I hope you like my title? It’s in honour of the soft porn so many of us seem keen on at the moment. It also reflects the ebb flow of the final part of the Chris Nolan Batman Trilogy which walks a tight rope between crap and cliche; and manages to scramble to the other side using a grappling hook of the audience’s good will and desire for the film to be as good as its forebears.
When I set out on an unusually dry evening to watch The Dark Knight I was brimming with excitement and anticipation, even a terrible meal in an all-you-can-eat Chinese couldn’t dampen my spirits. Taking my seat, I dreamed of an ending to the Batman Trilogy that would live up to the excellent first two films, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and allow me to buy the box set and file it proudly above the Lord of the Rings, Alien, The Matrix et al.
Once the film started it didn’t take long for a sense of ‘uh oh’ to develop within my optimism – the opening scene introduces the main villian Bane played by Tom Hardy. This is a problem because the strength of the The Dark Knight had clearly been in it’s villain – The Joker – and the mystery surrounding his appearance in Gotham. Similarly in Batman Begins Bruce Wayne’s inner turmoil is what eases us into a situation where a multi billionaire is half way up a mountain fighting to become a Ninja. In The Dark Knight Rises the audience sees too much too quickly and any anticipation to see this new bad guy is instantly washed away.
This is a shame but of course you will have already noticed the tendency to compare The Dark Knight Rises its predecessors. People that say, “you should review the film as independent”, are probably in denial. A trilogy is a trilogy, and all it’s parts make the whole, you cannot look at one of the films totally in isolation – it’s plain to see that Chris Nolan didn’t when he was writing because there are many scenes of pure explanation – one being a quite bazaar dream visitation from our friend Liam Neeson. That unfortunately, is really terrible writing.
The other ‘uh oh’ moment is when the audience is introduced to the Bat Wing. In my view, the reason Chris Nolan’s Batman was interesting is that it seemed so grounded, so real. They BUILT the Bat Bike and they BUILT the Batmobile for the film – granted they wouldn’t have been practical for fighting crime, but they were real, tangible and plausible technology. In The Dark Knight Rises this is less the case, hence we’re introduced to a cold fusion reactor and a stealth, duel bladded, helicopter gunship. I never quite believed in Batman’s new gadgets which was a serious problem as they are pivotal to the plot.
When I left the cinema I was immediately brought back to the Matrix trilogy and why that drifted from spectacular to just another film. For me, the main issue was not with the Wachoski brother’s ability to write a good script or for the actors to deliver the same performances. The problems with the Matrix seemed to come from outside – for example the struggle to keep the cast together (ever wonder where Tank went?), and the death of Gloria Foster (The Oracle), leading to a long scene of complicated explanation writing in the final film.
The death of Heath Ledger adversely effected the writing of The Dark Knight Rises in my view. It isn’t as well written as the previous two films because it appears to be trying to tie a knot with the first film without the strongest link in the chain – The Joker. Had good old Heath been around he would have certainly featured in some capacity in the final episode – Raz al Gul and Scarecrow both turn up, all be it for fleeting moments.
Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy was captured and taken hostage by The Joker and unfortunately no amount of brilliance from Sir Michael Caine, or a seemingly unending list of A list talent could change it. Even Ann Hathaway wasn’t that bad which is a huge achievement for her in my eyes…
It’s been said that cliche is the result of writer not knowing his/her world in sufficient detail and although cliche is not rampant it is there, bubbling under the surface. The writers appear to be searching for something throughout the film and they never quite locate it. I don’t feel like they believed that they could ever match their previous efforts. Bane is not a strong enough villain to carry the sense of trepidation without backup, which never materialises with any force. The Dark Knight Rises is lost without Heath Ledger, and he died!