It’s approaching two years since The Dark Knight Rises dashed our hopes of a strong conclusion to the Nolan brothers’ Batman trilogy.
With the box-office dust finally settled and the film taking its rightful place in bargain bins across the land, it’s a good time to ask, “What the hell happened”?
Nolan’s initial brace is refreshingly absent of by-the-numbers plotting, where immense attention was lavished on creating intelligent crime thrillers with the gothic abnormality of the Caped Crusader. There’s style, while avoiding the standard substance of the comic book genre and the wider safety of Hollywood blockbuster fare; this was the franchise that had successfully sold itself on being in the risk-taking minority.
Unfortunately Rises can’t keep its end of the bargain and both Nolan brothers either ran out of ideas or just simply could not be bothered to add any of their previous flair and bravery to the last instalment’s closure. Importantly – and people forget this, due to the constant junkets preceding the film’s release – nobody involved with The Dark Knight was that keen to revisit the franchise.
The closing sequences are completely forgettable as, despite a lengthy running time, everything plays out in clunky action movie tropes:
- Is there a ‘shock’ betrayal twist? Check – Talia’s confession.
- Is there nuclear bomb jeopardy? Check – easily survived, just dip below the water.
- Is there a series-bridge via predictable reveal? Check – Dick Grayson, yawn.
- Is there a happy ending? Check – Bruce has a got a new girlfriend now, so don’t worry Alfred, it’s all ok; just don’t expect a phone call.
This underwhelming closure totally undersells the investment in the unique universe, aborting – in the space of fifteen minutes – the previous six hours of extrapolation. It’s a kick in the teeth to the previously refreshing tone and as mildly boring as Bruce Wayne’s choice of dressing gown.
Without doubt there is enhancement to be had from having your villain flagrantly take over the world’s biggest stock exchange in broad daylight, and nobody should be in a position to debate the effects of destroying the American Football stadium. The back-breaking fight sequence was also effective in taking The Bat out of his natural darkness (as established over the past five hours of epic storytelling).
What doesn’t quite sit well is maintaining daylight during the climactic return of the nocturnal protagonist. When the fear should take over the ranks of the marauding criminal ‘over-world’, they are instead presented with a weird-looking, average-sized man in a cloak and a ‘Christopher Nolan Trilogy Batman Mask’ ordered from eBay for $24.99.
Gotham and her residents have been in potential peril throughout the trilogy but the moody, gothic landscape created in the series’ first two entries has slowly been cleaned up by the world’s greatest detective, until the arrival of Bane and his hardened thugs that is. Nolan has taken great care in layering this story with financial injustice, and so we expect a reckoning as the great unwashed overflow the gilded streets of the now thriving Gotham city. People will scream in terror, atrocities will prevail and only one man, The Batman, can come to the rescue…
Unfortunately that’s not the case; a strictly controlled 40kmh speed limit, noise pollution from dumpster trucks and having to sit indoors a lot are the highlights of his tyranny.
The amazing airborne kidnapping, stock exchange heist, back-breaking fist fight, and night-time re-emergence of The Batman were all utterly stunning and function as short-films in their own right. The rest of the film does have some slight difficulties however…
A plane crashes and a big bloke in a mask who makes noises like a cow giving birth seems really quite cool. Christian Bale has a necklace stolen and decides to dress up as Batman again.
No respect is paid to the cinematic convention of beard-indicated time-travel.
Financial injustice is covered as a single dropped line from Anne Hathaway during the charity ball, and there’s that bloke who used to be in Neighbours slavering about being a ‘necessary evil’. Then the bloke who used to be in Neighbours shows up again to say he prefers to just burn money but then mask man returns. He says he is the agent of chaos (capable of ending both paradigms of hegemony) and there is a metaphor in there somewhere.
Michael Caine and Christian Bale fell out over something to do with an old flame, and so Michael is thrown out by Christian after a conversation lasting 30 seconds.
Batman dangles from coat hangers in the dessert for a few months, in order to heal his shattered spine and watches CNN and speaks to Liam Neeson. They talk about something philosophical for a while, no one really understands what, and then he climbs up a wall which opens up into Gotham City (convenient, as it’s locked down) and (even better) it’s eight months later; no respect is paid to the cinematic convention of beard-indicated time-travel.
The entire police force, after a moment of tactical inspiration, is trapped in a hole for a few months. Huey Lewis (the guy from Inception?) feeds thousands of them by sending biscuits down a drain pipe. He wants to become Batman, not sure why. Huey and Batman let the policemen out. They all have loads of energy after months on cheesy balls and storm the baddies’ hideout with Batman.
Huey tries to rescue a few kids, but fails; but don’t worry as nuclear bombs have a blast radius of 30 metres when above seawater and in the conclusion’s clear stand-out moment, Michael Caine comes back for a quick espresso with Batman.
Drums, lots of drums all the time, too. The end.
Big, Bad Bane
Bane, very quickly, became the ‘it’ character ahead of Rises’ release. The hype was phenomenal, with Nolan championed for using one of the ‘lesser’ nemeses in the Batman Universe. Audiences entered screenings with a sense of foreboding toward the character.
This worked marvellously. Bane (Tom Hardy) energetically hulked his way through every frame he inhabited. The stock exchange take-over portrayed his chaotic cruelty and as this force of nature grew in strength it became apparent that Batman would be facing his greatest physical adversary on screen. The spinal-break fist fight between the two icons was breathless; crunching blows, ineffective gadgets and silence permeated only by the screeches of The Bat.
Batman’s exile at Bane’s hand set up the climactic showdown and provided a very real sense that Batman would need to actually kill Bane, betraying his own identity in the ultimate sacrifice to the city. The tension, expectation and excitement reached uncontrollable levels as David and Goliath finally met in an iconic moment on the marble stone steps of City Hall. Despite the let-down of this being a day-time moment it appears business may have picked up… the first punch sends pulses racing…
Two minutes later a poorly executed twist reduces Bane to a glorified babysitter with a juvenile crush on Talia Al-Ghul. The mountain of testosterone-fuelled rage checks himself into the Glee club for the night before liking ‘Why won’t she love me?’ on Facebook, and says goodbye to his cojones.
Catwoman is overtly sexual, completely unpredictable and would never, ever consummate the chemistry between herself and The Bat on a long term basis. She is uncontainable, lethal and wise-cracking. She is every hot-blooded, heterosexual male’s unobtainable dream; her powerful femininity reminds men that without women they are redundant.
This was a terrible asexual socio-political reinvention of the character. Here she is a bohemian but ends up conforming to a fate as a ‘kept woman’, betraying herself with Nolan guilty of destroying the wider emphasis of the character.
Despite major criticisms, the film was viewed three times by this perturbed and disappointed fan; the first two instalments were spot-on, and so Rises was given the benefit of the doubt. Surely it was rebellion and stubbornness ruining the experience?
But no; the flaws remained painfully in place and this will no doubt dawn on all but the most blinded viewers next time around. It’s time to stop glossing over the cracks and admit that filmgoers deserved more than a perfunctory conclusion, and a shabby one at that.
The truth is incontrovertible; this one went Bat-balls up.