The oddest people pop up here and there in the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, from Aidan Gillen (of Queer as Folk, The Wire) to Ben Mendelsohn (of Animal Kingdom) to Burn Gorman (of Torchwood, The Hour). In fact, playing “who is that actor, I know I’ve seen him someplace before” actually became one of the greatest pleasures in watching the movie. For the record, The Dark Knight Rises is better than The Amazing Spider-Man, but not as good as The Avengers, and kind of, sort of feels like a franchise running out of steam. The first half is filled with a lot of talk. A lot of talk. I mean, a whole lot of it. And all of the philosophical sort. While this sort of tete a tetes between characters gave The Dark Knight a certain excitement (I can still remember the conflicts over whether the existence of a Batman was a good or bad idea and what the existence of the Joker meant in all it), here the arguments tended to fall flat, leaden down by a certain banality. I quickly discovered that during most of it, if I looked around at the audience and studied the lighting fixtures on the ceiling, the time passed more quickly and I didn’t miss a thing when it came to plot. As you can tell, The Dark Knight Rises didn’t really work for me. It wasn’t a totally loss. There were some excellent performances, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Blake, an ambitious police officer who was an orphan like Bruce Wayne. Anne Hathaway was tres, tres amusement as Catwoman and enlivened every scene she was in (delivering her lines with a claw like emphasis—though I do wish she would gain a few pounds). Marion Cotillard also acquitted herself well in a role that didn’t allow her to do much for most of the movie. But the big problem came down to the performances of Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Tom Hardy as the bad guy du jour Bane—neither of which were the actors’ fault. The authors here (director Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer) have never been able to make Bruce Wayne nor his alter ego remotely interesting. What the character had in money, he always seemed to severely lack in personality. Hardy had a different problem. He wasn’t just hampered by a mask that hid his mouth (his most endearing feature), as well as prevented him from visually sharing his emotions (and also made it difficult to understand what he was saying—well, that wasn’t the mask, that was the sound engineers, I suppose). He also played a character whose motivation for his actions were never very convincing and never made a lot of sense for most of the movie, and, to speak the truth and shame the devil, his bad guy just didn’t come near the complexity, power and evilness of the Joker. There are a couple of big surprises at the end, both of which are fairly obvious about half way through the film, if not sooner. And for me, the scenes that would have interested me the most, that would have given the movie that something more, were never fully dramatized—what Manhattan would look like under a fascist dictatorship run by a group of criminals. In fact, this whole section never really made a great deal of sense to me. Bane has said he is going to set off a nuclear weapon on an exact day, but no one seems to act like it. It feels like one of these brilliant ideas that was never used to its utmost advantage. In fact, the whole movie seemed rather tame in comparison to The Dark Knight. The violence seemed less cruel and capricious; whether it did or not, it felt as if so much of it happened off screen. It’s supposed to feel like anarchy has taken over, but it never felt particularly anarchic. This time round Nolan, as director, only seems to come into his own when directing the action scenes where once again, New York becomes the new Tokyo (has any plot turn become a cliché so fast). But when it came to the rest of the movie, it all sort of fell flat.