Rgirvan44 -> RE: The Dark Knight Rises (20/7/2012 6:49:42 PM)
I come to this film as a Nolan fanboy – Inception is one of my favourite films of the decade so far, and I truly love all his work up to now. Which is why the following makes me sad.
Messy, needlessly complex and overstuffed yet also strangely empty, the Dark Knight Rises is the least successful Nolan Batman film and very likely his worst film to date.
While there are moments that remind you of who is behind the camera, the film doesn’t seem to come alive in the way that Begins and TDK did. It is like Nolan had lost all his enthusiasm for the franchise and instead went off and had some fun filming individual sequences, ignoring the numerous script flaws.
I should say that I saw the previous two Nolan Batman films back to back in IMAX on the same night as Rises.
There will be spoilers from here on in so you have been warned.
I know that this is a common complaint, but the eight year gap where we are told Bruce stopped being Batman after he got home driving down that road on the Pod is hugely disappointing. It means that Wayne only operated on the streets for a year and some change. The epic battle with crime reduced to a curious event in the history of Gotham. It reduces the power of moments such as
“I didn’t thank you”
“And you won’t have to!”
“I think you and I are destined to do this forever”
Hey, guess not Joker! It really is hard to square the circle if you watch The Dark
Knight and 10mins later Rises come on. The actual idea of an eight year gap is a good one – it allows wiggle room for the whole “where is the Joker?” thing and would just as adequately set up the idea of an exhausted and depressed Bruce.
Indeed by the time Rises starts, the so called Dent Act which was brought in to fight crime following his death, is being considered in some circles to be too much. A Batman still wandering the streets would be a healthy reminder about why the Act was brought in, thus fulfilling the role Wayne agreed to.
Imagine fighting crime for eight years, even as the figures are falling and continuing to be hated by everyone? That would turn you into a lonely soul, and also give motivation for billionaire Bruce Wayne to try and do more good in the world.
Instead we have this odd situation where Batman hasn’t existed, and Wayne is barely there for nearly a decade. There was no indication in The Dark Knight that Bruce was going to stop being Batman once he took the fall. In fact his biggest character trait in Begins was a guilt complex over his parent’s death spurring him on to fight crime. That the love of his life dies, and he just sits back feels wrong for the character that has been set up in these movies.
Thankfully Bale plays it somewhat lighter in the first 40 minutes of the film than you suspect given the set up. This is in part to Anne Hathaway who is the bright shining star of Rises. After six hours of the Nolan series I was ready for someone like Selina Kyle – fun and willing to undercut the seriousness of any situation. As Bruce becomes increasingly interested in her, and what exactly she was stealing from Wayne, I was on board the film. But this is also when the bloat began to hit in earnest.
The subplot with Kyle and the billionaire who is so bland and uninteresting I got him confused with his henchman on numerous occasions, starts to put some drag on the film. Why does Bane need him? It is clear Bane and Kyle know each other – could he have not just hired her to get the finger prints and then carry out the attack on the stock exchange? It wouldn’t have taken much to change the construction subplot as well – just have Bane muscle his crew into construction projects or heck just plant bombs under the noses of a complacent Gotham City Police Force. The guy does nothing, adds nothing and isn’t even a useful McGuffin like the Chinese banker in
People are praising Michael Caine, and while he gives a good performance, Alfred is all over the place in this film. In Begins he was all about protecting the Wayne legacy and ensuring that Bruce lived up to his father’s name and ideals. In the Dark Knight he was the voice expressing why Wayne had to keep fighting, despite the loss of Rachel. Now in Rises we are told he never wanted Bruce to come back, and had hoped in the seven years he vanished in Begins, that he would have settled down?
The deuce? Make up your mind Alfred! I also didn’t buy that he would leave Wayne and never return. These guys fell out, but they would have rebuilt that relationship. Too much water under the bridge.
Elsewhere, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, playing Gotham cop John Blake, is doing some digging about gangs living in the sewers under the city. A masked man is recruiting the abandoned of the city and putting them to work in a subplot which reminded me of the 1990 movie Teenage Ninja Turtles. For some reason, Matthew Mordine’s deputy Commissioner dismisses Blake’s claims as fantasy. I sat there thinking…what? If Mordine had been in the police force for decades then surely compared to ninjas using a water vapour machine to infect the people of Gotham with a fear toxin, or a guy dressed as clown blowing up hospitals, the idea of an underground base of soldiers would seem somewhat reasonable.
Gordon investigates but gets caught by Bane who finds a speech he had written revealing the truth of Harvey Dent. This was such a laboured way to get Bane to spill the beans to the people of Gotham – was there literally no better idea than that?
While all these cogs are moving Wayne puts back on the mask and following an attack on the stock exchange pursues Bane and his team on bikes. Mordine’s dumb as dishwasher character orders everyone to pursue Batman and not even a couple of cars go after the guys who just shot up and killed a lot of people in the centre of Gotham. This is nonsense of the highest order.
The attack on the stock exchange helps Bane to wipe Wayne enterprises of all its money, making Bruce broke. This is mostly played for laughs as he is kicked out of a board meeting, the lights on Wayne manor go out and so on. He is more than happy to hand over the company, and the energy generator to a woman named Miranda Tate, whom he also takes a romantic interest in. I suppose this was meant to represent the further destruction of Wayne, but really, wealth has never been a big part of his life. The only importance he ever attached to it was in relation to protecting the Wayne family name.
Eventually Batman goes to confront Bane by…walking through the front door? He allows himself to be tricked by Catwoman and saunters into the middle of the brightly lit HQ of the bad guy and his army. What was his plan even if Kyle hadn’t betrayed him? This isn’t the resourceful Batman we know and love – he has been replaced by someone far dumber. Anyway in a fight which is sort of ok – I kept wondering why Bats wouldn’t be trying his best to get that mask off of Bane – Bane does the one thing his character is known for. But it is sort of just there.
The central McGuffin is a device built by Wayne Enterprise to provide clean energy for the city, but which gets distorted by Bane who uses it as a tool to unleash his army onto the streets. Sound familiar? It isn’t Rises fault that the Avengers did this already, but it does sort of make it feel like a bit “been there, done that” subplot. Even the opening sequence is about the bad guy kidnapping the key scientist to the project felt oddly similar.
To get people’s attention Bane destroys the football stadium in the scene we have all seen in the trailers. That is about as big as the film gets by the way – the hospital explosion in TDK is far more effective, and impressive. What is Bane’s plan? Why it is to detonate a bomb derived from the energy source which Wayne was intending to use for his renewables project. It is set to go off in three months.
In front of the world Bane kills the one man who could defuse it - some Russian guy who is at the centre of an impressive sequence at the start of the film but literally offers nothing else afterwards. This would have been just as effective if it were Fox who was kidnapped at the start, and then gets shot in Gotham stadium. It would have raised the stakes and jolted the audience.
Bane further destroys all the access points in and out of the city and orders the US military to stay away, and that no one in Gotham would be allowed to leave either. His strategy as explained to Wayne is fulfilling the work of Ra’s Al Ghul and making Gotham suffer before ultimate destruction. His three month stay of execution is to give the citizens a hope they will never be able to claim. Underneath Bane’s feet is the Gotham police department, led down into the sewers as a trap. An injured Gordon, Blake and Mordine along with a few others survive up surface.
They literally have a ticking time bomb with three months to go. Why three months?
There is a famous saying that the only thing separating civilisation and anarchy is three square meals. Could they not have done it for a month? Heck they are an off-shoot of the League of Shadows – how about throwing some more of that fear toxin about to juice things up? I will come back to this issue in a moment.
Bane recruits an army of prisoners and I presume disgruntled Gotham citizens and they go off and attack the rich people because boo rich people. But given it is the bad guys who are doing it, you wonder who in the 99% movement Nolan supported? What political subtext exists is muddled in a way which is a stark contrast to that of TDK.
Bane also reveals the contents of Gordon’s letter to everyone, but I have to wonder why anyone would even believe him? He had a handwritten letter, which no one would actually be able to prove who it came from. But oh well…
Watching from afar is Wayne who, with a broken back, lies at the bottom of a pit in India. His recovery process basically involves a prisoner popping his back bone back in, and then lots and lots of push ups. Problem solved. And then he has to climb out of a hole only one person has ever done before!
We are meant to see that these events last over a three month period but boy you sure as heck couldn’t tell. The police officers, entombed under Gotham, get food and besides a little dirt seem a-ok. Plenty of tubby ones sitting around there. Gordon and co all pretty much look and dress the same as they did before the attack. We never really see the average Gotham citizen and whether it is a struggle to survive. Our heroes pretty much walk around the city in broad daylight no problem. Batman Begins showed more suffering to be honest.
This undercuts the film – if I am not feeling that the city is as broken as Wayne’s back then the stakes aren’t as high. The only time the movie hints at a crazy upside down world is at the courthouse where Scarcrow holds court sentencing people to death or exile, which both amount to the same thing. High up on a lectern, surrounded by books, and with a suit that is falling apart, this is the one little taste we get of what should have been a heightened world.
HOWEVER I still think even if Ledger was with us, he wouldn’t be in this film. The Joker is simply too powerful a character and would displace Bane as the lead big bad. If Ledger was here, I suspect if they did use him, the movie would be radically different.
In many ways the three month thing reminded me of 30 Days of Night where we were supposed to believe that the townspeople who survived the attack were suffering, when it looked like all they did was grow beards. They don’t even grow beards here.
So of course Wayne becomes the second person to climb out of the pit and he heads back to Gotham with JUST ONE DAY BEFORE THE BOMB GOES OFF. What an amazing piece of luck.
Batman gathers everyone together, rescues the police and takes the fight to Bane. This consists of a few hundred cops running up to a few hundred of Bane’s forces and having an almighty fist fight.
Blake is ordered to get as many citizens out of the city before the bomb goes off.
What this in the end consists of is a school bus of orphans. Remember those big crowd scenes in TDK. Nothing like that in Rises. No sense of scale, no sense of what the wider population are doing.
Batman and Bane go for it in round two, and in typical Rocky style Bats gets the upper hand…until gasp! Is it revealed that Tate is Liam Nesson’s daughter and she is the one, not Bane, who got out of the pit. A betrayal like that is only as good as the prior set up, and really we never got to know Tate/Talia and as such it fell flat.
As Talia goes off with the bomb ticking down to the final minutes, Bane is left with Batman and you think another fight is about to break out until he is blown up by Catwoman on the Batpod who then makes a quip about the “no gun” policy to Wayne.
So Bane, who was built up as a feared warrior, someone who destroyed Batman and conquered a city, is taken out in most anti-climactic way possible and becomes a punch line. It undermines him as a character and re-watches will shift my perception of him as a threat.
At least if you are going to kill him like that, have it be Alfred who comes back with a shotgun or something. One last moment for mending the bridge between the two men. Might have been manipulative, but you know, it would have been a chance for the showman within Nolan to emerge.
A chase scene ensues involving Batman and his Batwing chasing down Tate and the bomb. The sequence is fun, but again comparisons to TDK abound. I think because it didn’t feel like the bad guys had the upper hand, I wasn’t too engaged in the action. Batman and Catwoman tear through the convoy.
Tate then crashes the lorry with the bomb, and dies the same way as her father. The bomb is still going and so of course Batman drags it away on the Batwing, where it is detonated some miles out from the city, thus ensuring that the good people of Gotham aren’t burned to death, but may face major radiation issues in the coming months and decades.
The public finally are seen, coming out of their homes, looking pretty normal and doing just fine. I mean, come on – surely we should have seen some form of lower society form. Finite resources being fought for by rival gangs and so on. I want to see that film!
With Batman/Wayne dead the empire is divided up. In a groan inducing moment we find out Blake’s real name, which frankly wasn’t needed. Alfred sits in a café, and we focus on his face as he smiles and I wish, I so wish, that we had left the film on that moment.
The audience knows what it means. But nope got to spell it out, so there is Bruce, who didn’t die saving the city, living what looks like a normal life. I don’t have problems with this; but Nolan should have trusted Caines performance to tell the audience what he was looking at, plus it would have been a fine final magic trick from the director to the audience and led to huge debates.
The final shots are Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the Batcave and now I get sad that we won’t see that movie being made…or maybe we will?
So that is a summary of my disappointments with the film – but let’s get more positive.
I liked the theme of the film – about the need for a clean slate. Wayne wants another life but cannot escape the confines of his family/Batman. Alfred wants out from the cycle of tragedy which underpins the Waynes. Catwoman wants her sins erased. Gordon wants the guilt which tore up his family lifted. Blake is struggling to balance the need for justice with the politics of policing. Everyone wants something new.
I liked most of the performances – Hathaway as mentioned was a standout. I really liked Bane – no, he isn’t Joker, but he had a certain swagger about him, and combined with what turned out to be a really interesting choice of voice, really helped Hardy to command the screen. Couldn’t help but notice his background in this film was pretty much the same one he had in Star Trek. I just wish they would have given him a bit more to do. He is undermined at the end.
Jospeh Gordon-Levitt is good as well – a good kid who just wants to do the right thing. Again I wish that he had more to do. He is thrown to the side in the final act.
In the end, this is Bale’s film – I liked him in this a lot more than TDK where he really did embrace the broody side. He is often bemused here, and is reaching out to people. Catwoman really helps the character come out of his shell. Bale has done a stand up job in the role and is nowhere near as miserable as some people would have you believe. Dry yes, but not joyless.
Individual sequences also work well. The opening is a truly great Bond moment, and the action is well directed.
But there is just so much bloat. The billionaire, the congressman, Juno Temple, Mordine, whose desertion and return to the police ranks for the final battle don’t mean a damn thing. Maybe if the police were getting beaten and from another corner you saw him leading normal people into battle it might have been better. But in the movie he is dumb and useless and does nothing useful ever.
I do think the movie needed to be longer, but I also think it needed to be better written. It is overcooked but stretched far too thin.
For all that, The Dark Knight Rises is watchable, and you will likely be entertained.
But it simply doesn’t hold a torch to Begins or TDK, let alone the other Nolan films.