Most of the world has now seen the final piece of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. It’s a visually-stunning–don’t all those practical effects look amazing in a world filled with CGI?–and thought-provoking film that deserves the praise that is being heaped up on it. Well, most of the praise.
Make no mistake: the good parts of the film are very, very good. The returning actors all turn in fantastic performances, but it’s the new characters that really steal the scenes in this film. Anne Hathaway’s “Catwoman” (they never actually call her by that name), in particular, is probably the best version of that character we’ve ever seen on film (with absolutely no apologies to Halle Berry). Thematically, the film is as rich as any superhero movie will ever be.
That said, TDKR doesn’t live up to the hype. It’s probably the weakest film of the Nolan’s Batman series, though that’s not uncommon for the final chapter of trilogies (Return of the Jedi, anyone?). It gets bogged down in its immense scope and there are times when plot elements are introduced so quickly, almost out of necessity, that the audience isn’t given time to properly digest everything that’s happening (or time to realize that some of it makes little sense). Though rapid pacing and convoluted plots are becoming a bit of a hallmark of Nolan films, it seems like audiences are mostly willing to forgive him because of his admirable ambition. Still, it would be nice to see Nolan write a truly waterproof plot at some point.
There are a few specific aspects of the film that I’m not willing to forgive, though. And I don’t think you should, either. Without further ado, here are five things that I thought were stupid about The Dark Knight Rises:
1. The name The Dark Knight Rises. There’s nothing especially wrong with the standalone name The Dark Knight Rises, it’s just that it creates a very clunky trio of names for the Nolan trilogy. If the first film has been called The Dark Knight Begins instead of Batman Begins, it would have worked. Instead, we get a trilogy in which the second and third films look like a pair based on their names, despite the fact that the third is probably a closer relative of the first. My preference would have been a name pulled from the comics, like Knightfall or No Man’s Land (both of which were comic story arcs that influenced the plot of this movie in a significant way).
2. Bane’s voice. It seemed an impossible task, but Christopher Nolan has given the world a character with an even more comically ridiculous voice than Christian Bale’s Batman: Tom Hardy’s Bane. I had no problem understanding what Bane was saying (the audio guys did a good job cleaning that up), it’s just that Bane’s accent was so goofy that I almost burst out laughing at key moments in the film.
3. Batman decides to fight Bane with his hands. One of the most important aspects of the Batman character is his ingenuity. He invents gadgets and keeps them on hand in his utility belt. When he gets in a jam, he always has some kind of tool to bail him out. Not this time, though. Batman decides to confront the huge and powerful Bane using only his hands. At no point does he try to level the playing field with one of his trademark gadgets. And he gets his back broken as a result of it.
4. Bruce Wayne recovers from a broken back in under five months. I don’t recall if it’s ever explicitly stated that Bane broke Batman’s back (that’s what happens in the comic book story arc TDKR borrows from), but we know that, at the very least, Bruce Wayne is suffering from a dislocated vertebrae while trapped in a prison/giant hole in the ground. That’s an injury that typically takes a year and a half and many sessions of intense physical therapy for a person to recover from. Somehow, during the five months (maximum) that Wayne is in a prison described as “hell on earth,” he is able to fully recover from the injury. Those must have been some pretty special push-ups he did.
5. The prison/hole in the ground. Who builds a prison that you are able to climb out of? And who is running this prison? It appears that inmates are given an unlimited number of chances to escape. It also appears that all these supposedly horrible people (they attacked Bane after he helped a small girl) are all friends who help each other train and cheer on each other’s escape attempts.
6. Bruce Wayne is a heck of a hitchhiker. Wayne escapes the foreign prison (we never hear what country it’s in, but it’s clearly somewhere far away) and somehow makes it all the way back to Gotham City without any money or any identification.
7. The federal government’s inaction. There’s an atomic bomb in Gotham City that is controlled by a group of people who are, essentially, terrorists. The bridges have been destroyed, making it hard to leave or enter the city. The President has been made aware of all of this. What does he do? He doesn’t send in air support (other than a few reconnaissance fly-overs). He doesn’t send his naval fleet to land on the shores. He sends just three Navy Seals and then sits back and lets the citizens of Gotham solve their own problem–for five months! What the heck was happening in Congress during this time? A major city is in anarchy and there is no significant military intervention?
8. Batman’s time management. There’s a ticking bomb that needs to be defused, but Batman somehow finds the time to paint a giant version of his logo on a bridge using gasoline and then rig it up so that Commissioner Gordon can ignite it from down on the ground. He does this for the sole purpose of it looking cool. Was that really the best use of your time, Batman?
9. The SEC really drops the ball. Bane’s crew executes a series of clearly fraudulent stock trades, effectively bankrupting Bruce Wayne. Did no one in the financial world think to just reverse these trades?
10. The world’s most durable atomic bomb. That bomb takes a beating in this movie. It’s tweaked, shot at, banged around in the back of a truck and then chained to a plane. No one is at all concerned that any of this stuff might cause it to detonate?