Synopsis: It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act.
But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.
Leading an all-star international cast, Oscar® winner Christian Bale (“The Fighter”) again plays the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. “The Dark Knight Rises” also stars Anne Hathaway, as Selina Kyle; Tom Hardy, as Bane; Oscar® winner Marion Cotillard (“La Vie en Rose”), as Miranda Tate; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as John Blake. Returning to the main cast, Oscar® winner Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules”) plays Alfred; Gary Oldman is Commissioner Gordon; and Oscar® winner Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”) reprises the role of Lucius Fox.
After the last Batman movie, the first thing I predicted was that the studios’ initial impulse would be to make the next one bigger, more epic, more explosive, more ginormous, …etc. That’s just the way it goes Hollywood: bigger is still considered better, apparently.
For me, the only thing that would follow-up ‘The Dark Knight’ suitably would be to go in the opposite direction. After the overblown madness of The Joker, it only made sense to me for Batman to go dark, to hide in the shadows and use his brain, not his brawn.
I would have loved for Batman to actually become the world’s greatest detective (as he is referred to in the books), to gather a bunch of clues and to slowly put together the pieces of a larger puzzle. There would be plenty of opportunities for action along the way, but the driving force would be plot.
What they did with ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ was to turn Batman once and for all into an action hero. If ever there had been any doubt before, this was settled here, wherein all Batman does is participate in fistfights, drive his Batmoped and fly around his Batroach. He does absolutely nothing brilliant at any point.
Plus which he never ever works in the dark or in the shadows. For reasons that escape me, he decided that a bat, or as is the case a man dressed like an armoured bat, would appear much more dramatic, more intimidating… in full daylight. Might as well turn the light on the boogie monster while you’re at it.
Not only was Batman heavily dependent on technology in past films, but he became even more so in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, especially since his body was so completely damaged from his past battles that he could barely remain on his own two feet. Now he even needed technology to make his body work! Le sigh.
So, what we got with ‘TDKR’ is a dude of average intellect walking around in a cybernetic armour, giving and receiving a beating. That’s it. No displays of genius and no physical feats worth any mention. Well, except for Bruce Wayne’s near-magical return to form after suffering a severe handicap, that is.
But more on that in just a moment.
Let me just go on to say that ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is such a maelström of nonsense that it’s almost unfathomable to discuss all of it in just one place, in some coherent form; bringing order to such massive incoherence is nigh impossible. So I’ve decided to give it to you in bullet points for simplicity’s sake.
Good performances: There are no award-winning turns, but it’s all fairly solid through and through – other than Tom Hardy’s Bane, who gesticulated like a mentally deficient Darth Vader, that is. Anne Hathaway actually surprised me here. I still find her way over-rated, but she didn’t make me retch like she usually does. Um… aside from seeing her collar-bone protruding as it does, I mean (she really needs to get off that diet! ).
It fits: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is a fitting piece in Nolan’s Batman trilogy (my vision would only have worked if it were a continuing series – it would have sucked as the closing part of three). While it’s the weakest of the bunch, by far, it hints at various elements from the previous instalments and its themes fit the big picture. Nolan at least managed to insert ‘TDKR’ in the series properly, even if it could have been better; it didn’t venture off-course.
Batman isn’t superhuman: I like that Bruce Wayne has been suffering from his physical wounds since ‘The Dark Knight’ (his emotional ones, not so much. More on that in a moment). It’s not that I derive pleasure out of seeing the character suffer, it’s just that it makes sense given the extremes to which he pushed himself and the damage he’s endured. It’s a far more realistic approach than having the audience believe that he healed up nice and good right after his encounters with The Joker.
That’s the only truly enjoyable elements that I retained from this film aside from the production itself (i.e. the fact that they threw a gazillion jillion dollars at the picture to make it look good). And that’s because there’s so much that boggled the mind, that defied all credibility, and that deserve a decent slagging.
Emotional vacancy: There was absolutely nothing to pull us in emotionally; it was all contrived and it totally felt like it. Did I care about Bruce Wayne’s 8-year long depression? No. In fact, it made him seem like a sulky Mr. Whinypants. Did I care about his physical challenges after fighting Bane? Nope. We were given no reason to care for this dour little man; it was expected that we’d have lingering attachments to him from the previous films. As far I”m concerned, it didn’t work.
The plot: So… we are supposed to believe that ALL the cops in Gotham City, some 3000 of them, were sent underground on an “exercise” and were trapped there for three months? Seriously? Are Gotham’s Police Chiefs so idiotic that they would send all of their forces at once in one location? Absolute rubbish. That would be like sending hundreds of squad cars after one person – instead of sending just a few, so that the city remains protected and served, like they actually would do in real life. Or the cops showing up mere moments after Catwoman made a call from the Congressman’s phone. Were they waiting outside? I mean, really! Anyway, all this to say that ‘TDKR’ depends on the cops being idiots and the audience being moronic enough to buy it.
The dialogue: Not only was much of the dialogue trite, but it was sometimes so blatantly dumb that my partner and I laughed out loud in the cinema. For instance, when Catwoman tries to get the crooks to hand over the identity-erasing software, they spend time explaining to her what it is and what it does. Duh. She knows! That’s why she’s there, you nimrod!!! This was clearly done for the audience’s benefit, but it’s such an empty-headed moment given the context. Or how about when we discover that Bane was expelled from the League because he loved Ras Mon Gul’s daughter? That line was such vile cheese. Ick. Puke.
The editing: Huge leaps were made to get us from one scene to the next. A flash of one thing, a flash of Batman, then on to the next scene. It was like a terrible video game. We basically had to fill the gaps ourselves, instead of taking the time of just adding five to ten extra seconds to properly lead us from one scene into the next. To me, it was lazy storytelling. And sometime it was just ridiculous. That shot of Batman standing at the tower’s peak for no reason? Why was he there? How did he even get there? Why did he not do this at night, instead of making himself an obvious target in broad daylight?
Batman’s voice: It was startling in ‘Batman Begins’ but it became a joke by ‘The Dark Knight’. Now it’s so ridiculous it’s not even funny anymore. He even talks to himself in that voice at one point! Sheesh. Batman, buy yourself some lozenges, for goodness’ sake! And please learn the meaning of “internal monologue” – you come off as a reject from the short bus.
Bane’s voice: A good friend of mine compared it to Darth Vader crossed with the Cookie Monster crossed with Nigel Lythgoe. I’ve never heard of this Nigel feller, so this isn’t what it evokes in me, but I trust his instincts. Whatever the case may be, it was indubitably a silly voice – almost as silly as Batman’s rasp. And don’t even get me started on his accent.
Bane’s escape: How in the world did Bane and company escape from their initial assault of Wall Street? The whole place was surrounded by police officers and vehicles were caged in by cement barricades. But, for some reason, our villain and his crew were able to jump these security barriers with their motorcycles! Now, if this were even remotely possible, these barriers wouldn’t even exist – because it would make them ineffective and redundant. They are not ramps, nor are they anything remotely like ramps, so the baddies should have crashed violently and been stopped there and then. Stupid.
Catwoman’s escape: So… let me get this straight. Bruce and Alfred were able to track Catwoman because he naturally bugged his jewellery (which was already locked in a safe that could not be cracked, I might add! Paranoid, much? ), but he didn’t even bother to do this with his über-expensive sports car? Seriously? Seems to me that tracking devices are a basic feature in many luxury cars for precisely that reason. So why would Wayne suddenly let his guard down about his car? Perhaps he simply told himself he could buy another if it got ‘jacked. Maybe. Crime fighters can be weird that way.
Jim Gordon’s letter: First, there’s the ridiculous conceit that, immediately after not reading it publicly, he went out in the field and lost it. He was called into the field from a soirée at Wayne Manor and just kept this letter in his pocket. And lost it. Urgh. It’s such a terrible plot device that words escape me. Then, obviously, Bane conveniently finds the letter and later uses it to torment the citizens of Gotham City. Give me a break. This, in and of itself, is utterly moronic because we are supposed to believe that masses would watch some homicidal maniac read random sheets of paper in front of a camera and they’d buy into it – that everyone would believe this complete stranger over Commissioner Gordon. Really? Are people so gullible? Or just mental? The fact that Gordon and Batman lied about Harvey Dent was already hard to swallow in the previous film, but to reuse it in this fashion made me want to jab myself in the spleen repeatedly with a fondue fork.
Wayne Manor: Hmmm… wasn’t the stately Wayne Manor burned down to the ground in ‘Batman Begins’? And isn’t that why Bruce Wayne lived in a highrise in ‘The Dark Knight’? Some people like to counter that he had it rebuilt. Fine. Let’s believe this for a second. Problem is that it wouldn’t look as weathered as it is here because it would only be a couple of years old. Plus which Wayne and Alfred refer to long-time memories in this specific house, as though it were the same one. Mind you, perhaps they’re both confused/deluded. But I’d put my money on Nolan having slipped up.
Bruce Wayne’s bankruptcy: Seriously, how could anyone possibly make Bruce Wayne bankrupt overnight?!!! That sounds like complete hooey to me. Surely he had money stashed away somewhere and owned SOME things right out? No one can make me believe that he didn’t have separate investments, secret stores of cash (for his work as Batman/The Dark Knight/El Cucaracha), or even things he could sell off. And that the lights would be cut out on him right away. Even I wouldn’t have the lights cut out on me right away if I lost my job. It takes months. Billionaire Bruce Wayne, though, doesn’t have a friend in the world and they all pull the rug from under him at once. Oh, suuuuuuuuuure!
The Batroach (as my partner calls it): Not only is this flying beast anything but aerodynamic, it’s dependent on a rotor underneath. Clearly, such a system would not be useful in battle because the rotors would get damaged/bent quickly – especially since it would often get attacked from below. Stupid, stupid, stooooooooooopid. Give me a bat-shaped plane any day over this ill-conceived, not even bat-like, piece of armoured junk. Lucius Fox should get his @$$ canned over this.
The Batmoped (well, I can’t very well call it a Batcycle, can I?): It’s terrible enough having to watch a vehicle with two massive, honkin’ wheels get steered as though it were rollerblades, but it annoyed me that Catwoman could just get on it with no training and ride it like it was just a bike. Give me a frickin’ break, already. As for the sideways-rotating front wheels? It was impossible in ‘The Dark Knight’ and it remains im-frickin-possible. With guns on either side, the wheels could not rotate the way that they do here without sending the Batmoped and its occupant flailing in the air and crashing like broken toys. Duh.
The spinal tap: Erm… I didn’t realize that you could pop a protruding vertebra back into a person’s spine like some plug and play piece of bone. ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is not only entertaining, it’s educational, too!!! So, not only is it possible, according to writer-director Christopher Nolan, but the patient can then simply workout and be back on his feet and ready for the Olympics within weeks. M’kay. Wishful thinking much? Trust me, kids: don’t try this at home. Do not try this at home.
The terrorists: Okay. Not only did Bane manage to plant explosives around town and terrorize Gotham with ease just like the Joker did in the last film (does NO ONE in Gotham ever notice shady people do unusual and illegal construction work around town? I mean, really! ), but the whole post-911 theme was far too conspicuous for my taste; it’s as though the filmmakers purposely tried to tug at their audiences’ heartstrings by digging into those still-fresh wounds. Oh, sure, let’s have the beatific child sing the whole patriotic national anthem (and not especially well, I might add), before we blow everything up. And let’s make sure the dust clouds are reminiscent of the fall of the Twin Towers. Urgh. It was too much.
Three months: Alright. So the explosive device was set to go off after 5 months, right? Then why did Lucius Fox decide to wait over three months before advising anyone of this? WTF was going through his head the first three months? Was he busy watching reruns of the Kardashians? WTF!!! Also, after three months, when they finally get the cops out of their underground prison, how is it that they are all alive and ready to fight? Even a couple of weeks would have wasted many/most of them. After three months? Surely many of them would have perished and some of the survivors would have turned to cannibalism. And whoever would be left would be in no shape to walk, let alone fight. Urgh.
The ending: How in the world could Batman take the explosive device out the city with less than two minutes (was it 1m52s that I saw on the display?) remaining? First, after seeing the timer, he took his sweet time exchanging bodily fluids with Catwoman. This would leave approximately 1m45s. THEN he casually hopped aboard the Batroach. He might maybe have had 1m35s leftover. THEN he flew across the city AND supposedly made it to a distance of over six miles away so that the blast couldn’t reach Gotham City (and, presumably, waaaaaaaay more than six miles away because the explosion was faraway in the distance ). Um… no. Not possible. And, anyway, the radiation would nonetheless have had an effect on Gotham, killing many; six miles was just the blast radius. Duuuuuuuuuuh. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
The second ending: Seriously, did Nolan need to wrap everything up with a nice bow on it at the end? It was such a lame-@$$ way to go, after delivering such a dismal affair, putting everything on the line, to not leave at least a few questions unanswered, some things unresolved. Sigh. In all fairness, his studio bosses likely demanded it, in order to give the series new wings in the future, but did he have to cram a f-ing Hollywood ending down our throats? Give me a goddamn break!
The problem is that TDKR was created by the much-lauded Christopher Nolan, who insisted on portraying the Batman as realistically as possible, by immersing him in a real-world setting from ‘Batman Begins’ onward. That’s a totally commendable approach, but he would have needed to keep things realistic for it to work. ‘The Dark Knight’ was bad enough, what with its many plot holes and various nonsense, but ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ pushes the boundaries of credibility well beyond the limits of one’s suspension of disbelief.
‘The Avengers’ and ‘Spider-Man’ were full of BS too, but at least they existed within a framework that was unrealistic anyway, what with their superpowers, aliens and so forth. By being fantastical, it’s far easier to accept all the many bits that don’t make any sense – if only by virtue of the fact that one expects unrealistic things in the first place. Unfortunately, by claiming to be more true-to-life, Nolan’s Batman series has managed to hobble ‘TDRK’. The harsh truth is that it’s a dumb picture with pretences to the contrary.
Furthermore, it’s not even a Batman movie – it’s an action flick like so many others, but spruced up with a cowl and cape. Really, when you think about it, Batman didn’t do much Batman-y stuff; pretty much any character could have filled his shoes, if he/she had access to similar technology and weaponry. Not only was it a mere action piece, but it was pretty bland throughout. There was a lot of action, sure, but it was cold, unaffecting.
I can’t say that I found anything jaw-dropping or impressive in any of the film. In fact, whenever the filmmakers tried to impress us, it was so over-the-top or farcical that I just shrugged in disbelief or snickered mockingly – to the extent I’d even go so far as saying that ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ could very well be my favourite comedy of the year (intentional or not). Just kidding. But it really is that absurd, pretentious and oh-so-very underwhelming.