The Dark Knight Rises ★★

After seven years and three films, Nolan’s Batman journey is over. The question is, is The Dark Knight Rises the send off the trilogy deserves? Sadly the answer to that question is a crushing no. Having re-watched both previous films this week I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is the weakest film of the trilogy, and to make things worse, it isn’t even a good film, period.

In many ways the film’s problems existed throughout the series - needlessly long, inconsistent pacing and incoherent and bitty plotting - yet here they are magnified, partly because they are at their very worst and partly because it also lacks the compelling characters and exciting set pieces that papered over the cracks in the earlier movies. What we are left with is a bloated film with woeful pacing, a menagerie of new characters you care little about and even action that, whilst still on a grand scale, is devoid of spectacle.

As with the rest of the series the film looks and sounds amazing. The special effects are nearly faultless and the extended use of IMAX cameras really pays off. Yet all the pretty pictures in the world can’t hide the fact that this is a leaden story that lacks cohesion. Nolan’s Batman have always had scattershot plots that, on occasion, overreach themselves. Here is no different. You have many new elements thrown into the mix be it characters, plot devices or themes (the current economic crisis is clumsily shoe-horned into the story) but nothing really hangs together in a satisfying way, no matter how much they try and tie the entire trilogy together. The first hour is incredibly heavy handed in its use of on-the-nose expositional dialogue that you are just waiting for the film to finally find its feet yet it never really does.

The stakes may have never been higher but it didn’t stop the film from dragging from start to finish. There is urgency in the plot but that rarely materialises in the way Nolan has paced the film. When Bane reveals his dastardly plan you are expecting it to take off yet the monotonous pacing continues trudging along and the only thing that does increase is how often you check your watch.

Tom Hardy is one of the finest actors of his generation yet he really struggles here as Bane. He may be a beast of a man but his character is decidedly uninteresting and the further tweaks to his voice hinder his impact as a genuine threat. In fact he never even sounds like he is delivering the dialogue which creates a strange disconnect. Anne Hathaway’s morally ambiguous Selina Kyle is decidedly flat too with her good-bad dilemma being played out in the most banal and predictable manner. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has perhaps the most interesting arc of the new characters but frankly I’d have been happier if he’d been cut entirely to help with the arse-numbing runtime. The most telling thing about the film and the characters that populate it is that Michael Caine steals the film with only a few minutes screen time.

I really wish I could find more positives but it is a struggle. Even the action is disappointingly forgettable. Compare any scene with the truck flip, bat pod reveal or bank heist from The Dark Knight and this comes up short; way short. There are sequences here that should, theoretically, be spectacular yet they are not. Shooting so much in broad daylight doesn’t help but, once again, the main culprit is the pacing. They lack an ebb and flow that pulls you in and gets you on the edge of your seat with the only time I moved in my seat being when my bum cheeks had fallen asleep.

I wanted to love it but this was not the send-off Nolan and his team deserved. The Dark Knight Stumbles.

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