FILM REVIEW | The Dark Knight Rises

I love film. More than anything. More than the average person (I think). However, I don't tend to review the films I watch often, unless I am compelled to - usually by extreme dislike, perpetuated by my cynicism. With the Melbourne International Film Festival currently on, I'm busy most nights going out to see films that most people may not have seen yet or had a chance to see. So I was thinking 'hey, why not review some of them?' It may very well help get the word out there about what's worth seeing.

I mentioned that I'm a cynic - people often question whether I feel human emotion, call me a robot or insist I don't like anything at all - and over the years I've probably just become a grumble bum. But I do feel emotion - I'm just searching for those few films, the one in a million that invigorates your soul and reaches into the depth of your being, creating a new perspective, a new world or a new connection you never knew possible. But because those films really are one in a million, and those are the only films worth my perfect five stars, I don't give them out often. However, I can guarantee, any film I give those five stars to is damn well worth your time.

To excite you into hearing my imminent cynical rants about films (coming up, Cosmopolis & Moonrise Kingdom), here is my recent review for The Dark Knight Rises. 



What a Stinker.

The Dark Knight Rises is a mess of a film. It fails to excel in even the simplest of categories, leaving logic and reason far behind in a cloud of murky dust. Littered with plot holes, the film trudges through its 164 minutes leaving the viewer frustrated with its barren conclusion unworthy of its predecessors (which, to this reviewer, was fairly simple to achieve given the overall mediocrity of the series). The audience I shared the cinema with seemed to share these opinions, with groans meeting various story arcs and even laughter at the actors' feeble attempts to salvage the obviously rushed and underdeveloped script.

Even the loud but crisp sound that accompanies the flashy special effects come at a price - during these action scenes, ludicrously bad sound mixing has rendered portions of the dialogue near inaudible, leaving the audience confused. Despite being unable to follow the dialogue during these scenes, nothing is lost as the recycled storyline is spelt out. Explanations of plot points are actually pointed out by the actors - "And here's the most important part!" - like we weren't already listening. Any mystery, audience interpretation, or even the need to think is obliterated. This reduces the film's potential to a mere popcorn movie, but even in this avenue, it fails.

Films sometimes ask us to suspend our disbelief to accompany for the film world, and while I am more than happy to do this in most cases, the Dark Knight Rises asks too much. Simply put, the inaccuracies are blatant, implausible and down-right stupid. Now, I'm no doctor, but I'm fairly certain that a man who has been a reclusive cripple for eight years would not have been able to maintain his heavily muscular frame, nor his heightened senses and reflexes. Nor would this man (or any man for that matter) be able to replace another man's spinal chord, with no medical facilities or sanitation and the following month or so be going through a vigorous work-out routine, including pushups. And this man who has gone through all of these things would certainly not be able to suffer the pressure of one, albeit many, substantial falls that focus the entire impact upon his recently broken back. Ignoring these flaws, we are also asked to believe that this man is able to travel from one country to another (without passport or money) and enter a heavily guarded fortress of an island. And yes, while we have recently seen outsider police forces enter the island only to be caught hours later, what differentiates these circumstances are that these men are nobodies compared to enemy threat number one, Batman.

Putting ridiculous inaccuracies aside, there still remains the groan-inducing cliches littered throughout the entire film. From forced romances devoid of any passion or chemistry, to the midway-through hero-villain confrontation resulting in the hero's failure (which prompts him to train up and try again), to the hero riding (or in this case, flying) off into the sunset, as well as the self-sacrificing hero, the bad character that learns the error of their ways and turns good, the twist reveal at the end that one of 'the good guys' is actually a villain all along, not to mention a myriad of others.
Being an action film, it would be logical to conclude that The Dark Knight Rises would at least be able to satisfy the audience in that category, unfortunately you would be wrong. The minimal tension built results in nothing more than a weak fist-fight between the hero and villain during their first confrontation. No suspense, no thrills, no impressive stunt work or choreography, just a boring 'fight'. I don't blame the lack of tension or suspense on the score however, Hans Zimmer delivers an adequate score that accompanies the film, for lack of a better phrase, 'just fine'. More-so, the blame should be shifted to the seemingly rushed pre-production phase, that seems to have skimmed past any human groundwork and relied solely on post-production CGI and special effects (namely explosions, of which there are more than plenty) to compensate for the lack of… well, anything resembling a competent fight scene.

The main villain in this installment is Bane, the follow up to the ever more popular Joker. Quite obviously, Bane has some big shoes to fill (even this reviewer admits that The Joker, whilst perhaps not as incredible a villain as everyone else believe him to be, was a highlight of The Dark Knight), but unfortunately he fails to be more than an annoyance. He lacks any character motivation, being cited as "just evil", it seems as though he just fell in love with the wrong girl and followed her every whim. Because of this he fails to make much of an impression, even from his entrance, quite simply because he never appears to possess the genius criminal element (let's be honest, whilst stupidity can be feared, it can be conquered quite easily). And his voice. I'm not sure if this was a decision made by Hardy, Nolan or both, but Bane's voice is truly from the comic world (as opposed to the 'Nolan Batman world'). With bizarre inflections, his constantly fluctuating voice becomes irritating to listen to, and removes any menace he could have had. Brute strength is not enough to make a villain, it takes the right amount of crazy, intelligence and evil. Perhaps the one thing Batman & Robin did correctly was having Bane as the (obvious) sidekick villain.

Bland and boring fight scenes, an annoying villain devoid of any menacing qualities or even motivation and lacking all logic and reason The Dark Knight Rises has as much depth as a wading pool and feels as though it was written by its juvenile inhabitants.

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