There will be no spoilers about The Dark Knight Rises here. Just the news that I really liked it, thought it was better than The Dark Knight and on a par with Batman Begins, and surely a four-star movie (not a three-star movie, according to many critics here, and certainly not a two-star movie, which the critics in the Mail and the Evening Standard seemed to think it is). So no plot details, just the really basic building blocks that are pretty much spelled out in the trailer: a man in a mask threatens Gotham; another man in a mask returns – or rises – to stop him. Two hours and 40 minutes pass while this happens, and there’s a nail-biter of a climax, with a couple of revelations that will surprise you if you haven’t read about them online, or in “long reviews”, as they are technically known. It’s a worthy end to the three-part saga.
I’m not one for revealing endings, or key plot points. In my weekly Telly Addict review for the Guardian, I try to make a point of taking clips from the beginnings of things, as I’m sensitive to those who might not yet have seen the episode I’m reviewing. (At the S2 climax of Game Of Thrones recently, I ran a clip in which Alfie Allen’s character Theon Greyjoy gave a speech to his men, and was knocked out by Ralph Ineson’s Dagmer. I think some people thought he had killed him, and thus cried spoiler. But he hadn’t, or else I wouldn’t have run the clip. You can see what a minefield it is.)
If you wish to avoid spoilers, whether to a film or an episode of a TV show, it surely goes without saying that you really have to tread carefully on the internet. Stuff gets out. It’s a long time since we enjoyed the luxury of seeing things without warning, preamble or carefully stage-managed hype. The one I always trot out is Blade Runner; I saw it at the cinema in 1983 with not a clue as to what I was about to receive. The poster, such as it was, gave little away, other than a futuristic setting and Harrison Ford. What unexpected delights it concealed. I loved it, and part of that was down to the surprises in store. These days, especially with sci-fi, I’d be hard pushed to get that much fresh pleasure from such a big movie. You have to bury your head to achieve that kind of consumer purity.
I understand the Guardian found itself at the centre of a spoiler row over The Dark Knight Rises – specifically Xan Brooks’ first-off-the-blocks overnight review. It’s a big below-the-line talking point, fuelled by a recurring allegation against the paper’s chief critic Peter Bradshaw of writing “spoilerific” lead reviews, where more words are spent and more plot is necessarily rolled out. Also, much more concretely it seems, David Letterman revealed the ending while interviewing Anne Hathaway on his chat show, the fool. This is far more of a crime: a vanilla promotional TV interview should be a spoiler safe-place! In print, and especially with lead reviews, you take your life into your own hands.
I am a disciple of Sight & Sound, renowned for providing detailed synopses along with its reviews, which are never short, and addressing key plot points with filmmakers when the films have only played at film festivals. But they always flag these up. And you’d have to be a masochist to read the synopses anyway. (I should know, I do this often.)
Anyway, the film is very good indeed; you should go and see it, if you haven’t already. I thoroughly enjoyed Batman Begins and approved of Nolan’s reboot. I wasn’t totally blown away by The Dark Knight: two films welded together that didn’t quite hang for me (but that’s just my opinion, which is worth re-stating when Nolan devotees are around), and felt a little indulgent. Begins was leaner, and had more work to do. Anyway, I risked the wrath of the disciples by awarding The Dark Knight three stars in Radio Times, a 150-word review so controversial it has since been upgraded to a four, and rewritten by one of my colleagues. I’m glad to have wrestled myself free. Rises is far better. Its self-indulgence is justified, for the most part. It’s operatic stuff, with only about two borderline witty lines to remind us that there was once camp hereabouts, since obliterated. But I find myself admiring Nolan’s cast-iron sincerity.
The baddy, Bane (Tom Hardy), is proper bad. With his face scrunched into breathing apparatus that might have been designed by HR Giger, he is not camp. Although I did like Hardy’s – and Nolan’s – brave decision for him to speak, through the Vader voicebox, as if he was in an Ealing comedy. At times, it felt like the apocalypse was being threatened upon Gotham by Rowley Birkin QC. Quite, quite sinister.
Bale, Caine, Oldman, Freeman, all present and correct; Hans Zimmer’s portentous score seemingly “on” the whole time; Anne Hathaway gave convincingly corm to Catwoman; hardware spectacular. Can’t discuss the politics – essentially conservative, in lines with most blockbusters – without giving away act-two plot points, so I’ll refrain. Go and see it. We’ll discuss it when the fuss has died down.
Horrible business, that shooting in Denver, but the film’s worldwide box office will not be harmed by this terrible, depressing association. It’s big. It’s an event picture that actually provides an event onscreen, and not just in among its own hype. Perhaps best of all, with it, Christopher Nolan strikes an important blow against
the commercial orthodoxy of 3D. This film doesn’t need a technological mask to breathe through. It has dimension enough already.
It’s better than The Amazing Spider-Man, because it is actually amazing in places. And the song-and-dance number at the end is a masterstroke.