Monday, July 23, 2012

Movie Review – The Dark Knight Rises

WARNING: SPOILERS SPOIILERS SPOILERS! This is going to be a big ol’ honkin’ ramble. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to talk about yet or what format this will be, but I am definitely spoiling some things that are big secrets. Well, sort of. I strongly suspected most of them going in, but I still would have been pissed if somebody had confirmed anything beforehand.
I hope that sometime during my life somebody who understand the character of Bruce Wayne makes a Batman movie.

Understand this – if you do not read comics and if your only knowledge of Batman comes from the previous Christopher Nolan Batman movies, you will probably really like The Dark Knight Rises. It is a truly epic movie that – story-wise - is an excellent finale for the story that Christopher Nolan has told about his version of Batman. But even from that perspective I think it has some pretty major flaws. None that I couldn’t overlook on their own, but when combined with Nolan and Goyer’s utter misunderstanding of Bruce Wayne they become severe impediments to my enjoyment of the movie.

Batman Begins and The Dark Knight both suggested that Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer were not telling stories about the Batman of the comic books. Obviously this was a character that was far more based in reality than the blue-cowled dynamo that ran around Gotham City chasing the likes of Poison Ivy, Clayface, and Mister Freeze. As I have pointed out before, Nolan’s Bat-universe was already flawed as an interpretation of the comics because these fantastic characters could not exist in his “real” world. But I can live with that. I enjoy Elseworlds stories as much as anybody else and a different take on Batman was plenty interesting. As long as the core principles and motivations of the character remain intact, it is usually fascinating to see them in realities outside of their norm.

As long as the core principles and motivations of the character remain intact.

The above condition is why The Dark Knight Rises lost me about twenty minutes in. I don’t mean to say I hated it and immediately discounted the possibility that I could be entertained. I was definitely entertained. But as a Batman movie this thing was an utter failure from the get-go. Because Bruce Wayne quit.

Batman Begins established that Nolan Batman came about in almost exactly the same way as traditional Batman (I’m saying “traditional Batman” rather than “real Batman” to avoid sounding like a lunatic). Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered during a robbery, he dedicated his life to doing everything he could to prevent other people from enduring such tragedy (by eliminating all crime), and he just happened to have the resources to be very, very effective. So far, so good.

But then, at the end of Batman Begins, he allowed Ra’s al Ghul to die. He did not kill this man, so it didn’t utterly violate the ideals of the traditional Batman. But Nolan Batman did simply walk away and allow a man to die, something the traditional Batman would not do.
The Dark Knight managed to be a fairly traditional story. Bruce Wayne acted like Bruce Wayne should act and Joker acted like Joker should act. Harvey Dent was Gotham’s shining hope that helped to eliminate organized crime and he paid for it in the worst way possible. At the end, Harvey Dent went crazy in a way that maybe didn’t completely make sense and then died because Nolan Batman failed to save him. Again, not necessarily a strike against the traditional character, but something that was done more for the story than for Bruce Wayne. The movie ends with Police Commissioner Gordon and Batman agreeing to cover up Dent’s tragic fall from grace in order to make him a symbol of hope for the city. Batman is blamed for Dent’s murder and goes on the run, presumably to continue his fight against all crime, only now as a wanted criminal. But it doesn’t matter because the only thing that matters is Bruce Wayne’s never-ending war on crime and injustice.

So when The Dark Knight Rises opened with a shut-in Bruce Wayne that just quit being Batman eight years ago, I became just a wee bit dismissive of the whole franchise. I don’t care what story you are telling – Bruce Wayne would never stop fighting crime. Unless, of course, he managed to eliminate all crime in the entire world; which is patently ridiculous.

The reason for Bruce Wayne just quitting seems to be a combination of him being sad that his true love – Rachel Dawes – died and the fact that organized crime has been eliminated from Gotham City. The first came about when the Joker blew Rachel up as part of his convoluted plan; the second as a result of the Dent Act – a law that is somewhat of an extension of the Rico Act that makes it easier for members of organized crime to be linked together, held accountable, and prosecuted.

So Bruce just quit. I know I’ve used variations of the word “quit” a lot already, but it’s because I have such a problem with the fact that the people that made this movie think it is an action that Bruce Wayne would even be capable of contemplating, let alone taking. Regardless of what happens in his lifetime, Bruce Wayne’s end will not be serene. He will die fighting crime and injustice simply because there will always be crime and injustice and he can tolerate the presence of neither. But Nolan’s Bruce Wayne just quit.

Meanwhile, there is crime going on in the world. Bruce Wayne could be doing something about it with his vast resources and experience with criminal organizations all over the world, but he has moping to do.

The actual opening of the movie was well done. The CIA is taking a Russian nuclear physicist into either custody or protection and Bane and his people take the physicist and fake his death in the resulting plane crash. It’s a good, big sequence that introduces Bane as a criminal mastermind fairly efficiently. This was a relief. Bane is one of my favorite Batman villains because he was such a perfect foil for Batman. He beat Batman both physically and mentally. The problem with Bane in all other forms of media is that he is almost always used as muscle. Nobody ever takes advantage of the uniqueness of his character. But The Dark Knight Rises sets Bane up as both mentally and physically powerful right off the bat (no pun intended).
Tom Hardy is absolutely fantastic as Bane. He looks the part, he acts the part, and he has this incredible lack of self-doubt that just radiates in every scene he is in. The only problem is in his dialogue. I don’t know the whole story here, but I can tell you that the first clip I saw from this movie featured Bane delivering absolutely unintelligible lines. I could not understand a word he said. Nobody could. The internet grew concerned and Christopher Nolan actually came out and said that he had planned it that way and it wouldn’t matter. Seriously? The audience won’t be able to understand more than every fifth word of the antagonist’s dialogue and that’s okay? Apparently Warner Bros. thought that was just as ridiculous as everybody else did and told Nolan to fix it. The problem is that Nolan fixed it by having Tom Hardy record his Bane dialogue in an impersonation of Darrell Hammond doing an impersonation of Sean Connery from the SNL Celebrity Jeopardy sketches. And also that they seem to have used some fairly primitive ADR techniques because Bane’s dialogue does not blend in with the rest of the sound in the movie at all. It sounds like somebody went back and recorded lines after the movie was done, and while that’s what ADR is, it isn’t what ADR is supposed to sound like.

Oddly, this did not kill my enjoyment of the move or even of Tom Hardy’s performance. I really like those sketches. You can see all of them here.

Next we meet Selina Kyle. I was concerned that Anne Hathaway’s character would be more Selina Kyle and less Catwoman, but that thankfully is not the case. She sneaks into a charity fundraiser being held at Wayne Manor in order to steal Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints and trade them to John Daggett – a rival businessman to Bruce Wayne that actually originated in Batman: The Animated Series – for a computer program that will erase her criminal record. Well, she doesn’t actually sneak – she’s disguised as a maid. Kyle is lifting Wayne’s prints from a safe and can’t help but look inside, where she finds a particular string of pearls. But then famous recluse Wayne shows up and not only has the rattiest goatee you’ve ever seen but is walking with the help of a cane. Kyle acts all innocent like she just got lost, but of course Bruce recognizes those pearls. She immediately drops the act and goes all Catwoman. It’s a great moment when Hathaway switches characters. She kicks the cane out from under Bruce and does a backflip out the window, lands on the ground below, does a little costume change, and hops into a limo with a congressman.

While all this was going on, Miranda Tate – a successful businesswoman and entrepreneur - is trying to convince Alfred to let her see Bruce Wayne. Unfortunately, Master Wayne is busy NOT FIGHTING CRIME and can’t be disturbed. I mean, for fuck’s sake – he won’t even fight crime in his own home. He let Catwoman steal his mother’s pearls!

Except that’s not entirely true because he discovers that Catwoman was after his prints and not the pearls and also there’s a tracker in the pearls anyway. This is one instance of Nolan and Goyer nailing Bruce Wayne’s character. The man has a plan for everything. Even though he has his mother’s precious pearls locked away in a safe that was guaranteed to be secure, he still puts a tracker on them. That is probably the best example of Batmanitude we see in all three movies.

The fundraiser scene also introduces a policeman named Foley. He is perhaps best known for his role in “No Man’s Land” – the epic Batman event that saw Gotham City hit by disaster and abandoned by the US government. Foley is a rising star in the police department and sees Commissioner Gordon as a liability left over from Gotham’s “War Time”. The GCPD needs new blood to represent the new serenity of “Peace Time” to the city. He claims to Mayor Eyeliner that Gordon is on his way out.

So one of the very best things about sequels to superhero movies is that the origin is done. You don’t have to sit around waiting for this regular, boring person to become a superhero and start punching bad guys because they are already the superhero. Except, of course, that in The Dark Knight Rises Bruce Wayne has quit being Batman and we have to sit for another fucking hour and watch him become Batman all over again. And what sets him down the path? What motivates Bruce Wayne to shave and leave Wayne Manor for the first time in eight years? Not crime. Not injustice. His dick. He’s horny for Catwoman.

To be fair, he actually wants to get his mother’s pearls back and find out why this woman lifted his prints, but my way is funnier. Bruce tracks down Selina Kyle at another fundraiser – lots of those in Gotham – and they have the scene in the trailer where she tells him a storm is coming and then steals his car.

Bruce Wayne may have quit fighting crime, but Commissioner James Gordon has not. In the process of chasing some criminals he ends up in the sewers beneath Gotham. The men with him get taken out and Gordon himself is captured and taken to a massive underground operation where some sort of construction (or deconstruction) is going on. Two of the criminals drag Gordon to a huge figure hunched over in front of a wall full of plans and blueprints. It’s Bane.

He turns as he stands and is not exactly happy that these two morons have brought the head of the police department into the middle of their secret operation. While Bane’s busy snapping one of the idiot’s necks, Gordon rolls off the side of the platform they’re on and into the water below.

Back up in the streets, a young officer named Blake is trying to get into the sewers to help Gordon, but Foley won’t let him. Blake gets frustrated and heads off on his own to find another way to help the hero cop, finding Gordon washed out of an outlet and hurt badly. The Commissioner tells the young cop about what he saw and tells him the city needs Batman. Oddly enough, Blake just so happens to know who Batman is.

He goes to Stately Wayne Manor and tells the billionaire that something is afoot and that Batman is needed. Bruce is all like, “I don’t know why you’re telling me this,” and Blake explains how he is an orphan and his mom died and his dad was murdered and he has to hide his anger all the time. Under a mask. When Bruce Wayne visited his orphanage once he recognized somebody else that was wearing a mask and he knew he was Batman. Not exactly the Tim Drake story, here, but whatever. Blake also tells Bruce that the orphanage hasn’t been receiving the Wayne money it used to.

Here’s another issue I have with Nolan’s Batman – I am not clear at all on the time frame of his career or if he has actually fought any crime outside of what we’ve seen in the movies. It seemed like The Dark Knight took place very shortly after Batman Begins. I assume there was some crime fighting in between the two, but not, like, a decade or anything. So Bruce Wayne visited Blake when Blake was a kid and Bruce was already Batman. I can’t figure out when this happened. It’s probably just me, but I would like to have a little bit of a timeline. You’d think with all the fuss made about the eight years that passed between movies two and three we’d have a bit more clarity about the span of time of the whole trilogy. I dunno.

Anyway, Bruce schedules a visit to the hospital Gordon is in so they can show the scene from the first teaser. After The State’s Thomas Lennon tells Bruce his body is about as wrecked as Terry Funk’s (actually, this scene was very reminiscent of Funk’s doctor visit from Beyond the Mat), Bruce puts on a ski mask and rappels one story down to visit the injured Commissioner, who tells him the city needs Batman back.

This is another reason the vagueness of the timeline bothers me – Bruce’s injuries seem to indicate a full career of fighting crime, but from what the movies have shown this isn’t the case. My best estimate is that from the time Bruce Wayne returned to Gotham to the time Harvey Dent died is no more than eighteen months, if that. After Harvey died, the new movie establishes that Batman ran from the cops and then disappeared, never to be seen again. This makes Batman’s career significantly less impressive than it should be. Eighteen months of work followed by eight years of retirement.

I hadn’t intended to do a full recap here, but there are just a lot of things I have to explain in order to get my opinions across.

During a visit to Wayne Enterprises Bruce finds out that he company isn’t doing so well thanks to a project he sunk half of the assets into that didn’t pan out – an arc reactor that would provide clean, renewable energy… wait… no. A fusion reactor that would provide clean, renewable energy for the city. This was a joint venture with Miranda Tate’s company, but Bruce himself pulled the plug when it came out that a Russian nuclear physicist could weaponize the reactor. He vowed that the reactor would remain unused until he could ensure it could not be used as a weapon. So Wayne enterprises is suffering financially as a result. But Lucius Fox is still Lucius Fox and has been stockpiling all of the weapons – extra Tumblers and such – from various Wayne Enterprises branches and hiding them in the R&D bunker under the building.

This was a cool scene and showed that Fox is still on Bruce’s side regardless of what’s going on. He just seems to have fun playing with Bruce’s little secret. That sounded dirty.

Across town, Bane and his buddies attack the Gotham Stock Exchange. This scene was incredibly tough to watch because of what happened in Aurora, Colorado. Seeing Bane’s men walk in and just start gunning innocent people down was uncomfortable. But the scene happens and one of Bane’s men hacks into the computers and starts downloading something or other. The cops show up outside, so Bane starts sending hostages out the front doors and then he and his men follow on motorcycles with hostages mounted on them. The cops pursue, but just aren’t up to the challenge.

That’s when Batman returns, and it is an awesome return. The cop cars are all after the motorcycles, but can’t quite catch up when all of the lights in the tunnel they are in go out. When they come back up, the Batpod speeds by and starts taking out bad guy motorcycles. Bane gets away, but Batman catches the guy with the device that was doing the hacking. It turns out they were falsifying a bunch of transactions that left Bruce Wayne broke, but this doesn’t come up until later.

When Bruce gets home, Alfred begs him to not be Batman again. Bruce says that Rachel never gave up and he can’t, either; which is weird because that’s exactly what he did for eight years. Alfred says that if Bruce is determined to die he isn’t going to stick around for it and he leaves. Bruce – who all of a sudden has decided being Batman is the most important thing ever after not doing jack-squat for eight years – just lets him go. Alfred also told Bruce about the letter from Rachel explaining how she chose Harvey, but that just came across as kind of weird and petty.

Sometime around here we find out that John Daggett is working with Bane. Catwoman shows up at Daggett’s penthouse and demands he give her the program he had promised her, but he tells her it doesn’t exist. His men come storming out from everywhere and things look pretty dire until Batman drops out of the sky and starts kicking ass. This scene is awesome, as Catwoman and Batman beating ass in tandem is a very cool sight.

But then automatic weapon fire breaks up the fun and the pair race over to the edge of the roof, where Batman’s newest toy floats below. They hop in and take off with Bane looking on.

The next morning Bruce is broke and gets ousted from Wayne Enterprises, but not before he convinces Miranda Tate to step in and take over.

My recall of certain things is a bit fuzzy because I had been up since 3:30 AM yesterday and got about three hours of sleep last night thanks to storms. I’m surprised I’ve gotten this much written.

Bruce tracks down Selina and asks her to show his “powerful friend” where Bane is. She says she might meet him that night. Bruce goes back home to find himself locked out and a soaking wet and apparently quite horny Miranda Tate waiting for him. This movie has already established that Bruce’s motivation is now penetrating vagina rather than fighting crime, so he busts in a door and the two go inside and have a good screw. I just realized something about that good screw – I’ll come back to it later on.

In the middle of the night, Bruce gets up and leaves Miranda so he can go and meet Catwoman. What a dick. She’s waiting for him in the subway and leads him through some tunnels down into the central area Commissioner Gordon had been taken to previously. Before Admiral Ackbar can even jump out and yell, “It’s a trap!” Batman is trapped in a cage with Bane, with Catwoman outside apologizing.

The fight between Bane and Batman is the shit. They really beat the heck out of each other. And Bane is talking shit the whole time about how great he is and how he’s going to break Bruce Wayne and how victory made Batman weak. This thing is choreographed like a wrestling match, with tons of back and forth action and each fighter gaining the advantage from time to time. My only issue is that it was mostly just brawling without a whole lot of the fancy martial arts you would expect from two former League of Shadows members.

Finally Bane gets Batman down on the ground and punches him in the head really, really hard a bunch of times – enough so that his cowl breaks. Bane tells Batman that he is going to destroy his city and oh, by the way, thanks for the help because they happen to be under the Wayne Enterprises R&D storage facility and they’re going to use all of Batman’s toys to do it. Just then a Tumbler falls through the ceiling above. Batman goes for a last desperation assault against Bane, but the larger man picks him up over his head and delivers a massive backbreaker. Batman is done.

Spoiler – Bruce Wayne’s back is not actually broken, and I don’t really have a problem with that. The passage of time across this trilogy of movies is spotty enough as it is without having to work in recovery from a broken spine. Plus, they never even introduced a nurse with magic healing powers.

At some point earlier somebody (Alfred?) told Bane’s story and it’s basically what was in the comics. He was born in a prison and managed to survive and escape. Now Bruce Wayne finds himself in that same prison. Bane is standing over him, pointing to a screen and explaining that Wayne will spend the remainder of his life in this pit with the prisoners keeping him alive. Once he has witnessed the destruction of his city and the millions of souls he failed to save, Bane will allow him to die.

Back in Gotham the shit is getting ready to hit the fan. Officer Blake has been made a Detective by Commissioner Gordon, who is still hospitalized but doing his best to run the department. Blake uncovers Bane’s plot to take over Gotham, though he doesn’t totally get that it’s a plot to take over Gotham. He does realize it’s a plot to blow a bunch of stuff up, though. The truth ends up being even worse. Bane shows up at Wayne Enterprises and forces Lucius, Miranda, and another exec to take him to the fusion reactor, where he has the Russian nuclear physicist weaponize it. They remove the core and transport it to a huge, armored truck that look like the LexCorp Juggernaut from LEGO Batman 2.

Commissioner Gordon hears about this and wants to know just what the fuck Foley has been doing all this time and Foley looks like a little kid that got caught sneaking Peeps before Easter. Gordon orders the entire police force down into the sewers to find this Bane guy and stop him. This is about when Blake figured things out, but it was too late. Bane blows up a football field, all but one of the bridges surrounding Gotham City, and all of the underground access points – trapping almost all of the police force underground. Gordon, Foley, Blake, and a few others remain aboveground while thousands are trapped below.

Once this is all done, Bane and his men take the football field and Bane tells the people of Gotham City that he is there to liberate them from the tyranny for their corrupt government. He then states that he has a nuclear bomb in the truck behind him and that one random Gothamite has the trigger. If any rescue attempt is made, if a single person tries to leave the city, if anybody stands against Bane and his men; that person will detonate the bomb. Then his men bring out the Russian nuclear physicist, who says he is the only one who can disarm the bomb before Bane snaps his neck. Everybody is very upset by this.

Gotham City descends into a state of sort of chaos.

While Bane was declaring martial law at the stadium, Blake goes to find Gordon at the hospital, knowing he is a target. He arrives to find two dead mercenaries on the floor and Gordon with his gun at the ready.

The next act – this movie has, like, eight – is all about Gotham falling apart and Bruce getting himself back together. We see the rich being violently pulled out of their homes, taken before Jonathan Crane to be judged for their “crimes”, and then sentenced to death or exile. Exile consists of a walk across the frozen Gotham River, which results in death every time. I can only assume a large portion of America thinks this would be perfectly acceptable. To take the accomplished and successful out of the homes they have earned for themselves, kill them, and distribute their wealth among the “less fortunate”. By which I mean lazy and unmotivated.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to get political there. It’s the movie’s fault. And I’m honestly curious as to Nolan and Goyer’s motivation with this scene. Despite being part of the rich that the non-upwardly-mobile masses so despise, the Hollywood elite rarely deviate from the message of our liberal friends. But this extrapolation of the Occupy Wall Street movement was clearly portrayed in a negative light. The men ousting and murdering the rich were not heroes and one of our identifying characters in the movie – Selina Kyle, no wealthy person herself - found these actions repellent. Or maybe I’m just reading too much into it.

For the record, I am not rich. But I do think rich people are pretty awesome.

While Gotham is crumbling, Bruce Wayne is rebuilding. His back has a vertebra out of place and one of the prisoners that is tending to him ties this huge rope around his chest and hangs him from the ceiling, with Wayne screaming the whole time. Then the guy kind of punches him in the back and tells him to hang there until he can stand. During this time, Bruce hallucinates Ra’s al Ghul explaining Bane’s true history to him (this is Bruce’s brain deducing things). Bane’s father was a mercenary who fell in love with a local ruler’s daughter. They made the sex and the mercenary was sentenced to prison. The daughter plead for the mercenary’s life and – unbeknownst to him – took his place in the prison pit. She gave birth to his child there. After several years, their cell is accidentally left open and the daughter is raped and killed by the prisoners. The child is saved by another prisoner, who takes the child under his wing and protects it until one day the child climbs from the well. Ra’s claims he is immortal through his offspring, who are continuing his plan to destroy Gotham City.

A million push-ups and two attempts later, and Bruce climbs out of the prison. I thought I’d make that short and sweet. We all knew he was going to do it. Bruce shows up back in Gotham and finds Selina to tell her there are no hard feelings (well, not bad ones, anyway; wink, wink) and that he needs her help. He then gives her the program she wanted and tells her he is the one that took it in the first place because he didn’t want it abused. Selina says she is going to leave, but Bruce trusts her to stay and do what is right.

I do believe Bruce spent several months in prison while Gordon, Blake, and their small unit of aboveground police officers did their best to protect and serve. But after all this time Bane’s men finally caught up with not only the guerilla police force, but also the last holdouts of Wayne Enterprises. Gordon And his men are brought before Jonathan Crane and sentenced to death by exile. The set for these courtroom scenes is straight out of the comics:

A vast, open chamber full of people and debris. A single uncomfortable-looking chair sits in the middle of the room. At the far end is the “Judge’s Bench” – a massive stack of all of the furniture that once filled the room, probably twenty feet high and just as wide. At the top, behind a desk, sits Jonathan Crane. He is wearing either a jacket or judge’s robes (I couldn’t tell) with tears in the shoulders that have hay sticking out. I really wish they had worked his mask in. I get the need to have Cillian Murphy show his face, but he could have put the mask on when delivering the sentence. Still, great surprise cameo.

As they are being forced out onto the ice, Bane’s men start dropping one by one. Tiny, poison –tipped Batarangs are embedded in their necks. Batman just sort of appears out of the darkness and lays down his plan to Gordon.

Lots of stuff happens in the last half hour of the movie. But the important stuff is this:
  • The cops get freed from underground and let Batman lead them into open war against Bane and his men.
  • Batman saves Blake from getting killed and learns that Blake is a little disillusioned by the system he has to work within.
  • Of course Catwoman stays and helps. And looks damn good riding a Batpod.
  • That bomb is going off no matter what. Once Bane removed the core from the reactor it started deteriorating and after 36 days (or something) it will self-detonate. Unless it can be returned to the housing.
  • Bane and Batman have a Final Fight and it is really good, but not as good as the first one. But Batman punches more and harder this time and wins.
  • Miranda Tate is actually Talia al Ghul, who is actually the child from the prison. Bane was the man that protected her and he received his facial injuries helping her escape from the prison. Talia is the one behind everything.
We find that last out when Batman is preparing to let Bane die (yeah, really) and Miranda ruins up and stabs Batman right in the side. She then sits there and exposits for about ten minutes while Batman just sits there letting himself get stabbed. She even has time to fix Bane’s mask, which Batman had just finished punching to pieces.

I had a lot of problems with all of this. First, making Talia the mastermind once again recues Bane to the role of hired muscle. That bothers me so damn much because I thought Nolan would be better than that. I certainly don’t mind the Talia reveal, but why not have her simply as the backer or the inspiration? Also, I don’t like how willing Nolan Batman is to let people die. Or that we didn’t at least get a fight between Talia and Batman or even Talia and Catwoman. al Ghul’s daughter was trained by the League of Shadows as well.

Once Talia has finished the exposition explain how this is revenge for her father, she goes on to explain just why the heck she had sexy time with her greatest enemy. Oh, wait – no she doesn’t. she shows Batman the trigger for the bomb and says she had it all along. She makes a big show of pushing the button and nothing happens. She decides she’s going to have to take care of business herself.

Talia tells Bane not to kill Wayne and she leaves. She wants the nuclear blast of his failure to do it. The she ditched Bane and took off. The second she’s gone Bane is like, “Whatever. I am killing you right now,” which makes Bane pretty much the smartest person in any movie, ever. Unfortunately for him, Catwoman shows up and shoots him in the face with a rocket. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Batman never came back and decisively defeated Bane. Catwoman blew him up.

Across town Blake returned to the orphanage he grew up in and is attempting to evacuate the children. They made their way to an intact bridge and are trying to cross. There is a unit of police officers on the other side that tell Blake to return to the other side or they’ll open fire. Blake tries to explain that the situation has changed and the bomb is going off no matter what. He steps forward and the police fire on him, telling him they’ll blow up the bridge if he continues. But Blake believes in the rationality and common sense of his fellow uniformed officers and takes one more step…

And of course they blow up the bridge. Blake can’t believe it, and you can practically see his faith in the system crumble on his face.

Back in the middle of the city, Catwoman is driving the Batpod and Batman is piloting the Bat (the flying tank) and they are chasing down the armored truck carrying the bomb. Gordon is inside, having planted a device that interfered with Talia’s trigger. There’s a pretty intense and great chase scene, during which Batman and Catwoman kill lots of people. I mean, they’re mercenaries, but it’s still murder. Finally they catch up with the armored truck. As Gordon, Batman, and Catwoman approach the cab, a dying Talia lolls out and tells them it’s too late – she flooded the reactor chamber and now they’re going to die! Bwah hah urk… Dead Talia.

There’s less than four minutes left and the Dark Knight, Gotham’s protector, Knows What He Has To Do. He passionately kisses Commissioner Gordon goodbye and then tells Catwoman that a gesture as small as placing a coat over a boy’s shoulders to let him know the world isn’t ending is heroic. Wait… I think I mixed those up.

Anyway, Batman then attaches the bomb to the Bat’s towing cable and flies off with the lethal device in tow.

Back on the bridge, Blake and the orphans are watching the river and see an explosion from some buildings. One of them screams that this is it, but then the Bat flies out of the flames and they all cheer. This almost made me well up a little bit, because little kids cheering for Batman is awesome. They watch as the Bat flies out over Gotham Harbor and explodes. Blake throws his badge into the water.

This made me really, really sad; even though my brain had already dismissed this Batman as not legit two and a half hours ago.

Next we see Alfred, Lucius Fox, Blake, and Commissioner Gordon at a grave site outside of Wayne Manor. Three tombstones are there – Thomas and Martha Wayne and their son, Bruce. Alfred is inconsolable. As Blake and Gordon leave, the Commissioner asks the younger man if he is sure he wants to leave the force. Blake says he can’t stay in a system that doesn’t work.

Next we see Blake in the main meeting room of Wayne Enterprises, there for the reading of Bruce Wayne’s will. He is clearly not sure why he is there. He gives his name – John Blake - to the lady with the paperwork and she says she doesn’t have anything for him. He suggests she check under his given name and hands her his ID. She hands him an envelope and tells Blake he should sue his real name – Robin.

Really? On the nose much? I mean, this character had almost nothing in common with any of the Robins. Yes, there are little bits and pieces, but I guess there’s just so much other stuff that strays so far from traditional Batman that I don’t get the need to even use “Robin”. Just have him be John Blake. The Robin connection is nothing more than a bit of heavy-handed fan service.

Plus, he’s not off to be Batman’s sidekick. He’s off to be Batman. Because the envelope held the coordinates to the Batcave and guess what?


That’s right folks – he isn’t dead. He’s in a little café in France or somewhere having drinks with Selina Kyle. Alfred shows up and sees them, like he did in this dream he told Bruce about earlier that I didn’t care about enough to mention.

I mean, I’m glad he’s not dead and all, but come the fuck on.

Okay, so as far as an actual review, I have to say this movie was mostly excellent. The stuff that bothered me bothered me big time, but I sure did enjoy looking at it.

3 OUT OF 5

Tom Hardy’s Bane was just as mesmerizing as his character in Bronson. I was not a fan of Anne Hathaway going into the movie, but here portrayal of Selina Kyle was excellent – possibly even my favorite. I would go and see a Catwoman movie with her in it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a very good job with Robin Jonathan Blake. I actually found his character to be much more engaging than Bruce Wayne for most of the movie. Marion Cotillard didn’t do much for me. I don’t know if she didn’t have enough villain time to really establish herself or if the performance was just flat. Of course, I was also really irritated by the circumstances of the scene surrounding her big monologue, so that could be it, too. I’ll have a better idea once I see the Dark Knight Rises again. And I’ll definitely see it again.

The members of the returning cast were all as good as they have ever been. Oldman, Caine, Carbonell, Murphy, and even the older cop from the last movies were all fun to watch. My gripe is that I would much rather have seen Bale as a worn-down, exhausted Batman who has been struggling against an orchestrated tidal wave of crime for months than as a Bruce Wayne who just quit.

The movie itself looked amazing. Whatever issues I might have had with the story, Nolan’s cinematography is above reproach. Gotham City was once again treated like a character and, quite frankly, the scene that affected me the most in the whole movie was when Bane and his people blew everything up. Watching those explosions tearing apart the streets and the bridges… I could actually feel Bruce Wayne’s pain at seeing that destruction. It was weird, but it got me.

Hans Zimmer’s score was, as always, fine. I would not say I am a fan of his style of work, but it does the job. And I don’t say that in comparison to Danny Elfman’s Batman theme. Zimmer’s music is certainly more appropriate for these movies. But to me it just doesn’t stand on its own. I’ll uses the Prometheus score as an example – I loved the music in that movie, bought the score, and have listened to it independent of the film. I can’t do that with Zimmer’s work. It requires the accompanying visuals to make it interesting. What happened to our superhero themes? When is the last time we got a superhero theme song that gave us Nerd Chills every time we heard it?

I didn’t intend on this being a recap, but I guess it’s what I wanted to write. I know there are some tense issues in there (as in “past” and “present”). My storytelling is not at top form right now. Seven hours of sleep in the last fifty-plus hours does not result in my best. I left out a lot of stuff, probably forgot to mention some of my thoughts, and might have just generally confused you. But I guess I had to get this out.

I did not dislike this movie, but I disliked a lot of things in this movie. Taken solely as a part of the Nolan/Goyer Batman story it works very well except for the whole part where you wait for Bruce Wayne to be Batman. But there must have been something pretty significant about The Dark Knight Rises for me to have written exactly seven thousand words about it, right?

Side Note: The trailer for Man of Steel ran before The Dark Knight Rises. Looks like Superman’s going to be doing a whole lot of moping next Summer. Here’s my recap of the trailer:

Pa Kent voiceover telling Clark Kent he has some kind of destiny. Little boy Clark runs around in a red cape. Grown-up Clark mopes on a boat. Little boy Clark runs around in a red cape. Grown-up Clark mopes on a porch. Little boy Clark poses in a red cape. Grown-up Clark mopes on a road. Superman makes sonic boom while flying up into outer space, presumably to mope.

You will believe a man can mope.

Do you know how effective a trailer showing Superman punching things would have been? Or even just Superman picking cars up over his head? Or shooting something with heat vision? But no. Instead we get this dreary, grey-hued trailer that makes it look like the most powerful man on the planet, a man who can do almost anything, is a sad little bitch.



  1. Overall, this is not only a perfectly fitting ending to an incredible trilogy; it is also my favorite flick of the year, so far. Much like The Dark Knight, this will probably shoot to the top of critic’s lists, even though some of the reception for this have so far, been a little discouraging, but that’s expected when you have so much hype to live up to. Good review Phantom.

    1. This movie is giving me such a hard time because I wanted to love it and I still want to love it. And I kind of did love it. It just isn't Batman, you know? This and Prometheus are really making me use my brain more than I normally like to.

  2. I really liked this movie, despite its flaws. I think a big part of my enjoyment came from my complete disassociation of this film Batman from my comics and TAS Batman.

    It would be great if we actually got a movie about a Batman who wouldn't kill, and wouldn't quit, but I accepted several years ago that I was watching a different and unique version of the character, and while annoying, helped me let some things slide.

    "I can only assume a large portion of America thinks this would be perfectly acceptable." That is very upsetting, and I unfortunately think you're right. I too am not rich (in fact I spent the better part of 2011 unemployed and searching for work), but I like to think of myself as hard worker, and I admire other hard workers. Every rich person I have met (mostly by working for them) was an incredibly hard worker. Several of them were also assholes, but hard workers nonetheless. So when I see someone with more than me, I don't default to a state of wishing ill on that person.

    I did like to see Selina Kyle, despite her earlier statements to Bruce, have this moment of realization that she may have been a bit naive about what she wanted in society.

    This whole Batman as a symbol thing has been an interesting ride, and really made me think of the Year 100 storyline. I want to see this movie again, maybe this time in IMAX just for the experience. I've always wondered what a movie that wasn't an educational documentary would be like on a giant screen.

    At least you were able to enjoy the spectacle of the movie. Although I personally was not as upset about several of these problems with the story and characters as you, I can't discount any of your issues with it either.

    However, if you want to talk about a movie that I hated; not just thought was a bad movie, but absolutely hated, then you can do an Amazing Spider-man review.

    1. Yeah - that dissociation is completely necessary. I very much want to see it again now that my expectations have been "managed" as Toy Guru might say.
      I saw most of Amazing Spider-Man. I took Lil' Troublemaker to see it and he got scared when the Lizard showed up the first time - we had to leave. I'm no jerk; I wasn't going to make him stay. And I'll say this about the movie - it didn't exactly bother me that we left. I didn't hate it by any means, but I am just so damn sick of that origin story. How many times do we need to see it? But I do want to see the rest of the flick. There were a few things about it that I liked quite a bit. Seeing the costume getting made, Spidey actually being a wise-ass, Gwen Stacy. I'll check the rest out sometime.