Batman: The Dark Knight Rises Again

Marta-Emilia Bona was at the Batman Premiere this week. She reviews the film for The Substantive.

As a member of the general public who normally attends screenings of Hollywood blockbusters in a small cinema in Cardiff, it’s difficult not to feel somewhat intimidated when met with thousands of screaming fans and a red carpet as you enter Leicester Square. However, it’s impossible to deny the effect of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises (complete with twenty foot Batman mask and flaming bat crest – of course). Not being a huge Batman fan myself – I’m actually somewhat averse to the majority of superhero films – I must admit that even I was overwhelmed by the sense that I was about to experience the end of something big: the dramatic climax to an exquisitely executed trilogy.

As Joseph Gordon Levitt pointed out in his pre-premiere interview, these films really do feel like a complete trilogy being played out on the big screen, not just a series of weak sequels rolled out to capitalize on the relative success of an initial release. In The Dark Knight Rises you certainly get the sense that you’re experiencing the end of a well-crafted and ambitious story, which comes to it’s conclusion in this epic battle between good and evil, as Gotham teeters on the edge of complete destruction.

The film opens as can only be expected (and sets the tone for the next 160 minutes) with high-energy action, charging in with all guns blazing, as we are quickly introduced to the character of Bane. Tom Hardy is superb in his role as the bringer of doom and the mastermind of a complete breakdown in social order. However, that the mask obstructing the majority of Bane’s face often makes him difficult to understand and I found that many of his menacing threats packed less of a punch when they sound like they’re being mumbled through a space-age gimp mask. If I’m being completely honest, I must admit that, for me, this final epic in the Batman trilogy just doesn’t quite match up to the standard set by The Dark Knight back in 2008.

Certainly, the darkness remains, which thankfully sets Batman aside from so many cheesy, teenage superhero films, but in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ there’s no hint of the genius brought to the previous film by Heath Ledger and although Hardy embraces the role of Bane, there’s no sense of the twisted, damaged psyche of the Joker, which makes for a more unpredictable and altogether more terrifying villain. In fact, Bane seemed to me to be entirely predictable and although tension and pace are maintained throughout, I felt a definite lack of peril, as I could easily guess what was going to happen next. Don’t get me wrong, civil apocalypse scares me as much as the next person, but in this final battle, I would have liked to have found myself questioning whether a broken Batman, haunted by his decision to take the fall for the murder of Harvey Dent, could actually win this time.

Reading this you could be forgiven for thinking I thought ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ wasn’t the tour de force it’s been hyped up to be – this is not the case. It truly is an incredible end to the trilogy and should be admired for its ambition and painstaking attention to detail and style, I just found myself to be slightly disappointed – despite unmistakable brilliance, there seems to be something missing and I just failed to fall in love with this one.

Marta-Emilia Bona

With echoes of Glory from American Cinema to Bruce Springsteen, and full of the flavour of Escape that European Travel brings, The Substantive Columnist Mel Gomes’ e-book ‘Glory Nights: From Wankdorf to Wembley‘ is available from Amazon and Smashwords. New, independent writing on popular culture, it is being backed by The Substantive.