The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Loose ends. Viewers might complain about them but good writers know their value. There's a disease afflicting sequels at a certain stage, in which every loose end from a previous film has to be woven into the new plot. It milks our fondness for established characters; it clumsily reminds us of favourite moments; and it strangles anything truly fresh that might emerge. This third installment in the Batman franchise is choked by its own sense of destiny. It's a shame because it still has some brilliant moments and one can't help but think that there's a great film in there struggling to get out.

Eight years have passed since the end of The Dark Knight, when Batman hung up his cape. Bruce Wayne, his body shattered by the stresses and strains of his secret life, has become a recluse. It takes a jewel thief with a mysterious agenda to lure him out of retirment - that, and tales of a masked man building a secret army deep down in the sewers. Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon is trying hard to keep control in a city whose problems have supposedly been solved; new cop on the block Blake is getting curious about the masked vigilante; and an investor with an interest in more than just business is inveigling herself into Bruce's life.

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Rarely in the annals of cinema history has so much been done to set up so little. The plotting is piled on thick and fast but largely to no avail; the much-vaunted challenging political content seems to have been put together by someone with a primary school level of political education. Battles are built up and built up and then amount to nothing more than a few people hitting each other. It's distressing to see Christian Bale having to slow himself down to make fights with Tom Hardy's Bane seem convincing; the big guy is so overbalanced that he'd struggle to convince in a wrestling ring, let alone as a fearsome mercenary with (of course) a secret ninja heritage. Anne Hathaway's Catwoman is more interesting and can at least handle herself physically; she's refreshingly grounded but still seems unrealistically naive at times. Despite the length of the film, though, she doesn't get enough to do.

All this makes the film sound worse than it is. Production values are high throughout and there are quite a few strong set pieces. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are reliable as ever, adding considerable emotional weight to their sparse scenes. There's an enjoyable cameo from Cillian Murphy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt acquits himself well as the new kid and Marion Cotillard brings depth to a role that could easily have been overplayed. Great stunt work - especially on the bikes - makes chase sequences fun. There's also an ending which - perhaps unintentionally - provides a treat for fans of the Adam West version. The Dark Knight Rises is far from the triumph of the previous two films but it still far outshines the previous series and fans will find much about it to enjoy - just don't expect it to win any new converts.

Reviewed on: 20 Jul 2012
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The Dark Knight Rises packshot
Batman is back as newcomer Bane assembles an army beneath the streets of Gotham City.
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Director: Christopher Nolan

Writer: Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy

Year: 2012

Runtime: 164 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US, UK

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Batman Begins
The Dark Knight
Watchmen