The Dark Knight Rises and then Sinks…

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 Christopher Nolan was just what the Batman movie-verse needed. He gave respect and emotional depth to the world’s greatest detective. He didn’t make a mockery of his glitch or carry his fetish for bats over the top. He gave us two of the best comic book movies ever made, “Batman Begins,” and the sequel “The Dark Knight” is one of the best sequels ever made and was a fantastic ode to mayhem. The Joker was finally realized on film and he was exactly what he was meant to be; a mean, unpredictable, unhinged son-of-a-bitch.  The late Heath Ledger gave his best and nearly last performance of his career nabbing a posthumous Oscar win.
And then he made, “The Dark Knight Rises,” everything the first two films are not. Not sure exactly what happened in the interim, but what a colossal squandering of potential. I tried really hard to like this movie, my first viewing was elation, but soon, I was shocked to learn how forgettable the whole thing is; the inconsistent dialogue, no real iconic images or moments, nothing as I write this that makes me want to revisit it, it’s tedious, but strangely too; it’s as dull as a silent fart. Not one single action scene that sticks out or compels me for another view.  What does the title mean, exactly? Rises from what? His seat, a deep sleep, his selfish exile?
I used to think Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher did far worse acts to Batman, but now, I’m not so sure. They never made a good Batman film so the expectations were never fully realized, but Nolan played with our geeky hearts and effortlessly  broke them in half, spit in our eyes and said, “Take that, suckas!” Nolan seemed to have too much resentful anger inside and this is the result. Maybe he lost interest or just fooled us all into thinking he knew Batman, because from the looks of this, he has not a clue.
What a difference a year makes. It has taken me that long to realize one of the biggest movies of 2012 is one of the worst, which is mind-blowing and disappointing as it’s photographed and shot beautifully, but a pretty package does not enough make for a quality Batman adventure. I wanted to start this review honestly and with good intentions so I watched the film again recently and its many flaws, warts, omissions, glitches and out-right stupid moves jumped out at me and wagged its finger as if to daring me to spot them all. I did! Most of them.
I want to stress the fact that I am not being overly-critical or fanboyish- this film is sloppy- these things do jump out; it’s incoherent and needlessly complex, too many occasions there are scenes missing that should have been noticed in the editing bays or even during the first re-write. There’s an excellent story in here, but it’s buried underneath awkward moments, out-of-character moments and just dumb moments. The film, despite some moments of brilliance and awesome, implodes on too many scenes that make zero sense, convenient coincidences and as if it’s re-counted by an out-of-breath 8 year-old, describing all the good stuff; “And this happened, and then this and this…”, leaving out the necessary connective tissue. I’d rather see that version of the movie, as the one we got commits the worst sin any movie can make- it’s boring!  The skeleton of this movie is solid, but the brain is dead, the muscles atrophy and the heart in cardiac arrest.
Right from the giddy-up I never understood why the Batman had to be vilified, while Harvey Dent a martyr. Commissioner Gordon liked what both men were doing, why not support them both? Why not put the blame of Dent’s death squarely on the Joker and reiterate that the Batman stopped him and do a propaganda campaign of sorts to make Batman a citywide hero? This crap of him taking the heat, brunt- whatever made zero sense and was politically stupid on Commissioner Gordon’s part. Sure, it came back to bite them, but why was it even implemented?
Why again was Bruce Wayne a hermit for 8 years? Did it not occur to him that if he did that, Batman would also being missing for the same exact time and people might connect the dots. What does that say about Bruce that he would rather hide and pout instead of fight back. Why where his legs so busted up? There is no mentioning that he fought anyone after the Joker. He seemed fairly well after that battle. A quick montage of sorts would have been nice show how he got so badly whipped another strange scene has a doctor listing off his injuries like he’s an NFL player. All of that from catching FOUR bad guys, Huh? Yet it does a flip flop and shows us he’s quite alright. For a movie grounded in realism (remember all the bruises from the first film) we see Batman shrug off an awful lot of punishment in this film; first the no cartilage in the knee, the ass beating/broken back from Bane, a stab to the gut from Talia. Batman shrugs all of this off and doesn’t lose a single step. As a matter of fact, the more punishment he receives it appears the stronger he gets through the film.  If there was something to show us he was healed – fine, but we got nothing. Bull and crap!
Bane certainly has a dramatic entrance, but it’s undercut by that annoying voice. Tom Hardy seems to be miscast, not quite big or intimidating enough to break Bruce Wayne’s will and his back. Sounding like Paul Lynde doing Sean Connery- that stupid voice sounds phony and very queer. Hardy tries, but is not quite there. Bane too is involved in many dumb moments, the first is when his team breaks into the city stock exchange; the cops surround the place and they escape on motorcycles- HOW? When and where did they get the bikes? A panel truck somewhere? A closet?  Where?
Who the hell is this John Blake character as fake Robin? Why, why, why was he created when Nolan could have used any version of boy wonder, Robin; the original, Dick Grayson who goes on to be “Nightwing;” Jason Todd who is murdered by the Joker, Tim Drake or Bruce’s biological son, Damian Wayne. Why did we get a made up loser who fits in nowhere in the Batman’s history and comes out nowhere to make not one bit of difference. Robin is not his given name, it’s a nickname due to his family being circus performers, Dick’s aerobatics and skill as a performer prompted his family to call him “Robin” since he flew swift and fast like the bird. The name “Robin, The Boy Wonder” and the medieval look of the original costume are inspired by the legendary hero Robin Hood, as well as the red-breasted American Robin, which parallels the “winged” motif of Batman.  His origin has a thematic connection to Batman’s in that both see their parents killed by criminals, creating an urge to battle the criminal element. Bruce sees a chance to direct the anger and rage that Dick feels in a way that he himself cannot, thus creating a father/son bond and understanding between the two.. .See how much better that works than some idiot nobody with a girls name.
Too bad, Joseph Levitt is a solid actor, he was the right age, size and could have been the right antidote to Bale’s serious case of pretentiousness and overall douchebaggery as the real Robin.  I’m still a little perplexed as to why Robin was never introduced, (he should have been added to part 3) his story is just as important and compelling as Bruce’s. With a sidekick it would have lightened Batman up to a familiar degree and get him out of his pretentious funk Bale is so good (or bad however you take it) at doing, maybe even dropping the cancer throat voice, which worked when he said only a few words, but entire speeches is a bit much to take and at times hard to understand. For both the hero and the villain to have f—ed up voices, this movie was at times a wanna-be wrist slitter.
One of the fatal flaws is the look of the fights between Batman and Bane  which are laughable and undersold especially where Bruce’s back is broken. In the story from whence it came, “Nightfall,” this was a huge deal and some of the best writing the character ever had; a brilliant deconstruction and rebuilding of the character with one simple act. Here, it’s basically a throw-away. The fights between the cops and the thugs are worse, all that was missing was the “BAM,” “POW!” and “BIFF!” action bubbles from the Adam West years. It’s worse, because this is supposed to be serious, yet the melees are terribly choreographed, they look fake as hell, worse than wrestling. No hits ever connect and no bodies are shown lying on the ground. The biggest fight of them all between Bats and Bane is an epic failure. Batman is known for his gadgets, yet he never uses them once for his fights, sure he flies around, but none for his fighting; just weak fisticuffs. They trade swings, unconvincingly. It amounts to big shoulder shrug as the Batman never uses his environment to fight back, again, just trade blows like an episode of “Matt Houston.” SO what! Where are those fighting skills we saw in the previous films?  Batman is as good as Bruce Lee, imagine a Batman moment cooler than anything in “Enter the Dragon,” I think you know what I mean…
Another Lamont Sanford  style, “Big Dummy” moment, Bane breaks his back and then sends him off to some hole… in Europe I think, maybe Mongolia, or was it Asia? The build up to this hole is huge; we are to think it’s, well, a hellhole, but once we get down there- it’s not so bad.  This prison hole is supposed to hold the worst of the worst, YET they have electricity, flat screen, shaving devices and all seem rather nice to Bruce; they nurse him back to health, one punches his back, forcing the vertebra into place.
Again, here comes the weird time, I’ve never had a back injury, but it would seem the very shortest amount of recovery would be 6-8 weeks, vertebra in or out of place, an injured one would hurt like hell, yet he’s up and moving in no time… I mean really, NO time. What’s worse, and here come more time idiocies, Bruce could barely walk without his robo-legs in the beginning of the movie from cartilage wearing out. This isn’t something that heals all by itself. After he is stripped of his gear and thrown into the prison he seemingly has no troubles walking after a couple weeks of recovery. We are shown his robo-legs were taken when he is doing the exercises in shorts later in the prison scenes. Did he grow new cartilage? How did the legs heal so fast?
Some weird chanting and up a rope he goes to escape… YET how does he get back to Gotham? He doesn’t have his wallet; he can’t make a phone call? Or Maybe he did we just didn’t see it… HUH? No effort is made to show how he makes it back! These aren’t simple mistakes, this is lazy filmmaking.
Don’t tell us, show us, but we get neither!  I can accept a lot of things, but obvious and needed transitions shots are a must to tell a coherent story. We didn’t get a transition shot of any kind, no airplane, no helicopter, no hot air balloon- nothing… no logical sense of time passes to which is the beginning of the end for this flick as it has massive problems with the stories timeline. Where were the planes that Talia mentioned; Alfred co-piloting a chopper and spotting Bruce signaling for help… anything would have made sense, but no, we get nothing… A simple few second shot.
The same thing happens to Bane- he’s in the hole, then the VERY next scene he’s back in Gotham! How????? I still don’t know! I realize he has planes and transportation at his command, but c’mon! Another dumb moment, is how can a CIA plane transporting an important scientist they have captured seemingly have no radar support to realize another plan is hovering directly above them. At no point is the plane ever mentioned as being stealth or equipped with some cloaking device, just two ordinary planes  flying along – yeah, right!  Also from that same sequence, one of Banes suicidal followers is given a blood transfusion from a doctor in order to fake his death. This wouldn’t fool any forensics team into ID-ing the dead body from a plane crash.  Dumb.
It wastes sub-plots that mean nothing… I could get past that, IF this was an otherwise great film, but it’s not, far from it. It’s horribly schizoid and forgets what the characters are about. Butler Alfred Pennyworth as played by Michael Caine, a fine actor, but here he’s way out off the mark. To use a co-worker’s term, ‘he’s quite the bitch.” He never acts the way Alfred should; stoic, loyal and resourceful. He’s winy, teary-eyed and demanding. The ultimatum he gives Bruce is not something he would do. He would stand by Master Bruce’s decisions, but would try to talk sense into him if he thought it necessary, he wouldn’t weep, tell a heart-tugging story and then give him a, “if you do this, I’m gone” sort of deal. I could let that pass if the rest was not so dead-freaking wrong for the character. He has another odd and stupid scripted moment when he tells Bruce the first time he heard his voice, “in that room up there…” WHAT ROOM? The original Wayne Manor burned at the end of Batman Begins, how it could be the same, ‘THAT room?’ Trivial, but not really, because it could so easily have been corrected in editing.
Director Nolan made a huge deal of making Batman real and went to great pains of giving the universe some depth, yet he forgets that the biggest part of reality is time. I have mentioned some weird time happenings before, but the worst offense is in the final act when the bomb is dispatched. At one point the following things happen; Talia stabs Batman in his gut with a knife. He then gets in the flying chopper, battles Talia and her henchmen while they drive a big tanker carrying the bomb with Commissioner Gordon in back; along with some chopper fu and gun play and then takes the bomb out to sea so it can detonate- ALL in ten minutes! I can’t take a good dump in ten minutes. Again, it’s lazy filmmaking.  Also, the timer on the bomb constantly changes its time readout. Some shots it reads 10 minutes, other shots it reads 17 minutes, back and forth and not in linear form- all of this after Lucius Fox has said, “There is only ten minutes left!” All this coming from a visionary writer/director that boasts he has the entire movie blocked out in his head and knows the run time and budget long before actual filming starts…and my mom would be a wagon if she had wheels.
“YOU Big Dummy” moment occurs right with the Gotham police force. Are we to believe the ENTIRE police force has to go down into the sewers, and several thousands of them, led down below, together… It’s stated they are of questionable character, corrupt perhaps, but are they all that gullible and stupid? Down below, all at once, but don’t worry they’ll emerge looking clean and healthy. WHY?  Bane and his crew were hunting down cops on the surface like dogs. We are given this information several times. If their goal is to hunt down and eradicate the cops and exile them to death to walk across the ice then why the hell are they feeding and giving the cops supplies for THREE MONTHS!?! Why not just kill them – he wants to get his revenge anyway- while they are down there, rape pillage the city like a good bad guy… but no, he goes through the Bond villain productions and thinks he’s the smartest kid in the room, pathetic… If that’s not bad enough and it is, Talia Ah-Gaul shows up in a too-late-to-give-a-hoot plot twist that she is going to get revenge on the city for the death of her father… What took her so long…?
Why was Talia so wasted? She’s brought in for Bruce to have a roll in the hay and for her to help him take back over Wayne Enterprises which is battling corporate takeover. Why didn’t she get more screen time, Bane should have been nothing more than a henchman, a Darth Maul of sorts, doing her dirty work, IF Talia was going to be the main baddie that is. A female villain would have been a refreshing change. Poison Ivy would have worked great as her sidekick as a wacko environmentalist,(a terrorist for a cause- a perfect sign of the times) a great movie we could have had, but no. It all feels like a money-grab. Nolan no longer interested and just full filled his contract, nothing more.
Anne Hathaway did a fine job as Selina Kyle, “Catwoman,” but I’m still not sure why she was in the movie other than to give Bruce Wayne a happy ending, but that’s wrong too- Batman is doomed to never have a happy ending since his search for justice is unending, unyielding. He’s the perfect tragic character- all the money he could ever spend, but the one thing he wants so badly constantly and forever eludes him. Batman thought to be dead was wrong as well. No one wants the last James Bond movie to end with him dead or giving up, no one wants to see Indiana Jones dead or quitting, the same for Superman. Hell, or even John McClain. Instead the make Bruce Wayne a quitter? Bull and crap. A nice shot of him flying away to continue to fight the good fight.
The entire cast, except for Hardy, did a great to acceptable job. Oldham being the best. Ultimately, they are not to blame as they can only do so much with what they are given; two things killed this flick; unrecognizable characters and Christian Bale’s continued poisonous pretentiousness, he’s done this in nearly all of the films I’ve seen him in since post “American Psycho” and he’s becoming a joke= The English Robert Deniro. He’s always come across as one step away from dismissing the comic book thing as stupid kids stuff.  It does not have to be that way.
It’s shameful. $250 million squandered on crap that is far too distracting to be interesting. Also too, the film is a flipping bore! It’s nearly an hour before Batman shows up and then he’s gone right when things get good. Like the rest and especially the ending, it strays too far to have a ring of truth and does not stick to its convictions, it wants it both ways- but no one wants Batman dead so why even attempt it? He made Batman into a quitter which made no sense.  I complain because there is a great story here, we saw glimmers of it, but the final product was weak, sloppy and the characters full of dumb and amnesiac moments.
Nolan needs to get past this “realism” kick and just make a solid movie. He seems afraid of the Batman universe to fully commit. The previous incarnations understood the universe, but didn’t understand the character, Nolan kind of understands the character but never the universe so he had to remake it from the ground up. It worked twice, but thrice- no dice!  For the next go around, let’s get someone who would use Clay face, the Riddler without hesitation, Solomon Grundy and even the Penguin. Fear is for losers and Batman has had too many of those.
Man of Steel is my new best friend.

About the Author: Dan

I live for movies and hate things like Lord of the Rings. That's all you need to know right now.

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