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Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises

19 Jul 2012

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (USA 2012) ***
Directed by Christopher Nolan


THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, this year’s most anticipated film is no doubt spectacular but whether it satisfies, is largely personal.

THE DARK KNIGHT is no more BATMAN or the Caped Crusader but now transformed into the darkest of heroes, and appropriately named the Dark Knight.  (It seems Daniel Craig’s James Bond is also headed into too dead serious territory.) What has happened to the fun of the BATMAN and James Bond action flicks?  Don’t expect to hear the most common line in the D.C. comic: “Holy Cow, Batman!”

The target market has also changed to the more serious adult.  THE DARK KNIGHT RISES takes off eight years after Batman (Christian Bale) vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive.  Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) both hoped was the greater good.  For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act.  There are lots and lots of brooding here.  Bale appears as billionaire Bruce Wayne unshaven and walking with a limp.  But everything changes with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar (Anne Hathaway) with a mysterious agenda.  The burglar is CATWOMAN though that name is oddly never used.  Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile.  So it becomes Batman vs. Bane to save Gotham City.

Nolan can take his hero to extremes.  In BATMAN RISES, the audience witnesses the most ridiculous with Batman training with the Tibetan monks while in exile.  In this film, he is left for dead in a prison cell but climbs up to the top and wreck revenge though he suffers a broken protruding back bone.  Can the human body be this resilient?
The scriptwriters take too many liberties with the Batman legend - the loyal butler, Alfred (Michael Caine) resigns; too many people including the villain know of Batman’s true identity and the film ends the full Batman story so that a reboot is needed.  Too many new characters are added to the story such as Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Fox (Morgan Freeman).  At 2 hours and 40 minutes, the film takes too long to establish a strong footing.  The plot is also more confusing than usual.  It can a bit much for the audience to comprehend fully of what is happening in very scene.  Examples include the reason for Band attacking the stock exchange; the reason for Bane’s wearing of the mask and his breathing difficulty; how the stolen fingerprints brings down the Wayne fortune; how the bomb can be detonated in several ways and so on.

The special effects and props like the Bat-tumbler and the Bat-pod are more than impressive.  But just as troubling are the oddities in the plot.  Who has ever heard of an atom bomb with a 6-miles destructive radius?  The too many tacked on twists to the story (such as the real villain) at the end of the film are also hardly convincing.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES though ambitious and pensive, is now a comic book drama with action rather than comic book action with drama.  If one can stomach the changes mentioned, Christopher Nolan’s DARK KNIGHT might turn out to be the most exciting film of the year.  For others, it could just Nolan’s concocted complicated rubbish that should stay in the recesses of his mind!