The Dark Knight Rises: Rated “PG-13” (164 Minutes)
Starring: Christian Bale, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
When last we were in Gotham City Harvey Dent was dead, but he died a hero (no one was the wiser that he had become the villainous Two Face due to the Joker’s elaborate mechanizations to set all of the Gotham on fire, just to watch it burn). The Batman was blamed for Dent’s death, and the superficial playboy, Bruce Wayne had gone into seclusion upon learning of the death of his great love, Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal). His spirit (and his body) all but crushed, Wayne retired the Batman and sequestered himself inside his great mansion.
Now, it is eight years later and after struggling throughout those dark years with Batman’s new status as a wanted vigilante, and Dent’s iconic position as a hero, Wayne’s attitude has grown darker and more morose. Locked away from the world, he has become disconnected and adrift from the world around him. However when a new, sinister terrorist arrives in Gotham, The Batman must come out of retirement and deal with this new masked terror that wants to once again plunge his beloved Gotham into the darkness. Even the appearance of the very lovely Catwoman is not enough to cause Batman (or Wayne) to be able to appreciate the finer points of life.
Continuing the dark undercurrent of themes that he began in his compelling Batman Begins, and continued with most-excellently told The Dark Knight, director, Christopher Nolan has brought his Dark Knight trilogy to a powerful close. There is a great conflagration that is brewing with the appearance of Bane a powerful terrorist — originally introduced in the Batman comic books in 1993 — who came to Gotham challenging Batman by unleashing all of the City’s super criminals from Arkham Asylum too wear Batman down before fighting the Dark Knight himself and breaking the Batman’s back. In the film, Bane is the disgraced protégé of Ra’s Al Ghul who has gathered together his own group of mercenary killers, and has turned his attention on Gotham.
Bane is a brilliant world-class fighter and tactical genius who has augmented his own great physical strength with an inhaled steroid via a mask that he always wears. He has come to Gotham to once again plunge it into madness and to destroy Batman. During their encounter he not only breaks our hero’s back but transports the crippled Batman back to the prison pit where the Bane himself was born. Not content with physically breaking The Batman he wants to destroy his spirit as well, and forces Batman to watch as Bane decimates his city. Only the Batman refuses to remain broken, and with the help of the other prisoners, manages to heal himself and return to Gotham to dispatch this new threat.
We wanted to enjoy this film (and on some mindless fanboy level) we actually did, only it was so badly written that it not only disrespected the two films that preceded it, but the comics on which it was based as well. On the most basic of levels, it suffered from what we call a “Comic Book Plot” which is something that writers can only really get away with in films, as comic book writers take too much pride in their work to foist something this sloppily conceived on their readers.
* WARNING, SPOILERS FOLLOW * WARNING, SPOILERS FOLLOW *
The problems we have with the storyline are myriad, and thus we will only be able to deal with a few of them here. Are we really to believe that the powers that be in Gotham would send every single cop in the city into the subways to root out the Bane? (Isn’t that what the National Guard is for?) After five months underground the trapped cops weren’t able to tunnel back to the surface? (The prisoners in The Great Escape got further in less time!) Upon reemerging from nearly half a year underground, they emerge all hale and hardy, and not dirty and grimy from having lived underground with no showers or toilets. Then, carrying only handguns (what happened to the SWAT guys who went down with them?) march straight at the Bane’s automatic-toting thugs. The city’s citizenry descend into Lord of the Flies practically overnight ripping the wealthy and privileged from their high-rise apartments, setting up a mock court to kill or banish them. Sure, sure there were a number of violent mobsters released by the Bane, but surely they weren’t the only criminals in the city, or even the only ones who were armed, but we see none of that (as it would simply ruin the neat story that Nolan is foisting upon us.) Then there is the sub-plot of Officer Tim “Robin” Blake (Gordon-Levitt) who, as a kid is instantly and correctly able to figure out that Wayne is Batman.
Like we said — a Comic Book Plot.
Oh and there’s more, so much more, but we are just making ourselves ill, so we’ll move on to our next point.
* END OF SPOILER WARNING * END OF SPOILER WARNING *
Ultimately it is sad to see such a powerful franchise descend into such an irredeemable mess. Hopefully whatever follows this film will help to redeem it.
Robert J. Sodaro has been writing professionally for over 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as here and elsewhere on the web.