The Nolan brothers’ Dark Knight Rises (2012) committed the same mistakes as Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (1992), showing that brilliant people CAN make mistakes in writing, directing and producing. It seemed more interested in high concepts that didn’t play out, body counts (with shock value killings making no sense) and beautiful visual scenes. Maybe it wasn’t awful (save in my mind), but the convoluted storyline and characters took away from what could’ve been an awesome film.
Too many concepts
The multiple plot lines were weak. The last two films (Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008)) contained clear thesis sentences from point A to point B. We knew who the villains were, we understood their backstories and we knew what they wanted to do. We also understood Batman’s trajectory. However, here, who was the villain? What were their motivations? And, what did the film want to talk against: the top 1% or the Occupy protestors? Is this about corporate financial manipulation or eternal costumed evil? Is it about 21st century sustainability or 1970s issues? The film threw out too many concepts to make it seem ‘larger’ than it is, but instead it just seemed smaller.
Too many characters
The problem with the second and fourth 1990s Batman films (Batman Returns (1992), Batman & Robin (1997)) surrounded too many characters and not enough depth. The strength of the past two Dark Knight Nolan films surrounded the Nolans’ ability to focus on one villain and show depth of character as well as both sides of good and evil. Last time, I wanted to cheer for the Joker. And, I utterly understood where the Scarecrow came from in the first film. However, in The Dark Knight Rises, we had villains upon villains, and each becoming seemingly inconsequential once the new one appeared.
Plus, towards the middle of the film, they shunted the canonical characters to the side, forgetting about Batman, Alfred and the Commissioner. And, outside of the two new lead characters, I didn’t care about the sub-characters they created. And, don’t get me started on the multiple focal points for Bruce Wayne’s love life.
I loved the idea of Bane as The Dark Knight Rises‘ villain because he’s the man who broke the Bat. While the 1993 comic storyline which lead to Batman’s crazy replacement became convoluted, I loved Mitch Brian‘s writing of Bane in Batman: The Animated Series. It was clean, clear and concise, while portraying both Bane’s intelligence and physical prowess. I wanted to see a similar rendering in the film. Unfortunately, the vast amount of characters and over-the-top concepts canceled it out.
Lack of development
The initial two Nolan family films did a great job of developing Bruce Wayne and showing that Batman remained at his core. But, here, we don’t see that. Wayne has issues to overcome but he does it through people telling him what to do than through his own internal struggles. While I always loved the Bruce-Alfred paternal connection, here it seemed phoned in. Finally, there’s a running joke in Spider-Man that never applied to Batman which the writers somehow enveloped into The Dark Knight Rises with a more serious tint, which still made no sense. Don’t get me started on the ending. If you ever read the comics or watched the cartoons, you already know the plotlines of two of the characters, the minute they appear.
The New Characters
Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Officer John Blake, and Marion Cotillard as Miranda all rocked. However, I must specifically call out Hathaway and Gordon-Levitt.
I was afraid we might have half an hour of a cringing Selina Kyle, before getting the Catwoman we all know and love. But, we hit the real Selina almost immediately. Once again, I laud the Nolan brothers for casting smart women in their films. This is the Selina Kyle Matt Hollingsworth and Darwyn Cooke wrote in Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score. This is a woman who uses her wits, brilliance, and knowing naughtiness to acheive her goals. Luckily, her costume made sense concerning her profession. I loved watching her character play off the Bat. Unfortunately, like the second Tim Burton Batman film, we get an awesome character, but a thinly formed plot. Dear future Batman producers, can we get a film that introduces Catwoman AND maintains a strong script? Let’s not forget Joseph Gordon-Levitt who stepped to the plate as the uber-built, yet uber-sincere cop. Although we could’ve had less of his character, JGL you have my external kudos.
I hated that the 1990s Batman lacked continuity in switching the two Dents. And, I hate when films absolutely ignore the after effects of the previous film. Luckily, that doesn’t happen here. But, I wonder if the acknowledgement of the previous film’s effects slowed the pace.
The Special Effects
It goes without saying the visual sequences and cinematography were visually stunning and amazingly gorgeous. The reason I defended the second Batman flick, despite the poor plot, surrounded the beautiful scenery. This time around, I wanted a strong plot to accompany the strong visuals.
Warning: If you watch it in an IMAX theatre, you might experience 360 degrees of motion sickness. But, just shut your eyes, and it’ll go away. Or take some Dramamine, ginger tea, and bring a barf bag. The upside down scenes looked amazing via IMAX. But, once again, prepare yourself.
Overall, the film was a mixed bag. The woman cackling next to me called it “Awesome,” but the fanboys outside the theatre called it “Awful.” At first, I felt as if I wasted three hours of my life. Like Jeremy said, it wasn’t the best, and it wasn’t the worst, but it could’ve been better. Much better.