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USA 2012
Directed by
Christopher Nolan
164 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Dark Knight Rises

Synopsis:  Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has retreated from the world since his epic battle eight years earlier against The Joker. But when a new evil-doer (Tom Hardy) threatens the city, it’s time for Batman to come to the rescue.

I assume that the bulk of the audience for The Dark Knight Rises will come from people eager to complete the trilogy begun by Christopher Nolan in 2005 with Batman Begins and continued with The Dark Knight in 2008. They are not likely to be disappointed, at least with the high impact assault on the senses that the film presents, although they might well be with the near-unremitting darkness of its Götterdämmerung vision.  

If you haven’t seen the earlier films, there is some token attempt to give you a few anchor points but particularly with many of the characters and their players returning (including Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and, briefly, Liam Neeson) you’re going to miss some of the background texture. It is a legacy which will help you get past the familiar superhero vs super-villain scenario and overblown violence.

The plot twists and turns and at times is hard to follow, particularly at the cracking pace at which the film moves, but it holds together well enough. My only criticism is that new chum Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays an ordinary joe character, manages to appear in a surprising number of geographically disparate scenes and, especially given the ongoing physical mayhem that surrounds him, without so much as a scratch (and while I’m at it how the heck did Bruce Wayne get from some Persian dungeon to the streets of Gotham City on foot and with no visible means of support?). On the other hand, Anne Hathaway makes for a delicious Catwoman and could easily have been seen more.

For all its technical prowess, The Dark Knight Rises lacks the brio of The Dark Knight. A significant factor in this is the absence of a character even approximating Heath Ledger’s Joker. Tom Hardy, wrought like a cross between Hannibal Lector and Darth Vader, is physically intimidating but essentially a thug, and to put it mildly, a prize dickhead.

Which brings me to the most interesting, or perhaps perplexing, thing about The Dark Knight Rises and that is what is it, in the broadest sense, saying? Although in essence there is little difference between the first Batman film 23 years ago and this one, whilst Burton’s film was firmly set in a baroque comic book universe far removed from our own, Nolan’s film is much more realistic. Yes, it’s got unreal elements, largely technological, but Gotham City is now a thinly disguised New York cowering under the destructive wrath of some Middle Eastern-derived terrorist and on the brink of a kind of apocalyptic collapse. The message seems to be, a rather coy coda aside, be afraid, be very afraid. Perhaps there is little new in this -  after all, the Christological saviour figure which Batman plays in all this is deeply embedded in the American psyche and is endemic in American film-making - but from an Antipodean perspective it’s a strangely hostile and paranoid worldview that I can’t see outlasting those looking for an awesome theme park ride.




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