Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises; action/ drama/ fantasy, USA, 2012; D: Christopher Nolan, S: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman

Eight years after the last events, Bruce Wayne has retired from his Batman image. However, after a cat-burglar, Selina Kyle, steals his fingerprints, they are used as an ID to waste his money and bankrupt him. The man behind that scheme is a masked mercenary, Bane, who steals Wayne's new fusion power invention in order to use it as a bomb and subject Gotham City. Wayne is exiled by Bane into an underground prison so that he will not interfere with his plans to fulfil Ra's al Ghul's mission to destroy Gotham. However, Wayne escapes, returns as Batman and teams up with Catwoman to save Gotham from the bomb.

The first half of "The Dark Knight Rises" is excellent and the best of all three Batman films directed by Christopher Nolan, but the second half undermines those virtues. What Nolan ingeniously did right in the exposition is to twist so many superhero cliches upside down in order to give a fresh, new take on Batman: his Bruce Wayne is a broken middle-aged man who uses a crane for his disabled leg and has retired as Batman. More so, his life practically turned into an existential tragedy since he is alone and isolated: his butler, Alfred (Michael Caine), gives the heart of the story in two scenes, when he implores him to move on with his life and in the touching Florence sequence, where he hopes he will see him with a wife one day and "know he somehow made it". A few details are quietly brilliant whereas Nolan almost gives the crime story a Mann's dose of passionate reality at times (the clever way Selina gets away from a trap after she handed over Wayne's fingerprints to a criminal, using only a cell phone). The new villain, Bane (virtuoso Tom Hardy), is also very expressionistic with that English accent giving him unusual charisma, whereas while the ending in the previous instalment was unconvincing - having Batman take the blame for Dent's death so that the latter could be used as a symbol of hope, which was just a forced plot gimmick - its storyline actually finds a natural way to blend in with this follow-up film.

Unfortunately, as much as the first half is great, the second one is disappointing and lost its ground. Nolan took a realistic approach with Batman, therefor it was bizarre to introduce a science-fiction subplot into the story (a fusion power reactor), especially since they could have easily just taken a nuclear bomb instead. The return to Ra's al Ghoul subplot, even though he was the weakest link in "Batman Begins", was questionable, especially since the underground prison sequence is tiresome and overlong. In one scene, Wayne's vertebrate is "peeking" out from his spine, so an inmate just "kicks" it back in (!) - the fact that anyone with such an injury would be paralyzed from the waist down, but Wayne recovers and soon walks normally after that "medical intervention" is so preposterous that one cannot take the story seriously anymore. Bane stands out in the first half, but one hopes that in the second half there will be more to him, that several sequences will give more layers and motivations to his actions. However, there is nothing more to him than the first sight. Unfortunately, his reason for assaulting Gotham is prosaic and vague, the same as the Joker's was - al Ghoul's mission is mentioned that Gotham is "corrupt and must be destroyed", but why would Bane target precisely that city? Is Gotham more corrupt than, let's say, New York or Paris? Despite the virtuoso sequence where Bane breaks into Wall Street, the "Occupy Wall Street" subplot where he creates an anarchic state is also immature since he has no objectives or goals. More so, why would he wait for three months to finally detonate the bomb? Why would he, just like a James Bond cliche bad guy, tell all about his plan to Wayne but let him live so that he can return to stop him? Overall, the final part of the trilogy is a good film, but one cannot shake away the feeling that Nolan missed out an opportunity to top himself by imposing an unrealistic happy ending instead of a tragic one and dwelling too much in implausible instead of plausible territory of the storyline.


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