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DARK KNIGHT RISES, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Eight years after Batman (Christian Bale) took the fall for Two Face's crimes, a new terrorist leader, Bane (Tom Hardy) overwhelms Gotham's police force. The Dark Knight resurfaces to protect the city that has branded him as an enemy.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Christopher Nolan has turned DC Comics’ Batman comic strip hero into a serious and often brooding, genuinely troubled cinematic figure. And Nolan has something to say. Fashionably and relevantly enough, The Dark Knight Rises posits Gotham as sin city, whose entire population needs to be punished, if this new baddie, Bane (Tom Hardy) gets his way. The cleansing holocaust would somehow restore balance in the world. More on Bane later.

To that end, Bane has assembled a ragtag army of discontents and – naturally – a nuclear weapon with which to level Gotham. In short it’s a ticking bomb story, but a bloated one, full of the bling of blockbuster superhero filmmaking, from the giant stunts to the choreographed fight sequences and the large scale destruction of bridges, streets, and entire fleets of police vehicles.

But the highlights are all smaller moments, delivered by an outstanding cast, notably Michael Caine as loyal, devoted, loving and conflicted Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s lifelong butler and confidant; Joseph Gordon-Levitt the useful young cop who holds Batman as his ultimate hero; Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, a wily and dangerous opponent who likes people to think she has the morals of an alley cat; Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate the serious investor in the Wayne empire; and Gary Oldman as the Police Commissioner. As for Christian Bale, he delivers a soul-searching Batman/Bruce Wayne to make us think. 

A special note on Ben Mendelsohn, the Aussie actor who uses his role as suited baddie as his calling card for Hollywood: I think he will be very warmly received.

Morgan Freeman gets a couple of thankless scenes, and Liam Neeson reappears as the immortal (suit and tie) ghost of Ra’s Al Ghul, the spirit-ual head honcho at the mysterious factory where both Bruce Wayne and Bane were trained.

If you did a double take at the ‘immortal’ Ra’s Al Ghul’s persona, you’re not alone; so did I. It’s symptomatic of Nolan’s final flourish here of an overgrown concept that burdens the central story with too many backstories, too much earnestness, too much clutter (like the immortal one) - and too little economy. At almost three hours, The Dark Knight Rises … and deflates. 

So back to Bane: in the escalating search for a bigger, more menacing baddie to challenge Batman, Nolan and team have come up with a character whose backstory is revealed near the end, in what I would call a character sleight of hand. But what makes Bane stand out is that bondage-inspired headgear, covering his nose and mouth, a contraption that (apart from hiding some hideous damage) has undeclared functions but manages to muzzle his (accented) speech to such an extent that we lose a lot of the dialogue. This seems to be an own-goal by Nolan, or worse, a conceit that is ego driven in a boastful, ‘I can do this’ swagger. I hope not.

And not only Bane’s; sound mixing is not likely to win an Oscar for this film, its heavyhanded mantra being to turn up the heavy hitting score. This is a problem common to many recent Hollywood productions; the filmmakers are intimately familiar with the screenplay and know all the dialogue. To a fresh ear, the dialogue is new; unlike sound editors and mixers, we haven’t heard it 40 times so we don’t have the advantage of familiarity.

The problem this creates for an already over-complex film is to emphasise the convulsions in the script and distance us further from the story and characters. Disappointingly, the ending doesn’t rescue the film; it speaks with forked tongue, if I can be cryptic. See and discuss.

Review by Louise Keller:
Anne Hathaway is the best thing in this tediously overlong, disappointing final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. On the huge IMAX format, not surprisingly, much of the action is outright eye-boggling, especially the aerial shots, but the plot, dangled before our eyes like the sit-up-and take notice opening sequence, is severely flawed with muddy dialogue often drowned out by the frenzy of the relentless orchestral music score. 

Between Batman’s hoarse voice and the villainous Bane’s muffled, echoing dialogue, I had great difficulty understanding much of what was going on. Consequently, my experience of The Dark Knight Rises was a mixed one: I dipped in and out of the narrative, goggling at the spectacle of the action sequences, delighting in the impudence of Hathaway’s sexy, thieving Catwoman, the sensual elegance of Marion Cotillard’s Miranda, warming to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s impressionistic cop, enjoying the company of Michael Caine’s loyal manservant Alfred and watching in detached horror at Tom Hardy’s tragic villain Bane, whose nose and mouth are encompassed by a spider-like metal contraption secured around his shaven skull and whose voice has the timbre (but not the clarity) of Darth Vader. 

Hardy is a formidable screen presence and my frustration lies not only in the fact I could not understand his dialogue, but that I could not see his mouth. Ben Mendelsohn makes his mark as one of Bane’s cronies. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne is a sad, reclusive character, obsessed with his failures of the past as he returns to his alter ego of Batman with a sense of despair and renewed desperation. Morgan Freeman is back with the key to the Batman toys room and Liam Neeson makes an appearance in a small but important role. The Batbike with its super-wide tyres and snazzy way of navigating corners is rather cool but the flying Batmobile is more akin to a Transformer and I missed the Batmobile of old. 

The plot involves terrorism and the downturn of the economy – the scene in which the stock exchange is blown up is quite terrifying. Achieving some balance to the world is at the heart of Nolan’s story. The threat of a nuclear bomb hovers over the film for much of the time: bridges collapse, tunnels implode and Gotham City (in part) blows up impressively. 

By the time the police by their thousands and Bane’s violent army clash in the streets, I had mentally switched off. The subplot involving Bane, his background and how he had escaped from a cavernous underground well is not as meaningful as Nolan probably intended. In the context, I found Hathaway, wearing her skin-tight black vinyl or little black dress, pearls and stilettos, the most invigorating and fresh element in the film.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 0

DARK KNIGHT RISES, THE (M)
(US, 2012)

CAST: Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cottilard, Juno Temple, Michael Caine

PRODUCER: Christopher Nolan, Charles Roven, Emma Thomas

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

SCRIPT: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan (story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Wally Pfister

EDITOR: Lee Smith

MUSIC: Hans Zimmer

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nathan Crowley, Kevin Kavanaugh

RUNNING TIME: 164 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 19, 2012







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