Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Who pulled the trigger? Dark Knight Rises film review

Each month I publish a film review, for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Here is the review for September, written after, and with reflection upon, the tragic events in Aurora, Colorado on 20 July 2012.

Dark Knight Rises
A film review by Rev Dr Steve Taylor

Who pulled the trigger?

Hollywood block buster “Dark Knight Rises” will be forever defined not by plot, character or artistic sensibility, but by opening night. On 20 July 2012, James Holmes, suited in body armour, armed with a Colt AR-15 Tactical Carbine and .40 caliber Glock handgun, walked into a packed cinema in Aurora, Colorado. Movie goers initially thought it was an opening night party trick.

Holmes opened fire, killing twelve and injuring another fifty eight. A premiere that will go down in history as the occasion of the largest mass shooting in US history.

So was James Holmes mad, mentally unable to see right from wrong? Or was he simply bad, clinically choosing wrong from right, death over life?

Or should we point the finger elsewhere, take aim at United States gun laws and the way that allow such easy access to multiple murder and mayhem?

Who pulled the trigger?

Reports quickly emerged after the arrest of James Holmes of how he had described himself as the Joker, a direct reference to an earlier movie in the Dark Knight trilogy (reviewed in Touchstone September 2008), in which evil was personified in the person of the Joker.

If so, might the movie industry in fact be to blame. To what extent does the media influence us as individuals and ourselves as culture? The debate has raged for years, although never as poignantly as in the aftermath of Dark Knight Rises.

Yet the argument prosecutes the one, while failing to consider the many. Millions of people did see the Joker. More have watched murder enacted in Macbeth or heard it described in the Biblical story. Yet only James Holmes pulled the trigger.

Everyone one of us is daily surrounded by suggestion, by products to purchase, sweets to consume and temptations to pursue. Yet we still expect each other to say when.

Putting aside the moral arguments and opening night tragedy, how should the Dark Knight Rises be reviewed? Despite the glitzy star cat – Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman – the movie is hardly worth watching. Directed by Chris Nolan, the glittering special effects fail to hide a reliance on spoken rather than visual storytelling. The repetitive soundtrack remains a stark reminder of the plodding pace.

Dark Knight Rises continues to explore the moral complexity that is Batman. Police and power are ignored, the wealth of the few purchasing an exclusive set of technologies. Rich boys toys become the plaything of a self-appointed vigilante.

The suspension of belief, so essential to movie making magic, remains a bridge too far. The ending needed an edit, for credits to roll with the entry of Robin, rather than the exit of Batman.

Amid the destruction of opening night, Dark Knight Rises as a poorly made finale to a trilogy of disturbing moral complexity.

Posted by steve at 06:21 PM

1 Comment

  1. Awwww! I watched this before I saw the first two (now have- thank you cheap ebay!) with my 11 year old son and a friend. I wasn’t looking forward to an empty blockbuster but I was blown away by the film and wondered how something so deep could have been made by Hollywood. I would love to see it again and again- especially having now caught up with the trilogy.

    Don’t suppose we can agree on everything though! Thanks, however for another opinion in a well crafted review.

    Comment by Graham — September 27, 2012 @ 9:05 pm

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