Before we get started, let me tell you where I stand on the previous films in the trilogy. I was not overly impressed with Batman Begins. It was an okay movie, but the action scenes didn’t do much for me. For this reason, I was pretty cynical when I went to see The Dark Knight, but I was blown away by the best live action Batman movie to date. The action and acting were amazing, the plot was solid with ingenious themes and resolutions, and all aspects of the Bat were well represented: the fighting, the detective skills, and the determination. When I heard the rave reviews of the Dark Knight Rises, I was ready for an even better Batman film. Boy, was I in for a disappointment.
I’ll put these in order of importance starting with the minor quibbles and working my way towards the more major offences.
Whatever Happened to the Dark Knight Detective?
In The Dark Knight, Batman finally acted like a detective. He used high-tech gear to piece together a bullet fragment and pull a villainous fingerprint. He tracked down leads as Batman and Bruce Wayne in an attempt to put together Joker’s scheme. He quickly decoded many of Joker’s taunts and riddles such as the death of the detectives Harvey and Dent. He played the role of the classic noir detective and beat information out of lowlife thugs. For the first time in a movie, a director seemed to understand that Batman is more than a typical action hero who beats up bad guys. He pieces together puzzles and works preemptively on his intelligence with his intelligence to stop crimes before they happen.
Where the Hell did that go in The Dark Knight Rises? The closest we get to Bruce detecting is noticing that Selina was dusting for fingerprints and then putting together…absolutely nothing from that startling revelation. Batman couldn’t even mention some theories as to why she might want to do that? I believe Batman yelled something like, “Where’s the trigger!?!!?” at Bane at some point during the film. Does that count as detective work? No! No, it does not. In Nolan’s final Batman film, Bruce is retarded back from a skilled detective to a simple action hero who reacts to villains rather than preemptively acting to stay one step ahead of them.
Bam! Pow! Wham!
There were so many epic moments of action in The Dark Knight. Who can forget when Batman soared through the air of Hong Kong from skyscraper to skyscraper, crashed through windows onto a secure floor loaded with private security guards a second after his explosives knocked a hole in the building, took on a dozen armed guards using stealth as his weapon, and removed the criminal accountant by using a high tech, experimental extraction device. What an amazing scene! That is not even touching on Batman’s encounter with the Scarecrow’s goons and the Russian Mafia, his first confrontation with Joker in Wayne Tower, the chase through the city streets as Joker tried to kill Harvey Dent, Batman’s fight with two dozen swat agents who were about to inadvertently kill civilians, and Batman’s final confrontation with Joker and Two-Face. Wow! What an action movie.
In comparison, The Dark Knight Rises gave us the memorable moments of…well, the airplane hijacking was pretty cool if…a bit unlikely, and…that’s it. Seriously, are there any standout action scenes to you? I remember Batman, Selina, and Bane wailing on each other in generic action movie tradition, but I cannot think of a single moment that stands out. Some bridges blew up, Batman damaged Bane’s mask somehow, Bruce got stabbed in the back, and he also jumped and fell to near death quite a few times. There was that classic pose from the comics where Bane broke the Bat, but it came and went so quickly that it hardly stands out in my memory. I think I’ve belabored on this point long enough. Suffice to say, the action scenes in The Dark Knight Rises were nothing special.
Destroying the Legacy of The Dark Knight
Thematically, The Dark Knight dealt with the idea of Batman being the dark hero who would do the dirty deeds Gotham needed done even if they did not want him. Batman, Gotham’s Dark Knight, stood in contrast to Harvey Dent, Gotham’s White Knight, who would lead the city into prosperity and security by following the letter of the law. In the end, the White Knight was corrupted, but Batman, believing in the need for a hero people could admire, preserved Harvey’s reputation as Gotham’s White Knight by taking the blame for the murders upon himself. This sort of deception for the greater good was echoed in Alfred’s choice to hide the truth about Rachel leaving Bruce for Dent and Gordon’s choice to lie about Two-Face. All the heroes of the movie decided that the world deserved something better than the truth.
Now, I don’t believe in this philosophy in the real world. I believe people should always know the truth, but as a thematic concept, it was a beautiful, noble, and fascinating idea that Batman and the other heroes of Gotham would sacrifice the truth in order to create a better city.
All of this is undermined in The Dark Knight Rises. Rather than having set up a better Gotham which inspires people, all the lies seem to have just created more trouble. Bruce, now viewed as a murderer, quit being Batman and allowed the city to go without a costumed crime fighter, and rather than embracing Harvey Dent as the hero Gotham needs, it is clear through the reactions of the citizens that they long for the return of the Dark Knight. Commissioner Gordon appears to have played a part in passing some sort of Dent Law, but he is clearly eaten up from guilt at having lied to people about Two-Face, and there are implications that the Dent Law somehow violates civil rights. Alfred’s choice to spare Bruce the pain of knowing the truth about Rachel seems to have done nothing to help him. Instead, Bruce spends his day mourning the girl he believe to be his one true love. In short, all the sacrifices of The Dark Knight seem to only have made things worse in the Dark Knight Returns.
Since When Is Batman a Quitter?
Bruce spent eight years feeling sorry for himself? Seriously? Perhaps more than anything else, the thing that makes Bruce Wayne Batman is his grit and determination. He is admired as a superhero not because he has powers, but because through his force of will, he has managed to sculpt himself into the ultimate crime fighting machine capable of doing battle with anyone…except apparently when he is throwing an eight year long pity party. God! I just want to slap him upside the head. If Bruce retired the cape, but continued to actively pursue noble goals as Bruce Wayne, then his character would remain intact, but by spending at least three years merely mourning his failures, it turns him into an unsympathetic loser.
A Plot Made of Swiss Cheese
Let’s Talk about Plot Holes.
A. How did Batman overcome his lack of cartilage in his knee? He walks with a limp, finds out from a doctor that he has no cartilage left, and then designed a mechanical device which strengthens his legs (and apparently simultaneously makes his foot strong enough to kick through a concrete block). However, this little mechanical doohickey shouldn’t make the tiniest bit of difference for the problem was not that his muscles were messed up, the problem was he had no cartilage. Without some sort of cartilage replacement, then every step Batman takes should be met with extreme pain, doohickey or no doohickey.
B. Why did Talia care if Bruce killed her father? By her own admission, she was angry at him…perhaps even hated him, and she could not forgive him until…he died. Really? That’s a stretch don’t you think?
C. If she hates Bruce so much, why did she have sex with him? Don’t tell me that it is because she wanted to toy with his emotions and make him feel betrayed. Bruce had no idea that Talia was behind the scheme while he was in the pit. If he hadn’t escaped, Gotham would have blown up, Talia would have died, and Bruce would have never known. We are supposed to believe that Talia hates Bruce for killing Ra’s, who she also hated, yet sleeps with him because…well, we have no idea.
D. Why was Batman unguarded in the pit? Sure, there has to be hope for true despair…or some such dime store psychology will be used as an explanation, but really? If a ten year old girl could escape, did Bane and Talia really think that it was impossible for a grown man, one of the best fighters and athletes on the planet, to make the jump? Couldn’t you at least post a couple guards at the top who would say, “Hey, all that hope you are feeling. Say goodbye to it.” Then, tazer him and lower him back in the pit. They could at least have set up a camera to monitor if anyone escaped…or given one of the prisoners working for them a radio to warn them about the escape. Come on people! This is not good writing. This is the stereotypical, “Now that I have you in my clutches Mr. Wayne, let me explain to you my master plan and leave you in this death trap which you could not possibly escape.”
E. Wait, did I say that Bruce Wayne was one of the best fighters and athletes on the planet? I meant to say that he was a cripple who could barely move without pain. Bruce didn’t have his mechanical doohickey in the pit (not that it would have helped anyway), so how did Bruce suddenly get to the point where he could climb a forty food wall and jump a twelve foot chasm even though one leg is nearly unusable? Did his pit doctor hit Bruce’s knee with his magical healing punches?
F. Here are Ninety-Nine Plot Holes pointed out by somebody who is a better critic than me. Credit to Rumble Man for sending the line to me.
I enjoyed that last hour or so of The Dark Knight Rises, but the movie had significant flaws, and I am amazed that so many members of comicvine seem so pleased with the movie./batman/29-1699//the-dark-knight-rises/223-1214/