The Dark Knight Rises

24 July 2012 | 9:47 am | Sam Hobson

Eight years has passed, and in The Dark Knight Rises we find Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) broken - his body fatigued - and he's long hung up his alter-ego haunted by the death of his partner Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). He's become a recluse, neglecting, it seems, all but shawl-wearing, and grumbling at his faithful butler Alfred (Michael Caine). But, after a chance meeting with spry cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) the desire is awoken in him to again don the hero's suit. From here, Rises' story splinters and none of the resulting shards really feel like they're given enough to do. We lose sight of Batman, predominantly, and we're introduced to new characters, among them John Blake, a cop, played earnestly enough by Joseph Gordon-Levitt; prospective Wayne enterprises exec Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), and the series' newest super villain, Bane (Tom Hardy.) At some point, the crisscrossing of narratives shifts into simply ideas alone being cross-cut, images that were great on the page, and that look great on the screen, but don't fit with anything centralised, or cogent, narratively.

This fragmented approach, which worked so well for Nolan on Inception, here is just too disparate for a film-universe that exists really to showcase one man. The way Nolan directs all of this, of course, is deeply engaging and profusely cinematic. There's Zimmer's chest-beating and a host of shifting, abstract things at stake. Nolan's usual juggernaut pacing is present in full force, as is his ante-upping crosscutting between the different stories. It's all very thrilling and momentous to be a part of at the time, but there's still a sad, sinking feeling that wells in you while you're watching it. It's exhausting, all this warring constantly with disappointment, then confusion, then ecstasy, never knowing which one will win out. Even though I don't quite know whether this film is great or isn't, it is at times a truly rapturous experience, which is almost enough. Ultimately, Nolan's finale is audacious, and impossibly sprawling, but it's also really messy because of it. It disappoints the towering promise of Inception, though improves ably on 2008's The Dark Knight.