Rating: 2 Stars
The following review contains spoilers.
The Dark Knight Rises is a muddled mess. It’s like if some writer’s assistants were hurriedly carrying three different versions of a Dark Knight Rises screenplay to the producer’s office when they collided in the hallway, dropping the scripts. Gathering them all together with no time to sort through them before delivery, the producers ended up with an incoherent 2-hour-and-45-minute jumble of themes and ideas and plots and twists.
So Bane comes into Gotham, eight-years since anyone last saw Batman active. In the meantime the death of Harvey Dent (thought by the public to have been murdered by Batman) has inspired the Dent Act, which somehow has eliminated almost all crime. Apparently no one had previously thought to make organized crime illegal. In Chris Nolan’s Batman universe, the main impediment to cleaning up Gotham was that the cops didn’t have the legal authority to arrest the criminals and the courts couldn’t convict them. Also, the Dent Act, which came about because Dent was murdered by a vigilante, in no way targets vigilantes. And what’s more there’s a fear that if the public ever learned the truth about Dent that somehow the Dent Act would be repealed and they’d have to let all the criminals free. Also, everyone still talks about Batman all the time and how much they miss him, despite apparently believing he murdered this great man.
Anyway, Bane. At first he’s working with John Daggett to help Daggett ruin Bruce Wayne and facilitate a takeover of Wayne Enterprises, but this turns out to be a cover for Bane inserting explosives all over the city via Daggett’s construction company. Bane’s overall goal is to take over Gotham and give the city “back” to “the people”, but his real overall goal is just to blow it up after five months. He’s doing all this at the behest of Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s al Ghul. Ra’s wanted to blow up Gotham back in Batman Begins, and now Talia feels she must continue her (hated) father’s work, killing herself and Bane and all of their crew in the process, for some reason.
Apparently Talia had spent the last several years positioning herself as a successful and well-respected businesswoman, even assisting Wayne Enterprises in the pursuit of a clean energy program. The program was shuttered when a scientist wrote a paper talking about how easy it would be to convert this type of energy into a bomb (though he’s the only human being on Earth who knows how to do it, so, like, not that easy). This bomb ends up being crucial to the takeover of Gotham, though it’s not clear why Talia had funded the program before the paper was published, since the program’s success could only benefit Wayne Enterprises, which she has vowed to destroy. And it’s not clear why she spends the five months Bane has Gotham under control still pretending to be someone else when Batman is presumed stuck forever in a hole somewhere and her plan ends in her own suicide anyway.
Catwoman is also in this movie. Her only goal in life is to get a magic computer program that can erase her criminal record so she can go straight. Sometimes she talks about the corruption of the rich and how she does more to help poor people than the upper-crust of Gotham, but her happy ending is living in blithe comfort with Bruce Wayne in Europe, so whatever. She’s barely in the movie, and her relationship with Batman is painfully underwritten.
Also barely in this movie is Alfred, who disappears early on and doesn’t come back. He spends about a minute trying to convince Bruce he could do more to help Gotham as Bruce Wayne than he could as Batman – even suggesting giving Bat-Computer technology to the police – but that concept is quickly dismissed, and in the end Batman wins the day by hoarding the tech for himself and punching Bane slightly harder than Bane punches him.
I think that covers everyone who significantly contributes to the plot of this movie. Yes, I’m confident I’m not forgetting anyone important.
This is a nice-looking movie filled from top to bottom with great actors. The cast choices for the new characters are inspired: Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Tom Hardy as Bane, Marion Cotillard as Talia al Ghul, and even Joseph Gordon-Levitt as fake Robin. They’re all pretty perfect, even if the writing doesn’t live up to the performances.
The action is mostly enjoyable to watch, though I can’t say any particular sequence jumps out in my memory, even just a couple days after re-watching it.
Always nice to see the Scarecrow make a cameo appearance.
“No guns, no killing.”
“So that’s what that feels like.”
“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”
That quote from Catwoman should have been the thesis-statement for the entire movie. I want to see that movie instead of this one.
I thought it was pretty goofy writing, but at the end of The Dark Knight, Gordon says:
“Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark Knight.”
At the beginning of Rises, it’s revealed that minutes after the last one ends, all that silent guardian and watchful protector nonsense goes right out the window. Batman just straight-up retires. He no longer cares about helping the city since the Joker killed the woman he loved, and anyway the Dent Act has finally authorized Gotham to build a prison to hold all the criminals I guess, so crime is fixed, and then who needs Batman? So now he just limps around his giant house and mopes and throws anonymous parties like Gatsby (Batsby?).
Batman’s inspired to go back into action after fake Robin tells him that Bane is living in the sewers with a private army, but we learn later that the only reason Bane is in Gotham is to destroy Batman, who hasn’t been seen in eight-years. Not one element of Bane and Talia’s plans makes any sense unless they already know how the movie ends and are building towards it.
The big moment for Batman in this movie is when he escapes from the desert prison. He does this by not using a safety rope and relying on himself to make the big leap and climb out (this would’ve been better if he’d figured this out on his own, instead of the prison doctor who suddenly learns English telling him, but whatever). This could seem to be a message about not relying on all his crazy technology and trusting himself to be able to win the day. So what about Batman post-rise allows him to beat Bane when he lost to him pre-rise? Only two things: his technology, which he’d hidden in the city, and which the good guys there probably could have used to save everyone months ago if they’d known about it, and his ability to knock the tubes out of Bane’s facemask with the scallop-things on his gauntlets. It’s not even clear if he’s aiming for those or what. If he’d accidentally knocked one out during their first fight the movie would’ve already been over!
And then Batman immediately fakes his death, deliberately lying to his friends about not having autopilot on his plane so they’ll think he’s dead. So not only does he absolutely friggin’ hate being Batman and want to get it over with as quickly as possible, he wants everyone just completely out of his life (except Catwoman, a woman he just met, and falls in love with because that’s what happens in the comic, though no one could be bothered to write an actual connection between them), because he fakes Bruce Wayne’s death as well. And then imagine the amount of planning needed to make sure that he and Selina are having lunch at the right café on the right day at the right time to just wink at Alfred, his surrogate dad, and I guess never speak to him again. Because this movie has no understanding of humanity or human feeling and couldn’t care less about developing three-dimensional – or hell I would settle for two-dimensional honestly – characters.
“Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man; by then it was nothing to me but blinding!”
This sounds really cool, but the prison Bane lived in had a massive unavoidable skylight. It was light all-day every day.
To have a truly great Batman movie, we need to have a truly great Robin. You can’t do one without the other, not really. But revealing that John Blake’s real first name is Robin at the very end with a gigantic ridiculous wink is dumb, dumb, dumb.