With no time to savour the performances, screenplay, direction, editing, music or even the costumes, one may experience brain overload from watching The Dark Knight Rises. Oh, there’s filmmaking -- plenty of it -- enough for six Batmans, and even though Christopher Nolan has promised us this will be the last installment, I get the impression this is not so. After all, he packs so much into the film; the whole thing feels in danger of being indigestible like a typical Man vs. Food challenge on TV. Like a trooper, Nolan delivers a multitude of twists, a dozen endings and heavy dollops of escapism -- but am I alone in thinking it’s all too much? I mean how many more sub-plots, flashbacks, flash-forwards and montages do we need in a movie? The director tries to lure us in with pretty faces and Catwoman folderol, but in the end he fails to do the one thing his picture really needs and that’s to entertain.
Devotees of The Dark Knight will plead that the series requires flashing up. Flashing up is one thing; however, The Dark Knight Rises provides as much enjoyment value as a panic attack.
The plot runs around the actors with its multiple shadings. There’s terrorism, redemption, even a prison escape -- everything the Batman franchise never needed in the first place. Looking again at Tim Burton’s 1989 original, one is reminded that simple, pure storytelling doesn’t involve wrapping the title character’s story inside a riddle, befuddled by an enigma. Burton kept it simple; Nolan holds us down and force-feeds the ingredients to us like a bad nurse.
Bane (Tom Hardy), a muscular brute takes over from Heath Ledger’s the Joker. He’s an ape of a man whose mask makes him sound halfway between John Lithgow and Darth Vader. That shouldn’t matter, for half of what he says is so incomprehensible, the audience may require subtitles anyway.
Nolan has been compared to Alfred Hitchcock as a filmmaker. Yet, everyone can see with half an eye that the latter -- on any given project -- shot only 1/100th of the former’s footage. They share few similarities more so because Hitchcock knew when to restrain himself and, in the current climate, Nolan couldn’t show any restraint even if he held his breath.
Hans Zimmer’s clunky score comes across about as subtle as wearing a crash helmet and getting pounded on the head with a sledge hammer for 45 minutes. The only good thing I can say about The Dark Knight Rises involves James Newton Howard’s decision not to score the film, as he had done on the previous two outings. He probably took one look at Nolan’s perplexing script and thought “No thank you!”
Michael Caine goes for his third Best Supporting Actor Oscar here. His emotional scene at the end acts as a strong reminder that sentimentality is alive and well in the cinema.
You can probably guess the ending from the previews. If not, then Nolan will tell you in his own heavy-handed way with plenty of pyrotechnics and unnecessary dialogue. When the film ends, relief isn’t the word. I felt I needed to spend six weeks in a decompression tank before breathing clean, free air again.
(Released by Warner Bros. and rated “PG-13” for intense sequences of violence and action, some sensuality and language.)