MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD, CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK
I wanted to love this movie, but ultimately came away
feeling more disappointment than satisfaction. There are definitely some
emotionally and thematically satisfying conclusions to be found, but there
are also tons of problems in terms of basic scripting, technical issues, logic
holes, and cliché moments. In the trilogy’s preceding installment, The Dark
Knight, I always felt the sense that every scene, every line of dialogue, every casting choice,
served a specific purpose. Rises, by comparison, feels much less tight, more rambly, more messy,
with several flat and boring spots, all lacking any real memorable “moments.”
There’s a lot of deus ex machina instead, characters swoop in to save the day
with no logical lead-up. Catwoman entering to save Batman with a well-timed,
well-placed missile shot, and a quip to boot, being one of the more egregious examples.
What follows is a simple list of my grievances, in no particular order, off the
top of my head, after having seen the film just once. I’ve seen the second of
the Christopher Nolan trilogy, The Dark Knight, at least a dozen times now on
HBO, watching either intently, or casually having it on in the background while
I’m reading or making dinner, and there’s nowhere near as many problems with
that film, certainly not to the point I feel pushed out and am no longer able
to maintain suspension of disbelief. I’ll caveat by saying that I was never a
big fan of Batman Begins. What that movie gets right is in the first 2/3 of the
film, with the relatively boring origin, the build-up of the back story, and
then totally whiffs the third act. If I had to rate them, I’d say The Dark
Knight is probably Grade A- achievement, Batman Begins is a competent Grade B,
with The Dark Knight Rises bringing up the rear with a Grade C+.
So that this isn’t entirely gripey, I’ll preface this with what I liked about the movie and what probably
got it the “+” on that grade. I liked Hathaway as Catwoman in terms of her acting
and portraying a character of dubious morality. She’s clever, intelligent, and
sexy, without becoming a parody. The problems I do have with the character are
in the writing and are not really her fault; I’ll get to those later. The ensemble
performances were good, but not as great as they have been previously. Caine, Freeman,
Oldman, they’re all solid performances, but again, I have some issues with the writing
and what we’re asked to believe as an audience, which I’ll get to. I like
that Nolan made a strong effort to include the ascension of a Robin-type
character, though it was an amalgamated, and not entirely effective, way to go
about it. With just one or two tweaks, I’d have been perfectly satisfied with
this. JGL was a good casting choice. It’s one of many examples where Nolan has
shown he can respect the canon and even use it as inspiration, mine it, without
being a slave to it. I like that the movie absolutely ties to the trilogy as a
piece of the whole; Nolan had something definitive he wanted to say, and he
says it on a macro level, even if I have several issues with the micro way in
which he does it. Most important, he focuses on the idea of the Batman as a
symbol that endures, which is really what Bruce set out to accomplish in the
first place. I like that there is a proper end, one which ends Bruce Wayne’s
story, but allows the mythos of the Batman to live on. Even with the script
problems, the huge leaps of logic, the impossibility that the audience is asked
to infer, taken as a whole, the trilogy is still miles better than any of
the Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher, or other crap that preceded it. Here we go...
At times, I feel like the name of the film is just too literal.
The Dark Knight Rises. Like, he
literally has to rise from his Howard Hughes indoor gentleman lifestyle for the
proverbial One Last Mission. Like, he literally rises out of the hell pit so
that he can beat Bane. Yawn. Then you have Joseph Gordon Levitt’s ascension from officer to detective to Robin.
That one’s a little more palatable, probably because of my nostalgia for Robin. I just don’t like getting hit over the head with
the big stick of meaning.
What kind of dopey CIA operative lets dudes onto his plane without first unmasking them and trying to ID them? Nobody back at Langley or the Pentagon sit room was tracking the exfil plane, and thus tracking the big ass plane swooping down on them? Bang up job, boys.
The fight scenes are boring. Most of the time it’s just Bane
and Batman doing nothing but standing in the street as two guys punching the
shit out of each other. Yawn. If you want to see some really stylish fight
choreography that still holds up, check out Grosse Point Blank. There’s a scene
specifically where John Cusack takes on some Hungarian ghoul hitman in the
halls of his high school. I just can’t really buy that Batman can’t defeat Bane
in hand-to-hand combat. As far as I can tell from the movie, Bane’s “powers”
are that he’s really strong and he talks funny. There’s no mention of his
‘roided out injections like in the comics. Isn’t Bruce supposed to be like a
ninja martial artist? Even an old one should do better than this. Sweep the leg, son. Use the crane technique. If do right,
no can defense.
On top of that, Batman is like the billionaire philanthropist
technology superhero guy, right? Why doesn’t Batman use any of his numerous
gadgets to try and defeat Bane? He doesn’t taze him, he doesn’t flick a bunch
of Batarangs into his bare dome, no grappling hook gun to rip off his stupid Darth
Bane mask, no smoke pellets, no incendiary plastique napalm shit, no Scarecrow
hallucinogenic gas, he doesn’t pull any Bat shit from his wicked Bat pouches on his
crazy Bat belt and so on and so forth.
Bruce is also supposed to be the world’s greatest detective,
yeah? So, let me ask you something. If you see some weird-ass looking dude who
talks like a Goldmember casting reject inside a Darth Vader helmet and then you see he’s wearing some
freaky-ass Hannibal Lecter vagina dentata mask, wouldn’t you probably infer
with all your keen investigative ability that it helps him breathe or
something? I mean, nobody wears that fucker because it’s high fashion, they
probably need it for some reason. Don’t you just intuitively try to rip that headgear off
from a distance with your 300-lb. monofilament cable to do some damage? Don’t you work with GCPD
to have a rooftop sniper take him out? I mean, all someone has to do is shoot Bane
in the head to stop him, right? He really shouldn’t be that hard to stop.
Did you notice how some of the cop cars have GPD written on
them? Gotham Police Department. Hasn’t it been established that it’s GCPD? It's little shit like that which bugs me.
For a movie ostensibly about Batman, he’s outshined by the
ensemble cast. Caine is great, if a little weepy. Gordon goes from great to a
little silly (he’s the only guy who doesn’t seem to make the Bruce Wayne/Batman
connection until he’s told, I mean, EVERYONE knows Bruce is Batman, except for
him, at least 8 other characters by my count, and just in case the audience
doesn’t get the visual callback to Officer Gordon putting a coat over young
Bruce in Batman Begins because they went to take a piss during this 3-hour
movie, I’m including trailers, they have Gordon mumble it to himself just to
make it 100% clear!). Hathaway makes Catwoman believable. Morgan Freeman does a
great Lucius Fox, though he does mug for the camera with one-liners a little
too much for me (“yes, Mr. Wayne, it does come in black,” etc.). Shit, even
Matthew Modine looks competent. JGL as Robin fulfilling the “idea” of Batman.
Check, check, check. Bruce is hardly in it, and the only real bit of “acting”
that moved me, where he really seemed to be pushing and stepping outside
himself, was when he and Alfred cry together when they break up.
It seems dumb that the movie would work so hard to bring
Crane back as Scarecrow for his kangaroo court scenes, but then no mention of
The Joker at all? That’s just disrespectful.
Obviously, I realize that there is no real Gotham City and
the movie has to be shot somewhere. There’s parts of Chicago, Pittsburgh,
and some other waterfront cities used to create the illusion, for the most
part I didn’t mind these, but man, there were a couple shots that were so
obviously lower Manhattan, my mind was screaming “THAT’S NEW YORK CITY!” on the
Hudson side, shit you could see the new One World Trade Center clear as day.
Ugh. That bugged me. I don’t want to see bridges into Manhattan being blown up
in the shadow of the new World Trade Center building.
The “Clean Slate” thing (on a little jump drive, no less!) is a really stupid MacGuffin for
Catwoman, to the point that the corporate thug guy even makes fun of it. But,
seriously, Selina is a master thief, great at disguises, sneaks her way
undercover into Wayne Manor, hacks into what is surely an impregnable safe, but
she can’t create a fake identity for herself, flee the country, or hack in to some lame database
to erase her priors? That’s just silly. It just cheapens the smarts of her
The movie telegraphs everything. The second the nuclear
option is introduced, you know Bruce will “sacrifice” himself, mainly because
you’re smart, and even if you weren’t, Alfred’s basically been telling you that's what
will happen for the last 2 hours, you know Marion Cotillard will be Talia Al Ghul
because, umm, she has a Persian accent, they sleep together in a scene almost
straight outta’ that one book that one time, and why else is she in the movie?
(her arrival also totally undermines the development of Bane as the ultimate
baddie, since he’s now reduced to her minion), and even my wife turned to me and
said “is he Robin?” when JGL showed up in the trailers, and she honestly has no knowledge of
Speaking of Robin, let me just say that Dick Grayson/the
very concept of Robin is my favorite character/idea from comics growing up. I
love that dude. The “Robin” presented in The Dark Knight Rises as John Blake is
an interesting amalgam of the three most prominent Robins. He’s sort of the
wayward youth of Jason Todd, the innate detective who discovers Batman’s true
identity of Tim Drake (rhymes with John Blake, duh!), and the Bludhaven cop of
Dick Grayson. The thing is, that all of
those references are largely lost to lay audiences, they only exist for fanboy
recognition, so why not go all the way? I realize that you want to keep
audiences guessing when scripts are leaked online and roles are cast long
before the film opens, and you want to have a cool reveal at the end of your
movie, ok, so be it. But then, why not have JGL say that his real name is
Richard Grayson or Tim Drake when the lady asks? That was a huge ball drop. It
was one of the only things I wanted from this movie and I didn’t really get it.
On top of that, I would have liked to see a stronger, more
explicit mandate for him, some sort of implied understanding between Robin, Bruce
Wayne, Lucius Fox, and Jim Gordon. Let’s leave Alfred out of this round, poor cold coot’s been
through enough pain. Maybe this was subtly in the movie and I’ll pick up with a repeat viewing, but shit, I was getting antsy, I had to pee like an hour
into the thing.
The sound editing was atrocious. I probably was only able to
decipher about half of what Bane said. The movie was plenty loud, but his lines
were just drowned out either by the musical score being overwhelming, loud
explosions and mayhem, or just his marble mouth: “Gotham City wirdfsljls djsdl
back teh dorlks forver!!!” Okay, somebody just shoot that fucker.
The whole timeline in this movie is kinda’ sketchy, no? As
if the twists and turns are just sort of made up as they went along. Given what
we know about Ra’s Al Ghul’s demise, would Bruce and Talia’s ages line up?
Bruce fixed the autopilot on the Batcopter 6 months ago. Why? He never told
Lucius? Because he was anticipating faking his own death with that very device
before any of this shit even started to happen?
So, the Batcopter is obviously incinerated in the nuclear
blast, so how do the Wayne Enterprises technicians even know that he fixed the
software 6 months ago? They have some type of prototype simulator? Why would he
have fixed that one and not just his? Is there some sort of master/slave
relationship to the simulator software and the field units? Was that just his
way of telling Lucius he was still alive? Why don’t Bane’s guys take this
prototype too when they take all the Tumblers? They could have had air
superiority too and fought back when Bruce showed up in his. Lucius told Bruce
it was operational.
I’m wondering why Nolan felt the need to kill Talia? Just to
get closure on all the villains presented? Not really, because The Joker and
The Scarecrow are both assumably still out there. I’m wondering why she
couldn’t just be sent to Blackgate Prison. He could have left that open, allowing fanboys
to assume she was pregnant with Damian. Fanboys would have eaten this up.
The whole Ra’s/Talia/Ducard/Bane flashback lineage was
terribly confusing. At first, The Ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn tells Bruce in the Wampa Cave that he was
the mercenary and that Bane is Ducard’s son, and that Bane is the one who
escaped from the prison pit. But then we’re told no, that’s not it, Talia is
the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul, and it was really her who escaped from the prison
pit, Bane was merely her helper dude. So, is Bane still Ducard’s son? Does it
matter? I don’t know. Isn’t Ra’s depicted as, like, Mongolian or something, in
Batman Begins? If so, then why does his daughter look Mediterranean or Middle
Eastern and have a Persian accent? But, wait, you say! Ken Watanabe was just a
decoy, not the real Ra’s Al Ghul. Oh, that’s right! Ducard is the real Ra’s Al
Ghul. I forgot. So Bane is not Ducard/Al Ghul’s son, but Talia is, and Bane was still
just a random helper guy, but then why did Ducard/Bane/Your Mom/Will The Real
Ra’s Al Ghul Please Stand Up leave his daughter and heir to world domination in
a prison pit? See what I’m saying? Confusing, especially for a lay audience who
probably didn’t go to the nine hour Batman Begins/The Dark Knight/The Dark
Knight Rises marathon at the local cineplex.
Hey man, I suffered a line-of-duty back injury that resulted
in two herniated discs in my neck and a hairline fracture on my spine. I was
hospitalized and the entire right side of my body was numb and I couldn’t walk
for a week. I was in rehab for over a year. So, I’m pretty sure that if your
back is flat out broken, assuming you didn’t die from the initial shock and
trauma and internal hemorraghing, that you probably need more than just rest in
a dark cold cave, malnourishment, sweaty malaria toilet water, a few push-ups, and some old
fart slapping your ass before you heal right up in a few weeks and go base
jumping down at the old mine on an old hemp rope with no safety harness. Yeah, even
if you are Bruce Wayne.
By the way, what kind of hooptie prison encourages prisoners
to try and climb out? No guards at the top, huh?
And where the hell is that prison, anyway? It looks like
it’s supposed to be in some arid vaguely Middle Eastern or at least Eastern
European (one of the ‘stans probably?) country, so how does Bruce get back to Gotham City so fast with no
vehicles, no ID, no money, no idea what’s going on in the world since he
stupidly broke the only TV, etc.?
How does he actually get into Gotham when we’re explicitly
told it’s locked down tight, nobody in or out? Yet he waltzes right in just at the
precise second that Catwoman needs him. Because it’s pretty easy to find one
person in a post-apocalyptic city of millions that’s been cut off from the
outside world, with no power, web connection, none of your crime-fighting gear, etc. He also has just enough time
to plant his cute little reveal with the flare and the improvised Bat symbol
for variant edition action figure Gordon-On-Ice? Shit, why not just repair the
Bat spotlight at the GCPD rooftop, isn’t that more dramatic? Jazz Hands!
The Bat copter just happens to be right where Batman left it
atop Wayne Tower? If Bane knows Batman is Bruce Wayne, wouldn’t that be one of
the first places he’d go and poke around? I mean, he obviously found the armory
beneath the building, where Applied Sciences is, right? He would have also
found the board members holed up there, given that Talia is there with them and
she’s actually the puppet master pulling Bane’s strings.
Security at Wayne functions sucks! Ra’s Al Ghul crashes his
party in Batman Begins and torches Wayne Manor. The Joker crashes the Harvey
Dent fundraiser in The Dark Knight. Catwoman infiltrates Wayne Manor as a maid
to steal the pearls and prints here in Rises. You’d think security would have already been be
pretty good, no? You’d think maybe they would have upgraded security since all
of these other incidents occurred, no? I don’t know any billionaires, but the
millionaires I know have pretty ace security. Maybe do some background checks
on your catering staff, yo.
Wait, how did Lucius Fox and the board of Wayne Enterprises
lose the entire company’s money in just 8 years? That’s not very realistic.
Wait, it’s 8 years later and Gotham City still has the same
mayor? That’s not very realistic.
Wait, they’re celebrating the anniversary of Harvey Dent’s
death 8 years later, why? That’s not very realistic.
Wait, an ace cop like Commissioner Jim Gordon would carry a written powder keg speech/confession around in his pocket that incriminates him in a massive cover-up involving prominent Gothamites so that a terrorist could find it later and use it? That's not very realistic.
I’m not sure how your Board of Directors works, but one
random chick just can’t take over because Bruce Wayne tells her to. Last I
checked, they’d just kicked Bruce out of a meeting since he wasn’t technically a member.
This doesn’t make any sense in the real world, and it doesn’t make any sense
within the internal rules we’re provided with in the movie.
I still think that squeezing The Joker and (full-on) Two
Face into The Dark Knight was a mistake. No movie needs two villains. I think that movie should have been
primarily The Joker’s moment to shine, and it could have ended with Dent in the
hospitable bed. Reveal at the end of the credits is Dent looking at the camera
to get the first Two Face reveal. That sets Two Face up to be the villain in the
third movie. You still could have had him determined to destroy Gotham, the
city that destroyed him, being manipulated by Talia Al Ghul at the higher
level. Bane is just a dumb villain, even if you do want someone to break Batman’s
back. The Dark Knight Rises then takes on yet another additional layer of
meaning as The Dark Knight Rises against the former White Knight of Gotham,
Harvey Dent. If y’all need a script doctor, you know where to find me.
So, wait, Wayne Enterprises is basically bankrupt because
Bane broke into the Gotham City Stock Exchange and pulled off some major
securities fraud, or something? That’s what happened? Umm, wouldn’t the SEC
just step in and reverse those transactions and deem them invalid since they
were obviously made under duress by a terrorist?
If you’re Bane and you know Bruce Wayne is Batman, in
addition to going to Wayne Tower, wouldn’t one of the first places you went
also be Wayne Manor? Wouldn’t homes have found the Batcave? I mean, he found the
armory, he found the fusion emitter doodad, he found everything else, why not
look in one of the most obvious places? Speaking of, that’s confusing too. So,
let’s try to list all the places Batman has cool stuff. There’s the Batcave,
there’s the “armory,” which I think is the Applied Sciences warehouse under
Wayne Tower, there’s the hidden elevator office place that the reactor thing is
under, there’s the other hidden shipping container thing where Bruce goes for
the extra suit after he comes back to Gotham, and there’s assumably some less
secure “safe house” type places around the city, like were he stashes the
Batpod for Selina, etc. That’s a lot to keep track of, and I’m never clear on
what Bane does/doesn’t know about (not to mention how he knows) and if that
is/isn’t very logical. Fox assures us some of it is “locked down,” but Bane
finds it anyway. Wouldn’t he have found it all?
Sending all 3,000 cops underground to face an unknown
terrorist threat has to be one of the worst tactical plans in law enforcement
history. Also, 3,000 on the force seems like a terribly inaccurately low
number. Gotham City is supposed to be as big, if not bigger, than New York
City, yes? NYC has 34,500 total employees in uniform. Just some basic fact
checking there, Chris. Seems impossible that Bane and an army of, let’s say 200
loyalists in the League of Assassins (or is it the League of Shadows? the movie
uses both terms interchangeably) and a bunch of looting rabble could overtake
that army of trained and outfitted personnel operating under the incident
command system with a few military special forces supporting them. It’s
ludicrous when you really think about it.
So, bottom line, Talia and Bane want the fusion energy
thing, right? If that’s the end goal, why go through all of this other charade
bullshit? JUST STEAL IT. They know where it is, they have the scientist that
can weaponize it, and they just need to kidnap 3 high level Wayne Enterprises
employees who have hand geometry recognition clearance on the activation pad. If Talia has
successfully infiltrated the company, she could easily pull off an insider
kindapping. Don’t even fuck with Batman, just do all that shit and nuke Gotham
City, him included. End of story. It just shows how convoluted the script and
everyone’s motivations are. They go about things in the least direct manner
possible, all in an effort to hoodwink the audience and involve the Batman,
while advancing the flimsy byzantine plot.
Lastly, and possibly the most cheat-y absurd thing is that
we actually see Bruce in the cockpit of the Batcopter thing with just 5 seconds
left on the explosive device. So, how in the hell does he escape (what we’re
explicitly told is) the 6 mile radius of the nuke? He, let’s see, he… ejects
from the craft, which we don’t even know is a possibility of the vehicle, nor do
we see it actually occur, so that, umm, Catwoman, yeah, let’s go with Catwoman,
picks him up in another craft, like a Batsubmarine, which she also knows how to pilot, just like she knows how to drive the Batpod, I'm sure it's exactly like a motorcyle, ask all the women you know if they know how to drive a motorcyle, much less a Batpod, a plan which is never
discussed, another craft which we’ve never seen, which is waiting for him at
the exact place he ejects to, and they race to safety, in order to board a
commercial flight to Florence, Italy as wanted fugitives with no ID and no
money from a city that has been cut off from the rest of the civilized world to
live happily ever after without any financial means or sources of income, under
false identities they have not yet created so that nobody can trace them, but I’m
sure Alfred will just casually bump into them in the unnamed café from his
daydream, and they do this before time runs out on the nuclear countdown clock,
a device which isn’t on any nuclear device or IED known to man, but only exists
in the movies, and they do all this in… wait for it… the 5 seconds we’re shown
that are left.