Was there any ever doubt that The Dark Knight Rises was going to be one of the most talked about and praised films of the summer? Christopher Nolan‘s trilogy had seemingly secured positive reviews before the release date was here thanks to some zealous fans and people who can’t keep their bat-boners of expectation tucked into their utility belts of rationality.
For The Dark Knight Rises to get a truly negative review it would have had to fail massively as both Batman and Nolan have earned a bit of leeway in the judgement department. Now that the film is screening in front of millions, the general consensus seems to be – it’s good! And then we hushedly whisper “but not great.”
I enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises overall, but if you’re looking for a list of everything that was awesome, look elsewhere. For I come not to praise The Dark Knight Rises, but to bury it. (Yes, that’s Shakespeare in reverse.)
To be succinct, The Dark Knight Rises has moments of brilliance and moments of utter stupidity. Here are some of the most glaring instances of stupidity and things that flat out fell short.
Straight away from the trailers we could tell we were in for a questionable time when Bane spoke and the final film version is somehow seemingly worse. We get a kind of muted, breathy, quasi-Scottish accent as Bane’s eyes stare blankly at us and his comical voice issues out from behind his muffling mask. He speaks very early on in the film and my palm immediately met my face – it’s bad. Far worse than Batman’s growling ever was. I’m not sure what he said 35% of the time.
Blake Knows Who the Batman Is Because…
Bruce Wayne has shown us he can perform when the time arises, whether he’s playing drunk or engaging in the role of womanizing socialite. As we know from the books and films, he’s a master actor who can conceal his identity from everyone. Everyone, it seems, except a young Orphan. Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt) has an interaction with Bruce Wayne at some point and can tell by the look on the billionaire’s face that he’s actually the Batman.
Uh, what? That’s it? Maybe if he had also coupled that in with some other stuff, like somehow having knowledge of Wayne Industries weaponry or something, but he just looks at him, guesses he Batman, says that to Wayne and Bruce basically goes “Yup.”
Tell It To Me One More Time
There is plenty of exposition in the film, in case you need to go to the bathroom. Alfred will break down why Bane is a threat for you and explain it on a point by point basis. If the twist catches you off guard, no worries, it will be explained to you. Every single detail will be explained to you through words, not images. The actual ending should not come as any surprise, either, since Alfred also spelled that out, perfectly. In fact, there is very little to misunderstand (save what Bane is saying) because it is all explained to you.
The Central Easily Outwitted Agency
When your asset on the ground introduces himself as “Hi, I’m CIA” you probably aren’t hiring the best people out there. When they also accept three additional prisoners without bothering to check them out, at all, they’re not working at the highest capacity. When they also apparently buy the idea that this plane crashed and nothing was weird about it, come on. The wings would have been found several hundred miles away from the fuselage, so the official cause of the accident would be “both wings pretty much fell off at the same time and then it continued on the same course for several minutes before crashing.
Also, a lot of the bodies had bullets in them and the world renowned physicist had the right blood but the wrong teeth.” Perhaps we’re supposed to believe the government is bumbling which explains why when a city is held hostage by terrorists, the government basically says “Okay” and lets them sit for several months.
The Eight Year Gap
Speaking of long periods of time, how about the eight years that pass? Batman retired for that period of time, which seems out of character, but more importantly we just join in 8 years later without a lot of vital information. Miranda Tate? Where did she come from? Wait she is on the Wayne Enterprises board? Oh, okay. Wait, Bruce Wayne just slept with her? What is their relationship? Must have been a lot happening in those 8 years!
Bruce and Miranda was going to be a separate entry, but I’m filling it in here, though I’m kind of glad Bats got some play with her and Catwoman, as the comic book character had a surprisingly active love life on the page, as opposed to Nolan’s version.
Blake Hates Guns Until He Needs One
When Blake is forced to use his pistol to defend himself, he kills two of Bane’s thugs. Seeing what he’s done, this trained police officer turned detective (sure he’s a young guy, a rookie, but still, he’s trained) looks at the gun in disgust and throws it away. I mean, obviously this is a set-up for him to want to follow the “no gun, no killing” rule of being in Batman Incorporated, but mere moments later when Gordon is in trouble, Blake grabs an upgrade – a 12 gauge shotgun, and he seems ready to blow some people away.
(Almost) Literally Every Cop in the City Goes into the Sewer
Approximately 3,000 police officers head into the sewer on the hunt for Bane. To send that much man-power down there, you must assume that yes, he exists and yes, he is a threat. If he has an underground army that needs 3,000 police officers, you should probably call the National Guard. Who was writing traffic citations that day? Responding to 911 calls? Sending the entire force into the sewer on a manhunt is utterly stupid. Which kind of fits in with…
Foley is Fairly Dumb, But Doesn’t Even Get a Hero’s Death
Foley (Matthew Modine) never trusts Commissioner Gordon. Why would he, Gordon is only a highly decorated and experienced cop. Foley always thinks he knows better, refusing to believe the man, and then deciding to give up on police work and just hide out at home. Gordon finally convinces him to send men to the sewer (he sends all of them, stupidly) and later Gordon convinces him to join the fight.
Foley is supposed to have this heroic turn around and is supposed to get a heroic death, but what he actually does is completely stupid (more on that next), but his death isn’t even really shown. We see Foley heading towards trouble, our vision is obscured, and then he is laying bloodless on the ground, presumably dead. Hell, Agent Coulson got a better death and his death might not be real and was also filmed poorly. Foley deserved a better executed hero’s death if we’re supposed to buy his heroic turn around, not some cut-away then cut-back to a lifeless, bloodless body.
The Police vs The Goons, a Battle of Stupidity
Luckily for the stupid police lead by the incompetent Foley, Bane’s forces are pretty stupid as well. The police who are armed with a few handguns and some night sticks launch their plan of battle: marching down the street against hundreds of men armed with assault rifles who have the support of several tanks. Batman takes out one of the tumblers, why not all of them?
Then the police begin a long run towards the bad guys. Why? Why not try to sneak up at them? Was this the Revolutionary War? You don’t stand in a line and run at guys with guns. Luckily, Bane’s followers have the accuracy of a blind Stormtrooper, as apparently they manage to only kill around twelve of the cops who are standing in a massive line of 3,000, despite having 30 seconds of uninterrupted time to shoot at them as they march forward in a line.
Bane’s Anti-Climactic Death
Batman is one of the world’s most highly trained fighters – Bane is his near equal in terms of technique, and his superior in terms of strength. Their final battle, where both are 100% of their own capacity, should have been one for the ages.
Rather, it kind of fell flat. I’ve never been a fan of Batman’s fighting style of elbows and headbutts in the movies, but here the fight felt extremely lacking as it slowly moved from outdoors to inside. Bats gets the upper hand, but never resoundingly defeats Bane while the villain finally shows off impressive speed and strength (while missing Batman and punishing a wall), but two and two never quite make four and the fight is lackluster. Than Catwoman shows up and shoots Bane with a cannon, which is pretty funny, but not climactic.
Is Batman Ultimately Out of Character?
Nolan’s Bat films like to talk a lot about legends and creating symbols. In this universe, apparently Batman’s ultimate goal is to prove anyone can be Batman, despite the fact in The Dark Knight he clearly tells guys trying to be Batman that they can not be Batman. So I guess only highly trained billionaire’s can be Batman. Regardless, by the end of the film it feels as if Batman from the comics has been completely destroyed. Firstly, Bruce Wayne’s billions are gone and that persona is dead to the world. Hm. Secondly, Batman not only retired from crime fighting for 8 years (because his girlfriend died, boo-hoo), but at the end of this movie he once again retires, tossing the keys of the Batcave to some kid with a sometimes distaste of firearms. Call me crazy, but the Batman from the comics would never so readily give up the cowl, nor would he abandon Gotham after the city has been pretty well destroyed. Make no mistake, Gotham could use Bruce Wayne, billionaire philanthropist, more than ever right now, and if you think all of those thousands of released prisoners just went right back into jail, you’ve got another thing coming.
Despite all these things, I ultimately come down in favor of enjoying The Dark Knight Rises. It is a testament to how much faith we’ve given this world and how much was right. Catwoman was excellent. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne was amazing. Michael Cain and Gary Oldman both turned in stellar performances. Technically most of the film was amazing – save for Foley’s death, which was just poorly executed. Even the happy ending feels okay, despite the question of character raised by it.
Batman has always been a complicated character and this final installment of Nolan’s trilogy is equally complicated. There is so much wrong, so much that is stupid, yet I walked out of the theater happy with what I’d seen. Strange. There was so much room for improvement. So many little story telling things that could have been tweaked. Did we need to see Bruce fall, fall, and fall again (and we knew he was going to have to jump without the rope, right?) only to remember his father telling him via flashback (oh the flashbacks!) that the reason we fall was to get back up? Haven’t we heard that enough?
That’s what bothered me. As you’ve hopefully read, it was quite a bit. Ultimately, as I’ve stressed, the film was enjoyable, but I’m not sure it’s the Batman film we needed, just the one we deserved.
There’s a ton that was great in the movie – but everyone’s talking about that. You can read it elsewhere.
What bothered you about the film?