Do not continue reading unless you have seen the movie already.
Official Website for The Dark Knight Rises
Do not continue reading unless you have seen the movie already.
Here are my initial thoughts and reactions to the movie and its critics.
I went into the movie believing that it would not be as good as The Dark Knight (DK). I personally felt that the Joker is the pinnacle of Batman villains, so it could not be topped in subsequent films. I was pleasantly surprised not with Bane but with The Dark Knight Rises (DKR) on the whole. While the main villain was not as intriguing as the Joker from DK, Bane was still menacing and terrifying. But this movie had a complete package. It was dark yet humorous, serious and sad, action with drama; these features carried throughout the entire trilogy. But now it tied together the previous two movies while presenting its own unique story.
I’ve read that the danger driving the plot, the nuclear time bomb, was unoriginal. I disagree. It wasn’t a nuclear time bomb, but, rather, a makeshift time bomb derived from a fusion reactor meant to provide clean energy. Now that’s an important twist, and it is indeed original as far as I can recall. It’s not like Bane stole a nuclear bomb and planned to set it off in the city. No, he acquired the scientist capable of dealing with the reactor and forced him to make it into a bomb. I don’t ever recall this plot before. It was original and fresh to me, anyway, and it was much more alarming than anything the Joker did. At best, the Joker would have killed about 1,000 people across two ferries. He didn’t kill anyone in the hospital, but if he had, what, maybe 3,000 people would have been killed? At best we are talking 4,000 people. The Joker was a menace to be sure, but not nearly as threatening and menacing as Bane, who, at best, would have destroyed the entire city, probably killing about one million people initially. And let’s not forget that Bane beat Batman in hand to hand combat even if morphine strengthened, after all, Batman had his other gadgets to assist him. Brutal. Bane. Is. Brutal. And scary. So, the ultimate driving force of the movie, Bane and his plot, I felt was much improved in DKR over DK. Feel free to disagree.
I admit, I did not see Talia coming. I didn’t read it at all. I thought that Miranda was under duress, but we found out that she was actually the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, seeking to avenger her father’s death with the help of Bane, her protector, her lover (perhaps), but her pawn nonetheless. So, Bane’s plot is not his own. This might cheapen him a bit, but the deadly plan to set off the nuclear time bomb in the middle of the city is no less dangerous and threatening simply because it seems to have been Talia’s scheme and not Bane’s.
The Talia-Bane nuclear time bomb was much more satisfying and grand–a fitting feat for Batman to overcome in his final act as the Dark Knight. I was right that the Joker could not be topped, but this is true only in character depth, as my friend Chris Rawlings would likely say. It was the plot that did top the film’s predecessors.
But wait, there is more. Catwoman, known only as Salina Kyle in DKR, is very interesting. No whip. No cats. No milk. But she has strong gymnast and martial arts skills with a strong propensity for theft and deception. Still more, John Blake, the uniform cop who was an orphan and did meet Bruce Wayne as a young boy while also admiring Batman even as an adult, becomes a detective and ultimately aids Batman, as does Catwoman. So, the point of Batman as stated in Batman Begins (BG), to provide an immortal symbol of justice, that anyone could become Batman, comes to fruition in DKR. While Catwoman ultimately leaves the country and ends up with Bruce in Florence, Blake takes the reigns of the Batman symbol; he unveils that his real, legal name is Robin, which is a nice nod to incorporate the Boy Wonder without the mask and suite. In theory, Blake could become Nightwing, but the trilogy is over.
And I liked the ending. Batman seemingly flies The Bat with nuclear time bomb in toe out over the sea to sacrifice himself but save the city. The nuclear bomb explodes off shore, Batman purportedly incinerated, and Gotham saved. Alfred, Gordon, Blake, and Fox have a funeral for Bruce at Wayne Manor, seemingly making the death of Batman official. But when Alfred goes to Florence, he sees Bruce with Selina at a table. I deeply appreciated this simulated death. As it turns out, Bruce had repaired the autopilot of The Bat, and he was somehow able to let his flying vessel take the nuclear time bomb out to sea without him being on it. This ending was a nice nod to the graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, in which Batman fakes his death in a battle with Superman. He uses a chemical to simulate a heart attack, leading doctors to declare him dead as he had no pulse. But Superman figures it out later, leaving Bruce to his own agenda–to train pseudo-replacements for the Batman role. Say what you want about the ending, but I thought it brilliant.
What is incredibly striking about this film is the way it ties everything together from BG to DK to DKR. In fact, in a lot of ways, it fits better in the trilogy than DK. I love how Ra’s al Ghul was brought back into it, a vision for Bruce in The Pit. I love the way it started with Gordon’s funeral speech and then carried forward. I love that Bane was an exiled member of the League of Shadows, putting him no less than an equal with Batman in terms of hand to hand combat. [EDIT 7/22] I love how Bane’s mask is styled after Ra’s al Ghul’s from the end of BG. [/EDIT] The connections help give the trilogy a seamless narrative from start to finish, masterfully binding them all together.
I am wondering, what was the key line in DKR? Batman Begins had the one from Rachel Dawes: “It’s not who you are inside; it’s what you do that defines you.” And from DK, Harvey Dent: “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” But what was the line in DKR? Was there one? If so, I didn’t catch it. I’m sad in either case, because it was a nice signature of each predecessor, so if it is missing, then the movie is lacking the signature phrase, but if it was present, it was so forgettable that I completely overlooked it.
Another problem with DRK was the voice of Bane. While many people were disgruntled over Batman’s grunting and hoarse voice in DK, many people are getting their briefs in a bunch over Bane’s masked voice. I admit, I couldn’t understand half of what he said. I feel that I may have missed out on a lot as a result. Maybe the difficulty was due to the bass being turned up too high in the theater. Maybe it was something else. But I couldn’t understand him at all in some instances.
Now, if Talia was the child who escaped The Pit, why did Bane say that he was born there in the darkness? I didn’t understand that part. Was he lying? Was he speaking metaphorically? I just don’t know. Also, how did everyone seem to know who Batman’s real identity was? Did Ra’s al Ghul tell Bane and Talia? That’s the only explanation I can come up with, unless maybe Riley from DK leaked the information at some point.
Well, no movie can be air and water tight with respect to every plot schematic, and I am not detracting from the movie’s quality with these qualms. I just find them interesting. I really loved DKR. I’m not sure yet if I love it more or less than DK, but I am certain of being pleasantly surprised, since I thought it was not going to give the 2nd movie of the trilogy a run for its money.
For another time, I should talk about the trilogy in comparison to others. How does it stack up against Star Wars (4, 5, 6), Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Indiana Jones, Spider-man, X-men, and the like? But that is for another time.