The movie disappointed me because I kept expecting Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page to pop out from behind a pillar and they didn't >: Spoilt my Inception cast reunion theory.
Spoilers behind the cut and a very long review. Unfortunately, not nearly as lighthearted as the title image would imply because I HAVE FEELS, MAN.
DISCLAIMER: I have not read the comics. I'm basing all these theories on the content of the three movies alone and on Nolan's version of Batman. All images and edits from Tumblr (hours of painstakingly combing the tags) unless stated otherwise. They will link you to the original poster if you click on the image.
Perhaps, inevitably, it could not live up to The Dark Knight because TDK combined action with emotion and ideology. What I found most lacking in The Dark Knight Rises was emotion, followed by a coherent ideological message.
I'm forever left in awe by the creative direction, set design and the general mechanisms of the movie. The soundtrack was gorgeous and appropriately epic, the visuals were pretty much gorgeous, and CGI and special effects were inserted seamlessly in a movie. What makes CGI pop in a movie for me is sort of like when you finish manipulating an image in Photoshop, and then put a final overlay or lighten layer over the image, binding everything together in a visually organic way. Even the destruction of the football stadium, as dramatic and cartoon-like as it might be in the hands of a lesser company, feels like it was created from the visual fabric of the rest of the movie. The design of the vehicles (the Bat-bike) and weapons is incredible and, what's more, it feels realistic. A visually stunning movie is never something to take for granted, and it's part of what makes The Dark Knight so fantastic. My only quibble is with the Bat-copter, which sort of veers at times into looking a bit too flimsy at the bottom, but it's a very minor quibble.
I've loved Nolan's directing and the cinematography, and, as an ordinary person and not a CGI, music or movie design expert, I pretty much have no complaints on that front.
One point: I didn't understand the point of the beginning with the plane hijack and PETYR BAELISH! Was it just to kidnap the professor, because then what was the point with the blood sack...??
Can I just say, I love that the women have large roles here in the film. The film still doesn't pass the Bechdel test (if you don't count Catwoman and her lady friend who sort of...disappeared), but at least there was more than one important female figure in the story. Baby steps, baby steps. Would have loved a showdown between Miranda and Catwoman, especially if the former was supposedly trained by Ra's al Ghul so it should have been an even battle.
Catwoman was one of the best parts of the movie. She was snarky and funny, and I loved her costume design (the goggles! The airport outfit! Classy. Also, Anne Hathaway's face *v*). Nolan made it subtle, which is in line with the aesthetics of the movie. I would have liked to hear more backstory, but I do like that she genuinely saved Batman from Talia and Bane (he was clearly shocked and did not see the reveal coming).
(Err where did Batman get the clean slate program? Did I miss something...?)
I haven't read the comic books so Talia's revelation was a shock to me. And I loved it. Loved that it was a girl who got out, a girl who is the heir, the girl I was thinking - before the revelation - that Nolan had put in a curiously cliche 'damsel in distress in a tower' trope because, for some reason, everyone was adamant on protecting her and telling her to stay inside. Except for the chase scene, because I would have thought someone as sneaky as Talia would have opted for something a bit more subtle than an open car chase throughout the city with everything riding on the line. And she bears no grudge whatsoever against her father for exiling Bane? Just going to...mindlessly carry on his mission and carry out revenge on Batman, despite the fact he kicked Bane out and he is one of her closest friends? I...don't know.
Obviously, this had repercussions on Bane's character development, and I think the movie tried to focus on too many characters at once so every character was lacking just a bit. In any ordinary movie, 'just a bit' might have been alright, but it's Nolan we're talking about, and I feel like the movie would have benefited with a tighter focus, like what the Dark Knight did with the Joker, and what Begins did with Raz Al Gul and the Scarecrow.
Michael Caine stole every scene he was in, but, unfortunately, he wasn't in a lot of them. I teared up at the farewell scene, and at the ending scene, and it was the only time I did in the entire movie. What annoyed me was the utter lack of emotional consequence of Alfred's absence. Why remove him from the movie when, save from not being able to enter his mansion, Bruce doesn't seem to need or - more essentially miss - Alfred at all? EXCUSE ME? I bristle indignantly. The reflexive calling for Alfred and Bruce's reliance on his butler for emotional and physical support (like mending his wounds) should have been a running theme throughout the movie. This is Batman without his butler!! Nolan clearly meant for Batman to hit all time low and then pick himself up, but so much emotional potential was sacrificed for...more explosions. The time in the pit would have been a perfect segment of the movie for Bruce to realise just how important everything was to him and for him to confront his ghosts but...no. Nothing.
As it was, Alfred's final scene fell emotionally flat because yes, he failed Bruce, but...he didn't even...try?? o_O His resignation was supposed to be his final gamble to get Bruce to stop becoming Batman, and it obviously didn't work because Batman came back, but then Alfred...stayed away? Bruce didn't contact him, but if Alfred saw what was happening - how Bruce was suffering with the fall of Wayne Enterprises - why didn't he come back??? They didn't have an angry falling out as much as a sad one, and it would have been very out of character for Alfred to have ignored everything if he knew about it. And where did he even go? Nnnghhh, I feel like it was just...missing something.
|or just this|
Man, this is a review with a wildly veering tone.
GORDON & FOX
I love Gordon and Fox, but they were seriously relegated to side roles here. Especially Fox. idk. I don't...have much of an opinion on their roles apart from the fact they were solid and dependable.
Gordon ILY and I'm glad you got to realise who Batman was.
JOHN BLAKE (JGL)
Too perfect, too quickly. No hesitation in him whatsoever at any point of the movie about supporting Batman, which I found just a bit too unrealistic. I called him being Robin about halfway through the film, except then the ending was weird? Because the movie ended with a scene of JGL in the batcave, rising on the platform, which suggests he's replacing Batman or taking up Batman's helm, but...he's...Robin. Huh? Would have made more sense if he rose to face Bruce in Batman garb looking at him and inviting him into the cave as a partner?
Except Bruce was in Paris, with Selina, which signifies he's moved on from Batman if you're going with Albert's metaphor and I DON'T KNOW, the movie got confused with its metaphors, is my guess.
What put The Dark Knight Rises lower than The Dark Knight for me is purely the mechanisms of the writing and the story. As the conclusion to the trilogy, what The Dark Knight Rises had to do, for me, was wrap up the loose ends left by its predecessors. It sounds like a really obvious task when you spell it out in writing, but I felt like the movie stumbled in that area.
The movie sets up many epic scenes at the end of The Dark Knight and introduces them at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises, but doesn't finish them with the emotional payoff you would expect. What The Dark Knight Rises lacked the most in terms of cementing its place as the conclusion of the trilogy (or so Nolan claims), is the satisfying conclusion to the concept of truth that he had been pushing in The Dark Knight. If the basis of the end of the Dark Knight was that 'sometimes, truth isn't good enough' and that 'sometimes people deserve to be rewarded for their hope', the first part of The Dark Knight Rises dismantles this idea. We see through Bruce and Gordon that the lies told with the best of intentions are ultimately traps that make it impossible to move on. Albert telling Bruce about Rachel and Bane revealing the truth about Harvey should have been the two climactic, emotional moments because they were the two great lies told for the sake of hope in The Dark Knight. Except neither are dealt with in The Dark Knight Rises with a satisfying emotional fallout and reconciliation.
I'm sure I'm not the first to raise an eyebrow at the way her story was concluded. Here is the woman whose death and whose love for Bruce (one of the two great lies) has rendered him a social recluse for eight years. Eight. Years. Bruce gets the truth revealed to him by Albert, which mars their farewell scene with anger and bitterness...and does not dwell on it ever again. Ever. In fact, he kisses Miranda in front of Rachel's picture. What. Not only did the whole Miranda/Bruce relationship feel contrived in the first place (he barely knows her! And supposedly he's become incredibly paranoid but he sleeps with her and she becomes an unquestioned member of his inner circle whom he trusts with a nuclear weapon!), but there was no hesitation on Bruce's part about betraying Rachel's memory when he was with Selina or with Miranda?
Even if he believed Alfred, I would have expected at least a bit of hesitation, bitterness or angst. Flashbacks when they're by the fireplace or when he's in the pit? Her death has supposedly haunted him for eight years, but I felt no emotional resonance and very little address of her importance to Bruce.
I know real life circumstances may have hindered this a bit, but wasn't the Joker still...in custody at the end of The Dark Knight? XD
It took the police a bafflingly short amount of time to trust the Batman again, given he has supposedly become the despised outcast of Gotham after murdering Dent. We had one police officer firing at Batman before he chases Bane's people, but that was really more of a moment of comic relief than anything. None of the people working with Gordon questioned the fact that the condemned murderer of Gotham's 'shining knight' is now working with them...? There were no strong reactions of accusation or disgust. Even forgetting the police force, wouldn't the uninformed 'public' have had some sort of outraged reaction to Batman's return? Dent was their hero, after all, but I felt none of that.
Furthermore, was Bane's revelation of Two Face somewhat...anti-climactic? No time devoted whatsoever to public outrage or grief or despair at the revelation, apart from the prison inmates being enthusiastic that the Dent Act has been rendered invalid. Also, what is credibility? Bane is freaking reading from a piece of paper! No video footage, no photos, no testimonies! He has a piece of paper he claims is in Commissioner Gordon's words and that is all the evidence he has. We know is actually Gordon's speech and Blake and maybe the police officers could guess is real, but the public doesn't know. If I were a random Gotham citizen, how could that possibly convince me that Gotham's shining knight was evil when the evil dude who took control of my city is the one making these claims? With no evidence? What.
The logical progression of the philosophical undertone of The Dark Knight Rises should have been: the truth - even though it may be hard, painful and brings despair - must be told and one must learn to rise from the fallout again. I felt like the movie was tentatively playing with the concept, but dropped it in favour of a weird pseudo-French Revolution class warfare thing that had, really, already been done in Begins. There was plenty of conflict potential set up at the end of The Dark Knight, and they were sort of glossed over in favour of a new narrative, which I think was to its narrative detriment.
It was a rather obvious visual metaphor, but I loved it and I loved that chanting and the perfectly timed: 'what are they chanting?' '...rise.' I'm a complete sucker for these things, especially ones that are coordinated with the sweeping music and just fill you with the sort of hope that comes with the realisation. The ideology behind the rise - that you must accept and embrace your fear of death - is a great one, but - after re-watching Batman Begins - I thought Bruce had already battled those demons?? Or perhaps that was embracing fear, and not a fear of death. Except Batman's greatest demon in The Dark Knight was the fear of becoming the villain...so now it's back to the fear of death. Something's not sitting quite right in the progression of things here, but I'll dwell on it and come back.
Though the whole offscreen process of surviving a trek through a desert and going back to Gotham despite a now bankrupt Wayne Enterprises and the fact the city is under siege required a large suspension of disbelief, but I guess that wasn't the point.
As a villain, he was only okay. I get that he's supposed to be the brute force and anger to Batman's...lesser force and anger, but their fights never varied in nature. Just brutal pounding at the same places, akin to watching two mountains fight. The huge deal about Bane being raised in hell and being angry at a level someone like Bruce, born into happiness and privilege, cannot understand was great at adding an ideological dimension to their conflict (if a little reminiscent of Batman Begins and class struggle)...except then Miranda took it all when the backstory became hers instead of Bane's. His role as her great 'protector' is pulled out of nowhere. Also, I really did need subtitles, especially for his - apparently - ideological speech at the football game.
|I'M SORRY FOR THE TONALLY JARRING IMAGES|
And if Miranda had the backstory of a child raised it hell, it's strange, then, that her adult facade is perfectly comfortable indulging in the same wealth and privilege she seeks to destroy? There isn't even a little crack in her facade, given she would have been illiterate and uneducated when she climbed out of the prison at, what, ten? And yet, some twenty years later, she's supposedly the perfect, educated president of an enormous corporation?
BOMB PLOT & SIEGE LOGIC
The specifics of the siege was completely unfathomable to me. The climax was a gigantic V for Vendetta-esque police vs armed ex-prisoner fight of basically chaos? Firstly, all the criminals just cooperated seamlessly with Bane? There was not one or two people (mob bosses...???) who decided to reclaim power or challenge Bane's authority? Considering they're hardened criminals and all?
Also, very confused by how Gordon's team of, what, 30 people conveniently got supplies to the thousands of policemen trapped underground for three months (with the dead bodies of comrades who must have been killed in the rockfall)? I'm just thinking of the Chilean miners and how much discipline it required to keep like...30 people from fighting and rationing supplies. And 3 months of not seeing sunlight and they're physically ready to fight to the death? Also, what happened to the 'regular' people of Gotham? Did they stay in their houses? Help with the plunder of the rich, or was it just the freed criminals? I would have liked to see a more complete picture of Gotham during that time. Instead, it was pretty much a ghost city that, nonetheless, the remaining policemen could just run around in.
Thank you for including Asian people and women in the police force. I still think the open air charge and fistfight between the two armies was one of the dumbest things you could do...but yay for diversity. Now if only there were more women in positions of power in Bane's army and the police force. Nolan's ticking off the boxes for 'political correctness', but it would be nice to see it worked more into the story itself.
Cillian Murphy ILY AND YOUR SASSINESS. Unexpected comedic timing in a dead serious Reign of Terror-esque court. 'Death! ...by exile!'
Also, how did Gordon not die on the ice? How did Batman get on the ice? How did he set up a burning bat signal in under, what, 4 hours? What was the point of the ice scene, apart from a flashy setting?
The nuclear bomb plot and the ten-minute countdown that took half an hour annoyed me because I feel like it was such a heavy-handed, rather cliche 'crisis' and such a needlessly dramatic way of building suspense that made it not suspenseful. It's an action film - we know the bomb isn't going to explode until the most dramatic moment possible and I would have loved to see more strategy than crazed, desperate driving and chasing.
Also, I felt like the entire plot contradicted Ra's al Ghul's goal in the first place. Bane's ideology and revolution seemed to be very Marxist - working class overturning the aristocracy and privileged, equality for all - and kept emphasising the 'power of the people'. Rewatching Batman Begins, Ra's al Ghul wanted to 'cleanse' cities that fell into decadence after reaching the apex of civilisation. So I guess Gotham managed to become corrupt and decadent in the eight years of peace after The Dark Knight, even if that seems like a ridiculously short time (they would still be rebuilding the ruined infrastructure, seriously). Fair enough. Except the climax of the film is based on the revelation that they plan to kill everyone, via nuclear bomb? Roughly towards the end, the whole thing became a suicide mission to lay waste to not only the rich, but also the poor and underprivileged of Gotham. Just seems very contradictory to Bane's entire revolution...
There's no way that car chase throughout Gotham took less than five minutes, let's be real. For once, I'd love to see the bomb explode just as someone's lifting it in the air and about to make their escape, or just like...in the middle of the chase.
I was not expecting the bridge to be blown up by the outside army force. It was a dark and depressing but realistic moment thrown in there, and you can almost see poor Blake's heart just shattering in his disillusionment.
Yay, my theory that Batman put the Bat-copter on autopilot and then jumped before it flew into the distance was right! Also, the solution of dumping the bomb in the sea was an unexpectedly simple solution. It's convenient there's a sea right next to Gotham! (and...radiation in all the water...but...okay. I don't pretend to be a scientist, but there should be very long-lasting repercussions from dumping a nuclear bomb in the sea, right? Perhaps less than in the city but...still)
I sound really scathing right now, but it's only because there weren't actually that many plot holes or points, so the ones that were left stood out very sharply, and the movie was humming with potential, so close to achieving a more perfect resolution so I can't help but point them out.
Ultimately, it's largest fault was that it felt like it devoted half its time to setting up room for another movie (and I hope there will be!) rather than bringing the trilogy to a complete close.
The Dark Knight Rises is still one of the best movies of the year. It was dark, gritty and full of people beat to the ground and managing to rise again. Visually and musically stunning, it's a movie I would not hesitate to watch again but, because of my love for it, I must be a Tiger Mum and point out its faults because I know it could do better. Unlike a Tiger Mum though, I will add praise and say that it was still a wonderful experience and journey.