The Dark Knight Rises
American gothic— Batman is back for another turn in the Nolan trilogy
Published: July 20, 2012
Can Bruce rise above his self-pity and a despairing death wish to save the city he loves from annihilation? That Nolan so sadistically revels in the black-hearted discord of his story makes the outcome less than certain. And that’s a good thing. Far from the inevitable and casualty-free victory of The Avengers over their adversaries (even the villain survives), The Dark Knight Rises leaves its audience thoroughly battered and bruised. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to discern Nolan’s ultimate intent. Despite Batman’s unwavering hometown commitment, it’s unclear whether the filmmaker believes Gotham — as a stand-in for society at large — is actually worth saving. Though The Dark Knight Rises ends on a note of triumph, it’s hard to tell whether it’s the auteur or the comic book that’s speaking.
But casual moviegoers and fanboys won’t care about any of that. What they want is another dark-night-of-the-soul spectacle. And on that front, the movie delivers in spades. You’d be hard-pressed to find visuals as magnificent as those captured by director of photography Wally Pfister. Nolan and Pfister take full advantage of the IMAX film format, delivering 72 astounding minutes of vertigo-inducing action. Whether it’s a mid-air attack on an airplane, a motorcycle chase through the streets of Gotham, or the spectacular destruction of a football field, The Dark Knight Rises presents a steady flow of jaw-dropping set pieces. Nolan counter balances these bombastic sequences with masterful calm-before-the-storm flourishes, such as the angelic “Star Spangled Banner” that precedes the assault that cripples Gotham.
Despite these, Nolan still doesn’t know how to direct a kinetically exciting fight scene. Hathaway and Bale seem more than up to the task of seriously kicking ass, but the shots work against them. Black Widow’s three-minute takedown in Iron Man 2 delivered more of a visceral kick than any of Batman’s mano a mano confrontations.
More troubling is Nolan’s clunky storytelling skills. The Dark Knight certainly rises but often forgets to build. It’s as if Nolan composed a symphony made up exclusively of climaxes. The plot is so overstuffed with characters, subplots and exposition that the only option is for him to breathlessly cram everything into his already unwieldy two-hour-and-45-minute running time. It’s hard to decide whether The Dark Knight Rises needed more time to breathe or less detail to dramatically build its narrative. Either way, many interesting characters and relationships get reduced to their bare essentials. This diminishes the emotional impact of Nolan’s tale, something the already icy director has trouble evincing. Nevertheless, whatever emotions are lost between the players are made up with Hans Zimmer’s thunderous soundtrack, which pounds the audience into emotional submission.
In the end, The Dark Knight Rises is as ambitious as it is pretentious, as electrifying as it is frustrating. It may not live up to the bar set by its predecessor, The Dark Knight, but it’s still a brilliantly conceived mash-up of pop culture thrills and serious-minded art. More importantly, it’s a fitting conclusion to Nolan’s operatic vision and the shadowy hero who inspired it.
Have you seen this film yet? Pretentious? Frustrating? Ambitious? Electrifying? The director is unsure whether Gotham (meaning us, the audience) is worth saving? Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or post them to our Facebook page.
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