The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
RIDDLER: Riddle-me-this, Gothamites! What just-released movie about our Batty arch-nemesis has numerous annoying inconsistencies; strains believability irritatingly frequently; is not as good as either The Dark Knight or Batman Begins; is undeniably very flawed… but nevertheless contains some tremendously well-done, spectacular and uplifting individual moments and sequences? My friends and I will attempt to solve this quandary.
HARLEY QUINN: Ahhh, shaddap, ya big green piece of punctuation! I gotta say, even though there’s no-one in this movie that lights up the screen the way my Puddin’ Mistah Jay did last time, there are times when this gal Selina comes pretty close! It’s always fun ta see her runnin’ rings round everyone – ‘specially early on in the film.
CLAYFACE: I know a lot of people hate the way Bane speaks, but I really like his performance. I could never predict exactly how he was gonna deliver the next line.
POISON IVY: I thought the moments that were intended to be triumphant and uplifting – Batman’s reappearances after his absences; Bruce’s escape from the well – were as effective as they were intended to be. Of course that might just be the intense music doing a good job of fooling me…
SCARFACE: Hey, has it gotta be left to me to say what you bozos are really thinkin’?
VENTRILOQUIST: B-b-be careful, these people m-m-might not want to hear th-thi–
SCARFACE: Quiet, you! This damn movie had so many freakin’ plot holes, inconsistencies, and missed opportunities.
RIDDLER: Precisely! The storytelling was often muddled, and the film just raises so many frustrating questions. How in the world is Alfred aware of Bane’s origin story? How does passing through a tunnel instantly change the city from dusk to pitch-black nighttime? Couldn’t those police officers have come up with something more tactical than a kamikaze charge against Bane’s armed men? At the end, why in the world do our heroes spend ages listening to a villain’s death speech when every second counts toward stopping that time bomb? And how exactly does Bruce Wayne get back to Gotham from wherever the Pit is?
FRANK MILLER: What, are you dense? Are you retarded or something? Never mind how he got back to Gotham, he’s the Goddamn Batman, THAT’S HOW HE DID IT.
HUGO STRANGE: His big triumph is escaping from the prison. That’s the part the audience needs to believe in; compared to that, getting back to Gotham is not important.
ORACLE: That explanation works to an extent, and half the questions on that list that Riddler linked to are pretty facetious. But in a trilogy of movies that have emphasised plausibility as one of the major aspects of their interpretation of Batman, some of us want something a little more specific. If that means we come across as spoiling the fun with our nit-picking, so be it…
MR FREEZE: I assumed that he found a phone and contacted and reconciled with Alfred, who helped him fly back to the US. However, if that was the case I wish that we had been shown their reunion; emotionally, it seemed the right place in the movie for their reconciliation to occur. But that does not explain how Wayne managed to cross the frozen river.
RA’S AL GHUL: That part is not a problem; we know from his training with me that he’s good at minding his surroundings on thin ice.
MAD HATTER: I rather like the non-specificity of the Pit’s location. It means the prison comes across as a symbolic, metaphorical place, which lends those scenes a quite surreal flavour, almost like venturing into Wonderland – or Arkham Asylum as depicted by Grant Morrison.
CALENDAR MAN: The movie takes place over a period of many months. The logistics of keeping the police resistance movement going that long strain plausibility.
ANARKY: Yes, something of a contradiction in the way that Bane has the city locked down, and yet it feels like Commissioner Gordon and his allies are largely unhindered in their ability to go around tagging Bane’s vehicles as they please.
PENGUIN: And the cops emerge from months underground with their uniforms only slightly ruffled! It almost felt less devastating to the city than what happened to just the Narrows in Begins.
CLOCK KING: It is one hundred and sixty four minutes and twenty-seven seconds long, and could have been better-paced. Or better-structured: there are two periods in the movie where Wayne has to Rise and return to being Batman (eight years as a recluse, six months in the prison), so surely the former is redundant?
HARLEY QUINN: I guess the film don’t really stand up ta close scrutiny. The Dark Knight didn’t either, if ya looked at it close enough, but that at least had Mistah Jay around ta help disguise its cracks!
DR KIRK LANGSTROM: But those gaps and pacing/structural problems mostly didn’t bother me while I was watching it…
MAN-BAT: …they only bothered me afterwards.
EGGHEAD: But aren’t we all missing the point by nit-picking minor little individual issues like plot holes? Doesn’t the movie have broader, more fundamental problems than that, and aren’t thematic analyses and political readings and film technique breakdowns like this and this a more interesting kind of criticism?
ME, THE REVIEWER: Yeah, but I’m not good enough a critic to be able to analyse that sort of thing in much detail.
CARMINE FALCONE: The whole movie feels closer to Batman Begins than The Dark Knight. Begins is great, but its flaws are clearest after I disappear from it – when the scale of the peril increases towards the end, in the Gotham Narrows sequence. The Dark Knight Rises is on that scale of ambition and peril for ages, in terms of both on-screen time and in-movie time.
KILLER CROC: Me, I just liked the action! It’s a helluva lot clearer to tell what’s goin’ on than before. And it’s damn spectacular: looked like that chase scene had more cars than The Blues Brothers. I’m just happy when there’s lotsa stuff goin’ BOOM.
VICTOR ZSASZ: The mid-film fight between Bane and Batman is powerful, too – but there wasn’t enough stabbing for me!
ROBIN: Nice cuboid-themed Batcave design in this movie: rising platforms – get it?
RANDOM DISPOSABLE MOOK #21: That montage of Batman and Selina taking out my buddies on the way to face Bane was pretty cool, with a cute little nod back to the “Where are you?”-”Here” bit from Begins. Jeez, I’m glad that never happened to m–
RANDOM DISPOSABLE MOOK #21: *Decaying scream*
SCARECROW: This might be a case of “reviewing the film in your head”, but I wish I was in this movie a bit more. My cameo was fan-pleasing but in the end it was a bit pointless. I wanted to run round spraying fear gas at people!
JOKER: Ah, if only I could’ve been in this at all. Bane breaking Batsy would’ve really ticked me off because it would’ve spoilt all the fun I could’ve had playing my eternal game against him (as I told him before, “You and I are destined to do this forever”). No doubt I would’ve taken my frustrations out on Bane in some hilarious way! HAHA!
HARLEY QUINN: Ya sure got that right, Puddin‘!
DOCTOR OCTOPUS: Wasn’t the threat against the city a bit like Spider-Man 2? And at a stretch, Alfred’s revelation to Bruce about burning Rachel’s letter brought up bad memories of that bit in Spider-Man 3 where Harry Osborn’s butler similarly revealed something that he’d inexplicably chosen to keep to himself…
TONY STARK: And didn’t another superhero film this year have a villainous modification of a clean energy source as a major plot point…?
ALL: Shut up! You two don’t get a say in this ‘cos we’re your Distinguished Competition.
ADAM WEST: Come to think of it… the ending was a bit like that time I just couldn’t get rid of that bomb…
BURT WARD: Holy reused tropes, Batman!
MAD HATTER: The final scene was a little reminiscent of Inception, too – though that was ambiguous, whereas I think this is meant to be taken literally.
RIDDLER: So, my fellow puzzlers, what’s our final verdict?
TWO-FACE: Heads it’s a gloriously satisfying conclusion to the saga, with enough spectacle and fantastic individual moments to paper over niggling storytelling annoyances. Tails, the film is utterly spoiled by too many times when it overstretches itself with the scale of its ambition. Might as well flip a coin, because I really can’t decide.
ME AGAIN: It’s true. I really am not sure exactly what to make of the film. It was always interesting and exciting and entertaining and enjoyable, but there are still lots of problems that bothered me – how much they bother me, I’m not yet sure.
Earlier this year, I was concerned that The Avengers would not live up to expectations. When that was as brilliant as it was… oh, it was such a relief! I was buzzing about that film for days! Compared to that, my hype for The Dark Knight Rises was quite subdued. My enthusiasm was reduced even further as it became clear that reactions to the film were pretty mixed, and I encountered vague, non-spoilery comments about its issues. Those comments gave me preconceptions that I took into the film, so that I was on the lookout for potential problems as I watched it – I was vaguely aware of what flaws I should be looking out for, and it was disappointing to see them confirmed as the movie went along. I wonder if they would have bothered me at all if I’d known nothing about the film in advance? Did The Avengers have just as many flaws, but I was forgiving of them, whereas I let Rises’ problems bother me?
But on the other hand, my disappointment was reduced thanks to the way I’d diminished my expectations in advance! So there were two contradictory effects going on, which meant my reaction to the film was mixed, and I’m still not completely sure how I feel about it.
Although I’ve sounded very negative, I have to emphasise that it is remarkable what Christopher and Jonathan Nolan and their collaborators have achieved with these three Batman films: a set of movies that largely succeeded in impressing comics fans, casual audiences and film critics, with a tone that is completely unique among comic book movies. There are progressions over the course of the three films that have been fascinating to watch. The trilogy has not ended up as consistent as Bourne or Toy Story or Back to the Future, but it’s still by far the best connected trio of superhero movies we have seen so far. And if they didn’t exactly “transcend the limitations of the genre” as some of TDK’s more extreme advocates have claimed, then at least they’ve all aimed for a level of ambition that’s atypical of blockbuster movies, which should be applauded.
So: always exciting and enjoyable, and it delivers on the spectacle and the triumphant moments, and there are some aspects of it that work extraordinarily well. But, on first viewing, it’s definitely the weakest of Nolan’s Bat-Movies.
And there are still lots of things I haven’t even got round to mentioning: “Robin”, for example…
Rating: somewhere between 3/5 and 4/5. I dunno yet.
Incidentally, the gimmicky presentation of this review was mainly just an excuse to write some Harley Quinn dialogue (and also partially inspired by this). I don’t pretend to have even attempted to hit most of the other characters’ voices….