This is a long, complicated movie and it does it a disservice to give it the quick good or bad summary. But I’m going to do that anyway. This movie is okay. There are things I like. But they are good pieces in a film that just doesn’t sit right with me. Taken as a whole, the movie is far less than the sum of its parts. I cannot say it is disappointing. It is a fitting most definitely final end to Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. I advise you to see it. The rest of this review is spoilery as hell. So let’s get in to what I liked first.
Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon Levitt do a fantastic job. Hathaway’s Catwoman is a great new character. Confident, enigmatic, and bit of a bitch. It was a really nice contrast with Michelle Pfieffer’s more vulnerable, damaged take on the character. Her twist during the movie was a bit out of left field I thought, but more on that later. Levitt’s character was also great, but he didn’t really do a whole lot. He walks around and follows the movie’s heroes (Batman and Gordon) without making a contribution of his own. I don’t feel it was to the movie’s detriment because I liked his character, and he has easily the best fate of in the epilogue that drew cheers from the packed house.
The final epilogue of the movie is also quite good. As soon as Michael Caine stops crying that epilogue showing the fates of our heroes is quite good if predictable. That’s really the problem with this movie. It lacks good surprises. And surprises are what makes a good movie great. This good movie is really weighed down by its lack of new elements. The entire plot is basically a rehash of Batman Begins as a more competent less ninjitsu more guns League of Shadows and it’s endless supply of members attempt to destroy Gotham. When I say they want to destroy Gotham, I mean that literally. The League of Bruce Wayne’s Evil Exes does not fuck around. To that end, this movie is BEGGING for an R rating. You could almost say that Bane’s destroys the football stadium in an effort to make snapping necks Gotham’s new sport. But the movie cuts away every time this happens. An entire city is being bombed and conquered by an army of terrorists with almost no violence.
I like the idea behind this plot. It’s in keeping with the comics. Bane comes to Gotham to destroy it and the Batman both physically and emotionally. But the execution is just sloppy and unrealistic. Bane and his cronies spend presumably months setting up explosives around what is clearly New York in the wide shots. With the NYPD being praised/blasted for relentless and successful intelligence operations, spying on mosques and any possible source of organized violence it stretches my disbelief that a New York proxies bridges and streets could be so completely packed with enough explosives. Thousands should have died when they go off but the movie never goes into the real consequences of its plot. Those consequences drive away from the realistic feel of the original two movies. This movie is so epic in scope is lacks verisimilitude. Bane gives a long winded speech after taking over the city that just lacks sense. An army of terrorists conquer Manhattan and hold it hostage with a nuke. That’s this movie in one sentence. That premise is too simple for the movie this is trying to be. It all felt very artificial. Heath Ledger’s joker felt like a serial killer. He was larger than life, but in truth the things he did in the Dark Knight turned Gotham upside down with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. It felt like that could happen. Dark Knight Rises lacks that sense of connection to the real world. Despite its overbearing desire to connect with the current pop culture anti-rich attitudes, this movie doesn’t feel like something that could ever happen.
With its simplicity and complete absence of violence, this movie is too fast but it feels long. And when I say this movie is too fast, one scene in particular stands out like a sore thumb. The Breaking of the Bat. In the Knightfall story, all of Bane’s actions are to reduce Batman to nothing physically and emotionally before Bane finally breaks his back. But in this movie, this scene occurs before the halfway point. It has ZERO buildup while Knightfall was nothing but buildup to this moment. Because I read the comic, I knew what would happen to Batman, but the movie had not earned the right to that plot point. Bane beats Batman because Bane can beat Batman in a fight. The scene moves so damn fast it didn’t sink in with the audience. The moment where Bane breaks Batman’s back was one of the most iconic images in Batman’s history since the first comic ever came out. This movie brought to mind what Michael Caine’s character said in the Prestige, “he’s a wonderful magician but he’s a terrible performer.” Nolan doesn’t know how to sell the scene it’s over as fast as it begun. Someone in the audience cracked a joke about the next scene and everyone laughed. There was no emotional connection to the breaking of Batman at all.
TIME FOR A REALLY BIG SPOILER.
That scene was my first really big problem with this movie. The other one has to do with the movie’s big twist. This movie has a twist. And if you don’t see this twist coming, you’re not good at watching movies. There’s no way to sugarcoat this. If you pay attention at all, this should not be a surprise for you. Here it comes, Marion Cotillard is the villain of this movie. And she is the dead albatross around this movie’s neck. She is AWFUL in this movie. Think of the Dark Knight Rises like a murder mystery. Someone is guilty. Someone is going to betray the good guys. The choices are, a group of characters we’ve known for 2 previous movies, or a new character that we know nothing about that clearly has a dark secret. This is possibly the worst twist in a film I’ve ever scene. It makes sense, but it is so exceedingly obvious it feels insulting.
Now for some minor nitpicks:
Bruce Wayne recovers from a broken back and an expertly delivered knife wound in about 10 minutes.
I did like Tom Hardy’s Bane. It was painfully obvious that his voice in the “prologue” section of the movie on the plane with Littlefinger was recorded entirely separately from the other parts of the movie. At times his voice sounds like it has this squeaky German accent. I liked the character, thought the voice was worked.
The Nostalgia Critic pointed out at some point that everything Michael Caine says is a little exposition speech. Once that was pointed out, I couldn’t not notice it. This was like someone pointing out a nipple. Those were really grating.
Anyone actually reading this will probably want to ask me about the movie later and I need to be at work in 4 hours. This movie has some serious problems that turn a good movie into an okay movie. See it, but keep an open eye for bullshit. And tell me you can’t tell the twist coming from a mile away.