7.24.2012

Exactly What The Interwebs Needed, Another Opinion Regarding The Dark Knight Rises

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 character.

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 Batman lore.

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.

3 Comments:

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Josh said...

Best article ever! The movie as a whole is a complete mess, doesn't make sense, and doesn't deserve any best picture talk it is getting. I'm hoping though, hoping that there is a 6 hour director's cut that fills in some on the plot holes.

 
At 8:51 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Glad you enjoyed it.

Man, I know you're joking with the 6-hour director's cut, but I'd actually go the other way - edit out 30-40 minutes of meandering crap and maybe try to tighten it up!

 
At 8:01 AM, Blogger Justin said...

OMG.

I actually saw this movie a second time, in IMAX no less, because my cousin was in town visiting and really wanted to see it. First of all, there really wasn't anything special about our IMAX screening other than it being so incredibly loud that you could feel the seats rumble when the Bat-Hover-Helicopter thing flew overhead. Anyway, here are a few more dumb things I noticed;

Bruce gets stabbed by Talia when there's about 15 minutes left in the movie. He's stabbed in the lower abdomen which probably mangled his kidneys or liver or something, yet he proceeds to pilot the Bat, fly around and blow shit up, fly the nuke out to sea, somehow escape that, and all the while he looks just fine, no evidence at all he's been stabbed and would probably be bleeding copious amounts of blood!

Why would Bane blow every single bride into the city - there are montage scenes of him systematically popping every bridge, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM - yet he leaves just one so that there can be some stupid stand off between Robin and the cops??? Huh? If you don't want people crossing the bridges and tell them you'll blow it if they do, why not just blow it in the first place? Totally illogical.

Didja notice that when Bane and crew enter the Gotham City Stock Exchnage it is broad daylight, yet when they leave just 2-3 minutes later (Bane points out there's like 8 minutes until the transaction completes), it is pitch black night when they exit and have the car chase!

I love how in the big Braveheart showdown between Modine's cops and Bane's troops there's a scene of Modine firing a hangun, and when he runs out of ammo and the slide locks back (as all automatics do), he tries to rack the slide (again for some reason?) when any cop who knew the first thing about guns would never do that, but drop the magazine to reload instead. So stupid.

 

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