Friday, August 10, 2012

Critical Distance: The Dark Knight Rises

Due in part to the late Heath Ledger's iconic portrayal of The Joker, The Dark Knight's huge box-office performance cemented writer-director Christopher Nolan's interpretation of the Batman legend as a zeitgeist-defining spectacle. The three films have aroused a wide range of responses, spanning such topics as the director's aesthetic approach, the self-consciously realistic tone of the films, and even their political underpinnings. In fact, the bounty of critical conjecture and fan praise that followed The Dark Knight was in many ways more important than the film itself, which has become an indirect measure of success in our current age of blockbusters.
Given the enormity of The Dark Knight and the circumstances under which it was released, The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan's third and final entry in the series, was certain to generate similar buzz, despite also shouldering an enormous burden to meet unreasonable expectations. The film represents the most sprawling installment of the series, as well as the most vunerable to criticism. While critical and audience reactions have been mixed, I found it more emotionally involving and less aesthetically jarring than The Dark Knight. Yet, despite my enjoyment as I watched it, I came away from the experience curiously having retained very little of its frenzy of plot and action. The reasons for this are similar to those that plagued the earlier entries. In short, the film is a muddle of images and ideas. As such, however, The Dark Knight Rises is more significant than the previous films in Nolan's trilogy. I would even go as far as to say that it is a defining statement regarding its director, not necessarily due to the concerns and ideas he embeds into the film, but for what it says about his concept of storytelling. I arrived at this somewhere over the course of the film's nearly three-hour running time, during which many character and story arcs converge and expand amid endless jawing about social equality and revolution, before finally deflating and signifying nothing.

Click here to read the full article at Slant Magazine's blog The House Next Door.

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