Movie Review - The Dark Knight Rises

Is this a Batman movie? Batman and even Bruce Wayne are hardly seen it. The credits for this film should be "The Dark Knight Rises. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Gary Oldman. Anne Hathaway. Michael Caine. Tom Hardy. Morgan Freeman. Marion Cotillard." A bunch of other names should scroll, then in tiny letters at the bottom, "Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman." This movie runs for over two and a half hours and for the first two hours, Batman's presence is rather incidental.

Tom Hardy plays Bane who opens the film by hijacking an airplane mid-flight. The reason is too convoluted, so I won't bother trying to explain. Anne Hathaway plays Selina Kyle aka Catwoman who pretends to be a maid working at Wayne Manor all so she can steal Bruce Wayne's fingerprints. It's not clear but Catwoman is unknowingly working for Bane. The one or two degrees of separation aren't worthy of explaining either. All you need to know is that Bane is going to take over Gotham City and help someone else to blow it up with an atom bomb and that atom bomb is under Bruce Wayne's auspices.

The problem is for the two hours it takes to set this up, Batman and even Bruce Wayne are barely if not rarely seen. Then, for the last half hour that it takes to stop this crazy plan to destroy Gotham, Batman isn't actually needed. It's kind of sad when the hero of the movie isn't required because the rest of the characters could do it without him.

I suppose one could argue that for all the time that Batman is gone, he's off learning Bane's back story and how it's all connected to Batman Begins (2005), but, in the end, it doesn't matter. It actually makes things worse because you learn that director and co-writer Christopher Nolan could have used Liam Neeson better but he's limited to a brief flashback where he doesn't even speak. What a waste!

At least with the previous film, the Joker's plan involved Batman and made it a problem that Batman and only Batman could handle. That's not the case here. Here, any body could handle Bane's plan and indeed any and every body does.


In the end, it's Catwoman who kills Bane and rather unceremoniously. In the end, it's Commissioner Gordon, played by Gary Oldman, who stops the atom bomb from going off immediately. In the end, it's Officer Blake aka Robin who organizes the people in the city to help take the streets back. In the end, it's Lucius Fox, played by Morgan Freeman, who designs and builds the inexplicable flying machine called "The Bat," and in the end, it's "The Bat" that carries the bomb far enough to save Gotham.

I guess you could argue that you needed Batman to pilot "The Bat" but as Catwoman demonstrates with the Bat-pod, any one could have flown it. That, and "The Bat" had an auto-pilot. The question becomes what was Batman needed to do. The answer is nothing. If Nolan were trying to establish this as a point, that Gotham could exist without Batman, that it could save itself, then the logical thing would have been to kill Batman.

You could argue that Nolan does kill Batman. Yet, the fact that the final shot of the movie is Blake aka Robin going into the Bat-cave would suggest that Batman or at least the figure that he represented didn't really die and most likely will go on. Nolan perhaps undermines the very theme he spends nearly three hours constructing.

Nolan also undermines the look and feel of Gotham. His previous film had mostly the city of Chicago as the stand-in for Gotham City. It's clear that for this film like with the Stock Exchange and all the bridges connecting Manhattan to the other boroughs or even to New Jersey, New York City is mostly the stand-in for Gotham this time. It changes the setting and the geography in order to service the crazy plot but it's disconcerting and highly inconsistent for his so-called trilogy.

Lastly, the character of Bane was a misfire. Nolan really dropped the ball. Obviously, with his Batman movies, Nolan has tried to portray it all realistically and keep things grounded in logic, which is why he took all the mysticism and immortality away from Ra's al Ghul. He does the same with Bane. Going off the comics, Bane had the same powers basically as the Hulk from the Marvel comics. Bane didn't turn green but he could drastically increase his size and muscle mass with the help of a venomous substance that was essentially a super steroid.

All of that is removed in this movie, which would have been fine but Nolan and his co-writers replace it with something completely stupid and lame. It's merely to give Hardy a Darth Vader mask when a regular luchador mask would have sufficed. All the so-called poetics and bombast that Nolan and his co-writers had him spewing in his dialogue also had me rolling my eyes. I know Bane is supposed to be smart, but it was just too much. It added up to me not fearing Bane or thinking him a great threat because there's really nothing special about him.

Joker was a God of chaos beholden to no one. Bane is just a hired gun. He may have the Darth Vader mask, the massive biceps and pectorals that'll poke your eye out, but he's not menacing enough. Considering every time Bane kills someone, Nolan cuts away before any blood or actual death is depicted. After recently seeing The Raid: Redemption, this movie felt like a Disney film by comparison. I dare say it even felt boring.

One Star out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, some sensuality and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 44 mins.


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