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The Dark Knight Rises
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The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight has risen. Canned Laser has assigned their own detectives to the case to determine if in fact The Dark Knight has risen or stumbled terribly resulting in a spiraling inferno of despair.


To begin, I approached The Dark Knight Rises from the presumption that it is a serious movie.  To me, a serious movie relies on the stability and ruleset of the “real world” to help the audience understand the how and why of its plot.  Critics love Nolan’s Batman movies because they touch on weighty issues of morality, power, control, and loss.  For these elements to really work in a story, the connection between reality and fantasy cannot be broken at random.  Suspension of disbelief is the stock and trade of superhero movies, and cannot function when the balance between reality and fantasy is uneven throughout a movie.  This is the major problem with The Dark Knight Rises, aside from Joseph Gordon Levitt.

I re-watched the best Batman theatrical release, Batman: Mask of The Phantasm (1993) for guidance with this review.  In the animated movie the plot is cohesive from start to finish, with a villain whose motives and actions make sense.  Also, the main concept for the Batman character in Phantasm (and in most of the comics I have read) is that Bruce Wayne fights crime in order to avenge the death of his parents.  There is nothing else of relevance in his life, no matter how tempting.  Fate and characterization conspire to make this a firm reality.  Bruce Wayne doesn’t want to be Batman, he needs to be Batman, just as the city needs him.  He is clearly insane, and the animated movie shows this.  Also, if we dig deeper into the animated storyline, Bruce Wayne continues to fight crime into his golden years, as shown in Batman Beyond.  He won’t quit because he is old, broken, or suffering from cardiac problems.

In the new movie Wayne is depicted as an emotional (and physical) cripple who deviates from his mission as soon as some disposable floozie gets blown up in a warehouse.  This makes no sense within the established motives that created Batman in the first place.  He became Batman because the trauma of seeing his parents murder BROKE HIS MIND. After this, can his original mission really be cast aside as soon as his feelings are hurt by another loss?  In Nolan’s new movie, Batman emerges from retirement due to nothing more complex than pride (can I beat Bane in hand to hand combat?  Let’s test out my unexplained cyborg knee device and find out!) and a selfish need to not share his toys (which are actually the product of Wayne Corp’s ongoing, and unexpected, military R&D).  Will Bruce solve the energy crisis?  Hell no, something bad might happen.  Develop weapons and store them for the heck of it?  Sure, they’re safe and secure!  Animated Batman knows that bad things always happen, and that vigilance is the key to limiting the fallout.  The cost/benefit on releasing the fusion reactor technology clearly favors deployment.  If Bruce really cared about preventing nuclear destruction, he would grab all of the atomic weapons and throw them into the sun, Superman IV style.


How can I sum up my feelings towards The Dark Knight Rises? Well let me just say Bane wasn’t the only one who cried. Unfortunately it is now time for a referendum on the trilogy of Christopher Nolan Batman movies, none of which I felt deserved the praise that has been heaped upon them. They have all been very tolerable to this point and occasionally enjoyable. I’ve never been crazy about the visuals, particularly the costumes, the Bat-tech, and especially the vehicles. Even the city of Gotham disappeared as the series advanced. There was just too much light, specifically the sun. I found it distracting. It has no place in Gotham. “The Narrows,” which was the quintessential dark and grimy Gotham spot in Batman Begins was nowhere to be seen in the next two movies. Gotham looked an awful lot like Chicago for the rest of the series. But I was totally willing to gloss over these minor details until I watched this movie, which left everything exposed.

The Dark Knight Rises combines many elements from classic Batman stories including Knightfall, No Man’s Land, and The Dark Knight Returns. Despite the wealth of material contained in these stories, the plot of this movie sputtered along until it faltered as it is contrived to the point it makes no sense. The Dark Knight Rises is little more than a retelling of Batman Begins and some may find that clever as we can juxtapose Batman at different stages in his career.  In the prior movie, we see a younger less whiny (but not by much) Batman taking on Ra’s al Ghul who wants to purge Gotham of it’s wretched population of malcontents and degenerates. In The Dark Knight Rises Bane is attempting to fulfill that failed attempt by hijacking a piece of Wayne Tech that makes infinite energy, which he converts to a bomb.

The bomb can be detonated at any time but will become unstable in five months and detonate no matter what. Two things are troublesome here: 1) They want Gotham to burn. Why are they waiting five months? 2) The plan to hide the bomb involves keeping it in the wide open. My only guess is that no one thought Batman would heal from a broken back and re-grow knee cartilage while escaping a pit the villains themselves escaped as children in five months. Bruce Wayne must have wolverine blood. But I was thankful he healed because an awesome action sequence was born of it. Thanks to that action sequence at the end I was at least relieved from the dread of thinking for a moment. But Talia al Ghul’s reveal and motives are just too asinine to condone. She hates her father for banishing Bane from The League of Shadows (not Assassins) and only realized after he died at the hands of Batman that she really loved him. Women with daddy issues rejoice. Every other woman with a brain, revolt.

Honestly I can’t even write down everything that is wrong with this movie without embarking on a long, strange odyssey and I’m just not ready to relive any of these movies yet, especially if I have to see the Bat Pod roll over it’s own guns again. There were good moments. The set pieces are actually great in all of these movies, but getting there is painful. Bane’s convoluted motives are laughable. He wants to purge Gotham of it’s crimes yet he frees the criminals to rule over those who enslaved them, aka the innocent. He targets the Dent Act as the main reason for Gotham’s problems, as it gave the corrupt police force up to its arse in murder the power to actually lock the mob up and deny their parole. It worked so good Batman retired. On top of that, the plan to nuke Gotham was already in place before he learned of the deception that Harvey Dent was not the “white knight” he had been portrayed as. The whole thing came across as a morality tale about what happens when the 99% get to rule for five months. Apparently it’s not a good look. It ends with your city nuked.

I’ll boil the series down to this as it is the most egregious flaw that courses through the veins of the Christopher Nolan films: Batman doesn’t want to be Batman. Even in Batman Begins, he’s questioning it by the end because of a girl. And it’s this girl’s death that breaks him in The Dark Knight.  Again, it was love that collapsed Batman’s mind, not the death of Jason Todd or the shooting of Barbara Gordon by The Joker that resulted in her paralysis. It wasn’t the grind of fighting crime endlessly or never feeling like he had truly avenged the death of his parents. Out of a possible 10 to12 year career in these movies he was Batman for less than three years and retired. It’s incredible. Death, the very thing that spurred the creation of Batman, destroyed him. Some people may like this deconstruction of the character. Maybe it is artistic. I think it’s more fitting to rename these movies: Bruce Begins, The Bruce Wayne, and The Bruce Wayne Rises because Batman is nowhere to be found. It’s all about Bruce.



X Factor of -3.  This movie is a technical marvel with a heart of pure contempt.


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  1. Libby says
    2012/09/05, 19:21

    I almost saw this movie, despite not seeing the second one (Batman Begins bored me nearly to tears; I couldn’t put myself through that trauma again) simply because I want to continue supporting Matthew Modine getting film roles. I am nothing if not a devoted fangirl.

    I ultimately passed, though, because I have yet to like a single Christopher Nolan movie. They just seem like little more than his world view stuffed into the mouths of a bunch of bland, interchangeable characters (I’m looking at you, Inception). It’s like he smoked a bunch of pot and said “Whoa, imagine if, like, people could, like, go into your dreams and, like, hear me out bro, mess with your MIND and, like, what if THIS is really a DREAM” and then decided to make a nine hour movie out of that single thread, because why the fuck not?

    If someone wrote that in Intro to Creative Writing, they’d be laughed out of the room . . . and then awarded an MFA from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program.

    • Pete says
      2012/09/28, 21:04

      I really like Memento. I haven’t seen The Following. Inception was an interesting concept but the combo of Leo DiCap and JGL slowly liquified my brain. These Batman movies area a different animal altogether though. I need a word that goes beyond pretentious. Preelevenious. These movies are more absurd than anything Spinal Tap could come up with.

  2. 2013/03/28, 16:52

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