Last Friday night, instead of doing the patriotic thing and watching and the Olympic opening ceremony, me & the Wife left the little one with my parents and headed out to the little cinema up the road to catch ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘. I would warn anyone reading this that from this point forward it is going to be full of SPOILERS so do not read on if you are yet to see the film.
OK, i’m going to say this up front; this has proven to be a damned hard blog post to write. Why? Because I’m struggling to decide whether I liked the film or not. I’ve already drafted and re-drafted sections of this blog post numerous times over the week due to indecision and uncertainty.
There’s a couple of things at play here that are causing this. Firstly, as a big Batman fanboy, who’s comic book life started in the 90s not long before the Knightfall storyline, I soooooo wanted this movie to be excellent. There’s only been a small number of times I’ve had such a burning desire for a movie to be amazing (to name them; The Phantom Menace, Serenity, Batman Begins, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, and Live Free or Die Hard) and in this instance I wonder if that desire had lost me all perspective – As I watched it I was finding the whole viewing experience an emotional roller coaster ride as I found the stuff I liked nothing short of mind-blowingly awesome, but the stuff I didn’t like burrowed into me and caused unshakeable disaapointment. I experienced the film through an excitement that I think possibly caused reactions of extremes – when it was good, it was REALLY GOOD, but when it was bad, it was REALLY BAD.
Secondly, I was mega-tired watching it. It was the close of my first week back to work after 6 month’s unemployment and I’ve been finding it difficult to get back into the early morning routine. A 2hr 40min movie is going to be a struggle for any man in a warm, packed cinema under these circumstances and my concentration levels weren’t at their best.
So, I’m going to just describe a few things I liked and a few I didn’t like and reserve final judgement until I’ve given it a second viewing. I’m going to kick off with a gripe…
I was not keen on the batwing. It did not appeal to me at all. I know people will defend it for being more practical and realistic than a high powered jet firing around a city but I think it looked pants. They could’ve done better than what looked like a paraplegic insect just annoyingly buzzing around. I understand entirely what Nolan was trying to do with the design; seeking to find a balance between practical, realistic feasibility and comic-book cool but I just couldn’t find my way to liking it.
Ann Hathaway as Selina Kyle did a top notch job, so much so I wished she had been given more screen time and character development. For me she brought just the right amount of sultry sexiness and cheeky playfulness to the character. She was criminally underused in the film; disappearing for long stretches at a time, but whenever she was on screen she was excellent. I was, however, perhaps a little unconvinced by the Selina and Bruce romance by the end of the film, especially after the earlier lesbian undertones, but this is possibly more to do with her screen time and the development given to their relationship than any criticism of the performance talents.
Tom Hardy’s performance as Bane was great. He was almost perfect – standing so casually assured, powerful and imposing as he sauntered around performing the nefarious masterplan. I admit the clarity issue is a fair one; but I actually liked the sinister effect of his (almost) poetic dialogue being delivered all quiet with a slight muffle. I was really taken with Bane, a superhero film is only as good as it’s villain after all, and was loving his evil ways – that is, until the Talia-Al-Ghul twist.
Yes, the Talia-Al-Ghul twist, which, as far as I’m concerned, was completely unnecessary and was more to the detriment of the film than to its credit. Up to that point Bane had been a truly intimidating and brutal villain, a close equal of Ledger’s Joker, displaying that same deadly combination of unpredictably violent with a shrewd, amoral intellect. However, the revelation that Talia was the brains behind the master plan took something away from the menace of Bane – I viewed him suddenly as just a thug, a bit of muscle operating at the whims of his mistress. This event largely changed how I felt about everything I had seen up to that point – Bane had lost his impact, he was weakened by it, neutered even. His great yet sinister speeches, the twisted intelligence of his plans, the brutal psychological warfare against Batman, all became lessened by the revelation that he was just delivering Talia’s work and Talia’s revenge. It’s ironic really, because as a Batman fanboy I should by rights have loved the Talia twist but I just didn’t. I didn’t feel it added anything to the film.
Speaking of unnecessary – I think maybe the film was a bit too long and could have afforded to be a bit leaner. I was a little restless through the first hour waiting for the Batman to make his appearance; although there was some good action pieces to get me through.
The returning four main actors (Bale, Caine, Oldman and Freeman) were, of course, at their usual high standard, with Michael Caine really getting his moment to shine in this one. He has some incredible moments this time around, some of which are especially heartbreaking. I really felt Alfred’s tears at Bruce’s funeral as he apologises through sobs to the graves of Bruce’s parents. Also, I always thought Bale was an excellent choice as Bruce Wayne/Batman and brings him to life in an accomplished manner, and his scenes with Alfred really engaged me and were remarkably moving – in one particular scene we see Bruce’s drive towards justice through the persona of The Batman and Alfred’s desire to see him safe and living a fulfilling life as Bruce Wayne collide and conclude with Alfred’s decision to leave; it was heart wrenching stuff, Caine & Bale’s performances leaving me truly divided as to what was the right course forward. (The Batman one of course – more action!)
I found a number of the action set pieces in the film outstanding. Some of the action this time was the most brutal and ferocious of the entire trilogy, which is quite a statement when you compare to some of the Joker’s antics. As far as the action goes there was two key stand out scenes that I really liked; the opening Bond-ian plane antics and the central sewer face-off between Bane and Batman. Bane is one physically imposing dude, and these scenes really set him up as monstrously strong and unmerciful. I gave a slight intake of breath when Bane took a flying leap to deliver a brutal smack down punch on Batman, smashing his mask. The action felt to me to be depicted much more still manner than the previous two – filmed, I think, from more fixed positions and with less steady-cam. I could be wrong, that’s just how it seemed.
So there we go; some bits I liked, some I didn’t. I know the general consensus enjoyed it, so am I missing something? Perhaps I’m letting my displeasure with the twist affect my judgement too much? Perhaps others think Selina had just enough screen time? Let me know…