Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Remains to be a Polarizing Conclusion for the Caped Crusader’s Iconic Trilogy

Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead; ??? Viewing

Umm… so, The Dark Knight Rises: the third entry in The Dark Knight trilogy; the final entry, moreover, in The Dark Knight trilogy; the end to end all ends. We’ve got extreme terrorism, a few tasteful villains, a decent 45-minutes of Batman ass-kicking (whether giving or receiving), and some emotional elements in it, as well. On paper, this movie sounds epic. It’s almost all there, and yet, it just happened to be paired with one of comic-book history’s weakest screenplays to date, but I’ll get into that later.

Tom Hardy’s interpretation of Bane made quite the impact on me the first time I watched The Dark Knight Rises, in Canada too, as a young boy. His past adversities, mental + physical strength, and firm grasp on destiny, makes him beyond a powerful nemesis to The Batman. His arsonist tactics are truly more fatal than The Joker’s ever were too: releasing Gotham’s own prisoners to generate destruction, hanging law workers on bridges for the world to see, forcing the accused onto dangerous thin ice, etc. He’s got a cute voice and mask too; Tom Hardy subtitles are required, however. With such a stone-solid villain at hand to battle with The Batman in the final entry of a much-anticipated franchise, Rises should have this in the bag, right?

Yet, Rises collectively suffers. This can be faulted at the palms of its unbearably driving conveniences, MacGuffins, and thematic decisions that are essential to either a plot-point/scene’s impact on the audience or to the story’s needed direction. In a nutshell, some noticeable examples include: 

  • The television that cuts immediately to the missing person right when Selina Kyle tells her buyer that she brought the missing person over.
  • Commissioner Gordon having the luxury of tumbling himself off into essentially a water slide to safety and not getting killed by machinegun fire.
  • John Blake figuring out that Bruce Wayne was Batman because he could “feel it” due to their similarities. This plot point is used to push Wayne into becoming Batman again. You’d think at this point that more people would know that Bruce Wayne was Batman if this one dude could? Or, maybe, because Bruce and Batman happened to blossom out of retirement around the same time too, which occurs later on in the movie.
  • Batman coming in to save Selina at the last second just moments after being chased by the biggest squad of cop cars Gotham’s ever seen. 
  • John miraculously knowing or assuming that Selina was in cahoots with Bruce Wayne/Batman’s capture by Bane.
  • SENDING EVERY COP AND SWAT MEMBER IN GOTHAM CITY INTO AN UNDERGROUND TUNNEL WITH NO REASONABLE ENCLOSING TACTIC AT ALL SO THAT BANE CAN TAKE OVER THE CITY LEISURELY. For real, what did they think sending an excessively straight line of cops leading to Bane was going to do, or better yet, how could they possibly not have assumed something like that could be a trap, enough so for them to at least not send in nearly the entire infantry of law enforcement? 
  • Bruce’s quick recovery in the pit that ends with him making it out after only his third attempt—yet others who’ve been in the pit probably for years couldn’t even achieve this without broken bones too. 
  • Bruce being able to get into Gotham City undetected despite Bane’s critical lockdown protocols. They don’t even care to show how he gets in, as well.
  • Batman arriving at the “ice rinks” just barely in time to save Gordan and John. He also decides to burn an entire bat symbol onto a bridge just before he executes his rescue too; how cute!
  • Catwoman coming in to save Batman at the last second; dramatic last-second teamwork, am I right?

Just little storytelling cues or dilemmas like these are infested throughout Rises runtime (yes, there are more) and it begs the question on just how fast the Nolan’s must’ve scrambled this script together to get such a preposterously convenience-riddled project finished. 

Keeping up with the unfortunate affairs of Rises, Wayne and Talia’s association in this movie is so oddly glossed over but still earnestly implemented to create this reveal of betrayal as the movie’s grand “twist” being that Talia was actually the kid born in hell and not Bane; aka, Bruce was banging the villain… um, so what? Was that aspect of the narrative really worth featuring for all the manipulation that this movie cooks up to get us into initially thinking Bane was the kid born in hell? It’s even weirder though when you ask yourself why Bruce and Talia’s dynamic wasn’t focused on more when the movie gave so much time to establish Bruce and Selina’s relationship as the more logistically durable side of Bruce’s new encounters. Not to mention, Nolan has furthermore multiplied the amount of exposition in Rises, thanks to primarily the whole Ra’s al Ghul storyline which is reshaped from Batman Begins. This whole extra storytelling defect can additionally be primarily blamed on the Bane/Talia plot gimmick. The time framing of Nolan’s cinematic resolution is also extremely funky, devoting nearly hours to Bruce’s return as Batman and only less than an hour on the 3-month period where Bruce escapes the pit and Bane rules over Gotham. Moreover, don’t even get me started on the rest of the plot holes that Rises has to offer. It’d take days to go over those but if you haven’t seen that Screen Junkie’s Honest Trailer yet…

In spite of the gallon-loads of complications that I’ve just mentioned with the caped crusader’s final entry, Rises is not entirely problematic. For me, the valuable highlights of Rises truly come between its sequences with Alfred and Bruce—one, in particular, a heart-crushing conversation where Alfred reveals the contents of Rachel’s letter in which he had hidden from Bruce. No surprises here too, but the action spectacles in this Batman movie are gripping once again—some examples include the plane heist, bank heist, Batman vs. Bane showdown (twice), and the vehicle/bomb chase. It’s safe to say that the scale of Rises feels even grander than The Dark Knight, in many cases. Anne Hathaway is, on top of that, decent as Catwoman—her character isn’t entirely justified for the context of the movie, but she’s entertaining as the developed, seductive, and comedic levity of Rises. And yeah, Hans Zimmer’s score certainly revs up an exceeding amount of tension once more.

But yeah, who knew that this rewatch would completely flip a coin on my feelings towards The Dark Knight Rises. It’s hands down Christopher Nolan’s worst movie and I’d go as far as to say that, overall, it isn’t even good. At best, it’s mediocre. The writing and themes here just collide together to frankenstein something almost too oblivious and too hasty to even be satisfying as not only a fan of crime thrillers but a fan of Batman. Yikes; readers, please do not massacre me. 

By the way, Talia’s death scene is still the funniest thing ever. It’s even funnier when you recognize that that shot probably had to go through so many different hands before it was approved and, I guess, nobody questioned it? Intriguing.

Verdict: C

Christopher Nolan Ranked

“The Dark Knight Rises” is now available to rent on Amazon Prime.

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