Opinion on the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises appears to be split into two camps.
One set of people believe the film is a masterpiece, a film for the ages and an absolute triumph to top off ‘The Best Trilogy in Movie History’.
Other people consider it to be pretentious, overly long & bloated clap-trap that takes itself far too seriously.
But then these films have always divided opinion. If you remember, the second film in the series became the ultimate film for the Professional Mourners Society because Heath Ledger had tragically died before its release. Sadly what happened was that because he died, his admittedly very good portrayal of the Joker became hyped up by some as the greatest single performance by an actor in movie history. It was good; it was great even, but it wasn’t the best ever. But as a consequence of people saying that, the type of person who always goes against the commonly held belief immediately took a dislike to it and to the film immediately.
My opinion of that film was that it was good, but it was overrated and it went on too long. If I recall correctly, I actually managed to fall asleep in the cinema during the afternoon while watching it and when I watched the Blu Ray of it at home it was a ‘two-sittings’ job.
So going into the latest and probably last instalment in the Christopher Nolan Batman franchise, I expected I’d end up thinking something quite similar about this one.
But did I?….
Thoughts – Know When So Much Is Too Much
I won’t keep you in suspense…
Yes, that’s exactly what I thought.
It was a good film, but it went on too long. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think any film really needs to be nearly three hours long, but that’s exactly what this was.
It’s as if some people in the industry – pretentious people – believe that you can’t do a good film in 90 minutes and that a classic is somehow judged by its length. Perhaps these are insecure men transferring their issues with ‘length’ to another medium, guffaw guffaw.
But seriously, a film like 12 Angry Men – which thankfully retains a higher position in the imdb top #250 than this – shows that simply isn’t true.
Could it have been told in less time? Of course it could. Beyond the opening scene in the plane, the first hour dragged on a fair amount with precious little happening and – without spoiling things for you if you haven’t seen it – later on in the film, the bit where Wayne has to escape from the place he gets put into did not need as many false finishes as it had.
In fairness to it though, the film got better as it went along and the last half hour especially was very good; a direct contrast to the Marvel Superhero films that mostly seem to start off well and then descend into a final 30 minutes of gratuitous explosions and CGI effects. The plot built up to an exciting climax and the storytelling was very good.
Does It Take Itself Too Seriously?
I think the Batman films pride themselves as being a bit more serious than the mostly light-hearted Marvel efforts and in turn, they get taken more seriously by the people who go to them. The stuff that happens in them is more bleak, the visuals are always gloomier, set at night or under grey skies and in drab and colourless environments. The subject matter is more serious too. If it wasn’t for the issues I’m about to bring up, this could be a very grim terrorist film about economic and social collapse. And it even stars an actor who takes himself extremely seriously.
And that’s all well and good, but the film is still about a bloke in a rubber Bat suit who drives fictional vehicles and puts on just the stupidest ‘trying to sound hard’ voice you could possibly imagine. Bale’s ‘Batman voice’ is cringeworthy. It’s trying too hard.
Bane is an interesting one as well. He’s very much a ‘comic book’ villain and fails to transition as well from comic book to screen as the Joker did. You could believe in the Joker as a realistic character in a serious film, because he did come off as an utter psychopath, but Bane – with his face mask and superhuman strength – seemed a bit flat for me. And that voice…well it was fitting in with the character, but it was too obviously dubbed on afterwards and seemed detached from the character on screen, so that didn’t help matters. It was also a bit silly if we’re being honest.
So yeah, it tries to be really serious, but by its very nature it’s not that serious, and so it clashes with itself.
But Let’s Not Be Too Critical
Despite that though it’s still a good film.
Silliness and length aside, it’s a solid story that is mostly well acted and is brought together to a fitting conclusion.
While Bane might be a disappointment compared to the Joker, the film still has well thought characters like Alfred, Blake, Fox, Commissioner Gordon and Miranda, and Cat Woman is also a worthy addition who could probably have her own spin-off movies (though I’m not sure how she’s seemingly able to hypnotize men with her allure).
There are also plenty of fun little cameos from actors you’d recognise from shows like Prison Break (Bellick is back playing a Prison Guard and *spit* Bill Kim is here too), Dexter, Torchwood (Burn Gorman looks like he’s in his 70s now) and even a few noted characters from an earlier Batman film (I won’t spoil that for you though).
So this is what I thought it would be. A good film, but too long and takes itself too seriously. It could easily have cut down on a few subplots, like the stuff with the orphans or the attempted takeover of Wayne Enterprises, and ended up with a terrific film running at around two hours long.
Then I would have loved it, but as it stands I only like it.
Talk of it being ‘The Best Movie Trilogy of All Time’ are daft. I know it’s up to personal taste but I could watch Back to the Future, Indiana Jones or Star Wars again and again. To watch this film again would – in a similar vein to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy – feel like a bit of a chore to me.
If you liked the other Batman films, you’ll like this, but if you don’t enjoy films that go on forever and would prefer to tackle this one in two more palatable sittings, I’d recommend you wait for the DVD release.