For a really long time I was only excited about one thing. It wasn’t the Olympics, it wasn’t pictures of kittens on the internet, it wasn’t even something landing on Mars. It was the last Batman movie. And I waited for SO LONG- I mean just as long as everyone else, but I felt this waiting deep in my heart chakra, wherever that is. I watched all the interviews he did, the extended previews, the leaked photos, all that shit. I was all over it because of how good the Dark Knight was. Batman Begins was awesome, but the Dark Knight was Christopher Nolan good. That bar I will remind everyone is really fucking high- I would venture to say he has never made a bad film, never even made a mediocre film-he just makes gold. Outside the Batman trilogy he has made: Memento, The Prestige, and Inception. Saying that list out loud is like punching someone in the face. My point is that he’s really talented and capable of making great movies.
So when I say this next sentence I don’t want to hear anything about how he’s a great filmmaker because I KNOW THAT. But, I didn’t like The Dark Knight Rises. I will give all my reasons in list form because there’s a lot to go over & I want to stay on track. But first I do want to say the things I liked about it because there were some, and I want to give credit where credit is due. This movie is spectacularly made. I watched a lot of interviews with Nolan where he was talking about how he was trying to invoke the same impact technique silent films used. Because they didn’t have the ability to do special effects or even have sound (hence the ‘silent’) they often relied on sheer scale to impress audiences and Nolan did that- the police vs. civilians scene in the street- there really are that many bodies in the shot- and the football scene, that’s 10,000 extras who volunteered to fill a stadium they created. None of the people you see are computer generated. That first scene in the plane was AWESOME. So awesome. Love JGL. LOVE Christian Bale. Love Alfred. (so wise) Love Lucius. Also obviously the whole movie looked cool as shit. BUT NOW onto the shit I didn’t like. Buckle your seatbelt and put on your open mindedness caps because there’s a lot of it.
1. That’s not Batman
Okay, so whoever this Batman was- it’s a. not true to the most popular version of Batman (which I can overlook because of artistic interpretation or whatever) but more importantly not true to the Batman HE CREATED in the first two films. Let me get this straight. You spend two movies showing how Batman devotes himself entirely to this persona- ignoring personal relationships, business, his own company and personal fortune all to protect the city of Gotham out of this obsessive/cathartic revenge only to have him LEAVE GOTHAM and elope to ITALY WITH SOME WOMAN HE’S IN LOVE WITH??? First of all- he wouldn’t even give it up for Rachel his idealized perfect mate, so the idea that he would do it for this woman he’s known for literally a few months is ridiculous. Also he’s not capable of this kind of sacrificial love as has been demonstrated with Rachel and Alfred and every other person he’s come into contact with in the last two movies. Also Batman would never trust anyone else to take care of Gotham. He’s not spending all this time making himself a symbol so that Batman’s identity is ambiguous and it’s easier for others to take his place- he builds himself up as more than a man (all this devotion to illusion) because it’s all consuming-he’s not just some vigilante in a mask with a big wallet and cool gadgets, he is the lost spirit of justice that leaked out of Gotham when his father died in front of him. He’s instilled fear over simple violence, he’s hope over realism he’s fucking Batman. So the idea that he abandons Gotham, to go live with Catwoman (I’ll get to her in a minute) is ludicrous. But also, even before that scene in Italy (which I’m likening to the epilogue of the last Harry Potter book when she writes all their children’s names-just the kiss of death) to cultivate a character who triumphs out of ingenuity and skill of mind then present him with his strongest foe (which Bane certainly is) and then resolve it by having them simply duke it out THEN have a third party just shoot and kill Bane is the most anti-climactic, and unsatisfying way I can think of ending a rivalry.
Okay so, Batman can’t just overpower Bane. Not only is Bane physically much stronger (that mask that they never explained is pumping a strong soldier serum that the government was testing on prisoners into his body which supercharges him) Also Bane just BROKE HIS BACK so to have them go head to head in a physical fight is completely fucking crazy. Also, I won’t even point out how stupid it is to create a main character who employs illusions and all these other tactics we’ve been talking about-the last two movies set up Batman as more of a symbol- and then not use it in the ultimate stand off. Like what, now Batman is just this pro-wrestler dude with strength and a hard head? Come onnn.
2. Suspension of Disbelief with his back
YES, there is a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that movies ask of us that we acquiesce to- for example believing that a nuclear bomb could be carried out of a city in a matter of minutes in a stable enough way that it wouldn’t go off AND that an ejector seat could propel someone far enough away from its six mile blast radius so that they would survive. a nuclear bomb. Okay fine. But I draw the line with this back thing. That early sort of suggestion of a plot point when the doctor was talking to him about the physical toll being Batman was taking on his body was really interesting and I was really excited to see them explore this- but then they just glossed over it. Minutes after getting the news that he has no cartilage left in his knees he scales down the side of a building. Also after Bane POPPED A VERTEBRAE out of his back someone kicks it in to fix it?? Let me get this straight Christopher Nolan, you want me to believe someone fixes his broken back by kicking it? I’m not a doctor, but Hello. That’s your spinal cord. Surgeries in this area are performed with MICROSCOPES because messing one thing up can fuck up your whole body- it’s your SPINAL CORD…you know where all the messages from your brain go to the rest of your body? And injuries to this area are how people get paralyzed? You want me to believe some random dude in a South American prison KICKS HIM and he’s fine? No. Also he has no cartilage in his knee so he puts on this brace and then he can break brick walls? No.
Okay. I’m all about mystery in villains. I’m all about the suggestion of something rather than the explicit telling of it. It’s why
I prefer psychological thrillers to horror. It’s why I prefer Kreayshawn to Ke$ha. There’s a lot to be said for the art of subtlety. But there’s a fine line between saying something subtly and not fucking saying anything. That’s not subtlety, that’s being lazy with storytelling and character development. Bane as a character is so underdeveloped and unexplained I don’t even know where to start. Let’s start with his face. Why does he wear that mask? According to Christopher Nolan, I DON’T FUCKING KNOW. According to comics- he grew up in a South American prison where he became a criminal under lord. The government started doing experiments for a super soldier serum (the DC parallel to the Marvel one that eventually makes Captain America) on prisoners because they have no rights. Bane was the only one to survive and it does enhance him but he started to abuse it and started needing it to survive. That’s why he has that mask. Look that took me like eighteen seconds. In a three hour movie, I feel like you can take the time to explain why someone has fucking half a storm drain on their face. Oh and the sorry excuse of an explanation that ‘the prisoners hurt him too badly’ after he fought them off Talia and the doctor’s tried to help him but it was “too late” is the LAZIEST
Okay you can allow people’s minds to populate an explanation if you’re working with common knowledge. Let’s say that someone gets in an accident then we see them in a wheelchair. You don’t have to go through the motions of explaining which nerves got damaged and unresponsive for people to understand the concept of paralysis because it’s something we’re all aware of. But a medical condition that requires someone to wear a permanent gas mask attached to a body pack is not something the general public is too familiar with so you can’t just allude to it, you really need to explain that one to us.
Also, yes let’s talk about this fight in the prison. So the idea is that Bane sacrificed his entire life for this girl. In the prison he physically sacrificed himself so she could escape, he almost died protecting her- then this entire plot to take over/blow up Gotham is really her idea to avenge her father..who kicked Bane out of the League of Shadows…like they didn’t agree/get along in any way yet he has this undying allegiance to his daughter? Why? That motivation was not clearly explained at all. But here’s why that bothers me SO much:
Christopher Nolan is capable of this. These nuances of personality that come through in moments but define characters? He can do that. He can do that REALLY well. For example- that first scene on the plane. That scene is excellent. At the midnight showing I was physically shaking because I was so impressed/excited by what I was seeing. In this scene, when one of his followers is putting on his parachute and Bane says to him, “No brother, they need one of us in the crash” and the guy just takes off his parachute; three things are communicated here. 1. We know Bane is intelligent enough to know what is necessary for the plan to work and to anticipate his opponents’ expectations 2. we know he is ruthless enough to ask for it and 3. we know he is so powerful and inspires such unyielding confidence from his followers that they’ll do it. That’s one sentence of dialogue. I don’t know what happened in the rest of the movie but we got no more of this. We don’t know ANYTHING about Bane. We don’t even know why he was in the prison in the first place (since he wasn’t the child who was born and escaped). To look at a relevant parallel- with the Joker we don’t know anything about his past either but it works because we know his motivations. He wants to watch the world burn, he wants to divorce people from their plans and expectations and ideas of the world as this structured place. We know this because he has a very eloquent monologue explaining it to Harvey Dent in the hospital. This supplements all the other things. We don’t need to know where he got his scars from because it doesn’t matter. Nolan even turns the unknown origins of the scars into a STRONGER indicator of character than actually knowing where the scars came from could ever be. (The refrain ‘you know how I got these scars?’ With a different explanation each time). With Bane, all of this is missing. We don’t have any historical or ideological facts about him. He’s such an underdeveloped character it’s painful.
One of my favorite comments about this comes from a message board-this guy added at the end of his post, ” PS: You thought the bad guy had a meaningful backstory, but actually he didn’t.”
4. Not plausible Robin knew who he was from ‘that look’
Okay what. the. fuck. That monologue where JGL/Robin is explaining to Bruce Wayne that when he saw him at the boys home (euphemism: orphanage) and he was pretending to be happy or whatever emo thing he said- and it was then he ‘knew he was Batman because he recognized the look of someone trying to hide something because it’s the same one I saw in the mirror every day.’ I’m sorry. What? You saw that someone was unhappy/trying to hide things and you assumed that they were a violent masked vigilante? This was such an unsupported leap it was astonishing to me. He basically said, “I saw you one day when I was eleven and you looked unhappy and I knew then your secret identity that no one else in the whole city, even people who have known you closely for years, don’t know.” Like, that’s what he said. I just can’t with this. Also by the end of the movie everyone knew he was Batman (Bane, Jim Gordon, Robin, Catwoman, etc) it was like he had a coming out party or something. Like how does Bane know? Presumably because of the League of Shadows but again, lazy storytelling.
5. Putting a cheap allegory to current events but not explaining it enough to the point where it’s diluted and distracting
I don’t even know how to put this in here. There was a huge problem of scope with this movie to me. They tried to do too much. Everything was too big. I mean the weapon was a nuclear warhead for Christ’s sake. I think in trying to outdo the Joker they took on wayy too much and couldn’t handle all of it. But specifically what this complaint is referring to is the sort of hazy culturally relevant parallels that were suggested but never explained. The language Bane used about giving the city ‘back to the people’ and the whole thing at the stock exchange and the ‘people’s court’ (presided over by a very shabby Cilian Murphy), the scene where it’s the police officers v. the citizens, it all very much echoed the Occupy movement and had some air of social commentary but whatever it was I couldn’t figure out. It was there just enough to obscure the plot for me but not enough to give clear message or integrate itself in any meaningful/understandable way.
6. Anne Hathaway
Okay I HATE HATE HATED her as Catwoman. Apparently most dudes really think she’s hot which is cool, but everything about this performance was terrible to me. I didn’t think I hated her going in, because I’m a medium Princess Diaries fan and I also liked Rachel Getting Married (A.H as a narcissistic drug addict) but in this role I just wanted her to die. Slowly. But again, I will say- the first scene where she’s so demure when she meets Bruce as a maid then quickly drops the act, kicking his cane from under him and backflipping out of a window- I was like YES, SWEET…but then she was so awful the rest of the three hours. First of all she sort of paints herself as someone who was forced to steal, and she’s only doing this because she had no other option from life blah blah blah. She is constantly spouting these “I’m so jaded and hot” cliches like,”Once you do what you have to they’ll never let you do what you want to” and “There is no fresh start in today’s world” EXCEPT THAT THE THING YOU ARE TRYING TO GET IS CALLED ‘CLEAN SLATE’ and at the end you are in Italy with Batman who’s no longer Batman. So…ugh.
And she’s always talking about how she gives back and she ‘Does more for people than anyone here’ at the dinner party blah blah blah but we never see any of that. In a sort of narcissistic ‘I’m Robin hood incarnate’ move she helps a little boy fend off some bullies and gives him the apple HE stole back, but not before taking a bite out of it first and giving him some lame ass advice about running. This victimized mentality- ‘I have to do this, I don’t really want to it’s out of necessity’ thing is bullshit. First of all she’s stealing diamonds and pearl necklaces- no one is stealing diamonds out of necessity. People steal bread out of necessity. Also the like, “oh I’m having sex with this married guy and i’m going to steal his wife’s jewelry in this ironic gesture of justice-like me I’m hot” thing that she tries to work- it’s just cheap.
sidenote: It really reminded me of Kiera Knightley’s -another really talented actress- portrayal of the bounty hunter ‘Domino’ who was a real person who used skill and intelligence to get her way out of situations, who had her entire legacy reduced to ‘being hot.’ There’s one scene in particular in ‘Domino’ where the main character is trapped inside a house surrounded by armed gunmen- the real woman shot her way out using behavioral heuristics and some advanced math, whereas in the movie she gives a prominent member of the gang a lap dance to distract them. It’s the manifestation of a theory I’ve heard about a few times called the ‘fighting fuck toy’ which is this idea that women dressing up in skintight leather and dominating men is somehow empowering but it’s really just pandering to men’s sexual fantasies. (hello feminist theory!) All that being said, I do shave my legs.
I think this was the nail in the coffin for me, the complete sexualization of her as a character-in a facebook post I said that she sucked, and one of my male friends eloquently responded, “woah her body def doesn’t suck” (lol) which is a matter of personal opinion- but the fact that his support for her ENITRE character and justifying her performance/existence in this movie was based on how she looks in yards of pleather says a lot. It’s taking someone who could be cool & strong (Michele Pfieffer HELLOOOOOO Batman Returns) and making them an object for people to gawk at/masturbate to.
UGH and that pithy innuendoed dialogue- all her lines were meant to be clever/sexual one liners and I was literally trying to choke back vomit as she sort of huskily whispered them out. For example, this guy fighting her, “Do the heels make it tough to walk?” Her response (kicks him) “I don’t know, do they?” w.t.f. Also it was never explained how she learned to fight like that- c’mon even Elektra does that- and not to mention she seems like the world’s shittiest thief- there’s one scene (the same scene I just quoted) where she’s trying to steal Clean Slate and she opens the safe and it’s empty and she just sort of slumps her shoulders in disappointment and gives up- have you never heard of false bottoms or sides? you’re a CAT BURGLAR.
(Also just a personal opinion I think they should have gone a more Jim Lee route with the costume-I’m telling you, Michele in Batman Returns is gold).
7. Characters motivations and desires were not explained/clear/consistent in general
Who is Catwoman’s friend who lives with her? Why was Robin’s reaction that to the Bane/Jim Gordon speech accusingly indignant? Almost all of Talia’s actions the 2nd time didn’t line up with her motivations, Alfred’s whole leaving thing, Why does Catwoman try to feign sympathy after the Wayne Enterprise shares fiasco? “I’m sorry they took all your money” “No you’re not.” …WTF. Bane’s underground tunnel thing is positioned perfectly under the armory? is this a joke? Only Bruce and Luicus even know it exists…so how?
In The Dark Knight there is a group of criminals that we see (collectively ) in a total of probably two scenes, the scene where they hire the Joker and later when they’re all being arrested- yet we completely understand their motivations- they were comfortable and in unquestioned positions of power but now Batman is taking all that away from them and locking people up- they feel that their world is crumbling around them- that’s why they turn to the Joker, they feel they have no other option. That’s from like two scenes- the majority of the characters in TDKR who were onscreen for the better part of THREE HOURS I felt somewhat mystified about.
8. Gotham wasn’t corrupt enough
In The Dark Knight and Batman Begins there’s a very palpable sense of corruption. As they begin dealing with the Joker, it’s very clear you can’t trust anyone- even within the police, when they’re trying to hide the people Joker has said he wants killed-at one point they have sixteen men in a room and it’s the ONLY people Gordon trusts in the whole city and even some of THEM betray him. Contrast with TDKR where the city seems to be on the up and up thanks to the Dent Act (another message board aside: “BTW, how could a *city* have a law like the Dent Act? Wouldn’t it have to be a state law, or even federal?”) and the fact that “in this movie, the crime rate was way down and the biggest social problem we saw was orphanages not having enough funding to keep kids past 16.” The idea that Gotham is this unbearingly corrupt city is why the League of Shadows wanted to destroy it in the first place and set this whole thing into motion, so if it’s not corrupt it sorts of renders everything else meaningless.
9. Which brings me to the plot. The plot:
Kidnapping a scientist so he can change the reactor into a bomb, had to leave one person behind so it looked like he died. Miranda Tate is evil bitch the whole time but puts on a do-gooder act for eight years waiting to gain trust/control of this machine that she didn’t even know existed yet. Bruce HAPPENS to decide to trust her (probs bc they have sex) instead of destroying it. Separately, they hired Catwoman to steal Wayne’s fingerprints to frame him for the murder of Commissioner Gordon (what’s the point of that?)- & they break into the stock exchange to sell all of his shares so that other guy controls his company. But then that doesn’t really matter because Bane kills the new CEO and the scientist so that no one can undo it back into a reactor, and they abandons the greedy dude’s plan. With the reactor he has this sort of ‘give the city back to the people’ thing going, but obviously only for 80 days because then everyone will die. Supposedly gives the trigger to an ordinary citizen who can blow it at any time ( a less successful nod to the Joker’s social experiment with the ferry’s). Then the bomb is in the city & people are turning on the rich? and ppl can’t leave otherwise the ‘citizen’ will blow everything up, but really it’s all going to blow up anyway, and there’s a court but it’s Cilian Murphy/other League of Shadows people and then Batman takes the ATOM/nuclear bomb and flies away but somehow (because of the ejector seat that he fixed-they made a huge point of that) he escapes- I don’t care if there was an ejector seat that was an NUCLEAR BOMB. it had a radius of 6 miles…ejector seats don’t do all that. So… No idea why the cops went into the sewers and how you can detonate explosives that are in concrete, and the cops are down there for 3 months…okay…then yeah, Italy. End of movie.
I know, it’s shocking I didn’t love it right? Which basically leads me to my biggest problem with the film. Because everything I’ve listed up until this point is completely forgivable. But this whole bomb thing and destroying the city DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. It’s Ra’s al Ghul’s estranged daughter’s way of avenging his death to make his plan come true posthumously? And Bane devotes his whole life to this plan because he…? And keeping a nuclear bomb in a city for 80 days before detonating it makes a point how? I’m just going to turn the explaining of plot holes over to the internet nerds because they’ll probably do a better job:
“Kept trying to have a theme of “hopes being dashed” in the form of a ton of little B-plots (special forces team, evacuating kids across the bridge, etc) that went nowhere for no reason. By the final confrontation, I was too bored to care that the action didn’t make any sense.”
” Why don’t you just detonate the bomb if the plan is to detonate the bomb? To make batman more sad as revenge for killing that guy you hated?” -from someone whose username was ‘horrible cat’
“I somehow get the feeling that Ra’s al Ghul wouldn’t be all good with Bane’s plan. Sure, Ra’s was willing to drive a city insane, but only because the city was too corrupt and needed be be destroyed – nothing personal. And though he does burn down Wayne manor, it seemed more ideological (“balance to the world”) and practical (stop Batman from interfering) than for revenge.”
“In the first movie Ra’s does not simply want the city destroyed, he wants it to be viewed as destroyed by itself as some sort of point against decadence or whatever”
“But Bane and his pal just wish to make Batman suffer as much as possible. Instead of saving the world, they’re just doing this for revenge. The whole “balance” thing comes off as excuse. Ra’s probably wouldn’t have done the whole “revolution” bit, since the whole thing is petty. Not to mention Bane is creating corruption, something the League was trying to prevent. If anything, Ra’s would have just detonated the nuke from day one, and called it a day.”
and ” All those kids at the end should now be blind”.
Someone also referred to this movie as, “The Dark MacGuffin Rises” which is how I feel. Overall I think it’s a bookend to his trilogy and not even a very good one at that. It’s not self-standing (something both other films are) and it’s riddled with (see what I did there) these inconsistencies and problems that detract from the story as a whole and stop it from unfolding in a satisfying way. The whole plot felt very ramshackled- the bomb thing ultimately didn’t mean anything or go anywhere and twists were introduced simply for effect (a spinning top if you will): JGL is Robin, Miranda Tate is bad…these choices were not fully considered or handled. And lastly, I never felt the darkness was real in this movie. You never felt that Batman would fail or that Gotham would burn. The stakes were simultaneously too high (scale of things) and too low (emotional investment) to instill a sense of investment in the audience.
WHEW I know this was long because the movie was long- I wasn’t going to critique three hours in two paragraphs. But you got through it. Give yourself a cookie! FIN