The Dark Knight Rises (15)

2.00

 

This concluding part of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy goes out with a bang – a big one – though the ringing in your ears as you leave the cinema may have less to do with exhilaration than puzzlement. For while one accepts the mayhem of explosions and mechanised roars as an inevitable adjunct of the modern blockbuster, it is long swathes of the dialogue that have scrambled the brains and bamboozled the reason. This isn't merely a problem with the story's villain, who talks through a mask that covers 80 per cent of his face; even characters with fully operational mouths and noses deliver lines that become, in the film's murky sound mix, indecipherable.

Intensity, rather than clarity, is this franchise's strong suit. For those who prefer their superheroes flawed and difficult, Bruce Wayne has certainly provided a Dark Knight of the soul. Eight years since his last public appearance, he now hobbles around his huge mansion on a stick, less the playboy billionaire than a frail recluse. He can't even be bothered to put up a fight when his late mother's pearls are stolen from under his nose by a comely burglar, Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway). It seems the authorities regard Wayne's elusive alter ego Batman as "a thug in a cape", blaming him for the death of Harvey Dent, the crusading District Attorney who supposedly made Gotham City safe from crime. Only world-weary police Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) knows the truth – that it was Batman who saved the day back then, not the two-faced Dent.

But the sleep of reason and the retirement of superheroes beget monsters. Down in the sewers of Gotham a crack army of terrorists has been preparing a coup on the city's rich elite and it arrives in the form of a brutal assault on the stock exchange. Their leader is a rippling hunk of muscle named Bane, whose face is shrouded by what looks like a gasmask made from the shell of a carbonised crab. He's played by Tom Hardy, foghorning his lines in an ac-tor-ly, sonorous boom, and woe betide anyone who dares reply: "Pardon me?"

He likes to strike a pose, this Bane, hands high on his lapels like some old-school northern industrialist who calls money "brass". Hardy is among several actors that Nolan has rehired from his previous outing, the conceptual thriller Inception (2010). Marion Cotillard plays wealthy philanthropist Miranda Tate, who wants to enlist Wayne on her green-energy project; Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a beat cop who's twigged to Wayne's secret double-life; and Cillian Murphy, who was Scarecrow in the first of the trilogy, Batman Begins, is glimpsed late on as the judge of a mob-ruled court.

Bane and his crew are making their escape from the stock exchange when a certain caped crusader appears on the scene to give chase. You can't keep a good (Bat)man down, it seems, even when Gotham has been so ungrateful for his previous rescue missions. The plot, adopting an apocalyptic tone, sets up an almighty ding-dong between Bane, who presents himself as the city's liberator, and Batman, who we know is the city's protector. Bane's ragtag army of looters are soon running amok, while Batman's allies are either in hospital (Oldman), in hiding (Oldman's deputy, played by Matthew Modine), or in a huff (Michael Caine's paternalistic major-domo Alfred). There's no telling whose side Hathaway's Catwoman is on, creeping along the edges of the film, though she is key in fomenting the big smackdown between Bane and Batman. When these two put up their fists, the punches they land are like the noise a fridge would make if you pushed it off a high building. It is hardly more realistic than those cartoon graphics (POW! ZAP! KER-BOOM!) of the Batman show on 1960s' telly.

Those TV shows look homely next to the bombast of the present franchise. Along with the muddied sound of The Dark Knight Rises, the cumulative effect of the screenplay is portentous and deadening. It compounds the impression of a filmmaker who has sacrificed his quicksilver wit and invention for grandiosity – and length. Nolan hit the ground running with his debut Following (a lean 69mins) and then his masterpiece Memento (113mins). Since then the running time has steadily bloated, with Batman Begins at 140mins and The Prestige at 130mins. The Dark Knight leapt to 152mins, Inception almost equalled it (148mins), and now The Dark Knight Rises clocks in at an astonishing 164mins. This would be permissible if the film had other astonishments to match, but, aside from a late switcheroo of one character's loyalties, the movement of the film is all grind and no glide. That includes a bizarre cameo by Tom Conti, performing surgery on our hero's back as crude as the foreign accent he's faking.

The never-ending parade of comic superheroes transplanted to the screen has thrown up some unexpected stars. Who would have thought Robert Downey Jnr could polish up the role of Iron Man to such a pleasing gleam? Andrew Garfield has also surprised as the new Spider-Man. Bale is capable of great things (The Machinist, The Fighter) but he's a sullen, awkward presence as Batman, and short of humour. That lugubrious character leaches into the film. Of course we know that Wayne is a man haunted by the murder of his parents and possibly demented by his sense of duty. But he also gets to kick ass, use some cool gadgets and shine his Bat-signal over the city. Surely some of it must have been fun?

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick