Earlier this week, our regular film contributor Steve Delahoyde was invited to attend a preview screening of The Dark Knight Rises, the latest sure-to-be-blockbuster action film from director Christopher Nolan. Because the film opens this Friday and its early reviews have been so hotly discussed and contested, we have decided to release his critique of the film one day early. Warning: This review contains several spoilers.
The Dark Knight Rises is Christopher Nolan's final chapter in the wildly-popular series, which found the director re-imagining the familiar Batman franchise, often taking it to dark and unexpected places. The latest is no different, with Nolan at perhaps his most cynical and perverse, very rarely lessening his tight and violent grip on us, with brutality after brutality bombarding the audience at every turn. One would assume that eventually, like with nearly any hyper-violent action film — or even some grisly schlock of horror — that eventually we would grow desensitized to a point. This would be true, had the cleverly-deft Nolan not decided to heighten the violence and mayhem seemingly tenfold with each new scene, reaching new levels of cinematic discomfort. By the end of the film, the best that can be said to describe the experience is simple: poop.
The bottom line is that the film is unabashedly stupid. Absolute poop.
Should you have been able to forgo the basic premise from the very start of this, or any previous series, or even the original comic books — which is essentially that a sad, rich orphan dresses up in a silly costume to fight even sillier bad people — then somehow you must nearly be impervious to how absurd and dumb all of this is. That we are, somewhere in our brain, supposed to take a lunatic in an utterly foolish get-up absolutely, 100 percent seriously is an insult to our collective intelligence.
Even all the junk Batman garbage that Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher made were better than this.
Many have made much ado about Nolan's use of the franchise to comment on modern-day social issues, with The Dark Knight Rises apparently bringing to light the horrors of terrorism and the police state. To this critic, the only horrors the film exposed were that somehow someone gave someone else money to make not just one of these, but three. Three! About a man wearing a cape and a plastic head with pointy ears! For no good reason. How about making a movie about how it's dumb to make movies like this? But shoot it backwards and in reverse so you can be all clever about it.
The film does have one redeeming quality, however, and that is the chemistry between Christian Bale's Batman and Anne Hathaway's Cat Lady. Their romance is believable and cleverly constructed, and the pair's energy radiates off the screen in waves. Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer from Burton's 1992 Batman Returns have nothing compared to the sizzle shared between this pair. However, upon the launch of the film's third act, Nolan utterly dissolves this cinematic relationship he's worked so hard at building by showing us Batman's penis. Tiny and inconsequential, it sits there full frame for nearly three full minutes. That bewildering scene, of course, is not benefited at all by the Cat Lady's cackles throughout, nor her outbursts of "Little penis!" throughout the remainder of the film.
Though to be fair, she's right.
The villain in this film is a behemoth called Bane, a ruthless killer and planner of unspeakable atrocities. He is also clearly an allusion to presidential candidate Mitt Romney's former company, Bain Capital. Some have asked how Nolan could have possibly inserted a character, let alone make a critique about a specific candidate, when the film finished filming nearly a year ago, and the character was first introduced in comic form in the early 1990s. But that's just foolish, because of course the whole movie boils down to this: A British director wanted to spend $250 million to say that he wants one guy to be the president of a country more than a different guy.
The soundtrack also stinks.
In closing, while this critic hasn't enjoyed a single second of any Batman feature film, save for the 1966 original, the most positive thing about the release of The Dark Knight Rises is that it means it will be at least five to ten years before they decided to make another one of these stupid crap fests.
Also, I didn't care for Batman's high, squeaky voice.