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The Dark Knight Rises

It’s taken me a long time to gather my thoughts about THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.  It wasn’t a bad movie, it just wasn’t great.  I should have loved this movie because of it’s angst ridden hero, but it just didn’t work for me.  For one thing it beat me over the head with SYMBOLISM which is annoying at best, or makes me giggle which is worse.

So now the usual warning.







*******************************SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!****************************


Basically they remade the first movie.  And I have to think if you hadn’t seen the first movie you wouldn’t have had a clue as to what was going on in this third one.  There was all this talk of the League of Shadows, and Ra’s Al Ghul.  And how they have to destroy Gotham because it is so evil.  And Bruce Wayne is all bitter and reclusive because of Harvey Dent, and taking the blame for his death, so if you haven’t seen the second movie you are probably fairly lost too.

The movie seemed to start like a diesel engine on a cold morning.  We’ve got Bruce Wayne as the reclusive millionaire, and the gala party at the mansion, and the introduction of Cat Woman, and the pearls with a tracking device in them.  Which right away had me puzzled.  If Bruce was retired, and bitter over what had happened 8 years ago then why did he set a trap for Cat Woman?  Was he planning to lure her in and then track and capture her?  But I thought he was bitter and reclusive?  Or did he just keep a tracking device in mom’s jewelry on general principles?

Meanwhile in greater Gotham everything is going to hell.  Commissioner Gordon is being ousted by conniving politicians, and Wayne industries is going broke, and an evil corporate raider is trying to take over, and there’s a subplot about fusion energy, and the 99% are restless and the 1% are clueless, and then Bain shows up.  Apparently he’s been in Gotham for months with an army living in the sewers, but nobody has noticed.

They also did something that drives me crazy.  Nobody is talking to each other.  Lucius Fox has never wandered by the mansion to mention the whole going broke thing and the corporate raider?  Gordon never tells his friend Bruce about the ouster attempt?  Or at least tell Alfred and let him tell Bruce. 

Also, if I’m a captain of industry plotting the take over of Wayne Industries why would I hire a scary thug with a face mask to jigger the stock exchange?  Wouldn’t I hire a computer hiker and mathematician for that job?  And why did they need to shoot up said stock exchange?  A quite hack would have been easier.  And if the gun play was Bain going rogue then I needed to see the evil corporate guy freaking out about that.

And then there’s the young cop who we ultimately discover is Robin.  I liked Joseph Gordon-Levett’s performance, but how the hell did he know Bruce Wayne was Batman?  It’s clear from their first interaction that the cop knows.  Was he one of the kids from the earlier movies who actually saw Wayne’s face?  And by the end of the movie I felt like there might have been a drill press operator working the night shift in Gotham who was the only person who didn’t know that Bruce Wayne was Batman.

The other performance I really enjoyed was Ann Hathaway as Cat Woman.  It’s the most interesting Cat Woman yet, and she was cool and competent, but the writers went for the easy moment by having her steal Wayne’s car by claiming to be his wife.  It didn’t work for me because it took me out of the movie.  If Bruce Wayne had gotten married sometime during the past eight years it would have been huge front page news.  It would have penetrated even to a guy working as a valet at a swank party.  Actually a valet who works swank parties probably would pay attention to the cliental whose cars he parks.

People were stupid too, especially Batman.  The minute he sees images of Bain why doesn’t he ask Fox about the mask, and maybe think — “Huh, maybe that’s a vulnerability for this guy.”  Batman is the superhero who is always prepared because he doesn’t actually have superpowers.  He was singularly unprepared for this adventure.  The fight happens, and Bain breaks Batman’s back, and flies him to Trashcanistan and deposits him in a prison.  Where somehow chiropractic work, and lots of exercise fixes his broken back.  That when I went “Ah Come On.”  Then we get bludgeoned by symbolism as Bruce makes his climb to freedom while the birds soar.  Once again this is a place where people don’t talk to each other.  They keep talking about the child, the child.  At some point someone is going to use a pronoun, and Bruce will know it was a girl, not a boy.  Some of this is Bruce making an assumption, but when he says Bain! why doesn’t the other prisoner just so, “Oh no, Bain helped her escape.”  It’s not like he’s got anything else to do except gossip with the new prisoner.

The other real problem was the long time frame.  I think movies work best when they have a compressed time line.  Stories are about the most important and intense moment in a protagonist’s life.  Drawing it out over months undercuts that for me.  The months of people cut off from the rest of U.S., and holding kangaroo courts, and plotting rebellion sucked all the oxygen out of the movie.  That was when I really started checking my watch.

Finally we get to the real villain of the piece, and it turns out to be the beautiful young woman who was in business with Bruce to solve all the world’s energy problems, but instead she’s going to use the reactor to destroy Gotham to get even for her daddy getting killed by Batman/Bruce Wayne.  There are so many logic problems with this, that again had me going “Whaaat?” rather than watching the movie.

  1. Where did she get the vast fortune to put into this project?
  2. How could she know that the fusion reactor was even going to work much less become an awesome WMD?
  3. And where was the nuclear regulatory commission in all this?  Nobody knew a businessman in Gotham has gotten radioactive material, and is building a reactor?
  4. Finally, if you ended up rich and integrated into society why would you decide it was worth dying in a fireball along with everyone else in Gotham?  Or was this more symbolism about the destructive power of vengeance?

Michael Caine again was the heart of the movie.  His (too few) exchanges with Bruce were just wonderful, but his grief is undercut by his final scene where he sees Bruce and Cat Woman all cozy in Italy, and the way he reacts makes me think the whole “I’m leaving you” thing was an act, and so it took all the air out of it.  A sort of “ha ha, made you care” moment.

I’ve written about how I’m a happy ending person.  I like happy endings, but this was one story where I thought allowing Bruce to die, and the legend continues with the young cop was the better choice.  That’s because I don’t think Bruce earned the happy ending.  I don’t think he earned the chance to put aside his obsession over the death of his parents, and build a new life.  He and Miranda were opposite sides of the same coin, and probably should have died for their obsessions.

Overall I liked this movie better than the new Spiderman, but it was longer than it needed to be.  In this one it felt like there was a long prologue before the first act actually started.  Just the opposite of The Dark Knight where there was this weird, tacked on fourth act.  I’d have to see it again to pinpoint where I would have started this movie, and I don’t think my ass could take another three hours in a movie seat watching this yet again.


6 Responses to The Dark Knight Rises

  • Jim Mann says:

    I liked the movie, but one thing that bothered me was, as you alluded to, Batman was not prepared. In both of the previous films, Batman didn’t just try to punch out his opponent: he used his detective abilities to help solve the case. Here he is facing a villain who is stronger than he is and who, more than the others he’s faced, really needs Batman to be clever to win, to use his mind and his gadgets. Instead, he just keeps getting into fist fights with Bane.

  • Melindas says:

    Len Wien says Batman could beat Superman — because Batman would have researched and he would be totally prepared with some Kryptonite. The just marching in and punching was just so stupid. And if anyone ever needed a gun to be used it was Bain. And why didn’t Batman just take off Bain’s mask? I kept muttering at the screen — take off the mask, take off the mask. And Miranda supposedly loved Bain for helping her, but she was going to let him die in a fireball too? Huh?

  • Rebecca Hewett says:

    I’m so glad that Kevin and I weren’t the only two struggling to enjoy this movie. I kept getting thrown out of it by what I saw as sloppy/lazy film making and writers who found themselves in a corner. It started with the horrible cotton velveteen cape that hung on his shoulders like a dead thing so animators could digitize the cape without worrying about reflections off leather (lazy.) Then it was the randomly empty/full football stadium (sloppy.) Then I realized that “The Bat” is actually the drop ship from the Sulako in “Aliens” with a slight redesign (lazy.)

    And so many of the parts of the story made so sense or I couldn’t buy it. Bruce as a recluse for eight years? Silly. I could have bought Batman as the on-going anti-hero having clandestine meetings with Gordon. Harvey Dent Day was silly. He shouldn’t have died in the second movie. Trap ALL the city’s cops in the sewer? Ridiculous! Hundreds of transactions taking place in 90 seconds during a armed siege of the stock exchange. No, that’s not suspicious at all. In five months only one elite military unit infiltrates the city and then gets killed in a half an hour? Good grief. And who knew a rope in a primitive prison is more effective for a broken back then a hospital and possibly surgery? Finally, there was the wholesale change in the geography of Gotham. In the first two movies, Gotham was a main land city with an island “the narrows.” In this movie the entire city is an island just so it’s easier for the writers to, unconvincingly, isolate it from the rest of the world for their nuclear bomb plot bunny.

    The streets should have been held hostage by the crazies from Arkham Asylum that Batman had been putting away over the last 10 years, not street thugs. But that had already been done in the fist movie. The public knows enough of the Batman villains to be able to insert them. But Two Face was dead, and i’ll give the writers credit to not try and replace Heath Ledger (big shoes.) Robin should have been fully realized by the end of the movie, not just discovering himself. (Kevin and I both thought that he should have been the kid from the balcony of the first movie.) Sigh.

    Then the next day it hit me what the trilogy (and the last movie on its own) is. It’s The Count of Monte Cristo. From the unjust imprisonment, unreconcilable separation from the first love, returning home for “revenge”, the bequeathment of the treasure cave (Batcave), to living happily ever after with the another woman. It did help make the movie(s) make a little more sense. Doesn’t make it good.

    It’s actually quite sad *I* could so easily see how the movie could have/should have been better. End of Rant. Thanks for listening.

  • Melindas says:

    I thought Robin _was_ the kid on the balcony from the first movie. If not how the hell did he figure out Bruce Wayne was Batman?

    There were moments when I liked the movie, but it just seemed tedious. The exact opposite of Avengers that I saw twice and would have cheerfully see again.

  • Juhan says:

    Still better then the second one, imho. As was the first one.

  • I think I disagree with you about Bruce not having earned the right to set aside his obsession with his parents. The way I see the movie, he does that during his time in the prison

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