Hit Him in the Face! (A Dark Knight Rises Review)


Back in my Brave review, I told you all that I had to temper my expectations of the film because otherwise I’d just leave disappointed, there was no way it was going to live up to Up or Toy Story 3. The same is true of The Dark Knight Rises, and I think we all knew that going into the theater. Ever since the release of the phenomenal movie The Dark Knight, all everyone was talking about was how the third movie was never going to live up to it, it just couldn’t be done. Unfortunately it seems like Christopher Nolan and the rest of the production team didn’t get the memo. The Dark Knight Rises seems almost desperate to recapture the almost supernatural perfection of The Dark Knight, scrambling to be bigger, badder, and even darker than its older brother.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. If everyone is saying you can’t live up to the expectations of your greatest triumph, you don’t just quit trying. I bet no one thought Julius Caesar could top his conquest of Gaul, until he forged the god damn Roman Empire. However, as I watched The Dark Knight Rises, it struck me that the movie seemed to be going out of its way to top The Dark Knight, at the expense of the movie’s story and pacing. It also seemed to be in such a rush to get to the action that a lot of the foundation that this movie demanded wasn’t properly laid, making the whole movie kind of wobbly. What do I mean by that?

I mean Christopher Nolan has a thing for wobbling.

I mean that in its rush to get to Bane’s takeover of the city, a lot of the necessary framework of the story is lost or only partially established. So after an undoubtedly awesome opening sequence featuring a plane being dragged through the air by a bigger plane, we cut to Wayne Manor where city officials are commemorating the death of Harvey Dent from the previous film and celebrating a new law enforcement bill. We’re given a brief glimpse of a shadowy figure watching from the top of the manor, who we all know is Bruce Wayne. Then one of the waitresses overhears the helpful expository dialogue stating that Bruce Wayne has become a recluse and that Batman hasn’t been seen since the night Harvey Dent died. The waitress, who we all know is Catwoman (aka Selena Kyle) because Anne Hathaway isn’t going to just play an extra, then sneaks into Bruce Wayne’s private quarters and immediately sets to stealing his mother’s pearl necklace (oh, and his finger prints). A haggard and limping Bruce Wayne has clearly deteriorated since we last saw him, Catwoman easily casts him aside and leaps from the window and hitches a ride with the local governor.

So why is Bruce Wayne so tired and out of shape? Well…the movie never really goes into that and in fact this is merely the first instance of the movie not giving us sufficient information. Obviously we know that life as Batman was taking a physical toll on Bruce Wayne, but he wasn’t nearly as broken at the end of The Dark Knight as we see him at the beginning of Rises, and if Batman hasn’t been seen since the incident with Harvey Dent, how did he reach this state of disability? I mean the guy is barely keeping himself erect with his cane and walks with a very pronounced limp, and later in the movie when he goes to a doctor, the doctor tells him he has no cartilage left in his knee. How the hell did that happen? Did Bruce take the cartilage out himself with an ice cream scoop?

We also find out that Wayne Enterprises, the massive megacorporation that allows Bruce Wayne to finance his Batman tech, is basically just as battered as Bruce. The once powerful, multibillion dollar company is hanging on by a thread and from what we’re allowed to see, it seems like only Morgan Freeman still works there. Having used every financial asset at its disposal, Wayne Enterprises has successfully created a cold fusion reactor, but after a Russian Physicist postulates that new Fusion weaponry can be created using this technology, Bruce Wayne mothballs the project and nearly bankrupts the company. He also disappoints the woman who commissioned the reactor, the beautiful Miranda (Marion Cotillard). Now this is where the movie drops the ball.

Thanks to some brilliant acting by Marion Cotillard and Christian Bale, we can tell these two were romantically involved, their body language and the tone of their voices make that very clear. However, while they do seem to reconnect during the movie, not nearly enough time is given to establishing Miranda’s character or fleshing out the romantic relationship she has with Bruce. Meanwhile Selena Kyle has also been woefully undercharacterized, which is a shame because I thought Anne Hathaway kicked some major ass as Catwoman. She’s devious and intelligent, but that’s about all we get to learn about her. In the few scenes where we get to see Selena interact with people, it becomes clear she wants to leave her life of crime, however we’re never really given any idea why that is. She’s clearly exceptionally good at her job, we’re given no indication that she has any moral hangups about stealing (I mean she was trying to steal the pearl necklace of Batman’s dead mother), and when we see her sneaking and stealing, she seems to genuinely enjoy it. In fact Catwoman is so undercharacterized that I thought she was gay for much of the movie because she lives with this other woman who seems to be her partner in more ways than one. In the end these two underutilized and undercharacterized characters come back to bite the story in the ass.

Its hot, sexy ass….mmmmm…wait, what was I talking about?

Obviously I’ve spent nearly a thousand words on only the beginning of this movie, but watching the movie you’ll notice that you get a lot of fragmentary and vague information in a very short period. The worst example of this is Bane’s appearance in the city. Commissioner Gordon is pursuing Bane’s henchmen into the city sewers where he’s captured by Bane’s men and brought before the big guy himself, who stays just long enough to conveniently drop his speech that reveals everything important from the last movie to Bane before escaping.  Half-dead, Commissioner Gordon is sent to the hospital where he spends the rest of the first half of the movie. Fortunately though, we get the very talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Blake to take his place. Unfortunately, despite how talented the actor is, Blake’s character creates several large plotholes that resonate through the rest of the movie.

While investigating Bane’s origins and motives, Blake interviews Bruce Wayne and pretty much the first words out of his mouth are “Oh hey, you’re Batman aren’t you?”

Um…what?

We get some very sloppy expository dialogue here about how Blake recognizes Bruce Wayne’s fake smile, but here’s the thing, that in itself doesn’t prove that Bruce Wayne is Batman and Blake has no reason to believe that. Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered, leaving Bruce an orphan just like Blake, but the whole city knows that already. It’s just too big of a leap between recognizing Bruce Wayne’s forced smile as familiar and immediately identifying him as the Batman. There just isn’t enough of a logical progression of thought for Blake to reach that conclusion, so it becomes painfully obvious that he reaches that conclusion exclusively because the plot demands he does so, which hurts the overall story.

What makes it even worse is that Bane does the exact same thing, immediately identifying Batman as Bruce Wayne the minute they finally meet…yeah apparently Blake went and posted that shit on the internet because that’s the only way I can think of that would have let Bane find out Batman’s identity. This plothole is made infinitely bigger as Bane reveals his plan to Batman: he’s going to steal all of Batman’s technology that is hidden in the secret vault beneath the Wayne Enterprises building.  The movie takes great pains in reminding the audience that Batman’s secret stash is strictly off the books, with only Morgan Freeman knowing its location. So how does Bane know where this vault is? We’ll never know apparently.

Yet despite these plotholes, I really enjoyed this scene because it reveals Bane to be kind of the Anti-Batman. They both trained with the league of shadows, so all of Batman’s trickery and smoke bombs are useless against Bane. And then we’re greeted to the most badass lines ever uttered:

You merely adopted the dark. I was born to it!

Also, does anyone know how they turned Shinzon of Remus into a god damn behemoth?

The darkness has always been Batman’s ally, but here against his greatest enemy, the darkness no longer serves him and Bane easily dispatches Batman. Crippling him with sadistic glee.

I liked this scene a lot. In fact I liked this scene so much that I think it should have been the climax of Part 1. Oh yes, you read that right. I think The Dark Knight Rises should have been two movies. Clocking in at nearly three hours long, The Dark Knight Rises really needed to be two movies and considering what a money making machine the Batman franchise is, I’m really surprised it wasn’t. Sure, that would have ruined the whole trilogy thing, but so what? If it helps the story and makes you more money, what’s the downside?

You see if you split Rises in two, you could get two very complete and well done movies, instead of one rushed, half jumbled movie. Having the ability to take its time, part 1 (which you could name Dark Knight Falls) could focus on how Bruce Wayne became a half-crippled recluse, properly characterize Selena Kyle and Miranda Tate, and fill in the gaps of how Bane found out about the secret stash of technology in Wayne Enterprises, how both Blake and Bane find out that Bruce Wayne is Batman and various other plotholes. Then you have this excellent finale in which Batman gets his ass kicked, and then a few concluding moments of a crippled and imprisoned Bruce Wayne watching helplessly as Bane lays siege to his city. Holy crap, I get goosebumps just imagining the final moments of that film. Then in the second part we could take our time with Batman’s rehabilitation, how he slowly rebuilt himself and escaped Bane’s prison. Bane and Talia’s backstory could be revealed more slowly, making it much easier to swallow, and the final confrontation and betrayal would be all the more striking.

Instead though, they made it one movie, and we’re treated to one of the most stilted and awkward hour of any film ever. I appreciate what they were trying to do here, but the cuts between Bruce Wayne in the desert prison and Bane terrorizing the city, which also cuts between various characters in the city, makes this whole section feel diluted and unorganized.

And yet it’s still somehow awesome.

Once again the movie tries to cram way too much information into too little time while also trying to show the passage of time in a believable and understandable manner (and only partly succeeding). The result is a kind of pseudo-montage, giving us a look at everything going on like a standard montage but in much larger bites and without nearly enough musical interludes. Batman’s triumphant rise from the pit should have been an epic moment of relief for the audience, but instead we’re still dealing with the information we were given in the last segment. Likewise the oppressive madness of Bane’s rule over Gotham should have left us wondering if there would be anything left for Batman to save, but most of us we’re probably still wondering how Bruce was going to climb out of the pit. And then of course we have the final twist of the movie.

After finally realizing that maybe the key to defeating someone whose face is held together by a mask might be to punch that guy in the mask, Batman overcomes Bane in the final conflict and is about to deliver the killing blow when suddenly Miranda Tate, who he had come to rescue, thrusts a knife between his ribs (through the suit that Morgan Freeman claims can stop a knife in the first movie…yeah someone’s not getting their Christmas bonus this year). I will admit I was stunned by this twist, since it comes out of nowhere and had Miranda been properly characterized, this twist would have been one of the best I’d seen. However since we see so little of her, this betrayal doesn’t have nearly as much oomph to it as it should. Most of the shock comes from Christian Bale just absolutely owning this scene, his pained expression and shock were just so real that I couldn’t help but feel sympathy. I did like the idea that Bane was simply another prisoner and that it was Talia that had to climb from the pit. It wasn’t a super powerful man like Bane that had the strength to escape, it was a little girl driven by fear. I thought that was a really nice touch thematically, since the whole series has basically been about finding your inner strength regardless of who you are or where you come from.

And then Catwoman arrives and shoots Bane in the most anticlimactic moments I’ve ever seen. I would have been okay had Catwoman arrived and fought Bane hand-to-hand, or teamed up with Batman to defeat him, but driving through the door and putting a rocket in his chest? That was not a suitable exit for Tom Hardy’s awesome portrayal of Bane. Sure, he was no Joker, but Bane was a great villain that needed a proper defeat. This was like Frodo dropping the One Ring into Mount Doom from the back of an Eagle instead of walking it in. Sure, logically it makes a lot of more sense to simply shoot Bane, but story wise, it’s pretty boring. In fact I was convinced that Bane wasn’t actually killed in that scene, that he was going to come back for a final fight, his grief-driven rage taking Batman for all he’s worth before finally succumbing to his wounds. I was thinking that right up until the Cafe scene.

The cafe scene however, was a very nice ending to Christian Bale’s Batman. I went into this movie expecting Batman to die because I thought that was really the only way for the tormented Bruce Wayne to finally find peace, but him appearing at the cafe to fulfill Alfred’s dream was a really nice touch that ended the movie on a much needed feeling of hope and happiness after such a dark story. And then we see Selena Kyle is there too, and it kind of adds this feeling of forced romance to the scene that didn’t need to be there. There just wasn’t enough of a relationship between Selena and Bruce to justify them running off into the sunset together. Okay, sure, they kissed before Bruce went on his assumed suicide mission, but that’s practically a requirement in those situations. In fact it’s the only reason that would make me consider going on a suicide mission: kissing the girl before going. So that kiss, or really any of the very tiny scenes before them, justified having Catwoman and Batman running off together. I think it would have been much better to see Bruce just chilling by himself at the table or hanging out with some average French woman he’d found.

Though as a brief aside, can I just say that Michael Caine is just a crazy good actor? I mean he’s in this movie for all of ten minutes, if that, but for those ten minutes he owns this movie. He pours his heart and soul into every god damn line he has in this movie.

Our hero ladies and gentleman…and some guy in a white shirt, I forget who he is.

Don’t get me wrong, Christian Bale is an awesome actor in his own right and an awesome person, but Michael Caine just has the experience of his many, many years of acting to push his performance to the next level. But moving on from my fanboy gushing over Michael Caine, this review might make it seem like I didn’t love The Dark Knight Rises. But I did.

I loved this movie so hard it hurts. There wasn’t a moment in this movie I didn’t thoroughly enjoy, sure my inner writer was analyzing all the flaws in the story, but god damn it I didn’t care. I had fun watching this movie from beginning to end. Sure, it had the potential to be so much more than it was, but that’s true of most stories. Reaching that full potential is never easy, and even great writers/directors/etc sometimes fail to live up to the potential of their creations. This was purely a breakdown of how the story’s foundation was too wobbly to support the epic proportions of its villain and hero, if you’re looking for a more standard review recommending whether you should see it, read the following words carefully:

Go see it, right now!

Go see it if for no other reason than to see Christian Bale’s Batman, because there will never be another like him.

Because this, ladies and gentlemen, is the one and only Batman.
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12 thoughts on “Hit Him in the Face! (A Dark Knight Rises Review)”

  1. Hummm…also loved it, and mostly agree, but Miranda Tate’s betrayal certainly did not come out of nowhere. Throughout part 1 I had a nearly subconscious but growing sense that something was a little off about her, and I got _very_ suspicious when she volunteered herself to “help” tag the truck with the bomb, and thought “yup!” the moment Gordon cracked open the truck to find it empty. It’s odd though, I can’t pinpoint what exactly made me uneasy-then-suspicious. Some subtle quirk of acting or direction? I do wonder if Nolan has any plans for an extended cut.

  2. Man, I love what you do, I have read every blog you wrote since the ME3 ending, but this is freaking terrible. you have contradicted yourself numerous times in your review and most of your statements can easily be explained. I thought that the constant cross cutting between the wreckage of Gotham and Bruce trying to get out of the cell was amazing, it increased errancy for batman to return.
    Also, Its pretty obvious why Bruce Wayne was out of commission for 8 years. Have you ever been depressed? If so you will know that you don’t really get out all that much and Bruce Wayne shows all the signs of Clinical depression for so many reasons, all explained in the movie.
    1) Rachel Dawes has died, the woman he has loved since he was a kid, and he says this to Alfred.
    2) Harvey Dent has died, he sees himself as a failure, unable to stop the the Joker, as is evident at Harvey Dents commemoration, thats why he’s there.
    3) The biggest one is that he has no more work. Alfred says something along the lines of Bruce waiting for the world to break again so that he can feel validated. This is actually why he comes back as Batman, because Catwoman steals his prints.

    I don’t think you covered the biggest things and analysed why the movie wasn’t as good as the others. In the Dark Knight everything melded together; Joker, Bruce Wayne, Batman, Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent. You went away from your usual argument of what didn’t need to be in the film. Catwoman didn’t really need to be in the film and she was poorly written into the script. Getting rid of Alfred was ingenious but why the hell was the cop in there? He added nothing but a two send clip at the end of the film that didn’t make any sense. SPOILER: Robins name isn’t Robin, its Dick Grayson.

    Also your two movie Idea I didn’t agree with, It would have made two very boring and uneventful movies and it would have been Pirates of the Caribbean style not having its own contained story and just making up random shit to fill time.

    I do love your reviews man but this one wasn’t really on par I thought.

    1. Hey, thanks for writing in and for the feedback! Sorry you didn’t enjoy this review, I’ve taken your criticism onboard though and appreciate the honesty! I suffered from clinical depression myself for many years so its odd I wouldn’t have seen that during the film! Honestly I like to watch these things multiple times before doing a review, but The Dark Knight Rises was a big deal so I wanted to get one done right away. Plus with how expensive movies have become I only saw it the one time. I’ll try and see it a second time and see what I find. There are so many things that can throw off the interpretation of a film, mood, hunger, annoying people in the theater, etc.

      Thanks for writing in though, and I hope you’ll continue reading even if this one didn’t live up to expectations.

      1. Ill definitely continue reading, I love your reviews and as a writing student I find your perspective on narrative very well written. for a while you where following my course outline! I was just really looking forward to your review of DKR and Im sick of reading these stupid reviews of it. I thought it was a good movie, but not really story-wise.

  3. Great review. I fully agree that it should have been two movies. I also had a huge problem with Talia’s motivation: “I couldn’t forgive my father…until you killed him. Now I want revenge!” I get the familial bond piece, but this just came out of left field and didn’t feel realistic.

    1. Yeah, Talia’s motivation is definitely a weak link in the story. The willingness to incinerate an entire city, including herself and her lover Bane, speaks to a really suicidal rage that we just don’t get to see in Talia. I’m not saying it’s not there, but Talia could have been a really tragic character had they taken the time to really characterize her.

  4. I would disagree on a number of points. About half an hour into The Dark Knight, Fox explicitly states the redesigned Bat-suit will leave him move vulnerable to knifes (and bullets).

    Bane knowing that Bruce is Batman shouldn’t be a surprise as it would have been an open secret within the League of Shadows. Likewise, given that starting point would you consider it so unlikely that a super secret organisation couldn’t joint the dots between Batman-Wayne-Applied Sciences? Especially given they had 8 years and their leader was on the board of Wayne Enterprises?

    Regarding the length of time characterising Miranda and Selena, I would argue it was just right. I was total taken in regarding Miranda and I even knew Ra’s Al Ghul had a daughter and not a son (in the comics)! My totally non-scientific poll rates it at about 50% of people who suspected something was off about her with the other half being completely blindsided. Spending more time with her, I suspect, would either have given the game way for more people or made the twist less believable and hence less satisfying. Likewise with Selena. I believe a lot of her appeal comes from the mystery surrounding the master cat burglar. For me, less is more in both cases.

    I agree with you regarding the conveniences of both Blake twigging Bruce for Batman based on his expression and Gordon being captured by Bane just long enough for Bane to acquire the truth about Dent. But the latter eloquently side steps the issue of why the police don’t just arrest Batman once freed from the tunnels, and the former provides the kick Bruce needs to get out of his flunk. I had a heap more issues with the conveniences attached to the Jokers grand plan in the last film than anything here.

    I was more concerned with ground-to-air missiles, which usually travel at around Mach 4 ~ Mach 6, travelling only marginally quicker than a helicopter! I suppose it is a testament to Chris Nolan that so many people are unwilling to suspend their sense of disbelief for a super hero movie! 😉

    1. Yeah, I’d forgotten that point from the Dark Knight, thanks for reminding me! You’re right it makes sense that if you knew batman was wayne that you could find a paper trail to the Applied Sciences division, but I think I would have liked to have seen Bane or his “employer” reach that conclusion in the movie, rather than leave it implied.

      I was also taken in regarding Miranda, even though in the back of my mind something didn’t seem quite right. However, Miranda Tate’s ultimate motivation of “I couldn’t forgive my father until you killed him” wasn’t quite fleshed out enough. I mean yeah, it’s a believable motivation, but we see so little of Miranda’s character on screen that we never really feel the anguish that must have driven her to this point, which I feel was a huge, missed opportunity given the actress’s ability. I mean we’re seeing a woman who, supposedly, is madly in love with Bane and yet she’s willing to not only let him get killed, but herself as well in a huge atomic blast. Yes, Miranda’s character works, but it doesn’t thrive, which is a shame. I also think Selena Kyle’s mystique was fine in the movie, she didn’t need to have a huge role if they just used her as Catwoman, but if they were going to have her sailing into the sunset with Bruce, I feel like we should have been given a bit more evidence that the two would actually make a good couple.

      I always thought the Joker never really had a grand plan, which is why he was an awesome villain, he was just a harbinger. Some of his stuff like the Cellphone bomb in the the prisoner was obviously planned out, but I never really saw it as him having a Plan A through X. More like, “Oh, well blowing up Batman’s girlfriend was fun. I wonder how Harvey’s doing?” kind of insanity linking the crimes together.

      It’s probably also a mix of ignorance too, since I wouldn’t have any idea how fast an GTA missile would go :P.

      I’ll probably be watching THe Dark Knight Rises for a second time and reevaluating my review. I hope to hear your thoughts when I post it 🙂

  5. In the dark knight Bruce Wayne switches costumes to one with separated amour plates which made it easier to move. It was also explained that is would leave gaps in the amour making him more susceptible to knifes and gun fire. Bane new batman was Bruce Wayne Becuse he had his finger prints that’s why he wanted them in the first place, and not only that they were both in the league of shadows I don’t think it would have been that hard for bane to know that Bruce Wayne was batman. All and all the review was solid and on point.

    1. Yeah I’d completely forgotten that from the last movie. I think I’m going to try watching Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and then go back and see Rises for a second time, maybe if the whole series is fresh in my mind going into the theater some of the plotholes won’t seem so big.

  6. Watched the movie a week ago. Was also quite content with it 🙂
    I also mentioned some “rush” in the story. For example, you also never get to know how bruce wayne got into this prison in the midst of the desert (i think it shall be in africa) and, more importantly, how he got back just in time to make sure the whole city wont be blown up -.-
    But thats a minor issue i guess. But things like that always boggle my mind, its when some all day issues seem to disappear in the world of superheroes….

    I really liked michael caine in that movie too 😀 He got the most emotional impact on me in that whole movie. When he told our Bruce to let batman rest, and that he will quit in order to prevent him from killing himself, this whole personal plot of batman rested on his shoulders, and he carried them a long way deep into the hearts of the auditory. In this scene you get a glimpse of the tragic in this whole fiction, in which a small boy lost his parents to organized crime, in which an aged man does his best to “replace” the lost parents and give this young boy a direction, and in which once more all hope is lost because organized crime destroyed his life with another woman. The tragic of part 2 is reaching into part 3 here, the tragic that its also batman which will finally kill batman, that its Bruce’s inability to let go of his doublelife and chose once and for all a peaceful life with partner and friends that will give him the final blow. And last bot not least, that its alfred who had to bear the maybe most difficult task of them all: Chosing what to do with that god damn letter of Bruce’s (Now ex-)relationship. I didnt really understand why they didnt flesh out that scene more. Not to say that Bruce should have assaulted Alfred more than he already did. There was just like NO reaction in Bruce Oo Of course hes not that kind of hothead who will crush the ming vase because of an emotional outbreak. But, hell, there was just this scene the next day when you hear some remorse in his voice when he opens the doof for:
    “Alfred?”
    And then its “just” Blake. What? It was revealed that this woman, this woman he was mourning for EIGHT YEARS now, that THIS woman had chosen another man already when she died. Well, this wont make the situation less sad, but maybe some of these infinite tons of agony must have fallen from his heart, making_some_NOISE! This inner noise inside Bruce is what i was missing. That there was no sign of…anything Oo It was like it wouldnt mean anything to him. This reaction would have been okay in the first place, if Batman later somehow had referred to it in any form of habit, word, nose-digging, whatever. This couldve been the turning point of this character, any decision couldve been justified from that point on. There was so much power in it, it couldve turned batman inside out! Whatever dread may have accumulated in this character within the timespan between part 2 and 3, it should have broken out there. Of course, back in time he already had sustained the agony flooding his heart and soul, but how many times you think you can do that? I think that touching this wound point eight years later, making the person rethink its situation based on a change in such a fundamental variable, is like rebooting the whole process. Whatever he had buried in his heart, in that moment, it was raising its greedy, filthy, cold hands for whatever was left of his life-essence, violently trying to finally pull him down into the depths he had banished them to.

    This was the point which disappointed me the most. But all in all i also see that the whole plot was too much of a task to squash it into one part. So, im content with what we got: A very good new batman trilogy, with the best batman ever and the best middle part ever to be seen in a trilogy 😀

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