I’m a big fan of both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, so I was definitely looking forward to Nolan’s third Batman film. The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t quite deliver like the first two films did, but I enjoyed it.
• Warning: there are plenty of spoilers below, so don’t read this if you haven’t seen the film
I doubt any recent film has had the anticipation The Dark Knight Rises had (at least among us geek film fans) since perhaps the awful “The Phantom Menace”. Rest assured, TDKR will not disappoint at that level, but it’s definitely not the best of the trilogy.
The film lags horribly at the beginning, after a somewhat thrilling but a bit over-the-top action sequence. The cuts feel rushed and the content of this first 30 minutes doesn’t feel like it was necessary. Bane proves to be quite a chilling villain, a living metaphor for the payback that a life of excess at the expense of others will result in (at least in Nolan’s universe). And yes, your fears about not being able to understand what he’s saying are justified. While not as bad as I’d expected, it was still pretty bad. Add to that the (still) silly “Batman voice” that Bale uses in all three films, and it almost seems like Nolan is doing this for some reason. It’s also a bit silly that for all his gadgetry, Bruce Wayne can’t seem to have Lucius Fox create a voice changer for the Batman outfit. Perhaps he should just head down to Spencer Gifts and pick one up for $13.
Once the Bane storyline kicks into gear, the film really picks up and pretty much doesn’t let go from this point on. I do have to admit I was confused as to why Bane was “giving the city back to the people” but then setting into motion a nuclear device to end the lives of all the people he just “freed”.
Plot Holes, Tropes and Other Nonsense
There are quite a few gaping plot holes that in a superhero film from any other director, one would easily overlook. But Nolan takes his Batman films pretty seriously, so he gets called to task on this. Let me just list this out:
• despite being poor, Catwoman has a custom leather jumpsuit complete with custom cat-goggles/mask.
• Catwoman can also drive the Bat Cycle like a pro stuntman, despite having never driven it before.
• Batman gets a vertebrae dislodged in his spine (and after being shown that he’s horribly out of shape after 8 years, and also hobbling around on a cane after years of abuse to his body), yet after a few months of sit-ups he’s raring to go fight Bane. Should have been some Fox tech to augment his physical weaknesses to make it more believable.
• despite being the “world’s greatest detective” and a billionaire with the most advanced search capabilities for fugitives on the planet, he somehow hands over the keys to a potential nuclear bomb to the daughter of his mortal enemy (Ras al Ghul) from the first film. Credit to my buddy Jason for pointing this one out.
• for some vague reason, the United States military and President have decided that it’s better not to get involved in this situation, and leave it up to the local authorities, the bulk of which have been trapped in the sewer system of Gotham by Bane.
• Bane needs to hack into the Stock Exchange in person, yet when the police arrive they decide to “go mobile”. Why not do that “mobile” thing in the first place to hack in?
• I rolled my eyes when they did the corny James Bond trope of leaving the hero alive to “watch in pain” as the villain carries out his dastardly deeds. I will give Nolan credit that Bane was gruesome enough on screen to believe he would revel in torturing Batman in this way. Still, it’s a bit cheesy.
• the giant Bat symbol on the bridge didn’t seem like the best thing for Batman to be spending his time on at that point in the action.
• yes, there was a “kiss as the bomb is ticking down the last few minutes of its countdown” moment. Stupid!
What I Liked
Enough complaining—what was good? Lots of action. Bane was creepy and believable enough. Joseph Gordon Leavitt as the cop was great, and really the only character in the story I actually got invested in. And despite the clichés mentioned above, overall Nolan steered away from expectations. This was a dark, heavy film. It was also almost three hours long, yet didn’t feel that way. The special effects were impressive and at times mesmerizing, without drawing artificial attention to themselves. Gotham felt real.
I made plans with friends to see this at the Cinemark near us with an XD screen. While the film indeed looked great, Prometheus still tops the chart for the best-looking film I’ve seen—despite it being one of the worst films I’ve seen recently. But yeah, Dark Knight Rises is visually dazzling. But that’s all for nothing if the story isn’t there.
Expectedly, the ending set up things for another film, but not with Bale as Batman (and maybe not even Batman at all…). And the final scene was almost painfully cheesy to watch. But after all the darkness on screen for the previous two-plus hours, I suppose people need that release valve. I just think it could have been handled far better than it was in the film.
Should You Go See It?
If you liked the first two Nolan Batman films, you’ll enjoy this one as well—but not as much as either of those. To be honest, there’s very little Batman in this almost 3-hour Batman movie. The film will most likely entertain, but it will not be remembered as the best of the Batman trilogy. It has it’s moments, but it’s definitely the Return of the Jedi of the trilogy.