I’m really trying not to sound like I’m rattling off a list of flaws about The Dark Knight Rises. Because it is a fairly decent film. Really, it is. Maybe I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped and when you come out of the cinema thinking only of flaws it’s certainly not a good thing. But the film does have its moments. Like the bookending scene, which I don’t want to spoil (although what are you doing reading this blog if you haven’t seen it?), or the fun little comments, such as when Batman turns around and Catwoman disappears without a trace and he remarks that he knows now how it felt when he did the same to Commissioner Gordon. Another nice moment is when Selina Kyle is confronted by Bruce Wayne and slips out of the mansion through the window. The fight in the sewer is put together coolly too, especially in the nod to Knightfall.
However, the film also lacks sense in a number of places. Most notably in the structure of the film which seems like an amalgamation of the comics Knightfall and The Dark Knight Returns. In the beginning of the film, Bruce Wayne is retired but the existence of a new, powerful enemy and the words of John Blake convince Bruce Wayne that he must take up the mantle and become the symbol that Gotham needs once again. And, just like The Dark Knight Returns, Alfred is completely against it. The problem stems from the fact that, in a one on one confrontation, Bane proceeds to break the Bat’s back in line with the story from Knightfall. A clever joining of two of the biggest Batman stories (perhaps aside from A Death in the Family), wouldn’t you think? Well, what director Christopher Nolan, and the producers, didn’t seem to think through was that this would mean watching Bruce Wayne find the strength to become Batman again twice. Each story maybe takes about 20-30 minutes so in a near three hour film that’s one hour gone already.
I’d argue that another hour and a half of the story is devoted to Bane’s plot to take over Gotham, Selina Kyle…not really doing much after Batman breaks his back until he comes back, John Blake rallying the police force and saving orphans, Commissioner Gordon struggling with the truth about Harvey Dent. Sigh. Let’s just say that there’s a lot going on in this film that isn’t necessarily tied to Bruce Wayne or Batman. Some of it is necessarily for the story to work but some of the scenes are basically building towards the ending. I already stated last week that part of my disappointment with this film was that, far too often, I could see the film actively building to the end and hurt my ability to be immersed in the film and just enjoy it. Character moments and emotional life altering arcs are great and fine but they shouldn’t really detract from the title character in a film.
Outside of the structure, there are a few smaller moments which lack clarity. Consider the back breaking with in the film. At the arming of the nuclear reactor, which I’ll come back to in a moment, the scientist tells Bane that the core of the bomb will degrade within five months and will blow whether the button is pushed or not. Lucius Fox is present for this plot point but doesn’t seem to spread the word among the common people. Batman’s back is broken shortly before this, probably not even a month. Batman is thrown into a prison where he must scale the walls to escape. He does this in five months. After recovering from a broken back. Now, I’m no expert and I’m sure varying degrees of injury to the back would require various recovery periods but for any injury where a vertebra is protruding from your back, I’m fairly certain it would take more than five months. And the procedure would likely be more than a hard slap on the back and being tied up on a rope until you can stand properly.
That’s only one of a number of illogical moments within the film. Returning to the nuclear reactor, the device is built to sustain clean power to Gotham, rather than through fossil fuels. It’s built about three years before the start of the film. During those three years, a scientist writes an article saying, without ever seeing the reactor, that it could be weaponised. Wayne Enterprises start having difficulties building the generator but, in reality, they complete it and install a fail-safe to flood it. Cut to the current setting and Bruce Wayne, despite knowing this reactor can be weaponised, has done nothing to figure out a way to disarm such a bomb if it were ever armed. Does Nolan realise that Batman is the one character who is so crazy prepared that he once had shark-repellent on hand? That would be too easy, so it obviously exists for the sake of plot, but it’s not like Bruce Wayne really has any reason for not knowing how.
Then, that same scientist, arms the bomb in like five minutes or something ridiculous.
Sigh. I really did want to enjoy this film but the story just makes it so difficult when such illogical inconsistencies exist. One of the strangest inconsistencies came about when Bane told Batman that he would give Gotham hope and then take it away so that they could know what true despair was. He immediately starts blowing football pitches and bridges sky-high, telling the truth about Harvey Dent and releasing criminals into the streets with machine guns. So, um, where’s the hope, Bane?
Long ago, when this film was still in filming and production, Christopher Nolan stated that he wanted to give Batman both a physical and a mental challenge through Bane. While he’s certainly physically intimidating, this Bane is not the genius from the comics who figures out Batman’s real identity, distracts him and then sneaks in and breaks his back. He’s a monster whose plan is the plot of another. Another disappointing twist in The Dark Knight Rises. Honestly, whatever I expected of the film, Nolan has proven through Inception and Memento that he knows how to structure and plot a story logically. So it’s really disappointing to see such gaping inconsistencies here.
As I’ve said, I don’t really like rattling off the flaws of the film because it is basically decent. But anyone who knows anything about these characters or storytelling will likely be left feeling a little frustrated by parts of this film. Many people will like and enjoy this film, and that’s fine. But, for me, the flaws were just too prominent to over look and detracted from my enjoyment. Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is who should take over after Nolan. Personally, I think Darren Aronofsky should do a Batman film with Man-Bat as a villain. Just imagine the dark, disturbing film that Aronofsky could make out of material like that.