Friday, 31 August 2012
The Dark Knight Rises
The difficulty with this film is that as soon as you try to rationalise its plot and its characters, it all falls apart. That is because this film is a fantasy. Too many reviews and discussions about this film fall because they fail to understand that Batman is fantasy. Having said that, it then requires us to make a leap from our reality to Batman's unreality if we are to make any sense of the film at all!
For the trilogy to complete its narrative arc it was necessary for Batman (Christian Bale) to be rehabilitated. How that is achieved is as complex as it is brutal. At nearly three hours long it is a credit to Nolan's direction that the film only drags two or three times. It is epic in many ways. The set design - the opening 'extraction', Manhattan below and above ground, 'The Pit' prison and the sfx are all visually stunning and fill the entirety of the screen. I had hoped to see it in IMAX but they finished screening it the day before! That would have been even more stunning visually.
The plot itself is straightforward but there are a number of sub-plots which are running which complicate the whole storyline and require a bit of mental jiggling to hold them separately as they weave in and out of the main story. This is archetypal goody versus baddy - straight out of the ethos of DC Comics. One thing that really struck me was Batman's repeated insistence on 'no guns and no killing' and how in the numerous fight scenes, some of which were overly brutal for my taste, you never saw any blood - just like the 1960's TV shows that were decorated with 'zap!' and 'pow!' etc.
The story begins eight years after the end of the previous film - The Dark Knight. Batman had taken the blame for the death of Harvey Dent at a time when the people of Gotham City needed a hero in which to believe and someone around whom they could rally in their quest to eradicate organised crime from the city. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) had used the momentum to pass the tough Dent Act and now the most dangerous 1000 prisoners were locked up in the city's toughest prison. Commissioner Gordon is wracked with guilt about letting Batman wrongly carry the can for Dent's death but is, as yet, unable to reconcile himself to coming clean. Batman - aka Bruce Wayne - has become even more of a recluse as he mourns what was and the loss of his love Rachel. It will obviously take something on a huge scale to turn this misery around.
In steps Bane (Tom Hardy) - a long term DC Comics bad guy - who is a man of a mountain and who places Gotham City and its inhabitants in jeopardy. The threat of Bane lures Batman back into the skies (after a remarkable physical rehabilitation) and he attempts to save Gotham City from extinction. The love interest is provided by Catwoman/Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and Marion (Marion Cotillard) but for me it was the performance of Alfred the Butler (Michael Caine) which steals the show for its warmth, depth of engagement and sheer humanity. I am not going to elaborate further on the plot, but if you want a fuller exposition check out IMDb. The way the film ends offers a lesson in how to deliver a perfect ending. It was good to see cameos from Liam Neeson and Tom Conti too and with Morgan Freeman reprising his role, it really is a very strong cast - but then a nearly 3 hour film needs that!
This film is intense in many ways - the drama and suspense are maintained in a way that invites tension to build, the characters are not as straightforward as they first appear, the weaving together of the sub-plots requires concentration. For me, it was where the the film picked up the unresolved themes of The Dark Knight where it truly excelled. Christopher Nolan's direction (and joint screenplay writing with his brother Jonathan) explore in depth the angst and moral machinations of the main characters. Themes of regret, loss, guilt and revenge are worked with and developed as the story unfolds. The script delights to balance on the knife-edge of grey areas in relation to a number of moral dilemmas facing the characters. Those on the side of 'right' hesitate and reflect before acting - even when two wrongs might appear to make a right. Those on the side of 'wrong' are driven by a lustful quest for power, control and revenge. For me this was Bale's best performance as Wayne/Batman.
This is a first class film which is fully deserving of its accolades (it wasn't over-hyped to begin with!). The story, acting and visuals are all very strong. It rounds off the trilogy in a satisfactory way being fully faithful to the characters and ethos of Batman but updating it to the 21st century. Nolan's stock will continue to rise and I look forward to his next offering. If this film had been 30 minutes shorter it would have scored a 9, so I'm going to give it 8.5/10. If you've not seen it - catch while you still can.