I’m sorry Mr. Nolan, but for me, The Dark Knight Rises is a bit of a fumble.
It’s by no means a terrible film, and for a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes it tends to move pretty well. The film doesn’t suffer from faults in its pacing or editing, I just felt the story was rather lacking, to say nothing of the plot holes that were readily apparent as soon as they happened.
Now I should clarify, I love the character of Batman and I love what Nolan did with him in the previous two films, but this one just didn’t cut it, it didn’t involve me at all, I was a passive observer, and frustratingly I wasn’t emotionally involved or worried about any of the characters at all.
And it seemed to me the only actor who was actually enjoying themselves was Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, better known as Catwoman. Bale seemed to be content to simply move through the paces and the beats while not actually investing himself, and by consequence us, back into his character.
For us, it’s only been a few years since Batman was saving Gotham and taking the fall for Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), but for the characters it’s closer to 8. The characters are older, and some terrible things have happened to our friends in Gotham, Bruce is battered and beaten, Gordon (Gary Oldman) has made commissioner, and apparently Nestor Carbonell’s mayor is doing something right, cause he’s still in office.
Wayne (Christian Bale) has taken to hiding in the East Wing of the Manor, completely oblivious to the fact that Wayne Enterprises is no longer making a profit, but he’s drawn back into action by the arrival of a hulking villain, in the form of Bane (Tom Hardy). They’ve fixed his voice since that first trailer, but now he sounds like Sean Connery playing Darth Vader and no matter how close or far away from you he is, his voice is always at the same volume (I know that’s more a technical issue with the film, but it was bothersome).
Now before anyone tries to tell me I went in with my expectations set way too high… nope. I went in with nothing more than the hopes I would enjoy this film, I mean it is Christopher Nolan after all, and I do love his work. And before you say well, it’s just meant as mindless entertainment, I call BS on that, there are stories and themes at work in both the other films, and even in this one, but the story and characters were simply lacking. And I do like my mindless entertainment as well… I’ll be seeing Expendables 2 in the theater as soon as it comes out, the first was good brainless fun. But this is Batman, there’s supposed to be a story, depth, involvement.
But it just didn’t take me in. I didn’t hate it, but I certainly didn’t love it. Both Sue and I walked out of it, looked at each other, and went… Meh.
Bane’s big thing, after kicking Batman’s ass and injuring his back, dislodging a vertebrae (not breaking it as in the comic version of their battle), and banishing him to the other side of the world in a prison at the bottom of a pit (meant to look like an almost perverted version of the Bat Cave that Wayne must literally climb out of) is manipulating a nuclear fusion device that Wayne Enterprises and Miranda Tait (Marion Cotillard) created to give the city clean energy into a nuclear bomb.
Here’s where things get a little looser in the terms of plot. Apparently, instead of detonating the device right way… Bane and his team decide to hold the entire city of Gotham hostage for 5MONTHS!!!
Which, conveniently, is how long it takes for Bruce to get back in shape, and defeat his acceptance of death and rediscover his fear, and escape from the Pit!
Here’s where I have a couple more issues. No matter how upset Bruce got, how angry or frustrated, he wouldn’t destroy his one link to the outside world, the television, because he’s a detective… data, data, data is everything!
And here’s a thought… at this point in the film it’s established that Bruce Wayne is broke, financially destitute. So how can he get halfway around the world, back to Gotham, inside of 24 hours, with 12 hours before the bomb is set to go off if he has NO MONEY?!
There were tons of little moments like that. For instance, the one bridge that hasn’t been blown up is guarded, with the warning that if anyone crosses it, the bomb will be detonated. Ok. Fair enough. But they’re there for 5 MONTHS… no one thought to swim or take a boat? What about the tunnels?
And then, the cops, who are trapped below ground by a series of explosions seem quite content to stay below 9for 5 MONTHS!!!) and let Gordon and young hot-head Detective Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) (whose character pay-off I had figured out the moment he was introduced) to try to find the bomb, and organize resistance to Bane and his gang.
Cillian Murphy returns in a wasted opportunity as Dr. Crane, serving as a judge, trying the rich before sentencing them to exile or death. Which leads to a whole other problem… Exile in this case is being made to walk across the ice of the frozen bay, trying to make it to the other side. It seems one person is enough to cause the ice to collapse and plunges them into the deadly icy waters, but should Gordon, six other cops and Batman be out there, all clumped together, not even safely spread out, it’s fine.
Little moments like this kept piling up to knock me out of the movie.
The technical aspects are top-notch as they would be for a Nolan film, but the story could’ve been a little more well-thought out.
I liked the new vehicle the Bat, and the Bat Pod gets used a lot, but Batman’s tumbler is sadly missing, though Bane’s crew gets hold of all the others Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) had stored away.
There are fewer gadgets for Batman this time around, which is all well and good, but I think it directly affected the set pieces as well. They kind of lack punch, the first battle between Bane and Batman is almost dull, no real score, no quick cuts like we’ve come to expect from the fight sequences, and a distinct lack of threat or emotion.
The film’s first set piece, a wonderful aerial escapade featuring two planes, one dangling from the other, is spectacular, and looks better than any of the big sequences that follow it. There’s a realism to it that seems to be missing from the set pieces in the rest of the film.
There are little character moments that I liked a lot, and I love the fact that Nolan has some stock actors he likes to work with over and over again.
I’m also sure that for the most part, people are going to love it, and it will do really well, though I’m willing to bet it doesn’t beat The Avengers.
I just wish they had’ve taken a little more time, and tightened up the logistics of their story a little more.
Oh well, I’m sure Warner and DC will take us back to Gotham City somewhere in the near future again anyway…