Christopher Nolan has develped a reputation for writing and directing the thinking man's summer blockbusters. Ever since his incredible debut Memento (still worth watching today), he's delivered solidly entertaining movies with food for thought. However, I caught The Dark Knight Rises last night and after having pondered it all day, I think that Nolan has lost his way.
This is not to say that TDKR was a bad movie. Far from it - the movie had more than its fair share of SFX thrills, great acting (Anne Hathaway was a relevation), creepy bad guys (for 3/4s of the movie, Bain is about as good as a villain as you can ask for) and dramatic scenes. And like Nolan's previous Batman movies, he poses pleanty of interesting questions about justice and society. What's been bothering me is how he's either refrained from answering those questions or has answered them in a way that seems logically incoherant. For instance, (and SPOILER ALERT for anyone who hasn't seen the film,) when Bain takes over Gotham in a strange mix of populist and anarchist leadership, I think we're supposed to believe that the people of the city are all participating in the mahem of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor - we just don't actually see any of this happening. Instead, we see either people we're led to believe are hardened criminals or Bain's League of Shadows trained army doing the looting. Where are the common people in the movie? Are they blindly accepting Bane or is there resistance? Is anyone ambiguous about what's occurring? It's never really clear, partly because the movie moves so fast, lurching from one dramatic moment to the next, resulting in another superhero movie where the elete (leaders or superhumans) debate and control the lives of millions of people without us actually seeing or hearing from any of these people - a contradiction of one of the main themes of the movie!
I write the above as just one example of the messiness of the film. There's pleanty more where that comes from, but i'm not enough of a geek to list them all - I honestly don't care that much about it. But for a movie that so obviously strives to be so much more that strict popcorn entertainment, I get the sense that Nolan has started settling for simply posing deep questions without attempting to deal with them in any serious manner, leading to my suspicion that his recent films are morally hollow. And there's nothing wrong with that! I like empty entertainment as much as the next guy. It's just not where I suspected such a promising director to end up.