Dark Knight Rises’ director Christopher Nolan may know a thing or two about the technique of making movies but he’s has always been a less than inspiring figure when it comes to the artistic elements, the magical amalgam that delivers a soul-stirring movie.
I don’t know about you schmucks but when the lights go out during my movie trips I want to experience at least one of the following emotions:
* I want to feel a thrill up my spine
* I want tears to roll down my face
* I want to be wildly aroused by a femme fatale
* I want actors who can dupe me that it’s all real
* I want to laugh like I’m demented
* I want to be scared as hell
* I want to be moved
* Above all, I want to experience something new
Dark Knight Rises – None of the Above
Sadly, I experienced none of those emotions in The Dark Knight Rises.
Not for a fleeting second.
Truth be said, I’d have been surprised had I experienced any of those desired emotions in any of the Batman sequels.
Because the framework of any Batman sequel is set in stone with wiggle-room left only for the details.
It’s like chronicle of ennui foretold.
Still, Dark Knight (2008) did stir me, and that’s because of Heath Ledger’s nonpareil performance as the Joker.
And what a powerful ace the Joker turned out to be!
No Joker but a Banal Bane
But there are no redeeming Jokers in Dark Knight Rises.
Au contraire, Bane, the villain this time, is a banal, boring, masked hulk, made worse by speaking incomprehensible gibberish.
Hell, Bane, name notwithstanding, is not even evilly evil with all his pro-people rhetoric and rants.
Dark Knight Rises starts off eight years after the last film ends.
If you’ve seen Dark Knight, you know that Batman takes the fall for the murderous District Attorney Harvey Dent so that Gotham’s shitizens can have a hero to look up to.
Not the hero they deserve but the one they need (as explained in the last minutes of Dark Knight).
With most of the bad and suspected-bad elements locked up under the Dent Act, Gotham City is peaceful under Police Commissioner James Gordon (the familiar Gary Oldman).
Batman and his billionaire alter ego Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) lead secluded, reclusive lives, far from the public eye, with only the faithful butler Alfred (Michael Caine) for company.
But the masked hulk Bane (Tom Hardy) and his thugs force Batman out of extended hibernation with a streak of violent attacks on the stock exchange, the police and the sewer tunnels.
Compounded by populist rhetoric seemingly borrowed from the ‘Occupy Wall Street” crowd to stir up chaos among the citizenry and get them to fall, mob-like, upon the 1%.
If Christopher Nolan’s target is the current unfair American capitalist order, the rhetoric is too effete a strike, even within the contours of a movie.
After losing a particularly vicious fight against Bane, Batman is thrown into a deep hole a.k.a Hell from which escape is considered an impossible flight of fancy.
But escape Batman must, and escape Batman does, to stage a final, furious fight to save Gotham.
The saving grace of Dark Knight was the Joker’s manic unpredictability.
But Bane in Dark Knight Rises has no personality, too dull a villain, lending a fatal predictability to the movie.
Gimmickry, More Gimmickry
Bridges collapse, fireballs light up the sky, batmobile swooshes by, the bat hovers in the air, people hijack a plane mid-air from another plane, nuclear bombs go off yada yada yada.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Batman movie without any of these gee whiz computer generated special effects.
All neatly executed, I must acknowledge.
The audience here wants them, nay demands and craves them. And they approved by happily clapping at the end.
Who cares if the story never rises above the ordinary.
Even the couple of twists toward the end failed to stir me, contrived as they seemed to be and in place merely for the sake of having a twist.
Christian Bale still can’t act.
Thank God, the Batmanesque mask masks his poor emotive skills.
Anne Hathaway plays the ‘cat’ burglar with some elan and her character has some ambiguity but, boy, this gal must be the unsexiest chick in all of Hollywood.
The three Batman fixtures, Michael Cain, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman, have strong acting chops to their credit but they’re extras, mere gofers in a Batman flick.
Marion Cotillard still has a certain charm but her character seemed so unfleshed, as if an afterthought by Nolan and brother Jonathan Nolan (co-writer).
In his repeated quest to push the envelope of film-making, Christopher Nolan succeeds at the margins but fails in the main.
True, his best known movies including Memento and Inception take unfamiliar routes to their destination but they’re soulless ego-trips.
The reputation of Nolan’s movies rests on their being different from the mainstream.
But different is not always a better potion for viewers.
To me, they’re a bitter pill.
Perhaps, Nolan’s redemption will come after Dark Knight Rises, the last movie in his Batman trilogy.
Meanwhile, expect the Batman fanboys, and this mob numbers in the hundreds of millions, to come out in droves and keep the box office registers ringing nonstop for Dark Knight Rises.
Dark Knight – Heath Ledger’s Dazzling Swan Song