When you go back and look at Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, there are definitely some noteworthy characters. Obviously, Heath Ledger’s role as The Joker is the highlight of all of them but there are certain roles that have played an important part in the mythology of the Batman. There is his trustworthy butler, Alfred. There is Lucius Fox, the brain of his enterprise and the maker of so many of his high tech gadgets. There’s Commissioner Gordan. In the first film you had Ra’s Al-Guhl. In all 3 films there was an appearance by longtime Batman villain, The Scarecrow. And now we have this film’s new bad guy…Bane. And I have to tell you…if you are to compare villains from all 3 films? Bane is easily the most boring of all of ’em. But let’s start from the beginning and work our way up to the main characters, shall we. Because in “The Dark Knight Rises,” I pretty much have issues with almost EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER?!?!
Before I go and get into spoilers (which I will be doing here shortly), let me give you the general plot and you can either continue or go on your merry way.
This film picks up 8 years after “The Dark Knight” took place. Batman took the fall for the death of Harvey Dent (who became Two Face) allowing Dent’s legacy to live on. In turn, the Batman has never shown his cowl again, even though there are some who are awaiting his return (some a little too eagerly). Needless to say, Gotham has had some good years. With Dent’s death, new laws were passed that allowed the police to lock up most of the city’s bad guys and now everything is cool as a cucumber. Except a NEW bad guy is in town and he has his sights set on destroying Gotham and it’s up to the Dark Knight to once again put on his suit and take on what could possibly be the one man who is his equal. Can he do it??? I know I was rooting for him! And then I saw the movie…
Let’s get this out of the way right now…I didn’t care much for this movie. It was way too long, the writing and the dialogue was sappy and wrought with angst, the characters were overblown and the big, bad Bane was, for the most part, pretty boring. Let’s start out with the script…
Developed by the Nolan brothers, this sucker is really convoluted. I realize that not every film these guys make is gonna be “Inception,” however in this film, they have apparently lost track of time. Clocking in at just under 3 hours, there are scenes of this film that could have totally been cut. There was dialogue between 2 characters that could have been trimmed or deleted. Hell…there were entire characters that should have been cut! There’s just TOO MUCH! Cut out 3 or 4 useless scenes (all of the “trial” scenes can go, the drama with Alfred can go, all of that ridiculous mumbo jumbo in the pit? Yeah…THAT can go) and maybe you got something. But there were just too many scenes with everyone trying to talk Bruce Wayne out of being Batman. I realize that Batman was born from a dark place. We GET IT. Enough already. Let the man do his work! When Selina Kyle breaks into the Wayne Mansion and manages to get away pretty easily, there was a moment there where I thought…NOW we got something. The “Catwoman” (even though she’s never called that in the film) is, without a doubt, the ONLY reason to see this movie. She’s dark, she’s confident yet with a dash of insecurity. She adds a splash of personality to what is otherwise a very dreary film. Another problem I have with this movie is the time frame in which it takes place. Bane BREAKS Batman’s back, puts him in a secluded hole in a desert somewhere on the other side of the world and, in 3 months time, Batman has healed, become strong enough to escape from the giant hole and then manages to get back to Gotham in time to stop a disaster? Oh come on. It’s not possible! And despite this being a superhero movie and despite the fact that you have to suspend belief due to the fact that it is fiction, I STILL can’t believe no one involved in the writing of this movie saw that as being an issue!?! It’s NOT going to happen. And THEN, the bomb is scheduled to go off and this ridiculously long series of events take place with the police force (that just spent 3 months underground) storming the courthouse that is surrounded by missile launching Batmobiles with machine guns and just as many of Bane’s henchmen and then Batman shows up out of nowhere in his flying “Bat Plane,” eventually fights Bane (again) and then manages to get stabbed in an odd turn of events that then becomes the REAL reason for everything that has happened from the very beginning? It was exhausting trying to follow all of this and keep my eyes open. I have read critics that talk about the Stock Market tie-in (the poor take down the rich!) and all the other social events that the Nolan brothers added into this movie and I gotta tell you…they should have simply done a superhero movie.
Ok…the characters. Let’s just say, this is more of a “Bruce Wayne Rises” movie than a Batman one. In previous Batman movies, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) had moments of humor. In this movie, it’s all sadness and uncertainty. It gets a little old after a while. When he goes after Selina, he has an air of confidence. But with Bane, he is scared. This is supposed to be the glue that holds it all together. A beaten hero who must face his fears and learn to be unbeatable again. And I say to this…”Whatever. Speak to the hand.” I don’t WANT to see Bruce Wayne suffer over and over again. It’s tired already. I just want to see him kick butt. If he gets beat, fine. But for crying out loud…don’t dump him in a hole with his spine sticking out (nevermind that Bane dropped him on his knee. How did his spine come OUT? It should have gone IN!) and make us suffer an extra 30 minutes to tell the Bane story. I don’t really care where he came from. He’s a menace. I want to see him get his ass kicked. All the other stuff is filler! But watching Bale work hard to find some sympathy for Batman was intolerable. I was over it by the 2nd half of the movie.
Let’s talk Bane. For the most part, most superhero films are only as good as their villains. In “Batman Begins” we had Rah’s Al Guhl in a double switch. In “The Dark Knight” you had the menacing mania of The Joker. In “The Dark Knight Rises,” we get a hulking character who talks through a mask. So we get that he’s big. We get that’s he’s strong. But through most of the movie the scariest thing he does is kill regular people. It’s not until he faces off against Batman and defeats him that we see what a potential threat this guy is. Unfortunately, Tom Hardy (who was awesome in “Warrior”) gets very little to do because we can’t SEE him. He’s got that stupid mask on and so his acting is basically nothing but widening his eyes and flexing. And his voice? It sounds like a 70 year old man…enunciating…every….single….word. I hated it. His voice should have been deeper. More angry. But then we couldn’t have heard it over the thundering soundtrack so they had to raise it a little bit and it sounds silly. I didn’t like the Bane character here. As the MAIN villain he didn’t make much sense. But then…as the SECONDARY villain (Ah…the twist!), he made more sense but by then it was too late for me.
More characters that were MAJOR disappointments? Well…Alfred (Michael Caine) got a few weepy moments (the one in front of the tombstone was THE WORST moment of the film), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) was completely lost in this movie (HUGE mistake) and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) spent most of his time in a hospital bed then FINALLY got in on the act somewhere near the end of the movie when it was almost too late. So THOSE major roles were all but dropped to make way for the Deputy Commissioner Foley role (played by a completely useless Matthew Modine), Detective John Drake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a role that doesn’t really suit him even though he did fine) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard in a role that eventually pans out for her only to find her dying the absolute worst screen death ever). Seriously…the Foley role should’ve been axed. It’s a terrible character and Modine is terrible with it. Drake’s character is a setup and I can see where it’s going but Gordon-Levitt got way too much face time compared to already established characters or Catwoman. And Tate could have been a good role but the added twist came so late in the film, it made me laugh when it happened. It’s like they needed ANYTHING to be a reason for this complicated mess, so to wrap it up, they found a reason for her character, had to tell her backstory, and then let her slip away in what is one of the worst acting deaths I’ve ever seen (seriously…my son and I BOTH laughed when she died). The way I see it…they should have just shown her true colors from the very beginning. It would have made this movie about 45 minutes shorter, Bane would have made sense, there would have been a REASON for the chaos. But instead, we were stuck wondering why Bane gave a crap about Gotham. Seriously…blow it up already!!! Instead he yammered about Commissioner Gordon and wanting the city to fall to its knees and yada yada yada. Bane is NOT The Joker. There needed to be a reason for this brute to want to destroy Gotham. Unfortunately, they wanted a trick ending so…we found out about 2 hours in. And that sucked.
Okay…so the good stuff. Anne Hathaway definitely steals the show here. I really was thinking I would hate her but she is the only character with a reason for what she is doing. We don’t know what Bane is doing, we can’t fully understand what Bruce Wayne is doing (8 years in exile? I know he lost his girlfriend but 8 YEARS?!?!) and none of the other characters stepped up to the plate. Except Selina Kyle…aka Catwoman. THIS is the ONLY reason to see this movie. Well…that and the Bat Plane…which IS pretty damn cool. But Hathaway is such a conundrum here. She plays Selina as a woman who has issues but none that can’t be fixed. She has her reasons for doing what she does and she’s not quite a match for Batman…but she’s pretty damn close. It’s fun to watch them together. You can tell there is a something there and I wish they had expanded on it. Maybe make it so that Batman is interested in her just enough that it throws him off his game a little. But whatever…it didn’t happen so you get what you get.
Anyway…I can’t say this is the worst movie of the summer for me…yet. But it is definitely the most disappointing. I expected a lot more considering those involved and I wish they hadn’t felt compelled to have to wrap up so many loose ends. But they did and most everyone else loves it so…what do I know?
Overall Rating: C-