There was an initial anti-corporate message that fits with the current zeitgeist when a banker at Gotham stock exchange tells Bane that, “There’s no money here to steal”. Bane responds, “Then why are you here”?! This specific quip gives even more credence and power as it’s uttered by Batman’s nemesis, Bane. The Dark Knight Rises is the final, an ultimate swan song, in the Batman trilogy. This time Batman is now deemed as an outlaw himself, cast into the shadows, blamed for the death of Harvey Dent in the previous The Dark Knight. Bruce Wayne has hidden in his mansion for 8 years oblivious to the outside world, aided by trustworthy Alfred his butler. While Bruce hides in his shadows a daring rescue is taking place, Bane is freed from the CIA and takes his band of mercenaries to the sewers of Gotham. Bruce’s interaction with the outside world is in the shape of Selina Kyle …. cat burglar. But the person who reminds Bruce Wayne of who he is and gets him to break his self-imposed exile is rookie cop, Blake. Commissioner Gordon spends a good proportion of the movie in hospital after being shot by one of Bane’s gang, still guilt ridden over covering up the death of the “heroic” Harvey Dent. Bruce once again dons the garb of the caped crusader to fight Bane, along with exposing corruption and greed in Wayne Enterprises, finding love interests, fighting personal demons and a side story about a fusion reactor.
It’s looks like a rip-roaring finale, jam-packed 2 hours and 44 mins…. Indeed it looks but it’s a woeful disappointment. Where to start? Nolan indulges in a clash of imagination and reality. It doesn’t deliver and it doesn’t work. The panoramic scenes of a New York-style Gotham City is a million miles away from the imaginative dark place that lacks town planning that is the real Gotham City. Where theatrical baddies exists, such as Heath Ledger’s scruffy, grungy, and twitchy Joker all frenetic, dynamic, nihilistic and anarchic with his exaggerated mannerisms and a Larkinesque f*cked up violent childhood to boot. Legend is, Bane also had a violent early life existing in a prison known as the pit where he finally escapes emerging into the world as a muscular psyched-up mask wearing baddie. The problem for Tom Hardy is how do you express your character as your face is covered with a mask? He uses his eyes to illustrate his behaviour which does work and his voice has a tendency to be too Darth Vader like, along with that loud wheezing. And brings me to another question, just what kind of baddie is Bane? It starts off with the impressive rescue where a team of highly trained special forces style individuals free him from the clutches of the CIA. Comes across as an efficient malevolent organisation yet later in the film it all becomes an ill-disciplined mob rule with chaotic armed gangs with Bane acting as some warlord. Is Bane a bringer of chaos? A creator of a new political order? Why would an expert crack team of super-efficient baddies degenerate into a mob? Nolan has a problem which he solves by sticking it all together. Result is that it doesn’t quite work. What can be argued is that who exactly is in charge. Bane is run and financed by corrupt capitalists but this changes dramatically. Another problem is that there’s a clash of reality and imagination. The anti-corporate message seeps into Gotham yet the imaginative world of Gotham is ill-equipped to deal with this. Instead what we get is a vengeful Bane seeking to liberate the people of Gotham through mob rule. Comic books have that strong moral code of good and bad. The people of Gotham are reduced to faceless vigilantes tossing rich people out of their houses. While the police, state officials and Batman organise a counter-revolution. I found the storyline rather reactionary and …chaotic. We still witness Bruce Wayne/Batman fighting his own personal demons…again (it’s getting tedious). Alfred trying to shake some common sense into him.
The women characters are reduced to “love interests”. Miranda Tate, a rich philanthropist, just trails along for the ride (a waste of the talented Marion Cotillard) not integral at all to the story while Selina Kyle/Catwoman has little to no backstory (possibly Larkinesque too), is a cat burglar who wears slinky expensive cat suits (no wonder she is a jewel thief she has to pay for the outfits). No explanation why she morphed into a cat-like burglar. It’s all too slick and expensive for someone who lives in a hovel. There’s no imagination or creativity. You don’t see Selina sewing her own custom-made cat suit that would stamp her alter-ego onto the costume instead it’s designer. The original relationship between Catwoman/Selina and Batman/Bruce sizzled sexual chemistry as both were fascinated by each other, but it can never be consummated as that would contradict the comic book code of good and bad. It also creates dramatic tension which didn’t exist really between Nolan’s Catwoman/Selina and Batman/Bruce.
The end result is a mish-mash of reality and imagination. It may be unfair to keep saying it, but this instalment misses Heath Ledger’s Joker who existed in the comic book world of Gotham City, the child/adolescent’s imagination where baddies like Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman exist. Tom Hardy’s Bane just can’t fill those Rosa Klebb style shoes of Heath Ledger’s Joker! Comic book Gotham has freakishly creative toys like the Batmobile unlike Nolan’s Gotham that has highly advanced and sophisticated corporate toys designed by Lucius Fox. There’s the woeful lack of the theatrical and too much CGI, Nolan is a past master of creative CGI as in Inception but this is just too lazy and boring. The dialogue and characterisation plodding, 1-dimensional and dense in many places. I would say it is overlong. At least in the previous Batman, the Joker captivates us with this “better class of criminal” .. and there was true tension between the protagonists.The usual moral conundrums and ambiguities were played out but not well and not very subtle (Larkinesque childhoods are everywhere!). Maybe Nolan meant the message to be all corporate and CGI reflecting the world we live in and no space for creativity and imagination; from the structured world of Gotham, to Catwoman’s trendy and expensive cat suits and Batman’s sophisticated toys. The Batman sign has turned into a kind of corporate logo along with the dull bourgeois ending for Bruce Wayne, all happy endings. A sad, tragic and depressing ending for the dark chaotic imaginative world of Gotham.