By: Addison Wylie
I had to pinch myself a few times during Christopher Nolan’s “epic” finale to his Batman saga entitled The Dark Knight Rises.
I had to convince myself that not only was this well-crafted series coming to a close, but I also had to remind myself that I was sitting in a theatre watching one of the most disappointing and frustrating third chapters since The Matrix Revolutions.
I’m going there, people. Strap in.
There are a few things that halt me from labelling The Dark Knight Rises as a deplorable movie with zero redeeming value. For one, the film starts off with a bang and displays a thrilling action sequence taking place in the air.
A heist involving the film’s villain Bane (played by Tom Hardy) will have you on the edge of your seat. The computer effects have been blended in fantastically with the practical effects, and the editing executed by Lee Smith is top notch; cutting at the right moments to build the intensity even more.
But, while this enthralling action is unfolding, Bane speaks in the middle of it.
Bane’s voice is something of personal preference, simple as that. Movie goers are going to either find his taunting and menacing tone chilling or that Bane sounds like an excited Sean Connery. I fall into the latter and, thus, was not threatened one bit.
Since the voice didn’t work for me, I moved to the next thing that would convince me of his villain stature – his towering and hulking physical form.
Knowing that Bane could easily squish me like a bug, having one’s terrorizing qualities stem from his body isn’t enough to get audiences shaking in their boots. If we do get to that point, his voice torpedo’s the tension.
Also, in this first scene, we’re introduced to our next problem – overacting among the supporting and background cast. It may sound like a nitpick, but hear me out.
Everyone who is “bad” – whether their part of Bane’s army of misfits, prison inmates, or miscellaneous baddies – roar and growl and contort their faces in such a way that it appears as if they are trying to physically, and literally, chew the scenery.
Everyone who is one of the “good guys” among the bit players, especially every single police officer, yell orders as loud as they can and cheer as if they are trying to do something crazy so that when they are watching the movie in the theatre, they can nudge whoever is beside them, point at the screen, and whisper, “that’s me.”
I can wholeheartedly understand that landing a part in the last Christopher Nolan Batman themed film is exciting; monumental even. However, those actors need to learn how to contain their excitement so that they don’t direct the attention away from Bruce Wayne.
As for the cast of leads, there are simply too many characters needing too much face time; especially for those who are new to the story. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake is one of those newbies.
As a young and hopeful police officer, Blake is a lone believer in the Batman and his dedication to the force is strong. However, the story wants to do much more with him.
We’re far too focused on returning characters and how their arcs are developing that Blake ends up being put on the back burner as nothing but a flat portrayal of a do-gooder and nothing more.
A positive the film has going for it is the IMAX shooting format. Nolan has always been a supporter of the immersive IMAX format.
When the director used the format in The Dark Knight, audiences felt as if they would fall out of our chairs and free fall towards Gotham City. The landscapes swallowed us up and the smooth camera movements added to the spectacle.
There’s more of that involvement in The Dark Knight Rises with DOP Wally Pfister utilizing the IMAX cameras in more scenes. Audiences will be able to tell what has been shot with which camera because the aspect rations switch from time-to-time.
The problem is, however, regarding how often that IMAX format is used and what scenes it’s used on. The action sequences call for this incredible technology but, on the other hand, I don’t need to watch Michael Caine drink a beverage in a cafe on a gigantic scale. Instead of marvelling at the format, we think about how it was wasted during these brief cutaways.
The Dark Knight Rises also marks the first Batman film of Nolan’s to utilize or at least try to utilize campiness; and it is never an easy swallow.
Anne Hathaway, who has shown remarkable acting abilities in previous work, is set on playing up the sexiness angle behind her character, Selina Kyle, to a ridiculous degree. Each string of dialogue sounds like its being twisted around her tongue as she heavy-handedly reminds audiences her role is supposed to be seductive.
Even Hans Zimmer wants in on the campy fun. Whenever Hathaway is on screen, the music sounds like its lifting from the days of Adam West. It may have been fitting then but in this universe, it’s a sore spot and as subtle as a squeaky wheel.
Any film buff will recognize the names of the people in front of and behind the camera and wonder why I’m heavily looking down on their work. It’s because we’ve seen everyone do so much better. It feels like everyone realized that the bar had been set so high with The Dark Knight and instead of trying to match it, they decided to mope and shoot low. There’s no better way to say it and it hurts.
Unfortunately, the script is where a lot of these problems lie; which is even more heartbreaking knowing it was written by director Nolan and his brother Jonathan. The script feels hollow, overly cynical, and unoriginal. We’ve seen these types of rises and falls before in countless other vehicles. We’ve seen the training sequences from other, more routine films.
In the past, these two capable screenwriters have shown us they can create thought-provoking and immensely interesting criminals and heroes and adventures for them to play in. While at the same time, making it take place in a world that feels like it actually could exist.
There is none of that in The Dark Knight Rises. Just an ongoing plight of rising action where the villain prevails at every turn and our heroes are beaten down in a film that’s shy of three hours. It single handedly makes us forget why we love this universe and that, for a lack of a better word, sucks. What a drag!