Hollywood fosters such a creativity vacuum that even innovators such as Christopher Nolan succumb to the weight of its lowest common denominator expectations. Here in the Dark Knight Rises Nolan serves up the bloated conclusion to his gritty Batman reboot that sadly feels like a misfiring attempt at tying up the trilogy’s loose ends by burying them in a morass of a plot and hoping the audience will be distracted by Bale’s grating Barry White impersonation.
Batman (Christian Bale) is now a Howard Hughesesque recluse having retired from the crime fighting game following the death of Harvey Dent and the misguided backlash from Gotham’s citizens. He cuts a pitiful figure as he mopes about Wayne Mansions eating Coco Pops in his pyjamas.
He is awakened from his reverie by muscle bound psychopath Bane (Tom Hardy) who in traditional comic book fashion has inexplicable urges to blow up Gotham City perhaps to make for his steroidally shrunken genitalia. Bane steals one of Wayne Enterprises very own fusion reactors and holds the city to ransom and of course only one man can save them. Cue much chop-socky action, car chases and close ups of Anne Hathaway’s PVC covered derriere.
There are attempts to inject a meaningful credit-crunch zeitgeist into the carnage-strewn plot with Bane’s socialist masses rising up to crush their bourgeois oppressors in a sub Occupy Gotham angle but it all feels like an excuse to try and give the numerous fight scenes a worthy edge.
However, just as Gotham is about to be reduced to rubble, in one last selfless act, Batman hooks the nuclear bomb by cable to the underside of his one-of-a-kind Batcopter (a design inspired by crossing a V-22 Osprey and an AH 64 Apache) and rushes from Gotham and out to sea. As the timer ticks down Batman gets further away from Gotham’s civilians and when he is a speck on the horizon the foreground is filled with a familiar mushroom cloud and its good night Vienna.
There is no massive explosion, no aftershock, no carnage, just a nominal puff of white smoke in the distance. The destruction of this helicopter and the hero within could have been the mother of all fireballs yet we are left with almost a peaceful Zen-like chopper destruction. This scene is completely at odds with the ethos here at Exploding Helicopter HQ but in a perverse way you have to admire Nolan’s restraint and avoidance of cliché.
Exploding helicopter innovation
A helicopter killed by nuclear explosion. Seen it before but perhaps not like this.
Do passengers survive?
That would be telling wouldn’t it but there are some clues towards the end that indicate there is more cash left in the cow yet. For God sake let the man die a dignified death.
As you would expect from a meganormous action blockbuster there are some adrenalin pumping set pieces such as the opening mid air hijacking which are delivered with Nolan’s customary directorial panache. The last five minutes of the film almost redeem Nolan’s reputation as the plotline twister par-excellence but by this point you may have probably slipped into a coma.
Despite a $300 million budget and a raft off top notch actors you may have gathered that I was left feeling severely underwhelmed by this film. For a start it is way too long, humourless and contains some of the most implausible behaviour since Bean: The Movie.
For instance Bane instead of stealing the bomb and detonating it immediately decides it will be more practical to just meaninglessly drive it round the city in the back of a transit van giving the good guys plenty of time to track it down before detonation. Also to help the good guys there is a handy red LED timer on the bomb conveniently informing the world of the time until its impending combustion. Do they make these things at Argos?
Anne Hathaway is no Michelle Pfeiffer and really should be sticking to The Devil Wears Prada fluff leaving challenging roles to real actress who are able to do more than just look good in a cat suit. Why Batman trusts her despite being repeatedly double crossed can only be attributed to either deep seated mental illness or the overwhelming urge to get into her pants.
Tom Hardy is a great actor but tragically wasted playing the one dimensional Bane in a mask that covers his face forcing him to act only with his eyes (I acknowledge Roger Moore did make a career out of similar restrictions). His voice is also overdubbed in post-production so really they could have just hired Ross Kemp and saved a few quid.
Lucius Fox (on Batman’s one-of-a-kind helicopter): Nothing like a little air superiority
Nolan said that each of the Batman films have a central theme underpinning the story. For Batman Begins it was "Fear", The Dark Knight deals with "Chaos" and this film's overarching emotion is "Pain". After three hours trying to make sense of the mush with a surly 11yr old absent mindedly kicking the back of your chair you will certainly agree that he is director who delivers on his promises.