2012 has brought us quite the collection of action packed super hero films: The Amazing Spider-Man, the Avengers, and Judge Dredd and of course the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series The Dark Knight Rises. The film was released on July 20th and the DVD/blu ray release has hit stores. So why did it take me over five months to write a review about the film? Well, that’s a complicated answer with a complicated review of the film.
First let me say that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are the two best super hero movies out there. Yes, that is correct. While Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man and The Avengers are in my top 5, Nolan’s Batman films were flawless. But you may notice that I left DKR out of the top ten. What makes this film so complicated for me to review, examine or even understand it, is that this film has so many things going for AND against it. As we all know The Dark Knight left us with Harvey Dent’s fall from grace, killing those he deemed has wronged him, Batman taking the blame for his crimes and nursing a broken heart as well as a broken leg. It was a great ending. It resolves important issues as well as created new ones, leaving the audience questioning what would happen in Nolan’s universe and if Batman’s and Gordon’s sacrifices were worth the effort; if you think about it, they’re putting Gotham’s hope of redemption on a lie. That’s what truly made the film dark. Not the growling Batman voice or Joker’s demented schemes, it was the choices that the ‘Heroes’ made.
It was nothing short of brilliant.
We had to wait four long years to see what would happen to the Dark Knight. I would often talk with WGI contributor William White about which directions the film would go in, and if possible, could the next film trump TDK. One thing we would agree on is that it doesn’t have to better than its predecessor it just had to be a good film. I was confident. Nolan’s next film Inception only heightened my excitement for the next Batman film. However, just because Nolan hits a home run with the likes of Memento and The Dark Knight, does that guarantee that his next film will be just as good? Let’s examine!
Right off the Bat (no pun intended)…(okay maybe there was a pun intended)…I was concerned about the movie by the opening. I’m not referring to the scene in which Bane and his aerial ninja squad tear apart a plane, I speak of the very first scene in which Commissioner Jim Gordon gives a speech about Harvey Dent. This felt a little out of place. I thought maybe by the film’s end it would make a little more sense but I think all it served was a “previously on Dark Knight…” which we don’t really need. I believe in Harvey Dent; I don’t believe in this opening.
The film then jumps to an amazing opener that really could have fit into a Bond film, which I like for a Batman film. It’s different. While the scene is over the top, it does have Nolan’s sense of hyper reality that is rarely seen in comic book adaptations. We are also introduced to the main antagonist of the film, BANE. A hulking individual with a furnace attached to his head that makes him sound more like a computer than a human being (he also sounds very jovial as well.) Perhaps it was intentional? Nolan does love his villain to have unique voices. I’m not going to say much in regards to the voice because you’ve read and seen all the complaints, praise and farce surrounding Tom Hardy’s vocal interpretation. I do give Hardy credit for his acting in this. Unlike the Joker, Two-Face, Crane and Ras Al Ghul we never see Bane’s face, save for a very small sequence. He had to convey so much through his eyes. Of all the cinematic rogues, Bane was the most unnerving. I mean no disrespect to past villains; Joker was creepy but compelling. Bane was insane but I did not know to what extent. There is something frightening about a character who quietly calculates his every move as oppose to the anarchy driven Joker.
Meanwhile back at a normal altitude at a Harvey Dent fundraising event, we learn that thanks to Dent’s “sacrifice” Gotham City now has in place an act named after the him that allows Gotham to arrest/imprison gangs without parole. Gordon goes to give a speech to tell the world what really happened, he’s got it written down and kept “safe” in his coat pocket. He backs down, choosing to give this city another year of his AND Batman’s lie.
Here’s what a loved about the film (at this point). That these characters have brought the city to a state of peace built on a lie. I also liked that this was secretly eating Jim Gordon inside; the consequences of this decision are great. Gordon’s wife and kids have moved away and Bruce Wayne? Well, he grew a goatee and walks with a limp and listens to Elliott Smith and cries in the Bat cave…I mean the East Wing.
This I did not like about the film (at this point). Bruce locks himself up in his new Manor and stops being Batman because of being responsible for the death of Rachel Dawes. (Yawn). He also steps away from his company and due to his absence; his family’s company begins to fail…miserably. Whoa, time out. Bruce Wayne runs his family’s business into the ground. HIS FAMILY…the reason why he is BATMAN. If anything the death of Dawes should have been more motivation to get on the Bat-pod and kick some ass! Wasn’t vengeance the fuel for the beast? Remember in the classic film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm when Bruce Wayne believed that Andrea Beaumont was killed? Did he go crawl into the east wing? No. Did he grow a goatee more suited for 3:10 to Yuma ? No. Did he stop being the Batman? HELL NO!!! If anything, it drove him further into the Bat cave both physically and metaphorically!
There are also these awkward scenes where everyone in Bruce Wayne’s life tries to get him to come back into the world. They dangle ‘Miranda Tate’ in front of him like a toy. Really? Every one is trying to get Bruce Wayne laid?
Alfred can’t bring Bruce back from the depths of his emotional despair. His family’s business can bring him back, but what does? Young rookie cop, John Blake. He drives up to Wayne ’s house and reveals to him in an awkward monologue about how he was an orphan, Wayne came to the orphanage with car and fine ladies. But Blake could see through the lies. Oh the Lies! He knew deep down he wasn’t happy and was wearing a mask to hide his pain…a Batman mask. Yup. He done and figured it out! Rich dude who can’t act happy equals Batman. Apparently Wayne and Blake speak “orphan” and that’s how they connect because no body in this whole God damn film could. That’s right, not even Gotham ’s own Commissioner James Gordon could figure out that the kid he once put his coat around would later be the Dark Knight. Not cool. And with this scene of “I know you’re Batman!” Bruce Wayne decides to go the doctor and be Batman. And all it took was a leg brace! The magic of medical science!
And then there is Catwoman, I mean Selina Kyle (She’s never called Catwoman in this movie) whom I’m sorry had no business being in this movie. I love Nolan to pieces but I hate his female characters. They are written into these films to move the plot and motivate the male lead while having barely any back story of their own. To be fair, this is true of almost every super hero film in existence but it’s almost like Nolan doesn’t even try! He should give Joss Whedon a call. Nolan’s Kyle has a very simple back story, she’s a tough kid on the mean streets who had to do anything to survive and wants a fresh start in life. Now here I guess I could make the comparison to Whedon’s own cat suit wearing female lead, The Black Widow. While both do have a somewhat shadowy pasts and want to wipe the slate clean Widow isn’t around for say Captain America to get over losing Peggy Carter. She’s just as involved in the fight as the other Avengers. For a lack of better words, Ms. Kyle is just there to give Bruce Wayne a chance at a life without Batman and forget about ol’ what’s her name (Rachel Dawes)! However, I do appreciate that in a movie with complicated plots and subplots, her motivations were simple.
To a certain extent I get what they were trying to do. Bruce going from a woman who was from his old life, the life of his parents being alive before his world shattered, his bridge back to some piece of that world, a world that could not defend itself to Selina Kyle Catwoman, a woman who could defend herself and… likes to wear tight black leather. I can see what they were trying to do, I just don’t appreciate Nolan’s execution of this idea.
That also brings me to another point with Nolan’s film and actually…most of his films. It seems to me that the only way this guy can get a story across is if people talk about it. Look at Inception for example, there’s a verbal montage about the rules of the film and dreams with dreams and the layers of the dream and blah blah. And I loved that movie but sometimes “explaining things” can bog down a movie. Movies are about visual story telling, not a lecture.
Once Bruce finally decides to become Batman again he’s flying around in a giant black eye sore called quite brilliantly…The Bat. Thanks, Lucius. It looks more like a bug than a bat. The film becomes more and more unfocused by this point. Bane hatches a plan to…something involving the stock exchange? They walk in and shoot up the place then leave with motorcycles that I guess they had stored inside? Batman does a terrible job chasing down this villain. We know this because it suddenly switches from day to night, must have been a long chase and it’s also a totally random action sequence. I was a little confused at first and then realized that ultimately, the plan was to deplete Wayne ’s funds. Leading to Bruce being locked out of his house…he doesn’t have a key. The god damned Batman doesn’t have a key??? Really????
Tate shows up out of the blue and together they climb through a window, look at a picture of Rachel Dawes…then get naked by the fire. I tell ya, nothing turns me on like looking at a picture of my dead girlfriend, especially when I feel responsible. Once Tate is asleep Bruce becomes the Dark Knight and goes out to face Bane with the help of Catwoman. The two struck a deal that if she helped him he would give her some kind of techno McGuffin that would wipe her slate clean…may as well have been the tesseract. But if there is anything that comic books have taught us over the years is that never trust Anne Hathaway in a cat suit. You see it’s a trap! Cue Return of the Jedi meme!
Bane’s been waiting for Batman the whole time and he knows he’s Batman. Does Bane speak orphan too?? No…He’s from the League of Shadows!!! Holy shit! It’s circular! This was awesome. I love the idea that some part of the League of Shadows were out there, and eventually they would come back for Batman. “You betrayed us.” Bane hisses from the darkness. Then their battle begins. This was brutal and even a little heart breaking. Prior to this scene Alfred and Bruce have a following out, which at the time I really didn’t care about. Alfred however did warn him that Bruce was aging and this Bane guy just may be too much for him. Bruce now must face off against this new terror that has had the same training as him, alone. The outcome leaves both Bruce and Batman broken. Nolan actually gives a nice little shout out to Dixon ’s famous Detective Comics cover of Bane breaking the bat over his knee. Now Gotham is truly alone as “this evil rises.”
This brings me to my next point. There seems to be this crutch that Hollywood has when it comes to sequels; they can’t tell the next chapter without going bigger, both in terms of action and drama. Like each of Nolan’s Batman films HAS to be darker than the other. And it seemed to Nolan that the best way to do that would be to break Bruce Wayne on all fronts. They had to take away his money, his home, his leg apparently, his father figure and ultimately his Batman. Which would be more heartbreaking if being Batman was how Wayne coped with the world. But Nolan took that away by having him not be Batman for eight years! Now, it doesn’t seem to matter whether he’s Batman or not.
Gotham is left to defend itself as Bruce is hauled off into some prison in a dessert third world country. Bruce is forced to lay on his back and watch television to witness how Bane will tear his city apart and even worse watch Maury Povich. Here the film becomes Shawshank Redemption where Bruce Wayne portrays framed banker Andy Dufresne and some monk looking dude plays Red (fun film fact, Morgan Freeman played Red in Shawshank Redemption. What you knew that? Did you know that Bruce Wayne is Batman?? You did?? Wow what a great little detective you are! Maybe YOU should be Batman. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.) The reason why I compare TDKR to Shawshank is that there is this whole chunk of time devoted to “finding yourself” and realizing that no walls can truly hold us and that we can all be prisoners to the past and we can be free if we choose to and all the while he has a buddy there to share these wondrous moments with. Bruce goes through all of the cliché Hollywood redemption and believe it or not I liked it. I liked going back into the cave (so to speak), reexamining the origin story. Bruce has clearly lost his way and now he must “rise” from the pit of despair to be the Dark Knight again. I could totally get behind it. I just wish it was done better. For one thing, you don’t just pop an exposed vertebrae or what ever ‘Red” the Monk told him back into place and then do a bunch of push ups. However I did enjoy the visual nod to the first film, the pit that Bruce must climb out of looks similar to the well he tumbled down into in Batman Begins. “And why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.” Loved it. I thought it was great, so great in fact that I was willing to forgive all the other nonsense that took place in the movie. But then the rest of the movie happened.
Meanwhile Gotham has turned into a Charles Dickens novel facing French-like revolution. Image Les Misérables, well actually it should be easy, this film will also feature Anne Hathaway minus the cat suit and add a boy’s haircut. Sexy, right? Anyway, I digress…again. Bane frees the criminals because he deemed it unfair that Commissioner Gordon imprisoned those men based on a lie. Remember when Gordon conveniently left that letter it his coat pocket? Yup. Bane has that now. He also has the entire police force holed up beneath a football. Seriously he does, and he it’s not even worth writing about. He’s also putting all of Gotham ’s rich folks on trial where Judge Crane tells them they can either be killed or walk across a frozen lake and hope you don’t freeze to death. Oh and yes, the same Jonathon Crane who puts on a scarecrow mask to deal drugs is the judge of Bane’s new system. Why is it we get to see how Scarecrow is doing but not Joker? I understand the Nolan wanted to respect Heath Ledger and his amazing performance but not mentioning the character at all seems…disrespectful. It also doesn’t make any sense in Nolan’s hyper reality. That would be like no body talking about Bin Laden after eight years. And yes I just compared Bin Laden to the Joker. You just don’t suddenly forget about someone who caused that level of damage. The guy blew up a hospital for goodness sake!
Out of the shadows walks Bruce Wayne, showered and clean shaven. Now, I understand he’s Batman but how the hell did he get back in? Bane blew up all the bridges!!! Or how’d he get back in the country with no money or a passport?? Man, he is really resourceful! He and Catwoman team up again for God knows why, I mean she betrayed him to Bane!
When Batman finally gets “back in the game” it’s…pretty lame. There’s this awful bit where Batman meets up with Gordon on the frozen ice and tells him to light up a flare which reveals a large flaming bat on a bridge. Ugh. You mean while Gotham is tearing itself apart you’re running around with gasoline to paint Batman symbols? WEEAAAK.
What is also a major let down is the final confrontation between Bane and Batman. It’s just so anticlimactic. The guy broke his back and it’s just Batman screaming at him in that god awful voice. Batman isn’t even the one that does him in, it’s Catwoman on the bat-pod! We also finally get the big reveal that everyone knew about that Miranda is actually Talia Al Ghul. The back story goes a little something like this: Ras Al Ghul was a bit of a player and fell in love a drug dealer’s daughter. So quite naturally she is later imprisoned and impregnated. She gives birth, dies, and Bane raises her. Ras finally finds her and tries to bring her and Bane into the League but they realize that for a band of killer ninja assassins, Bane just plays too dang rough! So he boots them out where they pout in the dessert. And boy was she mad about that! When she learns that Batman didn’t kill but didn’t have to save her father, I don’t know how she figured that out she comes running back to Gotham to avenge her father and complete his mission to bring the city to its knees. Huh? This makes NO sense. So your father kicked you and motor-mouth out of his fun club house, hate him for a while and just on a whim decide to avenge him??
Also, remember the bomb? Well, it’s ticking and of course time is running out. Our hero jumps in The Bat and flies off into a nuclear sunset. The bomb was dangling from the bottom of the bat like a damn dingle berry. It actually reminded me of the 1960’s Adam West Batman film where he’s running around with a bomb over his head!
Officer Blake looks on in horror. The Knight has fallen and the city must move on with a Batman statue. The city went from hating him and being public enemy number one to the hero we deserved and needed after all. Of course with Batman gone, that means that Wayne too is dead. Leaving an awkward scene with Jim Gordon reading from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities cause we just didn’t get enough nods to the French revolution and Alfred crying to Wayne ’s dead parents. Bruce’s final wish is that the Wayne manor becomes a home for orphans and the money goes to Alfred. Now as much as I hate Gordon reading fucking Dickens, I’m willing to let it slide. What comes next kills me.
Officer John Blake is summoned to the reading of Wayne ’s will where he learns that he inherited a duffel bag. When he goes to collect his inheritance we learn that John Blake is not his full name. “Oh, I like your full name……ROBIN.”
GET THE F*CK OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW.
He’s ROBIN?? WHAT?? Now, hear me out. Believe it or not I don’t mind that he’s Robin and that he’s going to inherit more than a dirty gym bag. I do not like how heavy handed and in your face this bullshit is. This feels pretty beneath Nolan and a total cop out. It’d be great if his “birth name” was Dick Grayson or Tim Drake or Jason f*cking Todd! Well Mr. Robin Blake gets a bag full of instructions and direction that lead him to the Bat cave. So yeah he’s the new god damn Batman. Which I don’t mind. I like the idea of Bruce passing the torch. In Nolan’s universe there is no way Bruce Wayne could be Batman forever. Hell, even Harvey Dent calls him out on this in The Dark Knight. I just didn’t appreciate how this was handled. It would have been great if they ended it like in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, where Bruce, after faking his death, trains a new generation of vigilante.
What really tore my hair out was the part where Alfred is hanging out in France chilling at a table and who does he see…? Bruce Wayne. Alive and well hanging out with Selina Kyle while she wears his mother’s pearls. “OOOOOOhhhhh gooood for youuuuuuuuu!” To quote Christina Bale on the set of Terminator: Salvation. First off, how did he live through being stabbed by Talia? How did he survive a nuclear explosion?? All the movie has to offer is some poor excuse “He fixed the autopilot.” That’s it. That’s all we get. What also makes me want to go snap this disc like Batman’s back is that, Bruce Wayne if you think about it or at least the persona that he presents, is the DC Universe Kim Kardashian. He really is, especially in these films. He’s born into wealth, travels, drinks, parties, sleeps around and burns his house down. He’s also very well known. If Kim Kardashian is sitting in public drinking a martini in Paris , so is Bruce Wayne. Also no one notices that Bruce Wayne and Batman are both dead? Man, no wonder everybody stays in Gotham , they’re all idiots. They are also very sexist.
Recently WGI contributor Maggie Curtis pointed out “Did anybody find it strange that there were NO female police officers?” Or that it was only the cops that were fighting in the streets. If that was New York , no way would it only be the police fighting in the streets. All in all I’d say how woman were written in this film might be the most offensive part. Every female character represents betrayal. Rachel chooses Dent over Wayne. Selina Kyle betrays Wayne to Bane, and Miranda Tate, who was never who she said she was, betrayed Wayne and the city they were born to protect. Notice how these women don’t act alone, there always some sort of men involved that they either choose to be with, or wish to serve. Even though Kyle changes sides and decides to help Batman she does it because he has the power to change her whole life. He may as well have a Bat dick in the box. In Nolan’s universe women can not defend themselves and if they can they are sinister and two faced. Kyle wears a mask while Talia Al Ghul wears the mask of do-gooder and defenseless Miranda Tata. This is how comics damage relationships with girls and women and even effect the perception that growing boys have on women. Comics show that women are either weak or evil and this movie only reinforces these ideas. So my fellow dudes, there’s a reason why not many dudettes read comics. This is also insulting to men that we cannot stand alone with there being a woman to pine over, fight for, avenge and be our salvation. We have to break the notion of the refrigerator girlfriend. This is why Avengers worked; you had female characters who worked alongside the men, were an equal part of the team and didn’t wait around to be saved.
Here’s what should have happened: Rachel Dawes is killed, Bruce Wayne’s only link to the past and a possible future free of Batman. Rather than have him hiding in a room he should be the Dark Knight on crack, hunting down every criminal both great and small and the while being hunted by the police, always one step ahead. He should be like Walter White but with out making all the meth. He gets so deep into being Batman that he walks a thin line between protecting the law. This would terrify Alfred and make Gordon doubt his choices with Batman even more. The city and its criminals would truly fear the Knight. But this brings both Gordon and Batman to near physical and emotional exhaustion. So when Bane rises up they’re not prepared. You could still have Bane breaking Batman and throwing him into that prison where he has his great reawakening. Come back to Gotham finish Bane in a more climatic fashion where we all give a shit about the outcome. You could still have the death fake out but leave Bruce involved with the new Batman. Because the Batman I knew growing up was Batman with or without the mask.
-Bruce Wayne sinking his parents company into the ground. His parents. The reason he’s BATMAN.
-John Blake knowing Bruce is Batman and there by…
-Making Jim Gordon the worse detective. EVER.
-“I like your full name ROBIN”
-Talia’s motivation for taking over Gotham
-Bruce Wayne being a hermit
-Suddenly over coming issues because Bruce heard a story about orphans
-Walking off a back injury with push ups
-No explanation of the Joker but we keep seeing Crane
-Bruce meeting Alfred in Italy ? He’s like a Kardashian, somebody would have recognized him.
-Making it circular, tying back to the League of Shadows
-Batman passing the torch to a new Bat Generation
-The consequences from Dark Knight are still present in this film.