The Dark Knight Rises review: Ridiculous villians, bombastic effects and dialogue I could barely make out


The Dark Knightmare: It's bottom-numbingly long, the baddie is a mumbling bore and the plot is a pretentious mess – even Batman can't escape this disaster

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UPDATED:

00:17 GMT, 20 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (12A)

Verdict: Spectacular – but overlong and often incomprehensible

This film has been so eagerly awaited
and has such a huge publicity budget that it is certain to be a hit.
Most critics mindful of their backs — or, indeed, their fronts — will
praise it to the proverbial skies.

The last time I gave a movie like this
fewer than five stars, I received death threats from people who hadn’t
even seen the film in question. And I gather that one U.S. reviewer who
attempted to write a serious analysis of this latest film has already
received similar threats for being negative.

I am not being perverse, however, in
stating that The Dark Knight Rises has many glaring defects. How far you
allow those to interfere with your enjoyment of the movie is, of
course, up to you.

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Overlong: The Dark Knight Rises is among the most highly-anticipated movies of the year, but did little to impress Chris Tookey

Overlong: The Dark Knight Rises is among the most highly-anticipated movies of the year, but did little to impress Chris Tookey

First, the positives. Director
Christopher Nolan has done an intelligent job, along with his brother
Jonathan, of assembling a blockbuster finale that brings back a few
supervillains and makes a neat, emotionally satisfying conclusion to his
trilogy of Batman films.

The final half-hour is cleverly
written and on a spectacular scale. You may have seen a city trashed in
many a blockbuster, but never quite like this.

The picture also has the courage to
grapple, however superficially, with two big themes: the fear of
terrorism and economic collapse.

The bad guy, Bane (Tom Hardy), is like
an 18th-century French revolutionary hoping to unite the oppressed
masses against the capitalists and authorities who have kept them under
control for so long.

A ‘people’s court’ dispenses death sentences to
anyone deemed reactionary. That’s me done for, then.

I wouldn’t go so far as to claim the
film is a political heavyweight, but there are echoes of Dickens’s
novels about anarchy and rioting masses, Barnaby Rudge and A Tale Of Two
Cities, whose ending is even quoted at the end.

Incomprehensible: The mask that Tom Hardy has to wear to play Bane makes his diction hard to understand

Incomprehensible: The mask that Tom Hardy has to wear to play Bane makes his diction hard to understand

Female influence: The movie also stars Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, alongside Christian Bale reprising his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman

Female influence: The movie also stars Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, alongside Christian Bale reprising his role as Bruce Wayne/Batman

The bad news is, first, that it lasts
two hours and 45 minutes, which is astonishingly bloated — and
unforgivable in a film that spends a long, ponderous hour getting
started, despite a couple of action sequences that don’t involve any
heroics by Batman.

When Bruce Wayne, alias Batman
(Christian Bale), eventually rides to the rescue, he comes as a man
misunderstood by the public and authorities alike — he’s still blamed
for the death of Harvey Dent, the architect of the Dent Act, a piece of
miracle legislation that has rendered Gotham City virtually crime-free
for eight years.

Batman has long been in disgrace, apparently crippled
physically and by the guilt of having sacrificed his girlfriend, and is
living in peaceful retirement.

So it requires a major suspension of
disbelief to understand why the bad guys bother to employ cat burglar
Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, in an approximation of the Catwoman role
filled by Michelle Pfeiffer) to frame him for an attack on the New York
Stock Exchange and ruin him with a number of disastrous investments.

Action packed: But at two hours, 45 minutes long, the new Batman film certainly packs in the action and special effects

Action packed: But at two hours, 45 minutes long, the new Batman film certainly packs in the action and special effects

The effect is utterly
counter-productive. It puts the fight back into Wayne — much to the
concern of his trio of father figures: butler Alfred (Michael Caine),
chief of police Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and technical genius Lucius Fox
(Morgan Freeman).

Batman’s only able-bodied ally is a fresh-faced cop
(Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who pretty much resembles his former chum Robin.

The job of love interest / femme
fatale is split between Marion Cotillard, as an amorous member of Bruce
Wayne’s management board, and Hathaway’s Selina, who appears for most of
the movie to be a lesbian but whose girlfriend and cohort (played by
Juno Temple) simply disappears, leaving Selina the chance to change
personality overnight.

Other unbelievable events include the
moment Bane doesn’t kill Batman when he has the opportunity. Sceptics
may also ask how it is, in the last 45 minutes, that Batman has a habit
of turning up unerringly in the right place at the right time, when for
the previous two hours he has been unable to do anything right.

Old faces and new faces: Gary Oldman returns as Jim Gordon, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes an appearance as John Blake

Old faces and new faces: Gary Oldman returns as Jim Gordon, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes an appearance as John Blake

Mind
you, it’s just as well he does, because otherwise the film might never
end. Another fault is that Bane is a boring villain. Heath Ledger’s
Joker in The Dark Knight was a creepily memorable figure.

Bane is just
Darth Vader in a Hannibal Lecter mask, and his words are practically
inaudible.

An over-enthusiastic effects track,
poor diction (not only by Hardy, hampered by his hockey mask) and what
sounds like hundreds of crazed Japanese drummers make large stretches of
dialogue incomprehensible.

And in case you think I’m going deaf, my
21-year-old son sitting beside me found it just as difficult to hear.

Just when you think things can’t get
any worse, Tom Conti turns up and starts relating a back story in an
accent that might as well be in Serbo-Croat.

As with all recent Batman films, the
tone is humourless, bordering on reverential. There are even mythic
echoes of Jesus Christ coming to save humanity, and it’s a tribute to
Bale’s acting that he endows the role with agonised sincerity, even when
he is asking us to believe in the wildly incredible.

Anyone who can’t see enough big, loud
movies that don’t make sense can safely disregard this review. But the
first of the trilogy, Batman Begins (which received four stars from me),
remains the high point.

The Dark Knight Rises is not as
repellently sadistic as its immediate predecessor, but it has
pretensions vastly beyond its capabilities.

A version of this review appeared in earlier editions.

VIDEO: Celebrity A-listers hit the red carpet for 'The Dark Knight Rises' premiere in NY…

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Watch the full trailer here…

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