I’ve been called a contrarian before. On occasion, I’ve even been called an elitist. Some people just assume that I hate everything. I don’t know where people get these ideas from sometimes.
Nonetheless, I was looking forward to watching the Dark Knight Rises this weekend. I should clarify before I begin that despite reading comics I’ve never been a huge fan of the DCU (I find the multiple levels of continuity far too daunting to read much other than the essentials), and my primary experience with Batman comes from the seminal ’90s animated series, as well as Rocksteady’s highly entertaining Arkham Asylum games.
So when it comes to the comics, I’ve only really read Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns and its fairly disappointing follow-up, as well as Year One (though I preferred that teams’ work on Daredevil) and of course, the superb All Star Batman & Robin: The Boy Wonder. Okay, so that last one isn’t exactly superb, but where else will you see the goddamn Batman throw Molotov cocktails and crush a squad car while police officers are still in it?
I think this comparative lack of knowledge still allows me to enjoy and discuss The Dark Knight Rises… after all, it was probably more experience than half of the guys in the cinema. But for some reason I just didn’t enjoy it anywhere near the level I’d expected. In fact, I was either bored or unimpressed for a large portion of the film’s rather protracted runtime.
So just what is it about this movie then?
First off, there are a large number of plot holes, where characters’ actions don’t line up with their motivations, or perhaps they do in some cases but their schemes seem overly complicated just for the sake of it. On the other hand some things happen in such a simplistic fashion that they just don’t come off as very realistic.
An easy one to pick apart is Bane’s plan, which is arguably the crux of the whole movie. As we learn, Bane has been involved with R’as al Ghul’s League of Shadows, and wishes to finish the organisations attempt to destroy Gotham as seen in Batman Begins. To do this, he holds the city to ransom with the threat of a nuclear device, and we see society disintegrate over the course of several months after the city becomes a condemned state. This device is unstable and will detonate within five months, which Bane was aware of. However, if his only goal was to destroy Gotham then why didn’t he do that? Why give control of the device to someone else (who it turns out has the exact same goal) when he could have just blown it up at the beginning?
Then we have Miranda Tate. I have to admit, I didn’t see her role in this coming, although in some ways that’s kind of the problem.
Miranda Tate is revealed as a partner of Wayne Enterprises early on, and a potential suitor to Bruce Wayne. After apparently two meetings with Wayne, neither of which go well, she shows up unannounced at his mansion to have sex with him. Post-coitally, Bruce strokes a scar on her back that he really should have recognised. As we later find out, Miranda is the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, and has been working with Bane by infiltrating Wayne Enterprises and gaining control of the device which Bane later weaponises. Of course, she’s doing this because she blames Wayne for her father’s death, and that’s why she seduces him. You know, *after* she already got everything she needed from him. Women, eh?
So yes, it seems that introducing Talia al Ghul serves little purpose other than formulating a twist ending and making the film more complicated than it needs to be. Multiple villains had always been a weak point of previous Batman movies (just ask Joel Schumacher), but Nolan had been getting away with it until now. Maybe it’s the fact that the League of Shadows is a flimsy idea to begin with, as it’s always the laziest villain that merely wants to destroy the very ground they stand on.
I could go into more plot holes, such as Bane’s plan to take the city’s police force out of the equation being somewhat half-baked in that he left them all alive, or that Commissioner Gordon is able to stay in power after it has been revealed that he instigated a massive cover up, Bruce Wayne somehow getting up-to-the-minute Gotham City news in a remote and rather unorthodox middle eastern prison, and maybe just the whole notion that Bane wants Gotham to burn because “it’s all evil and shit” even though it’s clearly shown to be a much nicer place than it had been eight years prior. But it all seems superfluous by now.
So at the end I’m left wondering why a superhero movie that goes out if its way to ground itself in reality, especially when compared to its peers, somehow manages to end up being completely fucking stupid. For all its complex threads and mature overtones, what we see is still a bunch of dudes in costumes spouting quasi-Shakespearean dialogue in silly voices, all the while pretending to be something else. As a fan of the genre, I’d rather superhero movies just be comfortable with exactly what they are from the start.
As an aside, I still think Inception is a really great film. Just so you know.