Summer break over, resuming thrice-weekly updates y’all!

The new Batman series is dark. Really, really dark. Dark like a black hole. And, like a black hole, it sucks.

I know what you’re thinking, but I’m still not going to write about the graduate job search. No, no, I know, but I refuse. Not yet, at least – there seems little point in reiterating what we all know from frantic Guardian articles and fretful comments from grandmothers. Instead I am going to write about The Dark Knight Rises, because someone needs to be the brave dark warrior and be honest about how genuinely disappointing this series is. 

The new Batman franchise is rather strange because the tragedy of the second film bestowed upon the whole thing the kind of ‘untouchable legend’ status enjoyed by Citizen Kane, Schindler’s List and other such classics. It was impossible to say a bad word about the film which archived Heath Ledger’s last moments of stylish and skillful acting (excepting Dr Parnassus, which was good but oddly ephemeral) and thus made it almost too sad to watch by proxy. Viewing it purely as a film, though, the whole thing is undoubtedly a very morose three hours; a powerpoint presentation on the inherent evil of humanity, clumsily bulletpointed by people like Morgan Freeman who make everything sound like words read from the final epistles of Moses himself. No-one smiles unless they are actually contorting their cheeks in a stoic wince of pain, and the only female character in the entire film does nothing but march from man to man telling them that they may not, cannot, should not do or say anything that may jeopardise anyone’s safety or else she won’t go out with them any more.

There are good aspects of the film, of course. Heath Ledger truly is brilliant as the Joker, the Bat-Bike is hella fierce and despite what I said above there is some comedy in the film, in that Michael Caine’s cockerney accent is laid on thicker than peanut butter on Elvis’ toast. (“Now Batman, guv’nah, I mean now aw-right my son, master Waiyne, look ‘ere, apples and pears, dis city needs an ‘ero, know wot I meen?”)


But if you haven’t seen it yet go and watch Batman Returns right now, and if you have seen it go and watch it again before you go back to the Bale series. This is the perfect Batman: Michael Keaton is debonair, wry and ever so delicately camp, and his gravelly voice sounds simply gruff and a bit butch rather than a symptom of some terrible and agonising throat disease. The whole film is like this, in that the overriding values in the script appear to be thrills and teasing fun, with action sequences that play out like a really tight computer game rather than a thudding and brutal war. Horror is there as well – Jack Nicholson’s Joker is gruesomely disfigured in a kind of ‘evil clown’ way, which I find even more nightmarish than the ‘realistic’ version of The Dark Knight, particularly because one gets the sense that Nicholson could have quite easily made his face look that way without even a shred of latex if he’d been asked (those eyebrows…).

How can you properly enjoy an action film without those things? Some finesse, a bit of wit, a little knowingness and some snappy timing? Christian Bale’s Batman fights like a rubber bear, and in The Dark Knight Rises he and the antagonist Bane repeatedly get into scraps that simply play out as two burly tanks biffing each other from side to side, hurling their fists at each other like disembodied clubs in the hope that they’ll make contact. Sure, the costumes are slick and the effects are supreme, but it’s got no class. Where’s the style? Where’s the gorgeous and meticulous combat of The Matrix? Or the louche composure of James Bond?

The Dark Knight Rises is a very depressing film to watch. With nothing to be impressed by, nothing to snigger at and nothing to “woah that is awesomely cool” about, it’s just a long and lingering fight against grim catastrophe. No depressing stone is left unturned: you have disappointed and grieving orphans, mistreated Arabic princesses, good girls turned bad, broken marriages, the collapse of the upper class gentry, the financial crisis, nuclear terrorism, potential genocide, anarchy, eco-warriors who turn out to be evil warriors…and I haven’t even made any of those up. Poor Joseph Gordon-Levitt is forced to frown his face into a corrugated mask for the entire three hours. 

And let’s not forget all the practical issues here. Three hours is a long time, and after so long barraged by thundering explosions and the booming impact of fist against bone I had a killer headache. Also, although I am reviewing this film with an air of authority I couldn’t even begin to explain the plot to you because Batman spends the whole film growling like a she-wolf and Bane talks through a mask which makes him sound like he’s talking into an empty Golden Syrup tin whilst chewing cotton wool balls, so most of the dialogue was a mystery. The Hollywood Science is more hilariously stupid than usual – “Mr Wayne, you seem to have lost all of your cartilage, but that’s nothing that a few push-ups and a support bandage won’t fix!” – and how dare you rename the Batplane to simply ‘The Bat’ in the name of grittiness? I just won’t have it.

Superhero films are best when they’re like the comic books, exciting and fun and kiddish. Think Superman flying backwards around the world to reverse time or Spiderman using his superspeed to catch his lunch on a tray. Soundtracks by Prince, evil baddies with genuine lairs, witty pre-fisticuffs banter. We’re already in the middle of a financial crisis and a coalition crisis and an obesity crisis and certain graduates can’t find a job – can’t we go to the cinema and watch something fun? 

Rose T

Jill of all trades: writer, illustrator, designer, editor, web designer, craft maniac

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