Comics, Movies

TR Review: The Dark Knight Rises

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Spoiler-free Review: Since some people took my assessment of The Amazing Spider-Man as “fine” to somehow mean “I hated this movie,” let me be abundantly clear — I really, really liked The Dark Knight Rises. A lot. So much so that I have a hard time comparing it to The Dark Knight (which I loved) and Avengers (which I definitely enjoyed more, but am willing to acknowledge DKR might be the better movie). What DKR does best is turn Chris Nolan’s three Bat-movies into a true trilogy — not three random stories, like the three Raimi Spidey movies, and not one story told over three movie, like Lord of the Rings. Dark Knight Rises takes both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and builds upon them in a way that becomes more than the sum of its parts — and while this probably does no good for anyone watching DKR first, it has the benefit of actually improving Batman Begins and The Dark Knight by making them part of a larger, more epic tale. Again, let me be perfectly clear — I thought The Dark Knight Rises was great. Indeed, the first word that came to mind when the lights came on in the theater was “epic.”

Now, all that said, I don’t particularly feel the need to see DKR again or even own it, like I do with Avengers. But in terms of wrapping up Nolan’s trilogy, Dark Knight Rises is pretty perfect in my opinion. More specific and SPOILER-FILLED thoughts after the jump.

One thing I had to accept in order to accept this movie is that this is not Batman. This is Nolan’s Batman. It’s an Elseworlds tale, where Batman is more human than hero, where he’s driven but not insanely driven, where he can retire (on more than one occasion) and not have Dark Knight Returns-style psychotic episodes. Batman’s different, Bane’s different, Commissioner Gordon’s different, the Joker’s different, everybody’s different from how the are in the comics because this is all in the Nolan-verse, which is its own separate entity from what he generally consider to be the Batman mythos.
? It’s also a universe where the third movie in a Batman trilogy can be more about Bane and Joseph Gordon-Levitt than Batman. Seriously, I was cool with this. By building so much and so well off the first two movies, I genuinely feel like Nolan earned the ability to tell this story in this way.
The movie had some logic gaps, but no moreso than in Dark Knight, or most other superhero movies. Again, if the movie is done well and there are interesting characters and a good story, I am more than willing to take a few leaps in logic. For instance:
? If Batman retires immediately after Dent dies eight years ago, why is he so physically fucked up now? He seemed fine at the end of Dark Knight.
? And why even retire at all? Why quit fighting crime just because the police don’t like you? It’s not like there haven’t been plenty of times when Batman didn’t get along with the police. And it’s not like crime instantly went away after Dent. 
? Before, it pissed me off that this Batman is kind of a quitter, but now I’m like, it’s Nolan-man. Different dude.
? That said, I appreciate the detail of how fucked up Bruce’s body is, because it makes him more human which feeds into my Elseworlds Nolan-verse belief. But when you introduce that conceit, and show him needing a crazy super-leg-brace to start being Batman again, you can’t expect us to believe he can bring himself back to peak physical form in a Turkish prison using nothing but push-ups. One contradicts the other.
? And no matter what you can’t get me to believe a man can punch another man’s spinal vertebra into place.
? I thought Nolan really showed how thorough and well-thought out Bane’s plan was, but it still required a lot of people behaving a very certain way and being in very certain places and doing things he couldn’t possibly have known they would do. 
? Also there’s no way the U.S. government would just let a dude in a mask take a major metropolitan city hostage for five full months. I mean, even by comic book logic that’s a pretty serious leap.
? And were Bane and Talia planning to die in Gotham all along? They didn’t have any other League of Shadows work to do afterwards? 
? You know, if Gotham is going to be nuked in less than 12 hours and Batman spends his time making a big flaming Bat-symbol on the side of a bridge, I’m seriously going to be pissed about his priorities. Indeed, Bruce Wayne seems very nonchalant about saving Gotham once he gets back.
? I SAY AGAIN: I REALLY, GENUINELY LIKED THE MOVIE. These are just fun nitpicks that I noticed but did not bother me because I thought movie was exceedingly well done.
Other more random thoughts:
? I thought Anne Hathaway was great as Catwoman. Very badass, and they actually made her high heels make sense.

? Tom Hardy was just terrifying as Bane, but in a completely different way than Heath Ledger’s Joker. Huge and hulking, but also clearly very smart, as evidenced by his plan. They may not have gotten the mask right, but they got his intelligence.
? Bane’s was mostly intelligible through the movie, although I missed what he was saying a few times. Occasionally it was too clear, like in the plane in the beginning, where the wind is roaring and everyone else is screaming but Bane somehow sounds perfectly clear, even though he has a bag over his head.
? I loved Bane’s voice. It still sounds exactly like Goldfinger to me, but it’s weird pleasant tone contrasted really well with Bane’ physical presence and bouts of violence.
? Speaking of voices, honestly, Bale’s Batman voice was funnier than Bane’s. Honestly, you could put Bale’s Batman voice next to any of the best dozen Bat-parody videos over the last three years, and you’d never be able to tell which one was the real one. 
? Matthew Modine — who gives a shit? I would have much appreciated his six minutes of crap cut out so I could have ran to the bathroom a little bit earlier.
? Nolan-verse Commissioner Gordon is kind of an ass. 
? I had always assumed Marion Cotillard/Miranda Tate was going to be revealed to Talia al’Ghul, and then when they did the “Bane is Ra’s’s’s’s son!” I very much assumed she wasn’t. So that twist was a genuine twist for me, and one I thought was very well done in the way it suckered in jaded nerds like myself. I mean, I immediately accepted Nolan turning Bane into Ra’s son — it seemed like something he would do. 
? Admittedly, this does make Bruce Wayne/Batman a pretty shitty detective (I forgot what the scar meant myself, but then I wasn’t a member of the League of Shadows), but he’s never really done any detecting in these movies. Again, Nolan-man. Different dude.
? I’ve seen a couple people complain about the nuke going off in the harbor and how it would still fuck up Gotham, but it’s pure comic book logic to me. It didn’t bother me for a second. I mean, the bomb had a five month timer on it and Batman started towing it with 1:30 left. One’s more scientifically inaccurate than the other, but they’re both equally goofy. Whatever.
? If you had told me a few months ago that the end of Dark Knight Rises would feature Bruce Wayne retiring from being Batman to go have rough sex with Anne Hathaway in Paris for the rest of his live, I would have been furious. But — along with my Nolan-man revelation — with this whole trilogy being about the power of truth and symbols, I think this ending was necessary. Bruce Wayne retires, but the symbol of Batman will live on in Joseph Gordon-Levitt — again, it’s not the greatest Batman story, but it’s a story I very much enjoyed.
? That said, I have no desire to see a movie about JGL’s Batman or Robin or Nightwing or whatever. The Nolan-verse can be done now, thanks.
Which brings me to my final point: Christopher Nolan may have seriously fucked up DC’s movies. Love them or hate them, Nolan had a very individual take on the superhero movie, and one that happened to be conducive to the Batman character — but that cannot be applied to other superheroes (at least, and not and get good results). Man of Steel looks for all the world like it’s trying to be Nolan’s Superman Begins — and while seeing young Bruce Wayne wander the earth and brood makes sense for his character and his journey, it does nothing for Superman. At all. It’s trying to make a Superman-shaped peg fit into a Batman-shaped hole, and that’s best left for fan fiction.
But seriously, if DC/Warner Bros. think people want Chris Nolan’s style for their superhero movies, they are fucked. Nolan’s style only worked for Batman, and only worked because Nolan did it. Even if they hire quality directors, if the mandate is to “make it like Chris Nolan would” then we are in for a lengthy slate of shitty DC superhero movies. Of course, in order for that to happen WB would actually need to make some DC superhero movies, so this problem might never actually come up. 

About Author

Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.