Donnerstag, 9. August 2012

Film review: The Dark Knight Rises.

 (this review includes spoilers)

After leaving the "The Dark Knight Rises" completely disappointed, I felt that summarizing what made the movie into a failure so far below the standard of his two predecessors would be difficult, given just how many things were wrong with it. But on closer inspection, brushing aside elements that could be forgiven, ignored or maybe even redeemed by more positive aspects (of which, I might already add at this point, there weren't many), what remained and stood out was the complete lack of believable character motivation. Little of what is done by the film's ensemble can be explained by their personality, by what they are, instead their actions are dictated by Christopher Nolan's requirement to produce a chain reaction of increasingly dramatic scenes.

This is perhaps most apparent in one of the major plot twists towards the end where Miranda Tate, previously a supporting member of the good guys, is revealed as a major villain. It is a twist I did not see coming, true, as I thought it was being set up for another character, but that doesn't make it a good turn-around, for it had no basis in her character or previous actions. Its sole reason for existence was to surprise the viewer. It's an example of the overuse of the surprising plot reversal element which is so often deployed as a superficial surrogate for convincing plot development driven by characters that so often can be found in films of recent years. (For a brilliant counter-example using a staccato of working twists check the 1972 original of "Sleuth" - starring, while we are at it, a Michael Caine at his best instead of in the largely boring roles of the last decade - including the horrible 2007 "Sleuth" remake.) In an attempt to flesh out the background of Miranda Tate by flashbacks we learn that her reason for aiming to destroy Gotham City is basically that Daddy Dearest wanted to do the same. Why she made no move towards that goal in the years before, instead acting as an entrepreneur and the city's benefactor, remains cloudy. Perhaps she wanted to wait and see whether another of Gotham's illustrious array of villains would get to it first.

More problems can be identified, no doubt, and they add up to a careless vision of the world of Batman, which comes as a surprise considering how much work has once again been put by the film's art department and location designers to create a convincing city. Why would Bane, the primary villain of the movie until he's quickly discarded and traded in for Tate in the final minutes, need to acquire Bruce Wayne's fingerprints and assault Wall Street to conduct the transactions that would ruin the billionaire's corporate empire? It seems like a recourse to a 1960's sci-fi view of the future with only giant flashing buttons and a jerky analog computer voice missing from the picture. Why would the criminal mastermind bother to elaborate on his plans in a horrible display of exposition seldom seen since "Star Trek" and "The Lord of the Rings"? And why would Wayne repeatedly fail to mount a wall that looks like an okay exercise for any dedicated free-climber?

Finally, the movie does not only fall flat as a piece of entertainment, but also misses some great chances to relate to our world today and make a statement about it - which is one of the defining features of science-fiction and which has been an important aspect to "The Dark Knight" (although I admittedly made fun of it then). There is a way to do it right, and here the conflict between the rich and the poor of Gotham could have been expanded further, alluding to the real-life background of growing economic disparities and the "Occupy" movement. Turn the clearly evil prisoners we see in the movie into poor and disenfranchised by the "Dent Act" and suddenly the viewers' sympathies will be distributed quite differently. Then make them pull a Reichskristallnacht on the rich and institute mob rule. It'll challenge the filmgoers' expectations and opinions rather than reinforce the well-tested and considerably less well-aged "evil people behave in evil ways, it's like that because other movies have told us so". 5/10

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