Batman Sucks I Mean Rises
Guest review by Isaiah Cambron. You can read more of Isaiah’s work at http://www.barcelonafootballblog.com
There’s something about modern man and the fearful journey through life that we all lead somewhere in The Dark Knight Rises, but I’m not sure I’m capable of breaking it down, especially since the movie plunges off a plot cliff about 10 minutes in. Is it about justice? Justice is integral to the entire Batman saga, especially in this incarnation where Harvey Dent and his image as Gotham’s shining star is the device upon which the whole of Rises rests, yet it is only mentioned in brief moments. Scarecrow judges the rich and condemns them to death in a courtroom symbolically piled high with the tomes of the learned. That is not justice, declares a defiant and soon-to-be-condemned-yet-obviously-also-saved-by-Batman Commissioner Gordon. He smirks. Scarecrow smirks. But it doesn’t matter, because the next scene is Batman lighting up the Brooklyn Bridge with the bat symbol while saving Gordon from the East River.
There’s mention of the soul: Bruce Wayne, isolating himself in his mansion, ignoring his company and wasting away his future, is moved after eight years by the arrival of Selina Kyle into his bedroom to steal his mother’s pearl necklace. Why he’s really moved is unclear, of course, because actual character development would take away from the shots of fancy sports cars and random fistfights. And, incidentally, Kyle also steals Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints so that a rival can conduct some sophisticated hostile takeover plan of Wayne Enterprises using a stock market attack led by a giant masked man. Oh, but right, the soul in question is the soul of Bruce Wayne, of his masked alter ego, of Gotham, and of Selina Kyle. Is redemption possible? Is it a question of valor, commitment, or are humans simply good people deep down inside? Also incidentally, the whole stock market disruption thing makes no sense, but then when you’re playing a game where reality is meaningless, physics can be dumped on its head at a whim (motorcycles can turn by flipping their wheels over!), and everyone acts like they’ve got emotional blinders on, it’s perfectly easy to assume that men acting as janitors and shoe shiners would also have somehow snuck both motorcycles and automatic weapons into a supposedly secure location.
Bane (should I just spell it Bain, Mr. Limbaugh?) is the central antagonist, of course. He is supposedly leading the League of Shadows now that Ra’s Al Ghul is dead (thanks, Batman!), but is his aim chaos, personal gain, or proletariat revolution? The theme is muddled in a blaze of shootouts and unrealistic science: “Explosive-laced concrete!” shouts every foiled bank robber ever, slapping himself on the head. “Why didn’t I think of that?” Bane ends up coming off as a wannabe Joker who happened upon a much larger device for wielding power: a nuclear bomb. The witless leaders of the city urge every single cop to go underground in search of this madman. They dutifully file into the subway system as if they’re looking for fisticuffs with the Foot Clan only to be trapped by a ring of explosions. Bane then feeds them for months despite his plan being to destroy the city with his captured nuclear bomb. Did I not mention the bomb yet? Yeah, there’s the reactor from Dark Knight only now it’s a bomb thanks to the work of brilliant nuclear physicist Dr. Pavel, who—right, I forgot to mention this too—whose death was faked in a high-flying, stunt-filled escapade over Uzbekistan at the beginning of the movie when Bane decides it’s easier to tie a plane to a plane in mid air and hijack it via an elaborate pulley system than to, you know, hijack it normally.
With too many themes for one movie to handle, The Dark Knight Rises loses momentum early and never regains any sense of equilibrium. Batman is defeated in a fight with Bane, who breaks Batman’s back (comic book fans probably had a field day with remembering when they first saw it happen in Batman #497—I believe Bane even yells “…break you!” as he does it), and then thrown in a terrible prison where inmates have to fend for themselves, have rope but somehow can’t seem to make it the last 10 feet up to the top of an open air shaft the size of 2 tractor trailers and covered in footholds. Is this justice, soul searching, or chaos in action? Where do they get food? Why does the doctor who helps him speak not English at first and then switch to English replete with a great vocabulary for no discernible reason? Bane, ever helpful to his own cause, condemns Bruce Wayne to watching Gotham’s from inside the prison on a giant TV with satellite access. Bruce Wayne breaks the TV. Bruce (surprise!) recovers from his back injury and climbs out of the prison. Only one other person has ever been able to scale the precipitous heights of the prison’s giant, completely unguarded entrance: Bane
Batman returns to Gotham somehow and exacts terrible revenge on Bane, defeating him in hand-to-hand combat amidst a giant gun battle. Bane’s nuclear device (with a blast radius of 6 miles, we are constantly reminded) is going to go off at any moment, but Batman defeats Bane in their slugfest and is on the cusp of saving the city when Miranda Tate, supposedly Wayne’s girlfriend now and business partner, turns out to be Talia al Ghul and he stabs him. Five exclamation points. It is a neat twist to bring back Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter, to have Bane be her lover, and show her as the mastermind of this complex plot, but it is a sideshow that must end as quickly as it began. The bomb is going to go off, after all, and Batman has to save the day by flying it over the ocean where its blast will not destroy Gotham. So Talia is killed in a reckless scene where she tries to stop Batman and Jim Gordon from getting the bomb to the power core where it will be stabilized, all while knowing that the power core has been destroyed. Sit back and watch your bomb detonate, why don’t you? Oh, no, you got killed, revealed that the power core was destroyed, and now Batman can save the day by flying the bomb out to sea.
In some ways, a lot happens in the movie, but almost none of it is coherent. There are some scenes where Alfred, played by the obviously-bored-to-tears-with-his-role Michael Caine, says some emotional stuff that comes off as phoned in; there is a laughably bad sex scenes between Wayne and Tate; and Selina Kyle proves her humanity by returning to shoot Bane right before he kills Batman. Or maybe she just wants to marry Bruce Wayne and get a lot of money. It doesn’t matter because nothing is more than skin deep in this movie. The bad guys are classic lovers of Rube Goldberg machines for getting their devious plots completed whereas the hero simply goes about defeating their plots in a straightforward manner. If a street urchin crosses against traffic at 2:08pm causing a motorcyclist to spill a packet of beans into a sewer grate thus tripping a wire 12 blocks away that releases a grand piano onto the head of the Brinks guy as he’s carrying a bag of cash, we’ll be rich! Oh no, the grand piano was destined for Batman’s penthouse and now he’s mad at us! Foiled again!
I have one last bone to pick with this movie: Gotham City is not a real place. Throughout all of the previous Batman movies, there have been no distant scenery shots that show you the whole city. Tim Burton made Gotham a gangster noir Chicago mixed with the gritty density of 1980s New York. That’s the comic book feel that I’ve always understood. Subsequent movies played on that, lightening the mood when necessary, but never straying to the point of suggesting that Gotham is a particular place. Gotham City, for Christopher Nolan, is not a combination of American cities or even a stand-in for New York City; rather it is New York City. It is a place with scenery shots, bridges that aren’t just any bridges, the Holland Tunnel, etc. There are minor differences, of course, such as the football stadium, but they are quickly forgotten when New York’s latest skyscraper is shown standing over Gotham’s skyline.
The bottom line: don’t waste your money on this even if you’re a diehard comic fan. It’s all been butchered to pieces. Especially the phony dialog.
Review by Isaiah Cambron.