Dark is the Knight: Don­ald Clarke on the hy­per-fans, p6 Plus, his ver­dict on the movie,

De­spite some tremen­dous ac­tion se­quences, Christo­pher Nolan’s overly stuffed and pon­der­ous third Bat­man epic is, fi­nally, just too daz­zling much, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

A SENSE IS grow­ing that Christo­pher Nolan is slightly em­bar­rassed by Bat­man.

In Bat­man Be­gins, his first take on Bob Kane’s benev­o­lent thug, the di­rec­tor was able to de­lay the vig­i­lante’s ap­pear­ance for a good hour. With The Dark Knight –a numb­ing slice of pop-ex­is­ten­tial­ism that al­most de­serves its strato­spheric rep­u­ta­tion – Nolan de­voted more at­ten­tion to de­ranged clowns and loom­ing cityscapes then he did to the sup­posed hero.

The Dark Knight Rises is some­thing else again: a beau­ti­fully made, of­ten daz­zling melo­drama that fea­tures very oc­ca­sional ap­pear­ances from some bloke in Kevlar fetish-wear.

Nolan has shown great in­ge­nu­ity in shuf­fling the ti­tle char­ac­ter to­wards (quite lit­er­ally) the shad­ows and mak­ing the film that he wanted to make. Tak­ing in con­spic­u­ous nods to­wards A Tale of Two Cities, The Dark Knight Rises comes across as a re­ac­tionary trea­tise on the per­ils of rev­o­lu­tion and the virtues of ruth­less law en­force­ment. It’s also a de­li­cious cel­e­bra­tion of a very par­tic­u­lar cin­e­matic style: the sweep from grey he­li­copter shot to blue in­te­rior so beloved of Michael Mann. All of this is fas­ci­nat­ing to be­hold. But one does yearn for a tad more for­ward mo­men­tum.

The pic­ture takes place eight years af­ter the events of The Dark Knight. Har­vey Dent, the late, de­ranged dis­trict at­tor­ney, is still a hero to the peo­ple of Gotham, and Bat­man, blamed for his death, has re­tired to con­tem­plate vil­i­fi­ca­tion. Bruce Wayne, the avenger’s al­ter ego, feels no need to re­turn to ac­tion when he en­coun­ters a glam­orous (ahem) cat bur­glar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hath­away). The ac­tiv­i­ties of Bane (Tom Hardy) are, how­ever, an­other mat­ter.

Bat­man can for­give the vil­lain for wear­ing the sort of sheep­skin car coat favoured by rugby fans dur­ing the 1970s. It mat­ters lit­tle that his of­ten in­fu­ri­at­ingly in­audi­ble voice sug­gests Gore Vi­dal with a bucket on his head. But Bane can’t be al­lowed to over­throw the city and turn it into a per­sonal fief­dom. Soon (well, not that soon, ac­tu­ally) Bat­man is back on his bike.

The new film can’t hope to move through cine­mas with­out en­dur­ing com­par­i­son to its ad­mired pre­de­ces­sor. Sadly, it comes up short in most cat­e­gories.

Bane is a much less in­ter­est­ing vil­lain than the mer­cu­rial, en­er­getic Joker; the char­ac­ter’s com­plex back­story does noth­ing to dis­tract from the fact that he’s just some bulky bloke in a wrestler’s mask. Whereas Nolan found new things to do with Har­vey Dent, Hath­away’s Cat­woman of­fers no fresh spins or rein­ven­tions. Some set-pieces ap­pear staged specif­i­cally to sur­pass those in The Dark Knight: we blew up a hospi­tal, now let’s blow up an en­tire football sta­dium.

It can’t be de­nied that Nolan has a knack for som­bre at­mos­phere. Wally Pfis­ter’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy, with its twilit re­strain, in­fuses even the most ab­surd events with a heavy se­ri­ous­ness. Chris­tian Bale, back as Bat­man, could not keep a straighter face if he’d been in­jected with plas­ter-of-Paris. Hans Zim­mer’s score is some­times bom­bas­tic (and, in the fi­nal se­quences, seems to be quot­ing It’s Good to Be Back by Gary Glit­ter) but it adds to the film’s Wag­ne­r­ian sweep.

It is, how­ever, hard to es­cape the im­pres­sion that the project was al­lowed to ca­reer wildly out of con­trol. Over two-and-a-half hours long, The Dark Knight Rises spends so much time bur­row­ing around in un­in­ter­est­ing cor­ners that the cen­tral peril ends up get­ting lost in the mix. It’s al­ways nice to meet wise old Tom Conti in a mid­dleeastern cave, but we have a Bat­man film to be get­ting on with.

Or do we? It’s been re­ported that Nolan re­gards this film as the last in a tril­ogy. As it hap­pens, he seems, even be­fore we reach the half­way point, to have washed his hands of the grim en­forcer.

There is great tech­ni­cal dex­ter­ity on dis­play. Some of the ac­tion se­quences are mag­nif­i­cent. But The Dark Knight Rises feels like the work of a man des­per­ate to be else­where as soon as pos­si­ble. We will fol­low his progress with in­ter­est.

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