DVD they're glaringly obvious. There are too many things that simply don't add up or make sense, the main twist (why does there have to be one?) being a particular nadir. It is not quite as ridiculous as 'the butler done it', but doesn't make much more sense than if the villain turned out to be Alfred, and it is wholly unsatisfying. There is also a similar problem of verisimilitude to The Dark Knight in that the script sets up situations that can't play out in a believable way, with characters behaving in a way that people wouldn't in real life, nor you feel within the diegesis. The film also flounders when it opens out beyond the confines of Gotham, highlighting the script's shortcomings whenever it does. Moreover the cliches are disappointingly apparent. Guess what happens to Ben Mendelsohn's scheming capitalist when he feels emboldened to stand up to the gargantuan Bane because he's paid him a lot of money. Or whether the constant reference to the faulty autopilot of the Batwing is going to be an important issue come the denouement. Or whether there is a finality come the final credits or the setup for a new caped crusader. And does it really all have to come down to a ticking bomb?
The Dark Knight Rises is well over two and a half hours, and yet feels rushed. There aren't really any scenes that are given room to breathe, and the film seems to be made up of a series of sequences that are strung together to give a sense that this is epic storytelling. However the way that it is cut often gives a sense of someone trying too hard to get things moving. This is particularly evident in the cross cutting leading up to Batman's faux Sydney Carton moment, and when the viewer is thrust from a post coital Bruce Wayne relaxing by the fire to Batman in the sewers with Catwoman by way of a moody aerial skyscraper shot, within in the space of about 2 seconds.
The film is not entirely without merit. The performances are good, as is the cinematography and it is never boring. This should be a basic requisite for a big budget feature though, and really is not enough to make up for the short comings. Spare me the pseudo gravitas and give me Burton's style any day.
The Dark Knight Rises is released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download from 3rd December.