Tuesday, 14 August 2012

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Christopher Nolan has a very distinctive style. It doesn't mean he can direct.

The Dark Knight Rises

(2012) dir. Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Modine


Review By Greg Klymkiw

I call him Christopher "One Idea" Nolan. His first film, Following, has one idea. Hint: You'll find it in the title. Memento has one idea. Hey, the lead character can only remember the past 20 minutes. Let's tell the story backwards. Hmmm. Is that two ideas?

Batman Begins starts off with one good idea. When little Bruce Wayne tumbles down the well and the bats attack him, his point of view is a flurry of cuts. Fair enough, makes sense to me. However, this one idea - symbolic of his childhood trauma - causes him to have a similar point of view during each and every action scene. Not a single action set piece has any excitement or dramatic and/or emotional resonance because they're all shot and cut so ham-fistedly with no sense of geography and finally, the cuts (on both a sound and picture level) create a visceral dynamism, but none of it is properly rooted in the notion that every cut, every blow, every kick should be an action that moves the story and/or character forward. Worst of all, this continued flurry of sloppy shots and cuts resemble the bat attack, but seldom are they truly representative of Mr. Nolan's one salient idea as they're Mr. Nolan's point of view, not Batman/Bruce Wayne's.

And please, don't get me started on Inception. The less said about that dull mess, the better.

The Prestige is the odd man out in Nolan's canon. It's a surprisingly watchable picture. His trademark use of dark themes and visual aplomb (when he's not pathetically directing action scenes), in addition to a solid enough script and a great cast - all made for an entertainingly satisfying experience. Best of all, it's not rooted in the unimaginative one-trick-pony nonsense that drives the rest of his movies.

Here's the problem. He's got a clearly distinctive style, but it's not enough. I was willing to forgive Following as being the sort of pretentious nonsense a young filmmaker might vomit out on his first feature go-round. Memento, though, drove me right up the wall. It's exactly the sort of fake neo-noir I detest. It's so dour, so utterly humorous and bereft of the crackling, nasty verve of the the best of its ilk. It's just not a lot of fun. It's a major drag and EVERYTHING hinges on its one-trick-pony: telling the story backwards. Tell the damn thing forward and there is NO story. "Oooooohhhhhh", say all the groovies, "but that's the point."

Tell me another one.

Of course it's impossible to completely dismiss The Dark Knight. In fact, I came close to actually thinking it might be - well, not good, exactly, but certainly hovering in the realm of "okay". First and foremost, it's impossible to deny the inspired (and grimly hilarious) malevolence of the late Heath Ledger as The Joker. If anything, he's so great that the movie suffers when he's not on screen. And for once, the action set pieces - the handful shot in the IMAX process - are stunning.

It's interesting to note that IMAX is such an expensive and cumbersome process that it's impossible to shoot (and subsequently cut) in Nolan's usual Attention Deficit Disordered style. It forces you to consider every shot as opposed to going for the kitchen-sink grab-bag Nolan normally resorts to. And while I'm sure Nolan approved all the storyboards, a little part of me thinks most of the work during these action set pieces, and in fact, the best work, was achieved by the old hands from IMAX - an army of old pros who actually know how to make movies.

It's a bit like The Prestige. The material itself forced Nolan to reign in his usual mishmash of sloppiness and pretence.

And so that brings us to the boring, bloated and oh-so dour The Dark Knight Rises. Well, as everyone knows, Batman needed to take the rap for Harvey Dent's wrongdoings and now it's a few years later and Gotham is relatively crime free. Harvey Dent has become Jesus Christ and Commissioner Gordon is feeling guilty about suppressing the real truth for the "good" of the city. Batman is off the radar whilst Bruce Wayne mopes about in seclusion with his loyal butler Alfred.

A plucky cat burglar who looks like Anne Hathaway with body paint for clothes, takes a shine to Bruce as does a wealthy socialite who looks an awful lot like the French woman who played Edith Piaf (only without the "ugly" makeup).

Out of nowhere comes an incredibly bland villain called Bane with a bunch of tubes and steel pipes in his face. It's impossible to understand half his dialogue, but no matter, he's there to do evil, not to be understood.

Bane's a terrorist bent on giving the city back to criminals. This will never do, of course, so Batman comes to the rescue, but not before an endlessly drawn out sequence in some weird-ass pit in the middle of nowhere as Bruce needs to climb out of the hole to triumphantly beat the bad guy.

Oh yeah, there's a nice young cop who believes in Batman and lends a hand. His name is - WAIT FOR IT - Robin.

Alas, no homoerotic subtext here.

Nolan leaves that bit o' business twixt Bruce Wayne and Alfred.

There's a lot more IMAX footage in this movie, but this time, it doesn't come to the rescue as it did in The Dark Knight. Here, it's surprisingly bland. The action scenes have even less resonance than usual in a Nolan film, but there's some nice bits involving a variety of Bat Cycles and the like.

Oh, be forewarned. The movie is long, but not just to indulge the woefully under-talented and wildly over-appreciated Christopher Nolan, but no doubt, so those who pay the usurious IMAX surcharges feel like they're getting their money's worth.

Watching this really was like having dental surgery and if I ever have to see another comic book movie ever again, please let it be directed with someone who has genuine filmmaking genius in his DNA. And a sense of humour. Someone like Sam Raimi.

Hell, I'd even settle for James Cameron.

And that, my friends, is really scraping the bottom of the barrel.