Why The Dark Knight Rises Fails

Let me start by saying that I’m glad if you like The Dark Knight Rises. I wanted to. I wrote a book about Batman Begins. I love The Dark Knight, and its ending makes me cry. I’m a huge Batman fan. I’m a huge fan of Christopher Nolan. I saw Memento in theaters. I’m a fan of both The Prestige and Inception. I dreamed several times, before its release, about The Dark Knight Rises. In the Venn diagram of possible fans of The Dark Knight Rises, I’m probably dead center, where all the circles overlap.

And let me also be fair: I’m going to say a lot of negative things here about the film, but I don’t hate The Dark Knight Rises. It has a lot of problems, and if I’m forced to give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down,” it’s the latter. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see a lot that’s good. Nor does it mean I won’t rush out to see the next Christopher Nolan film. I will.

Before we begin: here there be spoilers. In discussing specific points about the film, there’s no way to avoid revealing what happens at those points. If you haven’t seen the film and want to, go see it first, then come back.

The Dark Knight Rises posterSo let’s start with the fact that there’s a lot to like about The Dark Knight Rises.

It’s beautifully photographed. One would expect no less from a Chris Nolan film.

The Dark Knight Rises, Bane character posterThomas Hardy’s Bane, despite inevitably falling short compared to the screen presence of Heath Ledger’s Joker, makes an excellent villain.

Rises also manages to up the ante, a seemingly impossible task after The Dark Knight, by deconstructing Batman and throwing Gotham into chaos.

Bruce’s sojourn, after being broken by Bane, is admirably existential.

The film also tries to wrap up the trilogy by connecting its threat to Ra’s al Ghul, from the first film. Hell, even the falling motif from Batman Begins gets a callback.

Hans Zimmer’s score is so excellent that it’s hard to imagine the film without it. True, the excitement it generates is mostly based on his score’s echoes of The Dark Knight’s music, but much of what works in Rises simply wouldn’t work without Zimmer’s score to accompany it.

It’s also nice seeing Cillian Murphy as Jonathan Crane and Liam Neeson as Ra’s al Ghul, even if they have small parts, and this helps the trilogy feel like it comes full circle.

Minor Problems

There’s more positive later, in the last section below. But let’s shift into what fails about Rises, moving from least to most serious.

Some of these failures aren’t too serious. For example, we might point out that the flying vehicle simply called “the Bat” doesn’t look nearly as cool as the Tumbler or the Batpod motorcycle, from the previous two films. In fact, the Batpod, with its wheels spinning sideways on quick turns, provides a lot more excitement in this film than anything the new flying vehicle does.

The Bat (from The Dark Knight Rises)We might also complain that Selina Kyle seems to operate the Batpod without any training, despite what looks like complicated controls and an awkward, laying-down piloting position. This lessens Batman, suggesting that anyone could do what he does, given the same toys. True, Gordon does pilot the Tumbler in the first film, but he seems uncertain there, whereas Catwoman takes to the Batpod with ridiculous expertise. In fact, she even makes a quip about not needing instructions – almost like the filmmakers were aware of this problem and thought shining a light on it, through a line of funny dialogue, would wipe the problem away.

Catwoman (from The Dark Knight Rises)At one point, “the Bat” is targeted by heat-seeking missiles, which Batman deftly steers into Gotham skyscrapers – endangering, if not killing, civilians in the process. In a big movie cliché, the missiles seem almost exactly as fast as the Bat, despite that missiles are much quicker than what is essentially a high-tech helicopter. In an even bigger cliché, Batman steers the final heat-seeking missile into a villain.

Alfred’s resignation is a great moment. But it doesn’t seem consistent with his actions in previous films. If he never wanted Bruce to come back to Gotham, he never mentioned it in Batman Begins — where he helped Bruce create the Batman persona.

The film invests a decent amount in the idea that Bruce grew up in Wayne Manor. He quips about the room in which he was born. Alfred leaves Wayne Manor, then Bruce. No one mentions that it’s not the same Wayne Manor, which burned down in Batman Begins and was presumably still being reconstructed during The Dark Knight. The closest Rises comes to acknowledging the destruction of Wayne Manor is in a single photograph, perhaps damaged in the fire, early in the film.

Nolan has been criticized for his fight scenes consisting of rapid cutting, with lots of close-ups. This can sometimes make it difficult to tell where characters are or what specifically is happening. Nolan seems to avoid that mistake here. Unfortunately, the result is too often that the fighting looks impotent and unimpressive. Batman seems very much like a regular man in a suit when he confronts Bane for the first time. Perhaps that’s intentional, because Batman, who’s out of practice, loses that fight. But when he and Bane make their way through a battling mob and come face to face for their final battle, the result is equally unimpressive. The viewer has to pause a moment to realize, “Oh, I guess this is it.”

Bane vs. Batman (from The Dark Knight Rises)This is especially not good for a film that seems to hardly feature Batman at all.

Where is the prison in which Bane and Talia grew up? Presumably, it’s in the same part of the world in which we found Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins. In fact, the exterior of the prison was shot in Jodhpur, India. It doesn’t have to be set in that location, and we might guess that one of the corrupt local regimes seen in Batman Begins is savage enough to run a prison like this. But setting is important, and not knowing it detracts from Bruce Wayne’s rehabilitation there.

Then there’s the matter of how Bruce Wayne got there, which isn’t shown. More importantly, how does he get back? In Batman Begins, we see an adequate amount of footage of Bruce Wayne surviving without means, but he comes back to Gotham on a jet. In Rises, it seems like people teleport to and from this prison, despite being on the other side of the world from Gotham.

And how does Batman get back into Gotham, despite the United States military blockading the city?

It’s more than a little surprising that the military would go along with this blockade. It only does so because it’s concerned that Bane will detonate a nuclear bomb if anyone escapes. Yet the U.S. government has no evidence of this. Surely, it wouldn’t blockade an American city full of citizens purely because someone said he’d blow the city up.

In real life, rescue workers violate orders by diving into rivers to save people. In hostage situations, even when bank robbers have threatened to kill all their hostages if any escape, police officers hurry escapees to safety – rather than leveling guns and demanding they go back inside. Some soldiers might fire on American civilians, but others wouldn’t. Faced with people fleeing Gotham, it’s hard to imagine soldiers reacting as they do in Rises.

But then again, The Dark Knight has this same problem: the city’s only too eager to comply with the Joker’s orders, and the way that film’s “prisoner’s dilemma” plays out defies everything we know about human psychology. But here, Rises seems to preserve (and even exaggerate) the mistakes of the previous films, while failing to adequately preserve the good points that inclined even observant viewers to forgive these mistakes.

We could also gripe about Catwoman’s motivation. She’s seeking a computer program that will erase her records – not unlike the protagonist’s motivation in Nolan’s Inception. In a subtle move, this program is called “clean slate.” And it seems to be contained on a single USB drive, which hasn’t been copied and used a million times, which we might expect criminals to do.

We could also gripe that the film’s climax relies upon another Wayne Enterprises device, much like the previous two films. This one’s been converted to a nuclear bomb, which stains credibility and isn’t exactly subtle.

The Dark Knight Rises, Batman character posterThere’s also a point, when Bane’s running Tumblers through Gotham, doing battle with Batman and Catwoman, who ride their own Wayne Enterprises vehicles, when we wonder whether anyone in this universe has an R&D department. The previous two films have strained credibility on this point, but Rises really goes over the top. Wayne rival John Daggett has a minor role in this busy film, but he’s very much in the model of Tony Stark competitors, incapable of his own innovation and only capable of thievery. In the universe of Nolan’s Batman, there’s no R&D department except that of Wayne Enterprises.

In a film that seems intent on pleasing fans, we learn at the end that policeman John Blake’s legal first name is Robin, and he discovers the Batcave, setting him up as Batman’s successor. But he’s too old to be Robin, who was trained by Batman, nor was any Robin named either Robin or John Blake. Instead of feeling like an adaptation of the Batman mythos, such a reference makes the whole story feel more like an alternate history version of Batman that veers off in its own, random direction.

The end of the film is incredibly rushed. Yes, we see Gordon at the unveiling of a Batman memorial statue. But we don’t know if Gordon is fired as police commissioner, which a single line of dialogue predicts. We don’t see what happens to Selina Kyle’s friend Holly, a character borrowed from the comics who doesn’t seem to serve an important point in this film. We don’t see whether Lucius Fox is able to right Wayne Enterprises. We don’t focus on Talia or Bane’s dead bodies, to such an extent that viewers would be forgiven for not remembering whether they live or die. We don’t really see Gotham rebuilding, or reconnecting with the rest of the United States, let alone revenge attacks for what happened during Bane’s occupation. It’s all put back to normal with a single cut.

But these are all gripes compared to the worse problems with Rises – any one of which is serious enough to be seen as effectively demolishing the film. And they’ll get progressively worse as we proceed.

1. Bane’s Takeover of Gotham Makes No Sense

The way Bane takes over Gotham, separating it from the rest of the United States, strongly recalls the “No Man’s Land” storyline from the comics. That’s a suitable storyline for the final Batman film to borrow, given its high stakes.

But there are serious problems with the execution. With a single trigger, Bane’s able to take out all of Gotham’s bridges, as well as its football stadium, the entrances to the city’s sewers, and several additional spots around town that are only shown from overhead. It’s all wonderfully dramatic, but it doesn’t make much sense.

Football Stadium (from The Dark Knight Rises)Granted, Bane’s goons are working construction, and we see a couple of them making explosives, instead of concrete. But how did such a massive plan of planting explosives at key points all around town, especially along bridges, go undetected? It doesn’t really make any sense.

Neither does it make sense the way Bane strolls out onto the mostly demolished football field. Did he plan for that section not to collapse? It’s sloped, like it was damaged too, meaning it’s probably not stable. Did he plan this? Given the hollow levels underneath the stadium, I suppose the explosives were also designed not to collapse any of the stands, despite that this would require a ridiculous level of precision, if it were even possible. But fine, okay, it’s an action movie – let’s agree to ignore this.

Similarly, it’s hard to imagine that Gotham’s an island only connected to the mainland by bridges. The geography of Gotham isn’t consistent between Nolan’s films, so perhaps we shouldn’t gripe too much about this. But the previous two films have both cut off bridge travel at key points, which emphasizes how this isn’t a new idea for the series. Even so, what about all the helicopters in Gotham? Do Bain’s henchmen blow them all out of the sky, even when they’re on skyscraper rooftops? Surely, securing an American city involves a bit more logistically than blowing up a half dozen bridges.

Part of Bane’s takeover of Gotham is his acquisition by force of Wayne Enterprise’s Applied Sciences division. Given all the security of that division, as repeatedly referenced by all three films, why is a Tumbler sitting directly over Bane’s underground lair – except so that he can make it fall through the ceiling at a dramatic point? Is Applied Sciences sitting at – or even storing Tumblers at – ground level? If so, wouldn’t it at least monitor the huge open space in the tunnels beneath the building? Why does Applied Sciences, which we’re told is off the books and basically exists only to service Batman, have all these new cannon-sporting Tumblers in the first place?

Even if we pardon all of this, it’s a major plot point that Gotham’s entire police department is stuck in the tunnels below ground for three months, during which Bane rules Gotham. Only a handful of officers are left above ground, prominently including Gordon and (new character) John Blake.

Granted, the police, having previously ignored Bane, wanted to swarm the tunnels. But didn’t they leave a good percentage of Gotham’s cops to handle crime above ground? What about all the cops who were off-duty at the time?

The film first shows people entering Bane’s tunnels through a simple manhole cover. Did Bane destroy every manhole cover in the city to prevent the police from escaping?

Of course, it’s not easy to survive below ground for three months, especially when you’re not carrying food and supplies. Those tunnels are quickly going to fill with human waste, and some of those cops are going to go insane. The film does rather conveniently say that those above ground have been able to get food to the trapped cops, but it’s not clear how they’d be able to do this and not rescue people, nor are we shown more than one hole through which food is passed. None of this makes sense.

We’re also shown that Bane is content to kill people with little provocation. Why wouldn’t he flood the tunnels with gas, killing the city’s entire police force? Why leave them alive?

None of this makes sense, and the film’s plot collapses once you realize it.

Okay, so neither Ra’s al Ghul’s nor the Joker’s plots in the previous movies were totally logical either. But at least the Joker’s plans could be justified as insane. Bane has no such excuse — and his scheme is so completely illogical that it fails the smell test.

Seriously, it relies on burying all the city’s cops underground for three months.

But here’s the final trump card: Bane’s going to blow up the city anyway. So why does he do all this to begin with?

Maybe he wants to keep people from leaving Gotham because he wants them present when the bomb goes off. But they’d be present anyway, if he just detonated the bomb as a surprise.

Maybe destroying Gotham is all part of his elaborate revenge on Bruce. He certainly wants Bruce to watch events in Gotham. But that’s a bit much, and you’d expect it to be underlined by the film, if that’s the case, since it would make Bane’s revenge plot all the more extreme.

Even if that’s the case, however, the takeover of Gotham still doesn’t make any sense. And it’s all irrelevant anyway, given Bane’s nuclear plans.

2. Catwoman Fails

The Dark Knight Rises, Catwoman character posterNolan’s often called an unemotional director, and it’s true that his films can feel a bit distant – a bit more like careful puzzle boxes than films that pull the viewer into an experience. Nolan does grief and pain well enough, not only in his Batman films but in The Prestige and Inception. But he doesn’t have a good record on depicting love, at least before it’s lost. That was a great criticism of Batman Begins, although this failure was generally blamed on actress Katie Holmes.

But in Rises, we’re given an ending to the Batman story: he fakes his own death and begins a new life with Selina Kyle, whose record has been expunged. Since she hasn’t appeared in the two previous films, one would think it important to characterize their relationship, since it winds up being Bruce’s destiny.

We don’t get that in Rises. The two have no chemistry. They pale in comparison between Michael Keaton and Michelle Pheiffer, who played Catwoman in 1992’s Batman Returns.

As a matter of fact, the two barely get any time together. She steals from Bruce Wayne. They briefly run into each other at a party, which unfavorably recalls a similar scene in Batman Returns. Catwoman then betrays Batman, leading to his destruction. When Batman returns, he says (in costume) that he believes in her despite her betrayal. But there’s no hint of romance between them. Then, in predictable but huge cliché, she decides not to abandon Gotham and rescues Batman at just the right moment. She follows this with a clichéd quip, but there’s no fireworks-stirring kiss. Instead, they split up to save Gotham… and the next we see them, they’re together in Italy.

Bruce doesn’t have to give up being Batman for love. But the woman with whom he starts a new life should feel like more than just an accessory.

In fact, this is kind of the entire point of the Italy sequences. Remember, during Bruce’s training period, Alfred hoped to see Bruce with a woman and kids. Presumably, he also wanted Bruce to love that woman and those children. That’s the point, after all: for Bruce to find happiness in a normal life.

Only he hasn’t. We see more of him mourning Rachel than falling in love with Selina. We’re left to guess that Bruce has moved on from Rachel’s death. We’re not shown it. We’re not shown anything, really, except that he’s with Selina Kyle, who feels less like a love interest and more like the girl who was in the right place at the right time. Hell, he had to go to Italy with someone, right? Might as well be the only woman in his final adventure.

I realize there’s a lot going on in Rises, and scenes between the two might have been cut for time. But Two-Face barely appears in The Dark Knight, yet the few scenes he’s in have real power. In comparison, despite a few quips, Rises has an almost utter lack of cool Catwoman moments. And “Hey, there’s a lot happening” isn’t an excuse for failing to characterize a romance that’s supposed to represent the happy ending Alfred’s always hoped for Bruce.

We might guess that Bruce is simply going through the motions. Unskilled in love, he’s simply latched onto Selina Kyle. Perhaps he’s simply performing for Alfred, in the same way he took cues for his role as Batman from Ra’s al Ghul.

That’s certainly an interesting idea – one more interesting than what the film presents to us. But it’s speculation, because the film doesn’t show us why he’s with her, simply that he is. That’s a failure that sort of invalidates the entire ending of Nolan’s trilogy.

3a. The Chronology of The Dark Knight Rises Makes Batman’s Career an Abortion

The Dark Knight Rises is set eight years after The Dark Knight. This gives the film a vibe not unlike Frank Miller’s classic The Dark Knight Returns. And it’s undeniably interesting to watch Bruce Wayne hobbling with a cane, playing Howard Hughes instead of the billionaire playboy seen in Batman Begins. (Nolan’s been talking for years about doing a movie on the late-stage Hughes, and the references are unmistakable.)

Bruce and Alfred (from The Dark Knight Rises)But the idea is that Batman hasn’t ventured out since the end of The Dark Knight. That film was set about a year after Batman Begins. This means that Batman’s entire career was one year long, followed by eight years of retirement.

Sure, people in the Gotham of The Dark Knight Rises may still remember Batman as part of that crazy year in which Gotham began to transition from a corrupt, mob-run city into one firmly on the road to reform.

But this seems like a strange choice, to say the least. Basically, Bruce’s career as Batman was an abortion – a one-year period that ended in the repudiation of the entire Batman project. That might make sense, given that Bruce lost Rachel and saw the city torn apart by the Joker, who seemed to be responding to Batman’s presence. But Bruce both trained to become Batman and has been retired for roughly eight times longer than he was Batman.

Remember how Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns had lots of people reacting to Batman’s return, wondering whether he was an urban myth? There’s nothing of this in The Dark Knight Rises, despite that Batman’s been gone for two entire Presidential terms. And unlike The Dark Knight Returns, Nolan’s Batman was only active for a single year. One would expect Batman would have plenty of conspiracy theories surrounding him, especially since Gotham’s teenagers probably wouldn’t remember the events of the previous two films.

Yet no one in The Dark Knight Rises recalls that crazy year, beginning with the city under threat in Batman Begins and ending with the city menaced by the Joker. It’s all rather fuzzy. There’s no sense of Gotham as a particular place with a particular history.

Because doing so would underline that Batman was only active for a year, and that’s not the impression Rises wants us to have. We’re supposed to feel that Batman still has weight, both in the city and in Bruce Wayne’s heart. We’re not supposed to think about how Batman’s career was a year-long blip between almost a decade of training and almost a decade of retirement.

But it is. According to the films themselves.

3b. The Dark Knight Rises Invalidates The Dark Knight

Maybe that’s an artistic choice, however poorly executed. But the choice to have Batman retired in Rises, retroactive to the end of the previous film, also invalidates the incredibly moving ending of The Dark Knight.

There, Gordon famously narrates “we’ll hunt him… because he can take it.” The idea isn’t that Batman’s retiring. It’s that he’s sacrificed his reputation for a greater good. Even early in the film, we see how Batman’s heroic status has led to copycats getting themselves killed. What Gotham needs is reformers like Harvey Dent, not more vigilantes. And Gotham’s exotic hero has inspired the Joker to become Gotham’s equally exotic villain. For Batman to work, he’s got to be on the outs with the police – a “dark knight” who inspires “white knights” like Harvey Dent, before his corruption.

It’s a brilliant realization. While it’s unconventional for Batman, it’s inarguable based on the evidence in the film itself. It’s shocking and radical, but it follows directly and inevitably.

Don’t forget that the movie’s called The Dark Knight. That’s not an idle choice. So when that film’s title finally comes on screen at the end, the title echoing Gordon’s narration as Batman speeds off, it feels like a punch to the gut. Sure, the Joker’s machinations involve some major plot holes, despite being thoroughly entertaining, and the film’s got flaws. But it’s all forgivable, because the movie’s ultimately a meditation on what it means to be a hero – and how, for Batman to have the effect he intends, he’s got to be a “dark knight” at odds with the law.

Which he never actually became, except by reputation, if he’s retiring when we see him speeding off.

If that’s true, when did the police “hunt him… because he can take it?”

Rather than take the heat of being hated, Batman quit. After a career of about a year.

This kind of ruins the brilliant ending of The Dark Knight – which isn’t only what that entire movie’s been leading up to, but what that film’s title is all about.

It’s almost like Christopher Nolan didn’t understand The Dark Knight at all. Or more likely, he simply chose to ignore the meaning of his previous film. He wanted to tell a story of a retired Batman, and it was simpler to say Batman had retired at the end of The Dark Knight than imply he had a few adventures in which he battled cops before retiring. After all, the audience might like to see that, and it’s harder to explain. So to streamline the third film’s story, Batman’s now retiring when he speeds off at the end of The Dark Knight.

This decision makes sense, if all one cares about is The Dark Knight Rises. But it kind of invalidates the entire meaning of The Dark Knight.

4. The Politics of Rises are Repugnant

Arguably, Batman’s inevitably a politically troubling figure. He’s a rich man who takes justice into his own hands. Yes, he beats up criminals who are worse than him. But he’s Batman, so he’s almost always right. Take that away, make him a real person in the real world, and he’s not much different from the Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver: a vigilante. And vigilantes are as likely to shoot public officials as they are to stop the Joker’s rampage.

The three Nolan Batman films get progressively more troublesome, on this score.

In Batman Begins, Batman’s the ultimate self-made man. Yes, he inherited his wealth. But he didn’t inherit super-powers, unlike Superman. He makes himself a super-hero through incredibly hard work. He might use his money to get a costume and a vehicle, but he doesn’t during his training. He takes a terrible personal tragedy, pulls himself up by his bootstraps, and makes the world a better place with his own two hands, mostly by sheer force of will.

This plays into several conservative narratives, such as the idea of the self-made man. Or the idea that success is always or usually the product of hard work. Yes, successful businessmen tend to work hard, but plenty of less successful people work equally hard – or would, given the same opportunities. In stripping himself of everything and still proving himself, we might even speculate that Thomas Wayne had something of the same determination, which led to his wealth. Whether in business or in crime-fighting, talent and hard work win out. Of course, we know this isn’t true – having connections and luck is at least as important. But this is there, in Batman’s origin, if we want to see it.

So too can we see the failure of government. After all, Batman’s not necessary if the police are doing their job. But if you think they’re too constrained by pesky civil rights, or if you see government as intrinsically inefficient or corrupt, Batman offers a kind of solution. Some people buy a gun to defend themselves from their neighbors, when police and government fail. Others dress as a bat and fight crime. The thinking, arguably, is pretty much the same.

Of course, Batman gets a pass on most of this. After all, this is all intrinsic to the character. And Batman is a beloved and inspirational figure – even to those who, like myself, understand these implications. No one reasonable is going to say no Batman story should ever be told because these implications are present. But that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t be aware of them.

The Dark Knight took some heat for its political themes. Criticism focused on Batman’s surveillance system, created by tapping into all of Gotham’s cellphones. Of course, Batman didn’t exactly have a warrant to do this, and the whole business seemed to recall the Bush administration’s scheme to circumvent existing laws and to wiretap phone conversations without even the minimal judicial oversight the current laws require.

The Bush administration justified this in the name of fighting terrorism. And in The Dark Knight, his surveillance system seems justified because he uses it to find the Joker.

Of course, in The Dark Knight, such power rests not with a malleable political executive, nor with a bureaucracy now known to have listened to private sexual conversations to laugh about them. No, that power rests with Batman, and he’s always right. Plus, he delegated that power to Lucius Fox, who destroyed the system after it was used that one time – used to save Gotham, one might add.

Of course, that’s rigging the deck. And like fictional presentations of torture, in which it extracts accurate information quickly that prevents a terrorist attack, Batman’s use of his surveillance system bears almost no resemblance to how such surveillance systems are used – and abused – in reality. It’s easy to approve of such matters, when it’s Batman trying to stop the Joker. It’s quite another when a cadre of unaccountable bureaucrats, even in the United States of America, are granted such power.

Yes, such a device was barely necessary to the plot of The Dark Knight. The script could have had Batman using other techniques to find the Joker. Unlike the political implications of Batman Begins, this wasn’t something intrinsic to the character or even to this particular story. But it did solve a plot problem, provide some cool visuals, and was the kind of James Bond-like device we expect from super-hero stories. So we could all comfort ourselves with the idea that Nolan was lightly interrogating these issues, rather than making some kind of political statement.

That’s not true with The Dark Knight Rises.

The Gotham of Rises has been cleaned up, subsequent to The Dark Knight, through the application of something called the Dent Act, which presumably makes prosecution of mobsters and criminals easier. It sounds like the kind of “get tough on crime” legislation that, in real life, usually leads to filling prisons with minor drug offenses at profound taxpayer expense. We may well wonder what civil liberties the Dent Act ignores and whether the Gotham menaced by Bane would qualify as a police state. We don’t have enough information to tell, but the idea seems to be that such measures, passed in the wake of mass hysteria, work.

From this status quo, the film’s villain works with manual laborers against the rich. He lives underground, in the city’s sewers and abandoned tunnels, which in real cities like New York is often inhabited by homeless populations.

His first major strike is at a stock exchange, where he and his crew sneak in masquerading as delivery staff and the like.

Bane in Stock Exchange (from The Dark Knight)The correlation with the Occupy movement, which has protested the undue influence of the extremely wealthy over politics, is unmistakable. Occupy began as Occupy Wall Street, in protest of the financial markets that, despite causing the 2007-2008 economic collapse with financial instruments that were only possible due to deregulation, received federal bailouts and have yet to be re-regulated.

Critics of Occupy have called the movement a socialist one, as if concern for wealth disparity or the current historically very low taxes on extreme wealth were tantamount to hating capitalism.

So Bane, in taking over Gotham, refers to the people of Gotham, implying that they have the power rather than the police or the city’s wealthy elites. He talks of “revolution.”

Bane (from The Dark Knight Rises)During Bane’s occupation of Gotham, we briefly see Selina and her friend Holly in an ritzy apartment. After a reference to its former occupant, we’re told it’s everyone’s apartment now – a clear reference to some sort of communist ethos that bears more resemblance to paranoid fantasies of communism (in which no one owns anything and apartments might be held in common) than how communism has ever been practiced outside of the tiniest of communes.

Glenn Beck (and some other paranoid voices on the extreme right) have warned in specific terms that Occupy’s real agenda is to drag those they perceive as rich from their homes and to kill them.

Lo and behold, that is actually what we see Bane’s “revolution” doing in the film.

For those who watch United States politics, the reference is unmistakable. Whatever its reason for being in the film, the filmmakers knew its audience, in 2012, would note the correlation.

In real life, Occupy is a movement almost absurdly committed to non-violence. Sure, it has some extremists, like any movement. But if you watch footage of Occupy facing down policemen in riot gear, you’ll routinely see cops beating and pepper spraying peaceful protesters who, even in the face of this violence, do not respond violently – despite that such a violent reaction against such specific cases of police brutality would be wholly justified and, depending on the jurisdiction, arguably even legal.

Yet in The Dark Knight Rises, we see Bane’s working-class thugs executing people in the street.

In Bane’s Gotham, merely being rich is enough for you to be brought before a sentencing judge. In some sort of parody of post-apocalyptic jurisprudence, Jonathan Crane – known to fans of the trilogy as the possibly insane villain the Scarecrow – serves as judge, sitting atop a pile of debris. But this is only the most cartoonish mockery of justice. It feels less like an episode of Twilight Zone and more like the Quintessons in Transformers: The Movie. Guilt is assumed, and Jonathan Crane’s job is merely to give the defendant a choice between exile or death. Exile from Gotham means walking across the frozen river, which inevitably gives way. In sentencing Gordon, Crane makes the paradox clear, pronouncing the sentence as “death… by exile!”

This might even recall Sarah Palin’s absurd claim (echoed by many on the right) that the Affordable Care Act called for “death panels” for the elderly.

The movie clearly invokes Occupy, but only through paranoid demagoguery about the movement.

Within the span of a few weeks, Gotham has been turned from an orderly city into a dirty, trash-ridden cesspool that looks worse than the corrupt, mobster-run days of Batman Begins.

The depiction is so extreme that I’m surprised, frankly, that we don’t get shots of a disorganized mob looting beautiful Wayne Manor, casually tossing to the ground the family heirlooms we’ve been taught to cherish.

Clearly, this “revolution” of the people, in favor of the working class over the idle rich and the stockbrokers, has nothing to show for itself except violence and the worst sort of mob injustice.

No one raises a voice to say that this doesn’t reflect their desires. Nor to say that Bane has instituted some sort of parody of a revolution, rather than a government by the people, for the people. If there is dissent, it’s not tolerated in this arbitrary totalitarian regime.

No, the only other option the film presents is Batman. The man who, despite inheriting his wealth so that he doesn’t really have to do anything, is somehow the superior man of determination and singular vision.

And here, instead of watching against or even playing with the fascistic overtones inherent in the Batman story, The Dark Knight Rises decides instead to embrace them as fully as it possibly can.

As an army, Batman uses the police, newly liberated from the underground tunnels in which Bane trapped them. Instead of rebelling against this vigilante, until recently believed to have murdered District Attorney Harvey Dent, the cops instantly line up to take orders from him. Because he is the Ayn Rand dream of the rich and successful as having singular vision, and police recognize that. They are good people even if they are working-class, and good working-class people know to obey their betters.

And so the battle lines are drawn. On one side is the police, symbols of law and order, allied with the heroic, self-made man that is Batman. On the other is a totalitarian, cavalierly murderous regime that masks its utter hatred of wealth and success with popularist rhetoric, led by the super-criminal known as Bane.

There’s no middle ground.

But of course, even calling this a disastrous, murderous totalitarian regime is doing it too much credit. That’s not even enough to stack the deck. No, Bane’s been planning all along to blow Gotham up with a nuclear explosion.

I suppose that all of this has simply been Bane amusing himself, prior to immolating the entire city. He’s too smart to think it’s giving any of his supposed ideals a good name. So why is he talking about the people at all? None of this makes any sense, unless it’s to denigrate the idea that the working classes could ever take power into their own hands, without things instantly dissolving to a cartoon parody of dystopia.

The moral apparently being: even if you’re tempted to think for one minute that this parody of a worker’s revolution might eventually lead to some sort of responsible self-governance, forget it, bub. The ringleaders of such movements don’t care about the poor. They don’t care about the orphans, kicked onto the street due to lack of funds. All they want is to destroy, not to build. First, they’ll destroy the rich. And then they’ll kill everyone with a nuclear bomb or something.

In The Dark Knight Rises, those are your options. If you don’t like those orphans being kicked onto the street with no means of support, tough. Maybe someone rich will die and turn his manor into an orphanage. Keep waiting. In the meantime, listen to the people who want to change things, and this is what you’ll get.

The Dark Knight Rises long posterMaybe you think I’m going to far. But this isn’t coincidence. This isn’t simply borrowing from current events to add relevancy to a story. Given the dynamics set up by the film itself, it’s far closer to a polemic.

I’m not saying The Dark Knight Rises is fascistic. But if Frank Miller made a sequel to Holy Terror in which the Fixer went after a cartoonish Occupy Wall Street analogue, it would look something like this.

If you want proof, it’s there in Bruce Wayne’s failed attempt to climb out of the pit, which is apparently the only entrance or egress to his prison. The climb ends in an impossible jump. (Why it’s impossible isn’t clear, given that we see a smaller outcropping along the wall, on which someone could simply walk at least part of the way to the next ledge. The wall’s also uneven, and it wouldn’t be too hard to fashion some kind of hand grip with which to scale it. But never mind.) We’re told that only one child has made this leap. (This also doesn’t make sense, since children are smaller and can’t jump as far. But never mind.) That child, we think, was Bane, born with nothing. And Bruce Wayne is told that, as a son of privilege, he can never make the jump.

Of course, he then musters up the spirit, pulls himself up by his bootstraps, and makes the jump. The way a self-made man would.

And then we find out Bane never made the jump. It was Talia all along. The daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, another self-made man who acquired profound wealth and status. It’s in her genes, you see.

Coincidentally, Bane dies not long after. He still bears the marks of his lowly origins. It’s right there, as plain as his face.

5. Rises Doesn’t Satisfactorily Wrap Up the Trilogy

A huge part of why The Dark Knight works is because, despite some inconsistencies between the two films, it flows almost inevitably from Batman Begins. That movie ended with the idea of escalation, that Batman’s presence would cause not only the mob to become more violent but for criminals to take on costumes and extreme identities like Batman. The Dark Knight might look like it takes place in a different city than Batman Begins, and we might well wonder what the Joker has been doing for the intervening year. But it takes this idea of escalation and runs with it.

Even Rachel’s death flows from this idea. If you’re going to become Batman, you’re going to have to pay a price. And the loss of your childhood friend and lifelong love is one hell of a price.

Ultimately, The Dark Knight finds that, given this escalation, Batman has to be an illegal vigilante. If he’s seen as a good guy, good people will be inspired to imitate him, which he doesn’t want. And the bad guys will have to up their game to fight him. To change Gotham for the better, Batman ironically has to be seen as a bad guy.

One film flows from the other. The two aren’t a perfect fit, but they’re of a piece.

Nolan made a lot of noise, after The Dark Knight, about how he was concerned that there weren’t an awful lot of good third films in movie series. If he was going to make a third film, he wanted it to feel like the conclusion of a single story.

In other words, the third film should take what Nolan had done to its logical, inevitable conclusion. It should flow from the previous two films, in the same way that The Dark Knight flowed from Batman Begins.

It’s no surprise, then, that Nolan returned to the League of Shadows. For Batman Begins, Nolan was especially concerned that the villain of the third act be tied to the first act, which led to Ra’s al Ghul being made Batman’s mentor. So it’s no surprise that he wanted his third film to feel tied to his first.

The Dark Knight Rises, Talia character posterBane accomplishes this quite well, and the revelation of Talia al Ghul, while not surprising to fans, echoes the revelation in Batman Begins that Liam Neeson’s character was the real Ra’s al Ghul. Their childhood stories worked for me – well enough that I found them, collectively, more interesting than either Bruce Wayne or Selina Kyle.

Bruce’s time in the same prison that birthed Bane and Talia also echoes how we first see the adult Bruce, in Batman Begins, in a prison. He’s going back to his origins, reinventing himself as Batman in order to come back stronger. Grant Morrison had Batman do much the same thing, in 52.

True, I wish the film better explained how Bane’s mask keeps him injected with chemicals to deal with the pain. We’re only told that it keeps his pain away, which isn’t enough. But Bane and Talia, like the best comic-book villains, act as negative opposites of the hero. If Batman’s a self-made man, they’re a self-made man and woman, despite her lineage.

Bane’s also a logical villain for the final film. After all, Bane was invented in the comics as the villain who was going to take down Batman – and then did, in a previously unprecedented way, in the arguably classic “KnightFall” storyline. Rises is smart to borrow from this, and it does “KnightFall” one better by having Bane take down Bruce Wayne as well as Batman.

The Dark Knight Rises teaser imageThe effect feels very much like Miller’s “Born Again” storyline on Daredevil, in which he brought that hero as low as he could go. That’s an easy model to borrow, and it’s been done plenty of times with plenty of super-heroes, even without consciously patterning the story after “Born Again.”

The Bane of the comics also has a connection to Ra’s al Ghul, having worked as part of the League of Assassins (as the League of Shadows is named in the comics) during “Legacy,” the first storyline to feature Bane after the resolution of “KnightFall.” True, Bane’s origins aren’t typically tied to Ra’s al Ghul, but that’s a logical choice to tie the trilogy together – just as it was logical to make Ra’s al Ghul Batman’s mentor in Batman Begins.

Similarly, Bane’s takeover of Gotham, borrowed from the “No Man’s Land” storyline, is suitably dramatic material for a final outing.

I also liked that Bane launches his revolution from the tunnels underneath Gotham, which for me recalled the too-often-ignored Batman: The Cult. This doesn’t mean I have to agree it’s logical to trap the entire Gotham police force down there, or that Applied Sciences is so vulnerable from below. The idea of a revolution, especially against billionaire Bruce Wayne, comes from the sewers, symbolically from the city’s untouchables, is especially resonant.

Rises even ties the trilogy together by having Catwoman steal Martha Wayne’s famous pearl necklace, another callback to Batman Begins.

And the repeated “rise” motif reverses the falling motif of Batman Begins — even if Rises fails to coalesce around this idea, the way The Dark Knight does around what its title means. There’s no transcendence here, but the themes of the series are at least superficially tied together.

All of this represents smart choices, on the part of Rises. But simply having the daughter of the villain from the first movie as the villain of the third isn’t enough to tie a trilogy together, any more than having the Joker as the villain of The Dark Knight would have been enough, on its own, to make that film feel like a logical extension of Batman Begins. That was accomplished thematically by following up on the notion of escalation, which in turn led – in a way that felt inevitable – to Batman becoming a fugitive from the law.

The idea, again, is to project the previous film(s) forward by asking where they would inevitably lead. The question is, if this goes on, what’s going to happen next?

Batman Begins ended with the idea of escalation. The Dark Knight ended with the idea of Batman being hunted “because he can take it.”

Well, can he take it? We don’t know, because he retired instead. Yes, we get one sequence in Rises, set eight years later, in which Batman flees scores of cops. But that’s not a new status quo. It’s simply a showpiece that’s quickly upturned as Bane’s threat forces the police to once again work with Batman. Why, they don’t even bother to resist the idea of becoming his cannon-fodder “army” once they’re released from their underground imprisonment.

So much for following through on what the previous film set up.

Moreover, both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight rises set up deeper questions about Batman’s mission, particularly as it relates to Bruce’s legacy and what his parents would have wanted.

There’s a subtext to Batman Begins in which Bruce Wayne is actually going against his father’s legacy, rather than fulfilling it by helping Gotham in another way. Thomas Wayne was a philanthropist who set up the city’s monorail system, which we see the Waynes using in flashback. Bruce Wayne uses this money not for philanthropy but to buy hotels (to indulge his playboy cover) and to finance his one-man war on crime. In the process, Wayne Manor and Thomas Wayne’s monorail, both symbols of the Wayne family legacy, are destroyed.

Even at the end of the movie, Batman’s more concerned with the Joker than with the thousands of innocent civilians in the Narrows who were driven mad by the Scarecrow’s fear toxin – which would almost certainly have been Thomas Wayne’s prime concern.

There’s something powerfully Oedipal here, of the son symbolically killing the father to take his place. And that’s just what Bruce does in Batman Begins.

Only it’s not at all clear that Thomas Wayne would be happy with the way Bruce chooses to help Gotham City. Thomas Wayne, philanthropist, would probably not be pleased to know that his son has chosen to help Gotham by getting into fistfights and blowing things up.

The Dark Knight doesn’t strongly echo these themes, but they’re there implicitly. Instead, The Dark Knight carries forward the idea, left at the end of Batman Begins, that Rachel represents a normal life, which Bruce might have when he’s done being Batman.

Rises takes this up by showing Bruce still mourning for Rachel, which seems to be one of his reasons for having retired. And Rises tries to conclude this theme by giving Bruce something of a normal life with Selina Kyle, although this feels extraordinarily poorly executed and rushed.

Rises tries to tie this into the Oedipal idea from Batman Begins. Alfred expresses how he wished Bruce would have a normal, happy life – and opposes Bruce becoming Batman again, although this is pretty inconsistent with his behavior in the previous two films, in which he seemed perfectly content to help Bruce become Batman and carry on doing so, even after Rachel’s death.

But through its failure to depict Selina Kyle as an adequate replacement for Rachel, Rises fails to fulfill this theme. Yes, it gives Bruce a happy ending, but it feels arbitrary and forced – not at all like the inevitable destination of the trilogy.

So too does Rises fail to take up the idea of Batman being hunted, the way The Dark Knight took up the theme of escalation. Instead of being hunted, Batman retires, and the hunting is fuel for one scene only.

Most importantly, however, Rises fails to make good on the theme, present since the beginning, of Thomas Wayne’s legacy. True, that’s present in the third film. Because Wayne Enterprises can’t afford to fund its program for orphans, due to Bruce’s actions as Batman, he’s symbolically failed to live up to the responsibilities his father has left. We’re even told that these orphans, kicked out due to lack of funding, have joined Bane’s army.

This too gets a happy ending, when we see Wayne Manor turned into a home for orphans that bears the name of Bruce’s parents. But like the Selina Kyle ending, this too feels forced and arbitrary, rather than having the weight needed to feel like a successful resolution of these themes.

Ironically, the entire Bane plot is shot through with just the kind of concern for social class that might have made achieved such a successful resolution. After all, Bane’s army seems to represent the downtrodden. These are exactly the people Thomas Wayne wanted to help in a systematic way, and they’re exactly the people Bruce has ignored, in favor of high-adrenaline street fights.

And if you’re going to deconstruct Batman, by breaking him both physically and spiritually, as well as bankrupting Bruce Wayne and making him lose his company, wouldn’t you want to make Batman question his entire mission – his choice to become Batman in the first place?

After all, that’s implicit in the first movie, in which Batman saves the city but only by destroying the public transportation system Thomas Wayne built, in order to help the poor and the working-class.

It’s implicit in the second movie too, in which Batman’s presence has deformed the local criminals, spurring the rise of the Joker.

Would it really have been so threatening to fans, had Bruce questioned whether becoming Batman was a good idea after all? Whether he’d contributed to the iniquity in Gotham, by ignoring things like public transportation in favor of making tanks – or a cellphone-based surveillance system that was only used once?

Why, under the hands of either a more able or a braver screenwriter, the entire takeover of Gotham could have represented a real, existential challenge to Batman. Some of these disenfranchised might even have complained about how hard it is to get to work, almost a decade after Thomas Wayne’s monorail was destroyed. We could have seen how Bane’s army was composed of people like the orphans who were kicked onto the street because Bruce was too busy funding Batman.

Instead, those orphan kids are reduced to a murderous, anti-rich mob that turns people over to the Scarecrow for sentencing. And instead of questioning how he’s created the army Bane leads, Batman leads the police to war against these same orphans.

Besides being hunted by the cops, Bruce’s total failure to fulfill his father’s concern for the downtrodden of Gotham was the one thing the final film absolutely had to address, given what had been set up by the previous films. Instead of addressing this and questioning Batman (as the previous two films did), Rises plays superficially with themes (like “rising” versus “falling”) and delivers the most hostile and illogical of right-wing fantasies in a way that ridicules everything Thomas Wayne and his Wayne Enterprises stood for.

No, there’s only the pretence of deconstructing Batman here. There’s only the pretence of a happy ending. There’s only the pretence of a culmination of the previous films’ themes.

One is left to guess that the previous two films left these themes implicit because Nolan didn’t want to deal with them. And left with the challenge of concluding his trilogy, he still couldn’t bring himself to deal with them, despite setting them up in such a way that they were the elephant in the corner, demanding to be addressed.

All the ingredients are there. The chickens have come home to roost. The way Bruce has ignored the legacy of Thomas Wayne all along has created an army of hopeless have-nots, which Bane has exploited to spur a revolution.

Consequently, the film either has to deal with this – and really deconstruct Batman – or cop out and make that army an unthinking horde, a neo-con’s wet dream, so that the only solution is for Gotham to rally around an Ayn Rand ubermensch to beat up this mob and, indeed, kill them.

Talk about stacking the deck.

Talk about pulling your punches.

And talk about missing an opportunity to really wrap up a trilogy, using what you’d already established as the foundations on which to build something masterful.

If Nolan’s taught us to expect anything from his films, it’s intelligence. His plots might be complicated and have holes, but they follow their own implications to their logical conclusions. Yet when it came to wrapping up this trilogy, this intelligence seems to have failed critically.

What we get instead is interesting and entertaining enough, but also misjudged on several points and incredibly politically disturbing.

But worst of all, it isn’t the conclusion of “the Dark Knight trilogy” at all. Rises feels more like a fan film, a possible ending, than something that carries elements from the first two films to their inevitable conclusion.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

In 1996, while still an undergraduate, Dr. Julian Darius founded what would become Sequart Organization. After graduating magna cum laude from Lawrence University (Appleton, Wisconsin), he obtained his M.A. in English, authoring a thesis on John Milton and utopianism. In 2002, he moved to Waikiki, teaching college while obtaining an M.A. in French (high honors) and a Ph.D. in English. In 2011, he founded Martian Lit, which publishes creative work, including his comic book Martian Comics. He currently lives in Illinois.

See more, including free online content, on .

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49 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for posting this detailed review and forgive me for babbling on too long in response. In many ways, I think we had similar experiences, so even though I’m going to be pushing in the other direction, the differences have to do more with final conclusions than general perceptions.

    My expectations for this film were almost childishly unrealistic, so, like you, I felt some disappointment. However, so much of the film was enjoyable, impressive, and even thrilling that, unlike you, my thumb, while trembling with hesitation, points up instead of down. I don’t know when I last felt as torn by a film as I did this one. “Ambivalent” doesn’t seem to catch it. I felt an intense pull from both sides and have felt very confused since.

    Your quibbles in the early part of the essay are all probably accurate, but, as you admit, they are minor. They’re the sorts of “crimes” you charge against a film if you’re going to prosecute, but otherwise they’re easily forgettable.

    However, I agree when you start talking about the implausibility of the siege of Gotham. Neither Bane’s motivations nor his methods fully add up, so we wind up watching incredible, but incoherent, spectacle.

    I also agree that the final scene with Alfred, Bruce, and Selina is flawed, but not because I don’t buy the connection with Selina. While you’re right in that the chemistry doesn’t match Keaton and Pfeiffer, it’s certainly more believable than the romance between Bruce and Talia. However, it doesn’t work for me because the whole Alfred-goes-to-the-café story is unnecessarily contrived. The set up and the finale is absurd—that Alfred would take a random day each year, go to a random location, and hope to see Bruce. What seems strange to me is that with only a little modification—Alfred noting that it was always the same date each year—it would play more plausibly in the end.

    I’m also not as troubled by the brevity of Batman’s career. Transforming the most corrupt city in America, eliminating all the gangs, working with the police, using the iconographic power of the Bat signal, and then being revealed as a killer who murders the noble Harvey Dent—that’s enough to provide a lasting memory in Gotham, and it’s enough to give the scene when he lights up the fiery bat signal in this film a sense of power. While I do agree with your point 3B, that the ending of The Dark Knight clearly implies the further career of an outlaw Batman, Bruce’s injuries at the beginning of the new film help to explain the unrealistic fancy of that poetic conclusion. Again, you’re right that it’s a flaw, but if the rest of the film ultimately works, I see it as more of a need for the audience to “readjust” than a deal breaker.

    Point 4 is the area where I mostly agree with you, and it’s the area I’ve struggled with the most where this film is concerned. However, I disagree with your take on the surveillance system in The Dark Knight. You’re right in that it’s unnecessary for the plot and it carries echoes of the Bush administration’s wiretapping and such. But that is the point. As everyone now says, the whole trilogy is a meditation on post 9-11 America, and I’ve always seen the surveillance system as a plot device forced into the story in order to condemn it. We’re supposed to think of Bush and Cheney, but we’re supposed to see the difference. Lucius condemns it on sight, and Bruce clearly agrees with him, even though he’s asking him to use it. The payoff isn’t that it works, but instead that in the final moment when it self-destructs, Lucius smiles. It’s a moral condemnation of the Bush administration’s numerous privacy violations and a triumph of justice and heroism. “With great power comes the great responsibility to stop using it.” Maybe the introduction of it is contrived—a narrative straw man—but for me, at least, it works.

    I think they thought to do something similar in this new film by introducing another aspect of post 9-11 America. As the ongoing wars and tax cuts drove the economy closer to bankruptcy, and as the corporatist agenda began manipulating all political discussions, shrinking our public institutions while enriching our private enterprises, class has emerged as the defining issue of our times—moreso than security, privacy, or even torture. So as they did with the surveillance system in the previous movie, the filmmakers inject class themes into this film in order to illustrate changes in the culture. And to their credit, in one narrative thread they give us a billionaire playboy who loses almost all of his money, doesn’t seem to care too much, donates what remains to his servant and a charity, and finds happiness with what you described earlier as a borderline parody of a communist. That’s one thread.

    Of course, the problem is that it’s a subtle thread. As you point out, the heavy lifting is done by Bane and company who echo the ideology, if not the techniques, of the Occupy movement, and almost everything else you say in Point 4 is what I struggled with. Part of me wonders if, in the conception of the story, the noisy, anti-government, people’s revolution of Bane wasn’t intended to parody the rise of the Tea Party instead of the Occupy movement. Do you and I automatically see all revolutionaries as the Occupy movement because we are seeing through our liberal perspective and want to identify with notions of populism and revolution? Could the rhetoric of the villainous Bane and company have been conceived to echo the early rhetoric of the Tea Partiers instead? And could the villainous portrayal of that revolution be, instead, a condemnation of anti-government Tea Party ideology?

    To paraphrase Hemingway, it’s at least pretty to think so. :)

    Some of these problems are inherent in the narrative and in the core Batman story, as you point out. Sometimes, the set up of a narrative twists the message regardless of intent. When Bonnie and Clyde was released, it was arguably the most radical mainstream Hollywood film ever made, but its inevitable narrative pattern delivered a homily straight out of the Shadow: “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay.” For me, the introduction of the class issue breaks down and becomes self-defeating, but I’m not ready to sign Christopher Nolan up for an Ayn Rand seminar just yet. But whatever the intended message, it’s bungled for sure.

    The other area that I disagree with you about is the lack of any effort to deconstruct the Batman. The way in which the article—”the”—is underscored whenever Gordon discusses him, helps to objectify the concept of the character rather than the individual. Much like Grant Morrison’s recent work, the Batman is truly becoming a symbol or an idea in the film rather than “the rich guy in the suit.” In fact, despite the whole “Robin” allusion, which doesn’t work, the implication is clear that there will always be a Batman and that the new one will be blue-collared if not blue-cowled.

    • Greg,

      First, you honor me with such a long and thoughtful reply.

      I agree the expectations were high, and that plays into the disappointment. But I’d argue that expectations were high in part because Nolan’s demonstrated his ability to follow through on ideas from previous films, so it’s fair to look at Rises on those terms, even if they’d be a bit demanding from most directors. But point taken.

      I actually just assumed Alfred went to Italy on the same day each year. Otherwise, I would’ve complained a bit more thoroughly about that point.

      I agree 3B is a much bigger deal than 3A. A one-year career as Batman, I can live with. But it’s hard for me to forgive invalidating such a beautiful ending as that of The Dark Knight.

      You’re right that the wiretapping analogy in The Dark Knight can be forgiven. And I agree that the class issues play into current issues. You’re also right that the billionaire-gives-it-all-away story can be taken here.

      Also, I take your point that we might be biased in seeing Bane’s revolution as parallel to Occupy and not the Tea Party, although I think the Occupy parallels — or at least, the parallels to right-wing statements about Occupy — are pretty clear. The “tearing the rich from their houses” paranoia is pretty direct. And the consequences simply aren’t ambiguous, or open for debate, like Batman’s cellphone surveillance system in The Dark Knight. The consequences of Bane’s revolution are simply disastrous, in the most cartoonish way. I’d agree with you if there was that ambiguity — and I’d have loved to see it. In fact, I think the resulting questioning Bruce Wayne would therefore go through would have improved the film and helped tie the trilogy together.

      Even if you see it as a more general populist revolution, not an Occupy one, the ambiguity you describe in The Dark Knight simply isn’t there. Bane’s rule is brutish in the extreme. There’s no redeeming it. There’s no argument about it, the way Fox condemns the surveillance system in The Dark Knight. There’s just unredeemable and unthinking savagery, behind a populist agenda. And by avoiding giving that agenda any credence, Nolan avoids the class issues inherent in his own two previous films — and in how Bruce differs from Thomas’s noble vision.

      Lack of ambiguity is one thing. Pardonable, perhaps. Especially in a super-hero film, perhaps. But when that lack of ambiguity is used to avoid addressing precisely what must be addressed to tie off the previous films’ thematic threads… something, something, is seriously amiss.

      I’m not ready to put Nolan in the Ayn Rand camp yet either. And as I’ve said before about Frank Miller, I’ll continue to read or see the work of those I do put in that camp. Nolan’s great, and I’ll keep seeing his films. But having said this doesn’t pardon this particular films politics… or worse, how the film uses those politics as a shield to avoid addressing what it must address, to make sense as a coherent trilogy.

      Am I glad the movie exists? Yeah, I’d probably be glad for any Batman film — I am for Batman and Robin even. And I’d probably be glad for any Nolan film, even a terribly misjudged one.

      But eh, that’s my two cents. Again, Greg, such a thoughtful, thoughtful reply as yours is a real blessing, and you’re most kind of you to make it. We’re on the same team, even if we end up siding on different sides of this one issue. Thanks again, and much obliged. ;)

      • Just to clarify, you’re certainly right about there not being any ambiguity to Bane’s actions. They are clearly supposed to be bad. I was just openly speculating about whether the filmmakers had wanted to focus on class and clumsily wound up putting the people’s argument in the mouth of the monsters.

        Or, perhaps, just perhaps, we were both misreading the connection between Bane and Occupy and that it was supposed to be a critique of the violent rhetoric of the Tea Party. But, alas, there is a pretty strong strain of wishful thinking in both of those arguments.

  2. Jay says:

    Well written critique, but I disagree with some of your points:

    For me, the relationship between Bruce and Selina works because they don’t try and falsely play it up as anything more than what it is. Bruce is impressed by Selina and sees the good in her, while Selina becomes interested in this man who gives her a second chance even though he has no reason to and who goes to such great lengths to save the city. They are also both people who are trying to start over. The attraction is there, but they never try and sell it as them falling in love or anything. When Alfred sees them at the end we don’t really know how far the relationship has gone, but the point is that Bruce is trying to move on now. Men who live regular lives, find people they’re attracted to and try and start relationships with them, which is what Bruce is doing. I don’t think Alfred needs to see anything more than that, to be satisfied, and the movie doesn’t need to show us anything more than that for Bruce’s arc to be finished. As far as Rachel goes, I think Bruce knows Alfred was telling him, but didn’t want to accept it initially. He felt he couldn’t move on if Rachel couldn’t, but she had moved on as he learns.

    As far Bane’s plan goes, remember Ras didn’t just want to destroy Gotham by nuking it off the map. He wanted the world to watch as its greatest city “tore itself apart through fear”. I think Bane was going for something similar and achieved the same affect by letting the world watch, while Gotham’s ordinary citizens tore the city apart through anarchy before destroying it. They wanted to use Gotham to send a message to the rest of the world. I think people are reading into the politics too much. The script was actually finished before any of the “Occupy” stuff began. Nolan was no doubt aware of what was going on around him, but it couldn’t possibly be about the Occupy movement.

    As far as ruining the ending to the The Dark Knight, I saw it sort of differently. In the end of the film, Gordon and Batman construct two symbols. A Dark Knight to take the fall for the crimes committed and to give the city a common enemy. And the White Knight, a symbol of hope that the city could rally around. That aspect is still in place. I don’t think Gordon expected Batman to retire, which is why he says “We were in this together, and then you were gone”. So that would explain his line about hunting Batman and how he could take it.
    As for Bruce’s career as Batman being short, I think the film established this was Bruce’s goal from the beginning. It was always about creating a symbol that could save Gotham. As early as the Dark Knight he was looking to retire, confident that Dent could take his place. In the end, Dent does still kind of take Batman’s place as his death still gives Gotham its hero and with the destruction of the mob, that is enough to allow Gotham to save itself.

    • Good points, Jay. I think we’re largely on the same page about these points. I just think, for example, that more than “moving on” was required to make the final Selina scene work.

      Also good points about Bane, though again I’d say that the film missed the class implications of the previous films, especially how Bruce goes a very different direction from Thomas. Bane’s plot would have been a perfect occasion to get into that, but the film dodges the issue. Fine, it’s an action-packed movie, and if it were an Iron Man film, I might say okay. But it’s not, and Bruce’s wealth is very much at issue in a story in which those who try to do anything about the still-terrible conditions in Gotham are painted solely as the enemy.

      So too with your points about timing. All quite finely made, I’m quick to add. But just because the white knight / dark knight aspect of the previous film was preserved doesn’t mean that the whole of that ending was preserved. I get that part of it was, but I still think the ending of that film is lessened by the retroactive retirement.

      Eh, at least we agree on the terms of the debate. We come down on different sides, but okay. We both get it.

      Thanks for your comment, Jay, and again, it’s all quite well-made. I hope I agree with your side of these issues more with time.

    • Sam Keeper says:

      You know, I really like that reading of Bane–it certainly was where I thought they were going when Bane announced that some random citizen had the detonator hidden on their person–but I don’t think it ever got off the ground in the film. I see how it could work, and I think it’s an incredibly exciting idea, but it just… didn’t make it into the final product.

      Considering how important the theme of fear has always been in these movies, I’m a little baffled as to why it didn’t.

      But yeah, the short version is, I think you’re on to something with Bane, but I don’t think it really was consistent enough for it to make thematic sense.

  3. Sam Keeper says:

    Funny, I read your article right after posting my own take on the subject, and we came to just about the same conclusions on a lot of things. You articulated the really odious class warfare implications far more fully than I did, though, which is great. Nice article.

    I will say that I think the greatest tragedy of the film is the fact that it almost looked for a moment like it was going to be a critique not of Occupy but of the Tea Party. After all, Bane was initially given entrance into the city by an evil 1%er, in a move that struck me as reminiscent of the corporate sponsorship of the Tea Party. But, sadly, just like every single other theme touched upon in the film, that was outright contradicted elsewhere. It’s too bad, the thematic focus is just an absolute mess…

    Anyway, as I said, very good analysis, and I’m not just saying that because we agree. ;)

    • Thanks, Sam. It’s much appreciated. Link to your post here!

      The more I think about the film, the more I see that Batman’s only a hero because Bane is so ridiculously bad. Bruce has really failed his responsibilities terribly, not only to the orphans, but to Thomas’s monorail system and to improve the lot of the people of Gotham. He’s only interested in putting out fires. The odd thing is that Thomas Wayne was a kind of white knight, like Harvey Dent — focused on improving lives, not simply beating up criminals. Bruce made himself a dark knight, and he’s just waiting for a new fire to put out. That these fires are terrible, in super-hero fashion, doesn’t mean Bruce hasn’t failed the most basic ethical challenges, as Thomas Wayne himself established for his son.

      So yeah, for me, the politics were horrific. But how they let the film dodge these themes hurt more.

      • Sam Keeper says:

        Here’s my take on the subject:
        http://stormingtheivorytower.blogspot.com/2012/07/shadow-of-bat-finding-good-in-dark.html

        I’m afraid, reading over it again, that it could have used at least one more revision, but it is what it is.

        That sensation of the film becoming more and more problematic as you think about it… ah, I can relate there. It just really hit me last night, for example, how terrible the sexual politics of the film are. I mean, Talia is a character who sleeps with Bruce Wayne, which results in her being GIVEN A CORPORATION, which results in her trying to blow up a city. That’s a really regressive way of treating a female villain. It wouldn’t be nearly so bad if they hadn’t shoehorned in the sex scene, I think, but the film just seems so uninterested in pushing beyond the action movie formula.

        You’re right, it’s the fact that these ideas are so clumsily sidestepped and ignored that really makes it a deeply frustrating film.

      • I didn’t address gender nearly enough. But the film really does have gender problems. I think the entire series does.

        Before Rises, people could say this wasn’t true; it’s just that Rachel wasn’t a compelling character, or Katie Holmes wasn’t good. After Rises, with Talia and Catwoman, a fuller picture is beginning to emerge, and that’s starting to contaminate how we see the first two films. Another way in which Rises is retroactively changing — and hurting — the previous two films.

      • Cody Walker says:

        There are four women in the series: Rachel Dawes, Officer Mendoza (thinly veiled Montoya), Catwoman, and Talia.

        Rachel – sanctimonious and overly-preachy, she motivates Bruce to be a better man in the first film. Her mere existence makes him want to stop being Batman to be with her in the second. Then, his love for her cripples him after she dies.

        Mendoza – the officer who betrays Batman to the Joker is also the only woman on the force.

        Catwoman – possibly the strongest of them all initially, it’s sort of insulting how easily she just decides to run away with Bruce Wayne in the end.

        Talia – Sam has already summarized this enough.

        Of course, let’s not forget Bruce’s mother – a character who is so non-existent that one struggles to remember if she even had a speaking line. The first film loved to deify the father as the object of Bruce’s affection, but the mother is hardly shown. The pearls are meditated upon in the third film, but the Martha Wayne isn’t even shown in flashback.

      • Might I offer a tiny little half-hearted defense of the film in terms of gender? While I really didn’t like or buy the whole Talia subplot either, I did appreciate the way in which the big reveal about her being the child instead of Bane subverted the expectations of both Bruce and the audience. Granted, many of the comics fans probably saw it coming, most of the audience, I’d bet, did not.

        (Full disclosure: the old O’Neil/Adams reprints are the primary reason I first fell in love with comics, but even I didn’t see it coming. I’m stupid that way.)

        But for those of us who were surprised, it was a momentary condemnation of our inherent sexism. “Of course,” we thought, “the hulking, hyper-masculine Bane was the child that made the leap and survived the prison. Of course the he-man is the true heir to Ras al Ghul.”

        Yet, to their credit, the filmmakers say no. We audience members, just like Bruce, are pre-conditioned to think in male-centered, sexist terms.

        Plus, ya know, Catwoman, like totally blasts Bane and rescues Bruce.

        Okay, that’s the best I’ve got.

      • I like that point, Greg. Well done. Doesn’t mean Talia’s well-rounded. But yeah, it’s not the usual. And at least she’s not a 20-year-old genius who looks like a supermodel!

      • Sam Keeper says:

        @Julian:

        It’s true, I never would have picked out the films as being notably problematic until this one. Nolan has a bad habit of sidelining his female characters. Inception had a fairly strong female lead, but it, like most of his other films now, was ultimately headed by a stoic man who can’t get over the death of a woman. They just seem to end up largely as plot devices.

        You know, I saw a comment on twitter about how the “supposedly” feminist Joss Whedon included more fanservice of Black Widow than Nolan did of Catwoman, and, well, first of all, that seems more because he sucks any and all sexuality out of his films, but secondly, and more importantly, Black Widow is a nuanced and flawed but ultimately empowered and fully realized character and neither Catwoman nor Talia are. It seems like people are getting really hung up on surface details and missing the underlying mechanics.

        @Cory:

        Damn, I forgot all about Mendoza… which is probably rather telling in and of itself. >_>

        And very interesting points about Wayne’s mother. She really does sort of vanish, doesn’t she?

        @Greg:

        You know, that’s true, and I don’t think it’s as cataclysmically flawed here as it is elsewhere, really. I think the problem with Talia was the fact that there’s nothing to sell the audience on the idea that she’s evil until, surprise!, she’s evil. What you’re saying could have worked quite well, but it ultimately was another weak point, I think.

        What really fascinates me about this film, though, is the fact that the gordian knot structure means that any individual problem you fix screws something else up! Like, Catwoman’s moment of awesome where she shoots Bane helps give her some autonomy and power as a female character, but it totally undermines Blake/Robin’s earlier scene where he tosses his own gun aside–it’s another totally mixed message!

  4. Ian Cyr says:

    Julian-

    Thank you for another fantastic article. You’ve pointed out (again) more here than I ever would have seen. I think for me, however, part 5 was what I was looking for. I walked out of TDKR frustrated and saddened – I had wanted to enjoy the movie – but after a lackluster PR campaign, and trailers that did nothing for me, the movie ended up being everything I was afraid it was going to be. My girlfriend loved it, and I couldn’t express why I didn’t enjoy it at all – but I think now I can point her this way, and hopefully she’ll start to understand.

    I think, if I had anything to add, it would be that the first movie addressed “Why Batman?”, and the second “What happens when Batman exists?” This movie needed, desperately, to address “Should there be a Batman?”, and I don’t think it ever did. It hinted at that theme, but not in the way it needed to, to really, as I see it, complete the discussion and deconstruction of Batman on film.

    Finally, though, I will say that I LOVED Joseph Gorden-Levitt in TDKR, and I would watch the HELL out of him as Batman. I think he was truly the breakout performance of the film, and I wish that after the first Batman/Bane fight, that the movie would have used him to really explore the idea of Batman as a role, and not a specific person.

    Anyway, thanks again. I look forward to every one of your articles! :)

  5. David Balan says:

    Julian, great review.

    I fully agree with every one of your assessments, and I think that it could have been lots, lots better, and I like how you took the time to figure out how. I wasn’t fully happy with the way the film broke Batman (Although I was VERY happy to see that the film actually involved Bruce Wayne, something I really felt The Dark Knight missed horribly. Bruce felt like an accessory in that movie, to me. It’s actually my least favorite of the trilogy.) and I think you really nailed why with the bit about how there ought to have been the question – should there be a Batman? And that could be tied beautifully to a less one-sided and polemic take on what actually would have happened in Bane’s takeover of Gotham.

    However, despite plot holes, some poor story structure, a few corny acting instances, and even a rather ham-fisted love sub-plot, this move is still my favorite experience in the theater of 2012 so far – not so much for what it did accomplish, but for what it set out to do. It is such a big story that’s loaded with timeliness, thought, care, and a lot of real passion (something I think Nolan often lacks, but he did wonderfully here – I’m actually not a Nolan fan most of the time.) that its glorious failures moved me more than some of the more polished superhero films that preceded it this year.

    That’s just my personal experience though, and it’s probably skewed because I really like Batman.

    • I totally respect what you’ve said here, David. I’m all for glorious failures. I would have felt the same way, if Nolan had asked whether there should be a Batman, or whether Bruce was fulfilling Thomas’s legacy. Then, hit or miss, I would’ve said, “Well, at least it tried to address this, to follow through on what had been set up.”

      In the same way, I like X-Men: The Last Stand — a failure of a movie, to be sure, but I like that it at least tried to get at how mutants would seriously mess up the world as we know it, even if the film didn’t pull that off. Sure, it’s not as good a movie as Rises, but it dares to at least go through the motions of following through in a way that Rises doesn’t, sadly.

      But yeah, I really like Batman too. I’m glad Rises exists. But for me, the series ended with The Dark Knight and Rises is a possible ending, not a definitive one.

    • Sam Keeper says:

      Hm, now I’m really curious, what were your thoughts on The Avengers? Assuming you saw it in theaters, of course, what elevated Dark Knight Rises above that movie? Not challenging you, really, I’m just genuinely curious.

      • David Balan says:

        Dark Knight Rises tried to pull off a lot more than the Avengers – there were themes and visual subtext and layered scene techniques The Avengers never really touched. They didn’t always work (and there were plenty of more clumsy scenes in Rises) but I loved the fact that they were trying to be more than just slick.

        However, Avengers was VERY slick – very well edited, never a pointless scene, and lots of fun.

        They both have their strengths and weaknesses, and if I had to objectively evaluate them, I’d place them equally. But as for my personal enjoyment, the reason I liked Rises better was what I said before, and with the addition of a much stronger villain. Bane has plot holes, yes, but boy did he challenge Batman. Loki sucked. Not challenging at all. I really got a sense for how Batman was broken and reborn in the film, and how much he had to dig into himself to defeat Bane. That’s what a villain should do – challenge the hero in all ways possible.

        Loki didn’t do that, and that lack, along with the incredible ambitiousness of Dark Knight to be complex, timely, and even political (things The Avengers doesn’t even consider) makes me like Dark Knight Rises more.

        But objectively? They have their strengths and weaknesses, and I’d place them on equal footing.

      • Cody Walker says:

        Avengers never aspired to be anything more than the best action movie it could be and it succeeded.

        TDKR tries desperately to be important and fails miserably. If the film is about class warfare, then what is it saying exactly? If it is about the legacy of Batman, then what did it prove?

      • I don’t disagree. One can score that for The Avengers because it aims a bit lower and succeeds. Or one can score that for Rises because it attempts something harder, even though it has more deductions.

        Sorry… I’m in an Olympics frame of mind. ;)

      • David Balan says:

        If it was a film about class warfare, then the point was that class warfare misses the point – this takes a little digging to get to, I admit, and it could have been presented better, but I believe that was the intent.

        It’s not really about Batman’s legacy, although that would have been interesting.

        What it is about is Batman himself – what drives him to do what he does, and what makes him any different from Bane. Because if you look really closely, Batman and Bane are quite similar, in fact, Bane is what Batman might have been had Rachel not died. Bane is wholely devoted to Talia, and Talia does not love him. Ring any bells?

        When Batman tries to be like Bane (“I’ll fight harder. I always have.”) and when he tries to pretend that Rachel’s death doesn’t get to him, when he denies the fact that he must move on into a new life, he loses. Bane breaks his back. It’s only by redefining himself in the prison (which, as I noted in my earlier post, could have been way cooler had more themes about the Batman legacy been put in) that he is able to realize how he is different from Bane, and face that part of himself, after which he promptly smacks Bane down.

        Now, that doesn’t mean TDKR doesn’t have problems – it did. A vast array of plotholes and motivational problems and sub-plot problems. I just liked what it was aspiring to be.

        And by the way, The Avengers also had problems, a metric ton of them. It was not the best action movie it could have been. The villain categorically sucked, the whole lynchpin of them closing the gateway was based on pure happenstance (the professor building in a back door while under the influence of Loki) and the ending was incredibly unsatisfying, I saw it coming a mile away. It also had protagonist issues, because I wasn’t sure who exactly we were supposed to be behind.

        Don’t get me wrong, the Avengers was a great movie with incredible strengths (like tension and danger escalation – Joss Whedon knows how to up the ante. And each character had a great emotional arc (except Hawkeye) and they played off of one another well) but to say that it succeeded at everything it set out to do would be like if I equated LIKING Dark Knight Rises to Dark Knight Rises actually being an excellent film.

      • Sam Keeper says:

        Thanks for the reply. That does make sense, yeah. My only point of disagreement is over Loki–I don’t think he needs to be anything more than what he is because the recurring theme of the movie is how the heroes are their own worst enemies in a lot of significant ways. Loki just needs to play psychologically on that.

        But, I’m biased–I really, really like that character and the way he’s been portrayed in these movies in general. I prefer a less powerful villain that has a fascinating character depth to… well, Bane. That’s just personal aesthetic preference, though.

  6. Firstly, I have to say, that most of my day is usually spotted with reading various articles that catch my attention and, usually, I skim through them to find the “meat”. However, your article I digested fully. There were quite a few points that I agreed with. I’m a huge fan of Batman myself (who doesn’t love a “normal” guy who stands with the big boys who need all their super powers just to keep up?), and I enjoy Nolan’s film-making, and will, like you, continue to enjoy both for many years to come.
    I agree that Tom Hardy’s Bane fell below the mark Heath Ledger left with The Joker, but, honestly, who could have hit that mark? It was charismatic, clever, witty and white-knuckles-on-the-arm-of-your-chair insanity. Bane is a tank, pointed, guided and causing destruction in his tracks. The Joker, however, is more strategic and calculating, as preferring to dream up the ideas but leave others to do the dirty work.
    There are, however, a few points I either did not agree with, or felt differently about.
    Alfred falls in to a “fine=line” sort of trap in the world of Batman/Bruce Wayne. He loves Bruce and raises him as if Bruce was his own, and longs to remember and respect Bruce’s parents, and he wants something better for Bruce. At the same time, he’s also come to grips with Bruce’s stubborn willfulness. For the first two movies, he feels like he needs to protect Bruce in as much as he can, and feels relieved once Bruce lays down the cowl. But the thought of Bruce becoming the Batman again is too much for him to bear. He didn’t tell Bruce about Rachel’s letter to protect his feelings, but feels like, if he tells him the truth, it will snap him back to reality and make him want to live again. Like most things that happen like this in reality, it pushes Bruce away. Alfred feels like the only choice he has left is to walk away. You never know what you have until it is gone, which is part of the devastation Bruce feels over Rachel. Alfred hopes the same came happen again if Bruce looses Aflred; a type of intervention by loss. Alfed was never comfortable with Bruce being Batman, but his loyalty and his promise to Bruce’s parents have to override that, and his leaving is a further wake up call to Bruce.
    I didn’t feel like the military exactly went along with the blockade, but there’s not a lot they can do at first glance when presented with the option of a devestation nuclear attack. They have higher-ups they need to report to and get orders from. Then we see jets doing fly-bys. If there is an active nuclear device it wouldn’t be hard for the military to determine that and cordon off the potential blast zone. Though I do agree that this did raise some questions and could have been developed a little more, and with very easy script additions, such as Lucius or Tate telling the news what the deal was.
    Clean Slate was a prototype, and when he found out what it did, and what it could be used for, Bruce bought it. In today’s age of “sue everybody” mentality, it’s not hard to image the lengths a multi-billion dollar company, or man for that matter, would go to in order to protect, or stop something like this. You only need to look at the myriad of lawsuits thrown around by Apple, Nokia, Google, Motorola, Microsoft, etc and etc, to see this. Likewise, also in today day and age, it’s hard not to believe someone else doesn’t have a copy of it floating around on a backup or flash drive. Also, no one said it was contained on a single drive, that’s just how Batman presents it to her. Todays mailcious computer viruses don’t need much more than that, considering the sizes a single flash drive can hold, as well as the fact that this is also the man who single-handedly worked out the bugs in an automated flight control system. That “bat-stick” could have been 3 terabytes in size for all we know.
    The firing of Gordon as police commissioner was a passing remark about how Gordon is a “war vet” from the “Gotham War”. It takes place before Gordon leads a small rebel army to try and take back Gotham. It also takes place before the death of the Deputy-Commissioner who would have taken his place. With the lie that was publicly televised about Dent, public opinion could have weighed either way. People, including the city’s government, could have felt betrayed by Gordon’s actions. They could have also praised him as a hero for doing what he needed to do to get the job done and clean up Gotham, must in the same light as Batman. Also, with the fall of the Dent act and the release of prisoners, Gotham is technically at war again with crime, to which almost everyone has remarked that Gordon is the man to lead the police to stop.
    ” I suppose the explosives were also designed not to collapse any of the stands, despite that this would require a ridiculous level of precision”. Have you every watched the strategic collapse of a building in the middle of a crowded city? This is entirely possible. If Bane can coax construction workers to rise up and join his ranks, I’m sure he could have convinced one demolition expert to do the same. Remember, also, that Bane is a mercenary and that the army he brings to Gotham are also mercenaries, one of whom could easily be a demolitions expert.
    Gotham is based on New York, mostly the Manhattan area, which is an island, which is only connected by bridges and tunnels. Not hard to imagine it getting cut off, especially in the wake of 9/11. In the movie they clearly show the tunnel being blocked as well. The helicopters? Yes, that is a very valid point. But still would only be accessible by few, and wouldn’t be an effective way to evacuate an entire city.
    By the end of the film, we realize that the scheme is not actually Bane’s, it’s Talia’s/League of Shadows. As one of the other posters pointed out, Ra’s tells Batman that he wants to watch Gotham burn, tearing itself apart for all the word to see. bane accomplishes this by revealing the truth about Dent, freeing the prisoners from prison and televising it all over the news (a dig at todays media focusing the way it does on the tragic. Made even more poignant by the media’s dog-with-a-bone attitude to the shooting in Colorado). In effect, Bane is doing exactly what Ra’s set out to do in the first film. We also learn that Talia/Miranda is behind it all and that she is the only person Bane ever cared about. What better way for her to avenge her father than to carry out his wishes while also destroying the man who killed him, all by allowing the carnage and destruction that feeds Bane’s ego. Yes, burying the cops underground was a little stupid and pointless to the movie, but I don’t feel like it took away from the purpose of Bane/Talia/League of Shadows.
    “But here’s the final trump card: Bane’s going to blow up the city anyway. So why does he do all this to begin with?” – Again, not Bane’s plan. He’s just the tank, Talia is pointing the barrell with her own agenda and the League of Shadows agenda, which is to watch the city destroy itself, destroy everything Batman accomplished, and kill the man who killed her father.
    “She follows this with a clichéd quip, but there’s no fireworks-stirring kiss”. There was a kiss, just not overly fireworks stirring. And yes, the romance between them was light. I also agree that there wasn’t much put in to the building of anything relationship worthy between Selina and Bruce, especially for the future of those two. Really, the best we can hope at this point, as Bruce is in the city Alfred talked about with a woman, is that he also took the rest of Alfred’s advice and has decided to move on, so as he did by “killing” Batman.
    Speaking as someone who lost a parent when they were really young (though, admittedly, not through any form of violence), you are much more resilient as a child. Bruce’s loss of his parents defined him and what he did. He loss of Rachel in, presumably, his twenty’s, destroys him. He loves his parents and wants to save his city from the evil that took them from him, but when Rachel dies, she’s his life-long love, someone he’s known forever. And, as an added twist of the knife, this persona that he’s developed to save his city, can’t save the woman he loves. Not to mention that, indirectly, he is also responsible for the rise of the Joker, which leads to Rachel’s death, and to Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face, the ultimate failure of Bruce’s plan to promote Harvey as the White Knight and, instead, having to banish himself as the Dark Knight for all of this. It’s the epitomy of the struggle of Bruce Wayne as the Batman, and the whole theme behind the Fall-Escalate-Rise theme. One man can do a tremendous amount of good, but as Harvey said “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. With the culmination of the trilogy, Batman has managed to do both.
    3a) Think about how many random events in the world, that happened in a single day, have changed the course of cities, countries or even the entire world. A kidnapping and we get the Amber Alert. A terrorist strike and we get 9/11 and the Patriot Act. Devasting and horrible events bringing about wide-spreading changes. Having the same thing depicted with the death of Harvy Dent creating the Dent Act that cracks down on crime is not a far stretch. Likewise, also not a far stretch that a year of the Batman could also bring about changes. Bruce’s point to becoming Batman was to be a symbol. To show the people that they could fight the corruption, greed and crime in Gotham. To have Gotham takes its city back from the criminals (which only becomes much more interesting when Bane gives the same logic for an entirely different purpose). He did exactly what he set out to do. Between him and Gordon, the police force had been cleaned up, then the Dent Act was created and criminals were rounded up in a brand spanking new prison. It didn’t happen before because the city didn’t have the symbols (yin and yang) that Harvey and Batman gave them. They also had a corrupt police force that didn’t want to clean the city up. Now the city had something to hope for.
    3b) As I stated above, Bruce did what he set out to do with Batman. Clean up the corruption in the police force, crack down on crim, and give the city a symbol. In the process, he gave them two, a white knight and a dark one. If he had been out every night after that, sure, he would have cracked down on crime, but where are you bringing the criminals? To the police who hate you and want to bring you in? By retiring and staying out of the way he let the police force do what he had intended: clean up the streets of Gotham. Plus, the police force gets an added ego boost by feeling like Batman is afraid to come out of hiding and face them. Again, being the symbol. At that point, the reputation is all he needs. It doesn’t ruin the brilliant ended of The Dark Knight, it solidifies it.
    “Even at the end of the movie, Batman’s more concerned with the Joker than with the thousands of innocent civilians in the Narrows who were driven mad by the Scarecrow’s fear toxin – which would almost certainly have been Thomas Wayne’s prime concern.” – Well… “The needs of the many outweighs the needs of the few”, and “Cut the head off the snake”… If you stop the cause of something, you ultimately stop the spread. If he stops the Joker, he stops the Joker’s affects on Gotham. If he focuses on the people that are going mad, then the Joker has a chance to do more wanton destruction.
    “Thomas Wayne, philanthropist, would probably not be pleased to know that his son has chosen to help Gotham by getting into fistfights and blowing things up.” – Thomas Wayne also died because of those ideals. Batman/Bruce want to make sure others don’t have to face the same consequences. Thomas Wayne contributed a lot to the city of Gotham, but crime was still on the rise.

    Just my two cents worth… and a little more

    • Thank you for your response.

      I think what you’re saying about Alfred is a possible explanation. But it’s simply not in the film. You should get a no-prize for figuring out such a solution… but if that was Nolan’s idea, it should’ve been on screen.

      My problem with Clean Slate is… who’s used this? If the mob or companies developed it, I’m sure someone would’ve used it. How did Batman get it? It’s simply inconceivable that the thumb drive Batman shows Catwoman contains the only copy of the program. That’s the kind of Hollywood-doesn’t-get-how-computers-work stuff that we’re used to, in stupid movies, but that’s kind of shocking here.

      About closing off Gotham, that city was based on Chicago in The Dark Knight, yet is clearly New York in Rises. So there’s that. But Manhattan is a peninsula, not an island. Its northern side is open. That’s what I was thinking of, in writing what you’re referring to. You can mostly close off Manhattan by targeting bridges, tunnels, ferries, and helicopters. But you’re also going to need a massive land blockade to the north. It’s just not so simple.

      I get what you’re saying about making Gotham suffer. But the cops-underground-for-three-months is something that wouldn’t survive a freshman screenwriting class. It would be laughed at.

      I agree Bruce’s retirement makes sense. But few people seem to realize what this means for Nolan’s chronology. And it does invalidate the ending of The Dark Knight. In disagreeing with that, you’re arguing based on what’s shown in Rises, not what’s in The Dark Knight. But even if that’s true, it ignores how the point of that ending isn’t simply that Batman’s sacrificed his reputation. It’s that he’s going to be hunted now, because he’s not retiring. That’s why it’s a sacrifice. It’s a profound one. And it’s a sacrifice Rises tells us he just doesn’t make. Instead, he sacrificed his reputation and retired. That is simply not what the ending of The Dark Knight says. Yes, retiring in disgrace is still a sacrifice. But it’s not the full sacrifice depicted at the end of The Dark Knight Rises, and I don’t see how that’s an arguable point.

      It’s pretty clear that Batman’s victory in Batman Begins is Pyrrhic. Thousands have gone crazy in the Narrows. The public transit system has been destroyed. Lots of people have died. Yeah, Batman saved the city… but at a profound cost. He hasn’t “won” at all. Gotham’s still far worse, at the film’s end, than when it begins. This isn’t just me saying this — it’s implicit in the film.

      I agree the whole Bruce / Thomas dynamic is complicated. It’s hard to fault Bruce, because Gotham would have been destroyed without him. But Thomas represents philanthropy, while Bruce represents vigilantism, and there’s a clear distinction between the two. They’re two potentially good paths, but they’re very different. Yeah, because of the League of Shadows, the deck’s rigged for Batman. But it’s clear throughout the trilogy that Batman hasn’t done much for the poor, the way Thomas did. He’s too busy beating people up.

      Anyway, just my thoughts. Thanks for yours!

      • 1) I thought we were discussing the mythical city of Gotham, not the cities chosen to represent it in the movies. The area of Greater Vancouver has been used for any number of locations (ie: Smallville it represented both Smallville and Metropolis, as well as a number of other locations, but we don’t discuss the layout of Abbotsford when discussing Smallville)
        http://batman.wikia.com/wiki/Gotham_City
        http://news.softpedia.com/newsImage/Map-Shows-Batman-s-Real-Gotham-City-2.jpg/
        http://bigthink.com/strange-maps/55-a-tourist-map-of-gotham
        http://batmangothamcity.net/no-mans-land/

        2) Manhattan is an island, with the Hudson on the West, the East River on the East and the Harlem River on the North.

        3) “I agree Bruce’s retirement makes sense. But few people seem to realize what this means for Nolan’s chronology. And it does invalidate the ending of The Dark Knight. In disagreeing with that, you’re arguing based on what’s shown in Rises, not what’s in The Dark Knight.” – Your article is called “Why The Dark Knight Rises</i Fails”, so of course I’m going to base my view point on The Dark Knight Rises and not on the Dark Knight. The ending of The Dark Knight is just that, the ending. Anything that happens after an ending is either explained or hinted at in a sequel, or left up to the imagination of the people absorbing the medium, in this case, there was a sequel. Also, it was Gordon who says that they will hunt Batman because he can take it, not Bruce/Batman. We have no idea what Bruce’s plan is for his future after The Dark Knight, and we don’t find out until The Dark Knight Rises.

  7. “I don’t know when I last felt as torn by a film as I did this one. “Ambivalent” doesn’t seem to catch it. I felt an intense pull from both sides and have felt very confused since.”

    Greg, this captures my feelings after watching TDKR as well. I really wanted to love this film, but it just didn’t gel the way I had hoped it would. Perhaps there is something to be said for keeping focused on the number of “names” one brings into a film? There was Bane, Talia, and arguably, Catwoman, who all needed to developed as villains. Talia needed to be established as a civilian peer to Bruce Wayne but also a viable opponent to Batman just as Bane. Much of this was done through relying on the storyline of Batman Begins, but it still felt a little rushed and underdeveloped. More time was given to developing Catwoman & Selina Kyle, and I was relatively “Okay” with the semi-casual relationship developing between the two. Ultimately though, I just think it’s proving a little too much for films to try and juggle multiple villains. (Ref. Spider-Man 3, X-Men 3, Non-Burton Batmans, etc).

    However, I also suspect this film will improve with age once my personal feelings subside. It will certainly be interesting how it views in a year’s time.

    • Colin S. S. says:

      I definitely agree that the villains were underdeveloped (I knew that Tate had to be a villain, not for the retrospectively obvious “well if you’re doing a second League of Shadows movie, OF COURSE Talia will be in it” reason, but because she hadn’t done anything interesting or useful by the end of act one and yet still hadn’t been written out of the story), but I don’t think the problem was there being too many villains. “Dark Knight” had the Joker, Dent, Maroni, Gambol, the Russian, and Lau, ALL of whom I got a better sense of who they were and what they wanted than I did with Bane and Talia. Hell, Coleman Reese was a more fleshed out character than Talia.

  8. I agree with a lot of this (though I enjoyed the movie more than you), more so than a lot of the negative stuff I’ve seen about this film. But I have to quibble with the political part, especially the Occupy stuff.

    This movie was already well underway when the Occupy movement sprung up. Not only was the script already done, but it had started filming. I live in New York City, and friends were telling me about spotting Batmobiles and altered “Gotham” street signs around Wall Street right around the same time that protesters had just started occupying Zucotti Park. Am I supposed to believe that they drastically altered the entire course of the story just to fit in some event in the news that had literally just sprung up at the same time that they were shooting in New York?

    Additionally, while it did (or would have) provided a nice backdrop to the film, and there was some noise made about actually including some Occupiers in the film somehow, they decided against this, and Nolan’s statements about why suggested that he actually had great respect for the movement and didn’t want to “trivialize” it by putting it in his comic book film.

    The film might arguably be a mess politically, but the suggestion that it’s a critique of Occupy is a stretch.

  9. Steven Leu says:

    As I searched the web for an answer to a debate I was having with my wife about a scene in the film we just saw 30 minutes ago, I stumbled upon this article and wanted to provide my 2 cents on a few of the opinions made.

    Bane’s motives for taking over Gotham City did seem odd for a large duration of the movie; especially if you know his character in the comics as one who likes to rule as king and not one who gives back to the people. However, I think it all falls into place as the ultimate surprise is revealed. Bane’s motives were not his own, they were Ra’s al Ghul’s motives through Talia. If I recall correctly, the motives in Batman Begins was to destroy Gotham as The League of Shadows has done many times before in history because it is a failed experiment. Ra’s execution of his plan was to create massive chaos through hysteria and then ultimately unleash his weapon through the train system. Talia’s version was to create massive chaos through reform and then ultimately unleash her atom bomb; exact same 2 step process as Ra’s plan. Why not just flood the tunnels with gas or just detonate the bomb? because the antagonists wanted to show humanity’s evil side through chaos prior to ultimate destruction; Bane was toying with the citizens the whole time fully knowing it would be destroyed. So the motives make sense to me if I look at it as a repeat of what Ra’s did; bringing the trilogy full circle.

    I don’t think Catwoman failed in this film even though I would have like to see the character develop further, who doesn’t like Anne Hathaway?, but I would not be willing to sit for another 30 minutes to see that happen :) The reason why I enjoyed this portrayal of Catwoman is because it shows a confident person that mostly does what she wants on a whim and can surprise Batman with her spontaneity. I think this most closely reflects the master thief in comics that has a flirtatious relationship with Batman, not a loving one. If I don’t look at every female role in movies having to show love for the main male role, this works out well. In the Italy cafe final scene, I didn’t see Selina Kyle as the person Bruce Wayne ends up with. I saw her as just someone Bruce decided to hang out with for a while since they both got a fresh start, not someone to marry and have kids as Alfred wished. Anne Hathaway’s facial expression in the final scene pushed me to this conclusion as she is looking away from Bruce and smiling at something else that peeked her interests. The main objective of that final scene seemed intended to mend fences with Alfred after their fight; to make sure Alfred didn’t think that he failed Bruce, but in fact actually did help save him. It also served to tell Alfred that he was still alive in a playful way (and to the audience). Overall, I favor this catwoman to the insane Michelle Pfeiffer version and sorry, I couldn’t bring myself to watching the Halle Berry one, even though it is Halle Berry.

    The chronology didn’t bother me and I did not get the sense that Batman retired. My thoughts were that since the end of The Dark Knight, he succeeded in his role of showing Gotham City the greatness of the “white knight” Harvey Dent and the populace fell into peace; however long that took within the 8 years while the city “hunted” him. With the big crime players behind bars, Batman can leave the petty crime to city law enforcement and store his suit away for a rainy day. With no big crime to fight, Bruce Wayne loses himself to brooding over what happened to Rachel and without continuous extreme physical conditioning, he really feels the damage he has done to his body. So, I wouldn’t say his career only lasted one year, it is just that the film started him off on hiatus. He wasn’t very good at adapting to a peaceful lifestyle, truly reflecting on how real soldiers have a tough time after coming back from war.

    In the end, I don’t see Bruce giving up Batman for love or even giving up at all. He is just putting his suit away again for another rainy day. But this time, he won’t be brooding, but having fun and enjoying life. In the mean time, he has decided to share his alternate life with John Blake; whom he may still end up training as “Robin”, they left that open for any future possibilities. I would rather see a Robin with John Blake’s back story in the police force, that may jump right into Nightwing, than a little kid in rainbow tights! Although I fear any future film going down this path would turn out like Daredevil… *shudder*. I found that Nolan wrapped up the main points of the trilogy and any other concluding points would unnecessary make the movie even longer than its 3 hour duration.

    All in all, a good film with an unpredicted start and finish.

    I also found it humorous that Catwoman can use Batman’s motorcycle flawlessly the first time without instruction, but I’m just happy to see more scenes with that awesome bike maneuvering!

    • Good points about Bane. I still don’t think not killing the cops makes sense, though. At the very least, the motivation isn’t clear enough in the film. But good points.

      Interesting read on the final scene with Selina. That’s a good reading. I would’ve liked to see more Anne Hathaway too… though we’ll have to disagree over whether Michelle Pfeiffer was better.

      We’ll have to agree to disagree about the chronology and the meaning of the ending, though I agree you make good points here.

      Ultimately, a lot of this rests on our differing interpretations of the film. I’d argue the film should be a bit more explicit, to clear some of this up.

      I also liked the Batpod. :)

  10. ...Ryan C says:

    What an enjoyable read this was! I hesitate to use the term “epic” when describing a review, but this certainly meets that stadard in my view. For my own part, having seen the film three times now, I find myself more and more in agreement wit your view than I did at first, and would also like to point out some instances of truly horrific “info-dump” dialogue didn;t help matters much, either, which sprung up in particular in regards to the various descriptions of the “clean slate” program, where detailed workings of the program were often given under circumstances of extreme duress where one would be lucky to get out even a single syllable.

    On the political front, I gave the film a bit more of a “free pass” then it probably deserved in my own review, available at http://unobtainium13.com/2012/07/20/trash-film-guru-vs-the-summer-blockbusters-the-dark-knight-rises/ , but I thought I would link to it anyway because I think I hit on any angle I frankly have yet to see anyone else explore — namely that Nolan is going for a self-referential film here in much the style of his idol, Hitchcock, and injecting divisive politics into the mix is his way of tearing apart fandom/online opinion in the same way Gotham tears itself apart in the film. Having seen it a couple more times since that review was written, though, I have to say the film’s abhorrent rightward slant is more pronounced than I may have been ready to accept at first, and even manifests itself in some strange ways, such as the Gothan river completely freezing over, an event unlikely to occur in the minds of anyone but the most severe global warming denier.

    Anyway, the majority of your criticism are ones I find funadmentally sound even if I don’t agree with each and every one of them, and yours is certainly the most meticulous, consistently-reasoned, eloquently-elaborated analysis of this film it’s been my pleasure to read. For what it’s worth, I think at the end of the day this trilogy got progressively worse, with “Batman Begins” being an innovative and very intelligent new approach to the superhero genre in general, “The Dark Knight” seeing those innovations well-executed but becoming a bit more rigid and formulaic as Nolan got “set in his ways,” so to speak, and “The Dark Knight Rises” ending things on a confused and self-contradictory note that tries to achieve more than it an set out to do by means of being a bit too clever for its own good, while sloppily ignoring some of the little details that could have made for a more successful finale. I still liked it better than the superhero movie everyone else on the planet seems to be in love with this summer. “The Avengers,” which to me is nothing but uninspired mash-up fare executed in what’s fast becoming a very tedious Marvel “house style” (sorry, Whedon fans, but if somebody had put “directed by Jon Favreau” in the credits for this film, no one would be able to tell the difference or spot that the credit were falsified), since at least this film demands that you actually think to fully grasp it while “The Avengers” can be aborbed purely as visual eye candy, but it’s ham-fisted execution, lousy politics, and too-impressed-with-itself-by-half pseudo-cleverness have me enjoying it a lot less after three viewings than I did after one. Maybe I should have quit while both Nolan and myself were ahead.

    • Thanks so much, Ryan. Thanks for sharing your link! I hadn’t thought about the global warming aspect.

      I think you’re right about Rises versus Avengers. I thought Avengers was brilliantly executed schlock — if a fundamentally silly popcorn movie could be written with really snappy dialogue, great special effects, and enough to make us believe in it, despite its silliness, Avengers was it. Rises on the other hand tries for something greater, but I think it is, as you say, confused and self-contradictory. Seeing it live, I never really got into it. I’d note problems and wait for resolutions that didn’t come. It was a disturbing experience, honestly. There’s a lot of talent on display, but not enough control.

  11. Dustin Biren says:

    I sincerely believe that if you put half the time into trying to figure out the movie and how its actually succeeding and what those successes mean for the series, you would have been left with a much richer experience with this movie. You clearly have a strong sense of the subtext and thematic arcs of the series, and the ideas that went into the last two films, especially TDK, and so I think this film is more your speed then you think. I’ve noticed an odd thing with this film, something that is likely because it’s following a legend in TDK, and thus people are inevitably comparing (Like being compared to MJ, obscene benchmark), in that people have been quick to make a final decision and then put a ton of energy ad analysis into backing that immediate disappointment up, without putting any of that energy or analysis into trying to maybe get a better feel of what Nolan was going for, something I think he’s earned with a career of layered thematically tight and rich films. The same guy that made the films you mentioned have such strong through lines and subtext didn’t all the sudden not care about completing his conceptual vision, give him some credibility here.

    This film is the most flawed of the trilogy, no doubt (but still 2nd best in my mind, higher highs then begins), the razor sharp efficiency and narrative jumps made to make this story of this size actually possible do create some awkward and distracting moments. That said, where the film is as strong as anything you’d expect from Nolan, top to bottom, is thematically. I can’t respond to each point, and more so can’t lay out why this film is actually so well crafted thematically, because it would end up as long as your initial essay. I’ll just respond to some main points.

    Your conclusion that this film doesn’t properly tie the franchise together is something I think you need to see in another light. I think one of the main through lines you’re forgetting is the approach of doing this series in a way that explains how a real person could actually decide to do this. The most important aspect about this is that when ruce decides to be Batman, he openly embraces the concept of myth making. It makes the series a deconstruction of superheroes actually, because in that scene this series becomes not about a superhero, but a flesh and blood man with a mission to achieve the image of a superhero, Bruce understands from moment one that a human can be ignored and destroyed, it’s all about protecting the symbol, and that’s symbol incorruptibility in comparison to vulnerable humanity. When you speak of escalation and Batman’s inevitable fate, you have to know that this is the mission, in this light this film is much stronger, I’ll get to how. There’s other key things you failed to mention here, but the one that I think you should really think about is the 5 year plan, or however long it is. When Bruce begins, he understands this is unsustainable, and he says that his mission is to inspire real people, then retire and move on to a normal life. This is key to alfred, Alfred is on board with the first two films because he recognizes that this is a necessary outlet and journey for Bruce’s demons, and that Bruce has a plan to end this and, having harnessed his negative emotions, finally live a normal life. Alfred from day one only supports this as an in and out plan, and believes that it’s valuable for bruce to fight his inner demons, he thinks becoming Batman will allow Bruce to move on. So you see, Alfred always wanted Bruce to move on, he just bought in to the plan. In TDK, immediately in his first scene, you see Alfred’s neurosis that this is getting bigger then planned, he accuses Bruce of being lost in the monster and asks him to take days off. In TDK Alfred cares deeply about Batman on two levels, both protecting the original plan Bruce pitched, the only way Alfred was on board. Both by advising Bruce to not give himself up and by explaining that Batman the idea can’t give in, He’s protecting the idea that Batman must not be a man but a symbol, while thusly protecting Bruce from losing his life to Batman, as giving himself up would. In this light, all of his actions are in perfect line with him in Rises. At the end of TDK, Bruce finally understands how not to be the hero and sacrifices to protect Harvey’s symbol, which should by all means be the completion of Batman’s mission, to get out and replace himself with a real person in the process. Alfred sees Batman should now be finished, needs to be in fact, and it’s time for Bruce to move on. So, in Rises when he both can’t move on from Batman and wants to go back out unprepared, which would destroy Batman as a symbol in defeat, Alfred sees that Bruce has lost all sight of the initial mission, and is now addicted to being Batman above any mission, wanting to die as him to end his misery, his misery that came from Batman’s deep sacrifice, Alfred can’t support it, and he does what he does to try and finally re seperate Bruce from Batman before they die as one. The timeline is the key, by defenition the stated mission is complete, so Alfred in this film is trying to get Bruce to see that and let Batman go, this is why his actions make sense and this is why the ending is so important to the completion of the story. More on that in a bit.

    The reason I go into such depth about that Alfred through line is because it connects to much of how this film completes the series, the initial mission is key to it all. Again, remember that Bruce never sees Batman as a permanent answer, his goal is to give the good people in Gotham the opportunity to act, and then order will follow, this innately believes order is possible and probable and just needs a chance, good people just need a leader. In TDK, when Batman makes his sacrifice at the end, and ditto for Gordon, they are lying in desperation, but this lie is a constant reminder that the world they believed in never existed. The Joker won, he proved people are innately corruptible and order is a lie, unsustainable with humanities weak principles in times of fear. The reason Bruce is how he is to start this film, and Gordon not doing much better, is because their hopes and dreams are dead, they’re living a lie and tho it’s technically working, Bruce and Gordon know that the world is innately weak and sustained order is not possible, his physical defects visualizations of his broken view and hopes. When Gordon says we’ll hunt him, because he can take it, this is what he’s referring to, a white night must stand for something and is worthless if broken, Batman, by becoming the Dark Knight, is bringing on defeat for the better of the city, defeat that will eat at him psychically and mentally and punish him for his heroism. Bruce must allow Batman to stay buried, against his every instinct, so harvey’s image can remain, if Batman were to continue on and act in a manner of a symbol of protection and good, it would confuse the sacrifice, it would overshadow Harvey’s legend, and bring a ton of grey to the events of that night, if Batman acts like a hero for the next 8 years then people are going to wonder why he had one evil night, unless he was in fact in the right that night, which is the truth. Batman must stay buried to maintain Harvey’s bright white image, unless he went out and did bad things his continued presence would confuse the roles they set that night. So this is very much Batman taking it, being the Dark Knight, you just were taking it too literally, to stay retired and live a villain is “taking it”, it’s taking sacrifice for the greater good, this is exactly the result of that final monologue.

    By contrast, the reason Bane doesn’t just kill Batman or the cops, and doesn’t just detonate the bomb, is the exact same as the purpose of the fear gas in Begins, where the world was meant to watch Gotham tear itself apart BEFORE Gotham fell, the destruction itself is meaningless, it has to expose it’s corruption and instability so when it is destroyed it is a message to the rest of the world, get your shit together, cuz if you live at odds and in violence and at social war, you will be destroyed. This is the purpose of the league of shadows, everyplot they have is based on this, i.e. the financial plan to first kill Gotham, which was meant to maje the poor turn to crime and for chaos to spread, it’s all for Gotham to expose itself as corrupt and uncapable of sustaining order before it falls.

    So, What Bane does is the key to his plan, he shows the world how much of the city will embrace marshall law if given any opportunity, showing how the class wars are a true war and if allowed, will become violent. The politcs of this are irrelevant, to believe this is right wing propoganda is to thing Bane was sincere, Bane was simply exposing the cracks and extreme volatility in Gotham’s being, the point was that gotham is corrupt and couldn’t be saved, that is all, anything class warfare related was Bane simply manipulating what societal tensions already existed. This is why he makes clear that one of the citizens has the detonator, so after destroying itself in chaotic revolution,mit will be one of Gotham’s own that pulls the trigger and punishes Gotham for it’s actions. Thus, as the bomb goes off, the whole world would be scared straight. In terms of burying the police, it;s because to kill all the police is to make them the victim, and the chaos a result, to instead trap them out of their own incompetence and inability to spot the trap, and force them to sit below with no power to maintain ORDER during Marshall law, is proof that they were incapable of maintaining order and that the comfort they offer is a lie. This is key to what batman does in the end, his goal was always to provide order and give the citizens the belief to be good, so fixing and protecting the police, those meant to maintain order, who start film 1 the source of the chaos, is a huge part of Batman’s journey. To guide the police to, after 3 films, get rid of corruption and dramatically prove they could enforce order, is to give the citizens what they need to believe in. Remember, Batman is anything and anyone, it’s an idea, if the police fight with Batman and help him save the city and reinforce order, they are an extension of him. The first thing Batman does as a cop is seek out the only good cop, then later scare corrupt cops and push the force to promote the real cops, the cops have always been a huge part of his mission.

    Finally, Bruce’s journey and how it’s one with the completion of the mission. The mission is to create an icon a myth, that is without human weakness, and then leave with the effect set. When Bruce begins the film, his first attempt to complete this just isn’t right because its built on a lie, and the evil they buried is bubbling under and will rise again. When it does, the truth has it’s day, and it redeems Batman, which is a destruction of Batman’s great accomplishment and completion, by redeeming him he takes away the image of Harvey and transfers that hero image to something that he has already destroyed, that is long gone, so in this one step Bane unravels everything he’s accomplished with that lie, though ironically by redeeming him. Bruce is left in a hole that symbolizes where his soul lies, it lies buried in defeat with Batman, having died with that lie and loss of hope, destroying Bruce’s soul which was rooted in his mission to turn fear on those who pray on it, the joker showed chaos was more complicated then that, and Bane proved that the darkness that prays on fear can’t be buried forever and will come back stronger, he’s failed through and through. When he makes the jump with no rope, no safety net, he’s reigniting his drive and soul, he’s in one moment looking utter failure in the eye and faced with knowing, if he misses, he will die a failure, and by doing this he finds his humanity again in the fear of failing that moment, so he reemerges a invigorated man, out to do everything he always aimed to do, and with his reigniting of his mission, he’s back to aiming to make Batman a symbol, instead of viewing Batman through the prism of his own depression. He arises a separate man, alive as Bruce again, and thus remembering how to bring batman’s power back, how to make Batman the symbol he must be. (He also understands that making batman litterally larger then himself is a necessity to combat what ras represents, if ras is immortal because of those that survive him, Batman must be to. When Batman returns, he does two things, dramatically reignites the symbol that has been gone for 8 years, and then immediately saves and starts subtly training Robin, he’s reestablishing the myth of Batman and actively making it bigger then one person by handing it off. Bruce’s sacrifice is a calculated move, it one moment inspires all of Gotham by not just saving them, but showing them true good, right after fighting beside the police, he’s cementing the strength of the symbol as he also transferred it to Gotham’s finest, finally creating the symbol that he sought to in the first film, while redeeming the police like he sought to in the first film, a thorough and thought out full circle completion of his mission statement in Begins. Awesome thematic arcs and through lines. Finally, he passes Batman on, which in combination of the clear sacrifice the city witnessed, will solidify Batman as larger then life if not supernatural from the city’s perspective. And, in this moment, as he succeeds in his mission to make Gotham a city with order and opportunity for good, he finds catharsis to the obsessive vengeance and anger he’s felt since he saw his parents gunned down. Thus, finally, he is free to live an actual pursuit of happiness life, he is free of the devestating burden he’s felt every day since he was 8, thus the image of him at the cafe is the perfect and rather direct completion of the human side of the Batman 3 film arc, he sought to harness his anger until Gotham could be free of events like the one that scarred him, at whcih point he could move on and live with the girl he loves, and thus this image is a hugely direct completion of that, so calling it a forced happy ending is missing the whole character arc. Selina’s presence is key, he’s with the personification of his success, a criminal who has good in them, whom Batman’s guidance and success allowed to leave the life of crime and become decent. Batman and Selina both dreamed of being normal one day and ridding themselves of the label/trauma that haunts them and pigeonholes who they can be, so they’re simoltaneous success and freedom together is the ultimate symbol for Batman’s success. Is the clean slate advice itself convenient as hell, of course, but it’s presence is so important that you have to appreciate it, it’s a literal manifestation of what Batman’s success would allow the people of Gotham to do, finally escape this pattern of wrongdoing and give a fresh start for the good in them to prosper. Again, incredibly thorough completion of the trilogy’s themes and concepts, everything in this film’s end is a direct completion of the conversation on the plane in Begins, it’s wonderfully setup to complete the 3 film arc.

    And of course, with Bruce free and Batman a success and a true myth and symbol now (and Bruce/Robin accepting that humanities volatility isn’t a defeat of Batman but the reason Batman must always be), we see Bruce free and we immediately cut to…The Dark Knight Rising. The title is a perfect, clever way to complete the series, the goal was to make a symbol bigger then one man, and the final shot is the Batman rising to achieve this goal in the form of the NEXT Dark Knight Rising (his name is just a nod, he’s gonna be Batman). And this is all awesomely visualized with the first and last image, the first the Batman symbol cracking apart in ice, the final image the new Batman rising and continuing the legend, as dripping water falls down. The whole film almost is in the first to last image. Awesome.

    You had many complaints about the realism but I honestly don’t think you mean these, this is classic action movie nitpicking and it’s just entirely missing the point of an allegorical overtly placed in exaggerated reality Franchise. Between the nitpicking and all the things you asked the film to outright explain, you’re asking for a 4 and a half hour film that essentially isn’t Batman in any way. People think they want everything real and everything explained, but unless they want films to be a two day experience, they’re wrong. There are moments that are true issues, Bruce getting back into Gotham for sure, but msot of the things you mentioned, I just don’t think you really want action movies to not do scenes to avoid things like that. This is an innately surreal but deeply allegorical and, still, viscerally tactile world, and it is made with this in mind. If you want true realism, don’t watch action epics, or action films, or most films honestly. Films exist in an exaggerated reality. What Nolan did that was so revolutionary is applied a tactile sense of reality, but there’s a big difference between that and making realistic films, the first two Batman’s are underratedly surreal and somewhat illogical as well. These are modern myths, and with the texture Nolan has made them applicable to real life, which is awesome, but to take it to far and ask for through and through logical reality is, well, it’s impossible and no fun.

    There are other elements to talk about but I’m exhausted, but I hope this gives you some groundwork to see the movie in a more positive light, it’s no TDK but it is a wonderfully ambitious, thematically and allegorically rich film, and it’s worthy of appreciation. If you liked the first two films so much, try seeing how this film is actually a perfect completion of the overall story, I really believe it’s shown to be very strong and gives a really strong retroactive resonating sense to the other films in this journey.

    Not a perfect film by any means, but a very very very thoughtful and carefully crafted chapter in the story, and I can see how people don’t like the film but I do think it’s important people see how much of his normal care and intellect Nolan put into this film, because far too many people are labeling this film an uncharacteristic thematic failure without truing to see what Nolan is showing us.

    • Thanks for your long and thoughtful reply. It’s quite a considered argument, and it’s appreciated.

      I definitely didn’t rush into a decision about the film and then justify it. I spent almost the entire film on the fence, liking elements and seeing what the film was doing, but also catching things I thought were really wrong-headed.

      I don’t think it’s fair to complain that I’m asking the film to explain what’s already in it. The film is stuffed with plots, characters, and ideas, and I’m not alone in thinking they barely have room to breathe. That can work, if the film comes together. But I think it’s totally fair to expect a film to explain what’s in it. If you come up with a four-hour story, you can trim it to three and a half hours, or maybe even to three, but at some point threads start falling apart — and filmmakers understand this.

      My point about realism isn’t that I want realism. Far from it! I like films and stories of all types, and I don’t expect Mars Attacks to be realistic. But Nolan’s Batman has set up that it’s the “realistic” Batman, and it’s totally fair — in fact, it’s mandatory — to judge the film on its own terms.

      Just to be clear, I agree that Rises is ambitious. I agree it’s got deep themes. I agree it’s thoughtful and interesting. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it. I think my review makes it clear that I’m not a hater, just trying this thing. But the film is not the “perfect completion” to the overall story, and I think I’ve proven that. I suspect that it will continue to grow on me, and with time I may come to see the good and interesting aspects — and there are many — without seeing the ways the film doesn’t come together or fails to complete what Nolan began in a logical, inevitable way.

      Again, thanks for your comment. I’m in awe of the time it must have taken, and I take it as a complement that you offered these thoughts. Thanks!

  12. Tim G says:

    I’m going on a year late with this but I happened upon this article and couldn’t help but reply. I’ll admit there were things I didn’t like about The Dark Knight Rises but to do so I have to admit that all of them are sourced from my fan boy desires to see a Batman that’s superhuman and infallible. The Batman seen in the comics can be batman for 75 years and not have to worry about things like cartilage and old age. He can lock up criminals so they can becoming reoccurring plot devices and he can change to fit the times. Nolan’s Batman not only can’t do this but he isn’t intended to.

    Christopher Nolan advised any fans going to see The Dark Knight Rises to re-watch Batman Begins. If you do this you recall that the entire movie is driven by two main ideas. Bruce wayne and the League of Shadows both seek to end “Suffering and injustice” but they have completely different solutions. The league of shadows seeks to end suffering through destroying those responsible for it; Wayne seeks to preserve justice and end suffering by bringing living people to justice at the ruling of an established government. Batman being a hero relies on his interdependence with established law. Though he does work outside of the law he relies on an established judiciary to actually decide who’s guilty and deserving of punishment. Wayne makes this clear in begins when he says he’s “No executioner” and denounces the League of Shadows. This major distinction between our protagonist and our antagonist is one of the largest defining characteristics of Begins and Rises, but their similarities are of equal importance.

    Though they differ in ideology Ras Al Ghul taught Wayne their closest similarity. Both seek to be a symbol, both of fear and justice. In Begins Wayne tells Alfred, “People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne, as a man I’m flesh and blood I can be ignored I can be destroyed but as a symbol, as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.” Ras Al Ghul may be everlasting through deception (having replaceable decoys) but after his training Wayne’s intent from Begins all the way to the end of Rises is to, “Make [himself] more than just a man”. The idea is that Batman will become something that will last longer than Bruce Wayne wether it be in myth or via passing on the mantle.

    Batman Begins is exactly as its title implies, a beginning. The Dark Knight is fortunate enough to not be a beginning or an end; the film is unburdened by having to start or finish anything. Because of this fact TDK is able to explore what it is that defines Batman, his ideology, his one rule, and the things that make him fragile as a person. His attachment to Rachel, his devastation after her death and his near inability to control himself from killing the Joker. If Batman Begins could be summed up as “How does Batman come to be” then The Dark Knight could be surmised as “What is Batman”. The film concludes by telling us outright that Batman has indeed become a symbol, one who’s significance is relative to your role in society. To criminals he is fear, to police he is an outlaw, to society he is a hero fallen from grace. He’s what ever he must be to keep the criminals of Gotham at bay.

    The Dark Knight Rises continues by suggesting that if Batman is here and we know what he means, then how does he become “everlasting”? Wayne always knew that one man couldn’t change a city for ever which is why he created Batman. He loses sight of his goal when the false idol of Harvey Dent creates a crime free Gotham. With no crime there is no need for Batman but Gotham discovers that criminals can and will return whether it be in the form of terrorists or not. Rises’ mission then is to show us what must happen when crime returns to Gotham. The film’s answer is that Batman returns and brings justice with him. If you have not seen Begins recently the easiest thing to forget when viewing Rises is that Batman and Bruce Wayne were never intended to be one entity. By the middle of the film as he is locked in the prison Bruce Wayne and Batman are nearly dead and Gotham is crumbling. The League of Shadows, sharing the goal of becoming a symbol goes to great lengths to force the world to watch the city of Gotham destroy itself. Of course Bane could have destroyed the whole city, killed all the cops and even Bruce Wayne but he didn’t for one fundamental reason. Gotham is Bane’s symbol. Forcing Gotham PD to watch helplessly as they are fed by their captors, forcing Wayne to watch as he is being held in a prison his enemy grew up in and forcing the world to watch as the people of Gotham destroy themselves is the only way Bane and Talia get their message across. Bane and Talia shared the same training as Bruce and therefore all share their emphasis on “Dramatic examples”. During Bruce’s training with the League of Shadows we see him training while under the effects of a primitive form of Crane’s fear toxin. Ra’s informs bruce that, “To become fear you must first master your own.” This training it meant to show Bruce how to conquer his fears, not to be without fear. While in the pit Bruce realizes all of his work is on the brink of failure, he must learn fear again not only to escape the pit but to earn the right to be Batman again. Fearing death rather than welcoming it as he did early in the movie Wayne makes Batman immortal and gives himself the chance at a normal life. By the end of the film Batman has endured and outlived the public life of Bruce Wayne. The cape and cowl will be passed on and when Gotham is in need again the Dark Knight will Rise who ever it may be. Wayne being in Italy means nothing for Batman anymore, Bruce is just a man.

    As I see it the ending is entirely open ended as well Bruce Wayne Billionaire Playboy may never return to Gotham but Batman will whether it be through Robin or even Bruce returning in secret as Batman were he needed. We can’t assume because he was in Italy that he’ll never rise as the Dark Knight again. In the end all we’re left with it what’s on screen, and though it may have faults I think it’s impossible to watch all three movies back to back and not see that they are one concise story about the beginning, definition and continuance of Batman.

    • I agree with what you’ve said about Batman Begins — they’re points I also made in Improving the Foundations, my book about that movie. I also agree with what you’ve said about how Rises tries to echo and respond to these themes.

      I don’t think i disagree with anything you’ve said… except that the three movies work as a whole. I think I demonstrated in the article that the ending of The Dark Knight is rather invalidated by the choices made by Rises. But yes, the three films are far more connected and coherent than most trilogies!

      Thank you for your long and thoughtful comment! It’s really much appreciated.

  13. Keith Plan says:

    A friend just sent this to me, so I’m more than a little late to the game. But I think you really hit on some of the larger problems with the film, but you’ve missed the burning artistic question: Does it work?

    As a screenwriter, I can tell you, a common axiom is: “Just make sure the third act gives them something to remember.” And it does. Which is why, for most, this movie worked.

    But, as you’ve pointed out, none of it makes sense.

    I felt overall that RISES was an improvement over TDK, but that’s not saying much. However, it’s better written if only b/c it has shifts in mood and tone, whereas TDK was a one-note monotone of “darkness” throughout. (e.g., you point out that Batman and Selina both “quip” at points in this movie…there are no such quips in the previous film — by anyone.)

    RISES is not a good film, plain and simple. But it does seem to accomplish what Nolan wanted — sadly, what that is has (as you also pointed) changed from movie to movie.

    What I find most offensive about the 2 sequels, is that the from scene to scene neither film makes any sense. It’s one thing if, in the big picture, the connection to Batman’s legacy and his retirement doesn’t work (which I agree with and was laughing about as soon as it was announced this was an “8 years later” story), but it’s another thing when the you have the Selina in the cycle problem, the breaking into the Stock Exchange making no sense, the computer trading bankrupting Wayne making no sense, the fight between Batman and Bane making no sense (since when does Batman only know a few boxing moves? Eight years made him rusty, OK, but also a complete moron?), and on and on and on.

    Anyway, here’s what I had to say about TDK some years back:
    http://kplanx.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/why-the-dark-knight-is-a-terrible-film/

    • Kam Jones says:

      “RISES is not a good film, plain and simple.”

      So because you say it’s not a good film that means it’s a fact? Wow. Yeah let’s ignore the fact that the vast majority of moviegoers and critics liked or loved it. What do they know, right? You’re the end all be all of cinema.

    • Kam Jones says:

      Ah, you thought TDK, one of the most acclaimed films of all time was terrible. That explains a lot. It was even ranked by Empire (on a list voted on by journalists and filmmakers) as the 15th best film ever made, but what does the rest of the world know, right? Spielberg and Scorsese and all the other masterful filmmakers who praised it should have consulted you beforehand since you know more than them.

      Ah, god bless the internet. A place where every random person can act like an expert on something they know nothing about. And I especially loved your point about how it’s not nice to show an adult pulling a gun on a child… yeah, because every movie has to be very kid-friendly, right.

    • Kam Jones says:

      And here’s the counter-argument to your link:

      Why TDK is a great movie- Because people who know far more about filmmaking and cinema than both of us combined say it is. The end.

  14. Chip says:

    Justin, you’ve written a fascinating article which allowed me to revisit Bruce, issues concerning class, and political / social movement. But my concern with Rises is born out of characterization more than whether the events which transpired were plausible and brought adequate closure to the trilogy.

    I actually waited a year to revisit this film to see if I’d come to appreciate it, and determine if my personal perception would change. Sadly, it did not.

    From my perspective, Nolan really did KILL Batman, and his ego / id /persona whomever is Bruce. Whether “crippling” him twice is allegory for his filial failing or socio-political status, is irrelevant. If causing that man to “crack” and “collapse” into a vegetative state was Nolan’s intent, whatever the motive, our director deserves to be discredited and live in infamy. Batman’s / Bruce’s response to the circumstances and aftermath in TDK is atypical of his character. The only time he is “broken” in his mythos is during the events of the Reign of Emperor Joker. In that comic arc, after the Joker is eventually defeated, the authors even took great care to ensure that the burden of any of the psychological / physical damage done unto Batman becomes Superman’s cross (reminiscent of Batman’s / Gordon’s sacrifice for Dent in TDK). This may come across as crude, but this movie should have been entitled DK the Pussy in Pajamas (and I’m not citing Adam West).

    Bruce appears to spend eight years doing nothing. He doesn’t develop a side-kick. He doesn’t even recruit a would-be assassin / vigilante like JPV (Azrael) to assume the mantle. If I’m to give credence to Dustin’s and Tim’s argument, at the very least, he could have been manufacturing Guy Fawkes’ masks. The flick starts with Wayne throwing an 8th-Anniversary Death of Dent party. Wow.

    For me. Alfred’s resignation is problematic. To either suggest that the crime of “keeping the truth”, desecrating the memory of Rachel, or not pandering to Howard Hughes would fracture the Butler’s relationship with Bruce is unlikely. Alfred is and always will be the Bat Family’s anchor. In a situation where he had no leverage, Alfred would not be so foolish as to give Bruce such an ultimatum. Alfred, in the comics, effects this type of “tough love” only on one occasion – when Bruce was addicted to Venom. I’m surprised that Nolan didn’t have our gentleman’s gentleman call up Diana and Clark for an intervention.

    Not fully hooked on parts of #4.

    “Yes, such a device was barely necessary to the plot of The Dark Knight. The script could have had Batman using other techniques to find the Joker.”

    Given that Batman is the king of paranoia, a control-freak, and known to bend the law, I’m surprised that he did not utilize similar devices and techniques more often. The Batman that I know always has a contingency plan which allows him to justify his m.o. Batman does what he feels necessary, i.e., Brother Eye. It was one of the few props that Nolan was close to getting right. I’m not convinced that there was even an inclination for Batman’s toys to befit an Orwellian paradigm.

    “In some sort of parody of post-apocalyptic jurisprudence, Jonathan Crane – known to fans of the trilogy as the possibly insane villain the Scarecrow – serves as judge, sitting atop a pile of debris.”

    I felt this was at best homage to Dark Victory #7, or at worst, Nolan punking the Two-Face trial of Calendar Man in the sewers – two choices, two sides of the same coin – exile or death. Since Two-Face was killed off, they didn’t have prosecutor and judge.

    #5 presents its own challenges. The circuitous attempt to close the loop by resurrecting the League of Shadows is poorly executed. I agree, but for different reasons. In Begins, Ra’s is saved from tumbling off a cliff. No need for a Lazarus Pit. In Begins, Batman forsakes Ra’s to die, “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you” (so, in actuality he’s exercising a technicality, and Bats must be a lawyer). This is contrary to any form of his character (discussed later). No need for a Lazarus Pit, here. I guess we don’t need a pit in Rises either. We’ll just resurrect Ra’s in a hallucination. That’s brilliant.

    Which brings me to Cotillard – Talia is not in the movie, but Tate is an anagram for the feeding gland which Nolan, his screen writers, and actors were weaned on. That’s why they’re so smart. Rises’ Talia is a dissertation in and of herself. Did you see the look on Batman’s face when Talia shanked him? Shock. He realized like the rest of us that they were filming an episode of Oz. Were they filming Nyssa Raatko or Talia?

    Lastly, I’m not certain your suggested conclusions or arc would’ve been better than Nolan’s. Thomas Wayne’s legacy is always established through the creation of the Wayne Foundation and Bruce as ward to Dick, Jason, and Tim. My two cents: Thomas may or may not question the methods, but I doubt he would question the man.

    Also, your allusions to Rand seem off. Batman neither practices rational self-interest nor does he fit the definition of objectivism. I don’t know who he is.

    @Greg,
    Granted, many of the comics fans probably saw it coming, most of the audience, I’d bet, did not.

    No, I’ll reiterate Talia is not in the movie. Superboy Prime’s punch not only slipped Bruce’s disk back into place, but created Earth-Nolan where Talia tries to kill Batman whom on every other earth, she has a tendency to save; she has affection for Bane whom in the comics abuses her, and she grows up to despise her family which is the furthest emotion from the truth.

    @Julian,
    …at least she’s not a 20-year-old genius who looks like a supermodel!

    But, the point is that she should be…

    @Sam,
    Black Widow is a nuanced and flawed but ultimately empowered and fully realized character and neither Catwoman nor Talia are. It seems like people are getting really hung up on surface details and missing the underlying mechanics.

    I’m glad Nolan and company didn’t try to develop Catwoman. The opening scene with Bruce –what was it a pastiche of Green Arrow and Black Canary? Or did Bruce double as Merlyn for eight years? *rolling eyes*

    The Concept of the Symbol – What symbol?
    1. He leaves Ra’s to die

    From the pages of IC #1
    WW: That maniac murdered Ted Kord. And he was going to use you (SM) to do the same to Bruce. There was no choice.
    Bats: There’s always a choice for people like us

    Batman throughout his career chastises Huntress, Az, Bane, Red Hood etc. for the use of excessive force, and crossing the line. He eschews a relationship with Wonder Woman because he cannot forgive her for it… what happens in Begins? Batman crosses the line.

    2. He quits

    IC #1, again:
    Bats: It’s about trying to do everything that I can… setting an example… they need to be inspired… the last time you really inspired anyone… is when you were dead…

    He reprimands Superman for lacking the fortitude to live up to his image. Why would he kill off his image for Dent’s? It’s never been in Batman’s demeanor or temperament to subjugate the Batman to any other hero.

    3. He adopts Rachel’s ideal of a hero

    ALFRED (TDK): Perhaps both Bruce and Mr. Dent believe that Batman stands for something more important than a terrorist’s whims, Miss Dawes, even if everyone hates him for it.

    When did this change? It shows Batman’s regression. Even Gordon at the end knew Dent’s image before and after was wrong. Dawes portends Dent as Caesar and warns of the latter’s corruption as public servant. So, why is Batman such an imbecile? How can he demonstrate such a shortfall on awareness? Is it part of his plan to become iconic or to be normal?

    4. Batman thinks with the wrong head

    RACHEL (TDK): Bruce, don’t make me your one hope for a normal life-

    5. The Letter

    But I’m not sure the day will come…
    when you no longer need Batman.
    I hope it does, and if it does I will be there…

    It’s the other way around. Batman has need of Bruce.

    6. Batman is only human

    His flaws are his obsessive behavior and fanaticism as Batman. Whether he’s rejected by Batwoman, Catwoman, or Talia, he’s ALWAYS plunged deeper into Batman and never withdrawn. Is it DUH, or DOH, or DAWE?

    7. Where’s the Detective?!?

    a. Interrogates Bane over the trigger;
    b. Interrogates Catwoman over the finger prints;
    c. Has CW lead him to Bane;
    d. Doesn’t scrutinize Tate;
    e. Doesn’t find the bomb
    f. Doesn’t follow up on the death of Dr. Pavel
    g. Didn’t figure out that Talia was the child
    h. See number 4

    What did he solve in the movie? Hmm… the auto-pilot glitch. Even Blake, Drake, Fake, whatever his name is… was better at making a puzzle. But, hey, this is OK coz Bruce is the equivalent of Montgomery Burns wearing Kleenex boxes on his feet.

    8. Symbol of the stupidity of the Nolan brothers

    I wish I had anterograde amnesia. It would help with this movie.

    • Kam Jones says:

      Stupidity of the Nolan brothers? You mean the Nolan brothers who have created one of the most beloved trilogies of our time, a trilogy where 2 out of the 3 movies have made over a billion dollars and the reviews for all 3 films have been overwhelmingly positive? Those Nolan brothers.

    • Kam Jones says:

      Chip, Sounds like you’re just pissed that you didn’t get exactly what you wanted, which was a mirroring of the comics. I say thank god for that. I stopped reading the comics in the 80′s, and that was a wise move as the new stuff was going downhill fast. But I still have the memory of all the Batman comics I did read growing up and I have zero problem with all the changes made. Those changes are what make the movies fun to watch. It would be boring if we just got a copy of the comics and it would show a lack of imagination on Nolan’s part. As he said himself, the comics are ongoing. They keep continuing forever. His series cannot. His series had to end.

  15. Kam Jones says:

    I stopped reading when you said Bruce and Selina didn’t have chemistry in this. I disagree with that, as do most critics whose reviews I’ve read as well as most people I’ve spoken to on social media.

    Bruce and Selina in TDKR is the way the relationship is supposed to be. The problem is that you’re confusing sexual tension with romantic chemistry. The Bruce and Selina in BR had planty of sexual tension as they kept making googly eyes at each other and it was clear they wanted to jump each others’ bones. That’s not the same as chemistry. Not for a moment did I buy that they were falling in love. And it didn’t help that the Selina in that movie kept screwing Bruce over, which undermines the whole point of their bond. She’s supposed to be an anti hero, not a villain. She’s supposed to help Bruce/Batman from time to time and team up with him just as much as she screws him over. TDKR got that 100% right. BR got it 100% wrong. BR just showed her to be a baddie who’s always messing with Batman.

    Now onto the subject of Bruce and Selina in TDKR. As I mentioned, she helps him and screw him over, which is a perfect reflection of the way the Bat/Cat relationship is supposed to be. Their romance is all about subtext and symbolism… which I guess some people aren’t good at noticing… like the person who wrote this article. Look at the way he smiles at her even after she refuses to apologize to him. Look at the way she asks him to run away with. Look at the way she risks her life to come back and save him and then passionately kisses him. That’s romantic chemistry. That’s closer to the way romances were shown to be in Hollywood’s golden era than they are now. He even gives her his mother’s pearls at the end, which is huge romantic symbolism. It was all about how they understood each other and how he kept believing in her even when she didn’t believe in herself. I greatly prefer an old-fashioned romance like that to the overt sexual tension that Hollywood forces out of its characters in many of their modern films.

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