On The Dark Knight Rises.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and do not wish to have any clue or hint revealed unto you, don’t read this post. Proceed at your own peril.

Here’s the last paragraph of my 2008 post about the second installment in this series, The Dark Knight:

In short, this movie was so good that now I’m depressed because I don’t see how the next one can be as good, never mind better. I hope the producers ensure that Nolan comes back for a third movie, and they take their time making the next one… this one’s going to be damn tough to top.

No movie has ever disappointed me as much as The Dark Knight Rises.

Just kidding, it was awesome. Far from perfect, and not as good as the last one, but awesome nonetheless. Sure, nothing in this movie is as good as Heath Ledger’s Joker, and sure, there were some plot holes, and sure, the villain’s plot got absurdly convoluted at times, but this movie was still a fun and satisfying conclusion to Nolan’s Bat-story.

Some comments:

1. Anne Hathaway was great as Selina Kyle in this movie, but dear Christ, Marion Cotillard is gorgeous. Again, I barely noticed the plot holes.

2. I am not as big a fan of the comic books as some folks are, but I recognized the influences. It started off as a love letter to Frank Miller: heavy on The Dark Knight Returns, with some Year One thrown in (Selena Kyle and her roommate). It then turned into an amalgam of Knightfall (Bane breaks Batman’s back) and No Man’s Land (Gotham cut off from the world). Geeks far geekier than I could ever hope to be probably saw even more Batman stories crammed in there.

3. I also saw two elements of other, entirely unrelated movies in there. The first is the greater stretch: The World is Not Enough. Renard/Bane is the bad guy throughout the entire movie until it turns out that he’s just the devoted henchman of Elektra/Talia. That meme has probably appeared in plenty of other stories, but TWINE was the first that crossed my mind.

The second has also been done over and over again throughout storytelling history. The hero gets cocky, gets his butt kicked and his spirit broken, turns it around, trains and teams up with a former enemy, and returns to save the day and vanquish the villain. That’s right: it’s Rocky III! But the parallels run deeper: Bane’s mask kind of resembles Clubber Lang’s mohawk and beard; both villains blathered on about pain; the prisoner/doctor in the Pit reminded me an awful lot of Mickey. And when Bruce climbed out of the pit, those cheering prisoners may as well have been chanting “Gonna Fly Now.” I’ll stop.

4. Even though it induced groans throughout the theater, I think I like how Nolan almost grudgingly allowed Robin to be in his movie. “No, Robin will never be in my Batman movies! Never! Damn you! …Ok, but only for like two seconds.”

5. My biggest complaint about this movie is the same as my biggest complaint about the last one:

I thought the editing could have been much better. It felt rushed at times, like I was watching a trailer for the movie instead of the movie itself. In stageplays, in television, in movies there are certain moments that need time to sink in. Sometimes we need to spend a few extra seconds watching a character ponder an idea or absorb a feeling before cutting to the next scene, or to the next line in a given scene. […] The reactions were the right reactions for the characters and their circumstances–it’s just that the reactions came too quickly, almost mechanically. […] To correct this would mean making the movie even longer… which would be fine by me.

The most egregious example was when Alfred left Wayne Manor. It was emotional, but the back-and-forth between Bruce and Alfred was stuck on rapid-fire. We needed more time for that big an event in those characters’ lives to sink in.

6. That’s right: this 162-minute movie wasn’t long enough. I even think it could’ve used a ten-minute intermission, say, right after Bane’s “permission to die” speech.

7. However, I think Nolan absolutely nailed one particular moment in terms of the timing: the scene in which Selina tells Batman that they should leave together, that he’d already given Gotham everything he could. There’s an actual, real life, well-timed dramatic pause before Batman responds: “Not everything… not yet.” And then there’s another pause so that we can absorb both characters’ reactions before moving on to the next scene. I think the whole series could’ve used a lot more of those pauses.

8. Andrew Klavan once argued that The Dark Knight was a sort of paean to George W. Bush and the War on Terror. Maybe, maybe not. But I think it’s safe to say that The Dark Knight Rises is at least a middle finger towards the Occupy Movement.

9. I liked how they treated Batman’s injuries from the last movie. He’d been shot and he took a bad fall at the end of The Dark Knight— it was nice to see that they made at least a little bit of a nod to human frailty by showing that Bruce hadn’t recovered completely (no cartilage, some brain damage, some damage to internal organs). He needed special devices to help him walk, and he wasn’t the fighter he used to be. However, they got away from this medical realism by the middle of the movie: I’m not sure that “popping vertebrae back under the skin and then hanging by a rope for weeks” is AMA-approved, and Bane probably took away the motorized kneebrace while Bruce was imprisoned, which should’ve made walking harder.

10. I loved the conclusion. As has been pointed out endlessly, this movie brought the whole story full circle. Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows scheduled Gotham for destruction in the first movie, and were finally defeated in the last movie. Bruce was presumed dead before coming back to Gotham in Batman Begins, and by the end of the trilogy he’s presumed dead all over again. The Batman’s reputation, in tatters at the end of the last movie, has been restored. Alfred is rich, Wayne Manor is now (quite appropriately!) an orphanage, Bruce and Selina have retired and moved on to a new and happy life together… and it looks like there’s still going to be a Batman. Good enough for me.

All in all, a pretty good trilogy.

7 comments

  1. I will add my 2 spectacular thumbs-up. Utterly satisfying. My shorter reactions (spoilers ahead):
    1. Bane was handled beautifully, and was completely terrifying. And while I had a hard time understanding everything he said, the Darth Vader’ish sound crossed with an odd British accent was hypnotic…I just wanted him to keep talking.

    2. Nolan was able to keep me guessing the entire time. SUPER SPOILERS AHEAD

    – Not until the final Bane-Batman fight spilled inside with Miranda Tate was I clueless as to her true role. The misdirection was handled well and enriched Bane’s backstory even more.
    – I really thought the setup was primed for Batman to die to complete the story and pass on the symbol to JG-L. So when Alfred sees Bruce and Selina at the end, total satisfaction.

    3. Catwoman was handled purrrrr-fectly (sorry)

    4. Despite what others are saying, I don’t see how the word ‘bombastic’ could be applied to this movie; other than Bane’s attack starting with the football stadium and the final bomb chase at the end most of the action was very personal in nature: fistfights, gunfights, etc. I felt that Batman Begins was filled with more bombast. This is my roundabout way of saying I am glad that Nolan resisted to need to up the action/spectacle in this final chapter.

    I suspect I will see this one again, this time in IMAX to absorb more of this one.

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  2. Two thumbs up from me also. I have only seen it once, but I do have a few questions for those of you who perhaps weren’t distracted by the constant texting in the row ahead of me. I should have kicked her seat harder.

    Spoilers follow.

    While I agree with the esteemed aabrock regarding the excellent misdirection, I did notice a scar/tattoo on her back during the “we-have-no-electricity-so-let’s-make-a-fire-and-lay-on-a-blanket-in-the-study” scene. I decided then she was up to no good, although I didn’t for a second think she was more than an evil assistant. I haven’t seen BB in a long while. Did the League tattoo their members?

    How did Bane determine Batman’s secret identity? I know he read the speech Gordon prepared and didn’t give. Did Gordon plan on divulging that little tidbit in his speech? Why couldn’t he just say “Batman didn’t kill Dent.”?

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  3. @V&T: Because Bane was part of the League of Shadows, it’s reasonable to assume that he’d know that Bruce– once Ra’s al Ghul’s protégé– was Batman.

    Furthermore, Bane’s smart, he’s working with top-flight computer guys, he has allies in high places at Wayne Enterprises… maybe he deduced it the same way Mr. Reese (who had to be Nolan’s nod to the Riddler; the name, the red hair) did in the last movie.

    Dunno about the scar, but Gordon’s speech did not address Batman’s identity at all.

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  4. Ok, those are valid possibilities. I just find it odd the writers didn’t explain or at least point to how he figured it out. It’d be akin to Batman using “The Bat” without having Q show it to us first.

    I saw the Skyfall trailer for the first time before TDKR. It was action-packed, even for a trailer. The only plot I was able to discern was a list of undercover agents was stolen/lost, and (presumably) Bond has to recover said list. I hope Chigurh has a diabolical plan more intricate than killing secret agents.

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  5. Overall, a solid movie.

    One comment: there are certain times when movies will copy elements from great works of literature and use it as an overarching theme. Some will do it better than others. Example of movies that have done this successfully include Star Trek First Contact and Moby Dick, O Brother Where Art Thou and The Odyssey.

    In The Dark Knight Rises, I think the Nolan brothers tried to force A Tale of Two Cities onto this movie, trying to hearken Bane’s revolt to the original French revolution, and the fit was less than perfect. In Dickens’ novel, Sidney Carton (who Batman is supposed to represent) was truly fallen and detestable and so at the end of the novel, he redeems his character by sacrificing himself, and it is shocking. We have always known Batman is a good character the whole way through, so when he does blows himself up to save the city, big whoop – of course, he would do it, he’s the good guy.

    The court scenes and the hanging of the swat team were unnecessary and felt out of place – I think I may even have gagged slightly at the end with the whole “it is a far, far better thing that I do” quote.

    Hans Zimmer outdid himself. I loved Bane’s “Chanting in the Well” theme music. Almost as good as Joker’s “Razor blades on violin strings” theme.

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  6. @Dr. Bassi: Thanks for spoiling A Tale of Two Cities. All over the country, throngs of people wait outside bookstores, dying for the chance to read Dickens, and you just give away the ending. Some people.

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