The Dark Knight Rises ★★★

Encumbered by near-impossible expectations & unprecedented hype that rarely any other film has been subjected to in the 21st century at least, The Dark Knight Rises arrived in 2012 as the final conclusion of The Dark Knight legend and didn't just face the burden of living up to the towering success of its predecessors but being the final chapter of the trilogy, it also had to conclude the beloved saga on an immensely satisfying note.

When it comes to motion picture trilogies, there aren't many good examples of a second sequel done right. The Godfather Part III, Return of the Jedi, X-Men: The Last Stand & Spider-Man 3 are some well-known final entries which failed to live up to the legacy of their predecessors and unfortunately, The Dark Knight Rises ends up as the latest addition to this list, for it not only disappoints as a weak sequel but is a shockingly weak standalone film too.

Directed by Christopher Nolan who already was hesitant to return for the third time, the film is a bloated, disjointed & convoluted mess from start to finish with so many plot holes & mind-numbingly stupid moments that it has to be the director's most flawed work to date. Where Batman Begins thrived on fear & The Dark Knight revelled in escalation, The Dark Knight Rises takes too long to get things started & even when it does, remains largely unappealing.

The story is set 8 years after the events of the last film yet I can't help but wish that Nolan Bros. had taken the same amount of time in order to come up with a premise that at least felt like a part of this trilogy rather than the muck of mindless explosion one generally finds in a Roland Emmerich production, which is exactly what this chapter appears to be. It's a disappointment in almost every aspect and tries to do so many things at once that none work out in the end.

Production design includes many big set pieces that are dazzling to look at but that's all its contribution to the film is. Cinematography pushes the boundaries of IMAX cameras' limitations but also encapsulates the whole picture with an ambience that's depressing & uninviting. Editing is the weakest aspect, for the story is largely fragmented, lacks a smooth flow, is unable to hide its easily detectable continuity errors & fails to provide a proper pace as sometimes it feels too hurried while at other times it's just stagnant.

Also, unlike the last two films where we had Hans Zimmer scoring the action sequences while James Newton Howard took care of the dramatic portion, the soundtrack of The Dark Knight Rises is all Zimmer and though it is largely impressive for its scale & ambition, it's also too loud, bombastic & noisy. Visual & Sound effects are state-of-the-art stuff but that's expected considering the high budget although none of these elements break any new grounds.

Coming to the performances, Nolan mixes the cast of The Dark Knight with the cast of Inception and neither the reprising actors nor the new additions are able to rise on this occasion, except Anne Hathaway. While the film was in production, I was very skeptical of her character yet the funny thing is that she is the only one who leaves a lasting impression with a sultry, seductive performance although the lack of any explanation for her gear that appears out of nowhere still frustrates me.

Christian Bale aptly captures the broken, beaten & wounded version of Bruce Wayne at first but later goes way over-the-top. And if you think it was difficult to make out what Batman was saying in the last chapter, wait until you meet Bane in this one. Tom Hardy as Bane turns out to be an absolute miscast as his physical demeanour is strong but that voice is annoying instead of menacing. And with only eyes to convey emotions, Hardy fails to exhibit even an ounce of it.

Michael Caine hams his way through as Alfred. Morgan Freeman & Gary Oldman are always dependable and they chip in with fine performances as Fox & Gordon respectively, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is refreshingly good as a rookie cop although his first scene with Bale is horribly written, and what Marion Cotillard delivers here is arguably her worst performance to date. Also, if you're looking for overacting overdose of the decade, watch out for that segment when Wayne attempts to get out of that dark pit.

On an overall scale, The Dark Knight Rises might work for those who buy into its hype but unlike its predecessors, it hasn't earned its darkness. It's rushed when it's supposed to slow down & it's unbearably static when it's supposed to rush through. Apart from the goosebumps-inducing sequence when Batman makes his first appearance in 8 years and the perfectly executed epilogue which at least concludes the trilogy on a high, there is almost nothing worth liking in this 165 minutes of big-budget summer extravaganza.

Entertaining in bits n pieces, far too conventional with its narrative route, and a mixed bag on the satisfaction level, The Dark Knight Rises is an ambitious yet laid-back, rushed yet bloated & often impressive yet mostly frustrating cinema from Christopher Nolan that's certainly no match to its high-quality predecessors, and presents an unexpected fall in the illustrious career that has seen an exponential rise over the last decade. Neither the finale we deserved, nor the one we needed, The Dark Knight Rises is a disappointing conclusion to what could've been one of the greatest film trilogies of all time.

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