EDITORIAL: Problems With THE DARK KNIGHT RISES And How I Feel They Can Be Improved Upon
From fan reactions to the numerous reviews online, it would appear that reception of The Dark Knight Rises is a sort of mixed bag. Many who enjoyed Batman Begins and The Dark Knight found The Dark Knight Rises underwhelming. Even I, a huge Batman fan, left the IMAX Theater after the Midnight showing underwhelmed. I recently went back twice to watch the film in regular format to give it another go. I enjoyed it more the second and third time. From the repeat viewings, I'd like to share with you what I believe would have elevated this film from "satisfying ending to a terrific trilogy" to "the best damn ending to an amazing trilogy".
I will analyze what the shortcomings were of Christopher Nolan's Epic Conclusion to the Dark Knight Legend, and offer ways they could have been improved for an even better ending to The Dark Knight Trilogy
Firstly, the second Batman versus Bane fight should have been longer and more emotional. The first fight between the two was amazing. Great choreography, beautiful cinematography (thanks to Wally Pfister), and all manner of emotions and awesome wrapped into a flurry of fists. I would like to compare this encounter between Bane and Batman to another cinematic treat fans are aware of: Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back. A beautiful fight sequence that satisfies and evokes plenty of emotions, and ultimately, leaves the hero wounded and defeated. The same scenario occurs in The Dark Knight Rises. Now, if we continue with this loose analogy, the re-match between Batman and Bane should have been similar to the fight between Vader and Luke in Return of the Jedi. Again, let me reiterate that The Dark Knight Rises' fight sequences do not have to be the same as Return of the Jedi's, but the Star Wars films serve as a nice foundation for comparison. Instead of focusing on spectacle, Return of the Jedi focused more on the emotional tension between Father and Son in their climactic fight at the end. The second Batman-Bane bout should have been longer for visual appeal, with Bane pulling at Batman's emotional strings before Batman goes "Luke Skywalker rage" on him and defeats him. This would have been PERFECT.
To follow up with this point, I should address the "Catwoman killing Bane" issue. I'm fine with Catwoman coming in last minute to blow Bane away with the Bat-Pod. But it would have been satisfying seeing Batman stand over Bane's dying body as the light left his teary eyes. A few solemn seconds for such a fantastic villain. Not the abrupt death that we were dealt.
I've read several reviews mention things being convenient. I see what they were saying. As far as I remember, twice do trucks and ramps allow motorcycles to do some X-GAMES type stunts. The first time this occurs is when Bane and his henchmen leave the Gotham Stock Exchange. The second time is when Batman is cornered by the police and needs to get away on his Bat-Pod. I'm positive Nolan could have easily removed one of these instances of coincidences and just given Batman an alternate route to get away. Having ramps create paths for motorcycles twice in the span of five minutes felt… gimmicky.
Most likely the trouble with having two potential love interests is that I wanted the Bruce-Selina dynamic to develop more. Bale and Hathaway's Batman-Catwoman relationship was great and didn't really need much working on. However, their Bruce-Selina relationship needed some help. Perhaps it suffered because he discovered Selina was a thief very early on, but I felt like Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer got the Bruce-Selina dynamic down in Batman Returns better. The way Keaton's Bruce is mesmerized by Pfeiffer's Selina is cute and funny. Had Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne found some time to spend an evening with Selina, like taking her to dinner or something, I might've been satisfied. Of course, there's no room in this movie for such a scene. To put it simply, they needed time to mature their relationship, and Bruce Wayne coming to visit her for a quick "Hi, Bye" isn't enough.
John Blake should have either been a beat cop turned detective or actually been called Richard "Dick" Grayson. I felt Nolan was going for shock and awe with the reveal that Blake's real name was Robin. It didn't add anything to the character except to say that he was, in a sense, "Robin". I found it to be a bit of a cheat. I believe Nolan's reason for naming him John Blake was to satisfy fans who would have been otherwise disappointed to find out the character didn't suit up. To avoid this, Nolan creates his own Robin character so as to save himself from criticism. However, I believe he would have been better off coming clean and saying Joseph Gordon-Levitt was portraying a different Dick Grayson and letting the fans deal with it. It's not like Dick Grayson wasn't a cop! Dick Grayson was a cop in Bludhaven in the comics.
Next, I'd like to discuss the character of Miranda Tate. This elusive love interest needed an extra scene or two to make that big reveal at the end a little more shocking and painful. I felt she needed some more time to earn Bruce Wayne's trust. Sure, he gave her Wayne Enterprises and the nuclear energy device. But that was out of desperation. Yes, he slept with her. But that's because he's a playboy. He needed to invest some serious time in her as a character replacement for Rachel Dawes. Perhaps he should have revealed his identity to her and showed her the Batcave. A relationship akin to Jezebel Jet would have been preferable.
Alfred should have been more prominent in Bruce's last journey. Michael Caine knocked his two scenes out the park though. Okay, maybe he had more like four scenes, but the two that people will remember the most are the ones where he brings audience members to tears. The first time is after Bruce's first night out as Batman in eight years, and Alfred tells him he doesn't want to be a part of Bruce's crusade anymore. The second tearjerker with Alfred is at the end where he cries before Thomas and Martha Wayne's graves about his failure to protect Bruce Wayne. If this was Michael Caine's last outing as Alfred, we at least needed one more scene.
Perhaps I'm accustomed to Gordon doing more in these films, but I felt he spent too much time in the hospital bed. In Batman Begins, he was extremely active. From helping Batman get Rachel out of Arkham, to clearing out the Narrows, to helping Batman stop the monorail by driving the Tumbler and firing cannons! In the Dark Knight, Gordon saved Batman, caught the Joker, evacuated people from hospitals, saved Coleman Reese's ass, and had a terrific emotional scene with Harvey Two Face in the end. In the Dark Knight Rises, he's bed-ridden the majority of the movie or is sitting on a couch watching television. Nolan and company try to make up for this in the last 30 minutes of the film, but even then, I found his involvement underwhelming. When he finds the bomb in the truck, he's stuck there the entire time! I wanted to see Gordon join the fight with his fellow policemen in the battle for the city. Would have been nice seeing Gordon in some hand to hand combat like in Frank Miller's Batman: Year One.
This film desperately needed some more Batman despite the awesome beginning of the film. I find it surprising that people called the beginning slow. I found it to be the best paced part of the film. Batman didn't show up until the 40 minute mark in Batman Begins and the 12 minute mark in The Dark Knight. With The Dark Knight Rises, it is expected that after eight years, we wouldn't see Batman until some time. Instead, Batman shows up in full force roughly 30 minutes into the film and stays around for quite a while. He chases after motorcycles, escapes a police chase, fights mercenaries with Catwoman twice, and confronts Bane. His lack of involvement in the middle of the film is understandable considering he's broken. However, his involvement at the end is just poor. This might have to do with that nuclear bomb about to go off in 5 minutes and him arriving mere hours before it goes off.
Furthermore, people seem to have a problem with Bruce getting help in this film. I'm fine with Batman getting help from Alfred and Lucius. Never had a problem with it. I did have a problem with how he relied on Selina Kyle too much. It just never made sense. I understand he lost his money, lost his butler, and didn't even have keys to his own home. I get it. I don't get why he relied on someone he knew was a thief numerous times. I found him asking her for help with things that he could have handled himself. The first instance is when he confronts Catwoman on the roof after escaping Bane's mercenaries and wants a way to find Bane. Wouldn't Bruce have deduced that Bane was somewhere in the sewers? He's compiled enough information from Blake and Gordon to know he's underground in sewer system. He knew where Gordon was captured and he could have heard about the body of orphans washing up out of the sewage system. Not to mention when the police found the congressman, which took place relatively close to where Bane's hideout is. This is enough information for Batman to have tried to triangulate a location and go into the sewers to find Bane. If he needed Catwoman, it should have been for assistance in taking down Bane's army. To believe that Catwoman knows where Bane is doesn't make sense. She shouldn't know anything about the sewers. She's been working for John Daggett, not Bane.
To pile on to the list of complaints, we have no mention of the Joker. I understand it was out of respect for Ledger, but to not mention the Clown Prince who plunged Gotham into chaos and corrupted Harvey Dent is nonsensical storytelling. Joker was the catalyst for all the terrible things that occurred in the Dark Knight, and in The Dark Knight Rises, the repercussions of his actions are still being dealt with. Joker took Gotham's only symbols of hope and corrupted one and drove the other into exile. The Joker needed to be referenced once or twice.
Now, pertaining to the disaster that hit Gotham, I believe the most convenient reason for Nolan saying the bomb would go off in 3-5 months was to allow Bruce the more realistic time it would take for one to recover from a back injury. But I think this is one of those moments where we can actually suspend reality and let those "nonsensical, fantasy" elements of moviemaking come in. The time it took for the bomb to go off should have been reduced significantly to about 4 - 6 weeks. It truly didn't feel like Gotham was occupied for 3 months by an anarcho-communistic rule. I never believed 3 months passed by. Not for a second. Characters were still looking mighty good to have been disconnected from the outside world for 3 months. Yes, the citizens got supplies and rations, but making characters like Fox, Miranda, and others appear more ragged and less clean would have sold the rich versus poor theme. Showing characters like Selina Kyle, Holly Robinson, and former Blackgate prisoners living lavishly in the chaos while the rich fought for food would have been perfect to help show how effective Bane's plan was. Instead, Bane occupies Gotham for 3 months and citizens don't seem to be in that much despair. Even the cops who are underground don't look all that bad. They appear to have gotten plenty of food, rest, and most of them are still alive and healthy, despite not having seen daylight or eaten well for months.
Also, I found that the subplot about the orphanage could have been significantly reduced. Having Bruce Wayne give his home to orphans would have evoked the same emotional response whether we spent more or less time with the orphans. In this case, I'd say less of the orphans would have served the movie for the better. Blake's interaction with orphans in the beginning is okay. But when the orphans become prominent at the end by "spreading the word" of an evacuation, and being the only people Blake is trying to get off the island, I was sick of them. I understood from Blake's initial visit to the orphanage and his talk with Bruce Wayne about donating to the home, that his bond with the orphanage was strong. I didn't need to see him devote all his energies to them in the end. He should have tried to get them and many others off the island. Also, isn't it a bad idea sending orphans out to spread the word about an evacuation while a full-scale war is rages on in the city streets?
THE EXTRALast but certainly not least, I think it would have been great seeing Bruce work on the Bat in his Batcave. No mention of him fixing the auto-pilot. Just a short moment of him tooling away at it. Would have been a nice hint that he fixed it.
Well, that's it! That's my list of things I wish could have been fixed to make The Dark Knight Rises an even better film. Hope you had the time to read it all and I look forward to your comments below!
The Dark Knight Rises: 7.5 out of 10
Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ "The Dark Knight Rises" is the epic conclusion to filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The screenplay is written by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, story by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer. The film is produced by Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan and Charles Roven, who previously teamed on “Batman Begins” and the record-breaking blockbuster "The Dark Knight." The executive producers are Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan, Kevin De La Noy and Thomas Tull, with Jordan Goldberg serving as co-producer. The film is based upon characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics. Batman was created by Bob Kane.
Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Michael Caine as Alfred
Gary Oldman as Commissioner Jim Gordon
Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox
Tom Hardy as Bane
Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake
Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate
Josh Pence as Ra's Al Ghul
RELEASE DATE: July 20th, 2012
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