Like the 30 lbs of muscle Tom Hardy apparently gained on top of an already ripped body to play the brutish Bane character, Christopher Nolan applies this mentality to every aspect of filmmaking for 'The Dark Knight Rises'. The result is a gargantuan monster of a film, a breathless and sometimes exhaustive experience.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) dir. Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman
By Alan Bacchus
Both the good and the bad of this series has been spiked. The sense of the mythological pathos from Batman Begins is firmly planted back into the series, the emotional weight of everyone’s backstories (characters past and present) come to a head in grandiose fashion and the stakes are even more dangerous than some psychedelic gas or a couple of boats wired with explosives. It’s now nuclear annihilation. Unfortunately, there's also so much going on, from the nihilistic revolution that occurs throughout all of Gotham to the reconciliation of a dozen character threads, the narrative of this film can barely be contained. But Nolan's assault of cinema admirably dulls us to these deficiencies.
Every actor listed above gets his or her moment (perhaps with the exception of Mr. Freeman), usually complemented with multiple flashbacks to make sure we get the point. This results in the running time elongated to 2 hours and 45 minutes (the first two timed in at 2:20 and 2:30, respectively). But the history of the series has shown that Nolan is dissatisfied treating any character as ‘stock’. While there's perhaps one or two flashbacks too many, we have to admire his consistency of leaving no stones unturned.
Hans Zimmer’s music has been spiked as well, pulsating orchestral compositions wall to wall, which include hypnotizing bass drums, choral tenor chants and forceful string sections. Think Verdi’s Requiem and it comes close (google “Verdi Requiem Dies Arie” if you’re unaware). As an aside... can we now start talking about Hans Zimmer with the likes of John Williams, Max Steiner or Bernard Herrmann as one of the great film composers? From the elegance of The Thin Red Line to the rousing anthems of Pirates of the Caribbean, and now the Nolan films, Zimmer has reigned supreme for 15 years.
This mindset of uniform cinematic enhancement will certainly be grating for some, even me. I questioned the need for a Batplane, but everything must be topped, as these are the requirements of a sequel. And Nolan’s adherence to these genre rules is commendable.
Even when the cause-and-effect action or individual character motivations get muddied through the bloated story, the remarkable assault-like momentum of the film easily carries us over these minor bumps in the road. The last half of the picture maintains such a heightened feeling of tension and action, it’s a rush of monumental proportions.
But the reason this film works is how Nolan leaves us in the end, his chaos cleaned up as neat and tidy as possible without the agonizingly drawn out finale of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.