The Dark Knight Rises ½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

He did it. He actually did it.

I cannot believe I'm even typing this, but it's true...

Christopher Nolan successfully crammed 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag.

Didn't even think it was possible!

Is every citizen of Gotham City a fucking idiot? Let me count the ways...

The first example goes all the way back to Batman Begins, when Bruce Wayne disappears for something like 8 years, then comes back one day without anybody asking where he was. They act like he just got back from taking a piss. And on the very same day that Bruce returns, Batman shows up. What a coincidence! To a person who doesn't have a broken brain, it's a lot more...but not to the people of Gotham. Not a single person makes the connection. Well, guess what happens in this movie? Bruce throws himself in self-imposed exile for 8 more years. Nobody has seen him *or* Batman in that time. Still, not a single citizen catches on. They just don't get it. Then one day, Bruce returns to the public eye, and the very next day, Batman returns! But all the people of Gotham just accept it as a coincidence. Um...WHY?! Maybe because it's the fact that Bruce has a beard and is now a cripple who requires the use of a cane to walk...but a few scenes later, Bruce is now clean shaven (just like Batman!) and strolls into the boardroom without his cane, no more crippled than Fred Astaire in his prime! Guess how many questions are asked about that? Zero. Guess who even acknowledges it? Nobody. Guess why? So Nolan doesn't have to do the work. But at that point, after seeing a cripple walk, I can understand why nobody was thinking he was Batman. That guy is Jesus.

After the scene where Bane and his goons ride motorcycles out of the stock exchange building - without anybody wondering why there were motorcycles parked inside the building that day - Batman officially returns to fighting crime. He shows up on some bike thing and carrying a gun that apparently turns off electronics, but it also TURNS OFF THE SUN! That's right...Bane rides a bike out of a building at what appears to be 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and the next thing you know, it's 3 o'clock at night. Because, you know, you gotta show Batman at night. Logic be damned, that's the law. Bane eludes Batman, and about 700 police officers surround Batman in the middle of the street. All cops draw their guns on him, so what does he do? Fires a CANNON at a truck that sits 4 feet from a dozen cops to drop a ramp for escape. What do the cops do after seeing their wanted target open fire on them? They all sit there and watch him drive away with stupid looks on their faces. So what do they do next? They drive after him some more and corner him in an alley. Okay, now what do you hope to do this time, cops? You already had him. Not only did you let him get away, but you literally did *nothing* to stop him. Now you're chasing him again. Is this some kind of game, or do you have a plan at all?

I think the cops may be the dumbest people in the whole movie, which is a fantastic achievement for a story this laughable. They march down the city street to face the enemy in a Civil War rank and file formation instead of acting how any modern police or combat unit would act and use modern day, non-suicidal tactics. What happened to strategy? There is actually a scene in this movie where 3,000 (that is not a typo) cops all pack together in a subterranean chamber like lemmings only to get trapped inside for 3 months straight. We are told this is every cop in the entire city, except for maybe 4. This begs the question...who the hell orders EVERY cop in the entire city into one place at one time?! That didn't even happen on September 11th!

I'm sorry, but I have to pause this review to ask the people who enjoyed this movie...where do you draw the line? What insanity must happen before you say "Hold on...that's bullshit", because if you're willing to accept anything as juvenile and retarded as this, I cannot forsee you ever encountering an incident in any film that you should have a problem with. I draw the line back here on Earth, and I previously assumed that Nolan fanboys would go no further than the Oort Cloud before having issues with absurdity, but you're not even in the Milky Way galaxy any more!

Seriously...what would you not accept?

Let's leave the braindead wasteland of Gotham for a moment and shift our focus to the prison where Bruce is held for 3 months thanks to Bane. One day, while in the midst of his seige on Gotham, Bane decides he's going to beat-up Batman and accompany him on a 15 hour flight to India just so he can hold him in the prison which was apparently the birthplace of Bane. We're told it's hell. Not *a* hell, but hell itself, meaning it was really really bad. In reality, it was actually kind of nice. Bruce had a comfy bed, people to talk to and help him and feed him, free TV, etc. The place wasn't even guarded! I mean there were literally no guards in or around this place at all. During their previous scuffle, Bane breaks Batman's back so horribly, that one of his vertebrae is sticking out of Bruce's skin! Do you understand that? Part of his SPINAL CHORD is OUTSIDE OF HIS BODY. It's a good thing there's a guy in there to fix it for him. How does he fix it? As any good doctor would, he punches it back in with his fist! Yeah! Then he has Bruce hang from a rope for a while until he's all better. Is this a fucking comedy movie? Sounds like one. But the craziest part of it is...this technique actually works! His back was mended with a rope. A life-threatening injury is repaired with a punch.

Do you actually believe that? Do you not question the absurdity of any part of that? Are you actually okay with it? How?! Nobody watches a scene like that and thinks "Seems legit." unless they had spent the entire week trying to set the Guinness world record for psilocybin consumption in a 7-day period. Or if you just stopped thinking all together once you sat down in your seat. And people have the balls to call this brilliant. Pro tip: when you turn your brain off to enjoy a stupid movie, be sure to turn it back on before critiquing the film. I don't intend to insult anybody, but this movie insulted me. It asked me to believe such preposterous nonsense like the scene described above. I would be appalled at Nolan's complete and utter lack of respect for his audience's intelligence for even thinking to conceive such scenes...if the audience didn't eat them up like bacon-flavored crack. Joke's on you, apparently. You gotta draw the line somewhere...but where?

This is not a rhetorical question. I want an answer. What needs to happen in a Christopher Nolan movie before you call him out on it?

If Bane ripped Batman's head off, and the old dude in Bruce's cell sewed it back on for him, would you take that seriously? Would you be okay with that? Why not? Honestly, why wouldn't you? Bruce recovers from his back injury with absolutely zero side effects, despite being on a diet of chips and water with no access to any medicine or hospital equipment at all. Then he escapes the "prison" and travels back to Gotham. Sounds good on paper, but when you consider he's half-way around the world with no money, no resources, and no way of getting back to Gotham, especially since the city is completely on lockdown by the Army, National Guard, CIA, and Homeland Security. How in the world can Nolan possibly find a way for Bruce to get back? Easy...he doesn't. Oh no, Bruce gets back. We are just never told how he did it. Again, Nolan cops-out on actually doing the work. Any other writer would be flogged for such obvious cheating, but Nolan's fans are standing in line with new pedestals for him.

Batman and Bane meet again, and slug one another a few more times. That is literally all they do. Punch one another. Previously, Batman was unable to cause any harm to Bane at all, no matter what he did. It was a completely one-sided fight with all the excitement and intensity of bird watching. There was no excitement. No suspense. No reversals of action to keep it interesting. It may actually be the least-creative scene I have ever witnessed in all of the films I have seen in my entire life. I can actually narrow it down to this one fight, where two guys just punch each other. Is that the most creative, interesting thing Nolan can come up with? Apparently it is, because it's what happens in the movie! During their second fight scene, however, Batman is actually able to gain the upper hand, despite his debilitating injuries. I guess all he needed to do was a couple more sit-ups and maybe he would have won the first slug-fest. And it was very kind of Bane to allow Bruce to keep his rinky-dink knee brace on the whole time he was in the pit, allowing him to train and ultimately escape.

So now, Batman punches Bane some more, Bane punches Batman, etc. Chris Nolan at his best, ladies and gentlemen. The boy genius putting his full creative power on display for all to see. You're not making Raging Bull, idiot. Can you not think of anything more interesting than a punch in such a grandiose, large-scale action film centered around a character who wears a fully-equipped utility belt? For Christ's sake, that's even how Batman's back was fixed! I was truly quite shocked that nobody got punched during any dialogue scenes. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a love scene on the cutting room floor that has two characters throwing haymakers at one another to get their rocks off. Or...maybe Bane did take Bruce's knee brace and the old guy in the pit punched the knee until new ligaments formed.

When Batman escapes the prison and returns to Gotham, it was nice to see him waste so much valuable time, energy and resources hauling hundreds of gallons of fuel up to a bridge tower so he could paint his bat signal and set it ablaze, alerting his enemies of his arrival. Does this guy know there's a bomb about to obliterate the whole city? Does he even know that he's Batman? A character based on deception and subterfuge and catching his enemy by surprise? He does none of this whatsoever in this movie. It completely goes against the character. Batman did nothing to show us he was Batman except wear the costume. He could have been a completely different hero (not saying superhero because he has no super powers) and done the same stuff. It's all just generic punching and riding around in fancy vehicles and shooting. Again, where is the strategy? Nolan apparently has a problem with thinking. You wouldn't make a Spider-Man movie with no web-slinging, or a Superman movie where he keeps his feet on the ground the whole time, so why would you make a Batman movie where the character never acts like Batman?

Bane truly lucked out in finding so many loyal, suicidal mercenaries to go along with his plan of blowing them all up. Why did he want to destroy the city and himself and everybody in it? His motivations are never made clear. You can say he was simply going along with Talia's plan, but why would he do that? Because he's in the League of Shadows? What is that, some sort of suicide cult? The only reason is "because he's the bad guy", which has the depth of a sheet of paper. He couldn't possibly be more one-dimensional. There's not even anything unique about his character. He wears some breathing mask to stay alive, but apart from that, he's just a hulking dude.

I can't say he didn't have a clever motivation because he didn't have any at all. He had no interesting or unique point of view or traits that set him apart from other generic hulking dudes. He does a lot of stupid things, so he's obviously not a man of great intelligence or foresight. It's like someone dialed 1-800-BAD-GUYS and he came knocking. "Need a bad guy for your movie?" Yeah, go back and get somebody who's actually interesting. Because his character is so flat, the role required next to no acting from Tom Hardy. What a waste of a great actor. All he had to do was talk so his voice could be altered in post, and stand around looking beefy. And he looked very beefy. Too beefy, actually. It's like he worked out to keep his Warrior muscle tone, then found out the shooting schedule was altered because of Cotillard's pregnancy, and decided to work out his George Foreman grill in the meantime (Nolan may appreciate the punching reference). I'm sure his body type was intentional, but it didn't look as threatening as it should have. Made him look a little lazy, actually. Like he enjoyed cracking open a six pack each night.

Speaking of unclear motivations, what was up with Catwoman? It's a paragon of irony to have the most beautiful woman in the movie wear skin-tight leather and still end up being the most unpleasant character out of everyone. Casting Anne Hathaway as a tough chick is like casting Steve Buscemi as a love interest. There are some things you just don't do. Delivering every line like a cranky stuck-up bitch is one of them. This sort of forced angst may have worked...when I was 12. Now, it's just terrible. Who wants to hear that? It's not effective even when actual tough-guys use it, and it's definitely not effective when a very non-threatening girl does it. It's so off-putting, it makes it seem hilarious that Bruce would be attracted to it. She acts like the worst girlfriend you've ever had, and this dummy still wants to be with her - even after she locked him in a room to get the living hell beat out of him. You would think he would remember how he got in that pit he was stuck in for months on end, but the next time he sees her, it's like they're old friends. Are you kidding me? She's willing to send you to your grave, dude. Stay away from the crazy bitch! Every guy knows that rule. And it goes double when you never know her motivations for anything she does. She acts good, she acts bad...can't say why for either one. Neither can the writer of the movie. He's too busy copping-out and not doing the work. And what's with her strutting out of a gunfight like she's on a model's runway? It's all just posturing, because she basically had nothing else to do in the story except help Batman when he needed to find Bane. Keep that shoehorn oiled, boys! We're working it overtime.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is in this movie only to act as a set-up for Robin. He was so under-utilized, the plot would have literally functioned as-is if he wasn't in the story at all. He did nothing of importance whatsoever. He was just shoehorned in with the subtlety of a construction crew hammering anvils while listening to death metal. I guess he was interesting, if not for being the only single person in the entire city who wasn't a complete dipshit. It's like everyone around him was written as a moronic ass just to make him seem like the smart good guy. He's so smart, in fact, that he discovers Bruce Wayne is Batman. Not because of the dozens of obvious indicators slapping him and every citizen of the city in the face repeatedly, but - get this - because he smiled. Aww! That's so cute. Other than that, he does nothing of consequence. Another complete waste of a great actor. Give him something *important* to do!

Marion Cotillard served even less of a purpose. Her round peg was crammed into the square hole of this movie for practically no reason apart from a lazy twist where she turns out to be the villain. She has no other importance in the movie. There's a very out-of-place scene where she shows up at Wayne Manor out of the blue one day and ends up sleeping with Bruce, even though there was no previous romantic bond between them. To make it even more outlandish, the last thing they do before rolling in the hay is look at a photo of the dead love of Bruce's life. Awk-ward! What was the point of any of this happening? It lead to nothing. It meant nothing. It's just Nolan hammering her into the movie more just so she has something to do. It's weak and meaningless, wasting valuable time in an already overlong movie.

Commissioner Gordon...I don't even know what to say about him. He finds out the location of Bane's sewer lair, but never sends anybody in there to investigate. And Bane never thinks to leave to a more secure location? Makes no sense. It also makes no sense how JGL is waiting for him at the mouth of the drain after he escapes the lair. Sure, he was investigating a body that turned up there earlier on, but the movie explicitly tells us that Bane's men have no way of knowing where the Commish would end up because there are countless arteries within the channel, and therefore, cannot follow him. He could have gone anywhere. This means the odds of JGL finding Gordon immediately are astronomical.

Afterward, Gordon is lying on his death bed, clutching an oxygen mask for dear life. The guy can barely even complete a sentence, he's so weak and in pain. But since miracles seem to be a common occurrence in Gotham, Gordon shrugs off this seemingly terminal wound and starts jumping on the backs of semis like Dwayne Johnson, with more ordinance fired at the truck than at a Taliban training camp. And he comes out of it unscathed, even after the truck crashes off a bridge with him inside. What?! Seems like the least-likely person to be doing all that. Why not have JGL try to stop the bomb, and have Gordon do something more in line with his character? Swap their roles and it suddenly makes more sense. JGL is supposed to be the next action hero of this world, right? Put him in an action scene! Let the guilt-ridden 60-year-old man try to save the school children to atone for past mistakes before he dies. Why is all of this backwards?

And not only does Gary Oldman join the ranks of great actors wasted in roles that fail to exploit even the surface of their abilities, but Morgan Freeman is also wasted. All he does is deliver two exposition speeches and stand around the rest of the time. You have Morgan Freeman, one of the greatest actors to ever live...and you give him not even a secondary role, but a tertiary one. That's unforgivable. It's like cooking a whole roast chicken just to smell it before you throw it away. Just plain sad.

Michael Caine shines as the prettiest turd in the toilet due to no fewer than three actor-porn monologues where all the emotion in the movie is just spewed out verbally instead of being earned through actions. And that's all he does, is give those speeches. Then he's gone. He does a great job with what he's given, but it's Michael Caine. He's capable of so much more. You don't put Jordan in the game just to shoot a couple free throws. That's such a waste of resources. Write better scenes for these characters. Write better characters in general. I assumed the $250,000,000 budget was for paying the salaries of all these fine actors, but surely cardboard doesn't cost so much. Give them something to do so they stand out as something more than a simple cut-out with no dimension or depth to speak of. Why can't that be done? Nothing is preventing that from happening other than Nolan's lack of skill.

The speechifying in this movie is taken to unprecedented levels. Who *doesn't* have some big monologue? Even the guy with the thing on his face that makes him sound like Stephen Hawking's answering machine has one that goes on for about 7 minutes! The guy who uses a voice disguise that sounds like Al Pacino gargling walnuts even gets in on it, too. Cotillard manages to squeeze one in just before death, because that's not a big enough cliche yet. And it's all just on-the-nose, flat, boring, lazy exposition. We're told everything like babies who are incapable of finding things out on their own through actions. If the writer of the movie isn't skilled enough to come up with scenes that contain such character-defining and plot-illuminating actions, then he has to fall back on the amateur's method of straight-up telling. Why else must is be that way? It's embarrassing and boring.

Come up with something creative for once. Deliver information in a unique and interesting and engaging way. I know it's hard, but do the fucking work. As mentioned before, the fight between Batman and Bane is entirely void of creativity. And it's not just that scene, it's everything about the movie. It's even visually dull. At least The Dark Knight had a few cool shots that helped tell the story, like the guy in the beginning holding the clown mask with the light making the eye-holes seem to glow. That was cool. I liked that. It appealed to me in a creative way. But there's nothing like that here. Nothing. 80% of the movie is shot in close-up. It's just a series of close-ups and an occasional two-shot. It has the blocking of a soap opera. I've seen commercials and no-budget films shot in peoples' backyards that are more visually entertaining. How can anybody praise a movie in which the most radical shot is simply showing a character head to toe? If you were honestly impressed by that, I'll warn you now: avoid Kubrick films like the plague. Your brain will most likely cave in on itself. But then you'll have witnessed true artistic creativity in film, at least. This? This succeeds only because Wally Pfister is so damn good. Apart from that, it's just dull and shoddy. Not visually creative whatsoever.

That's strange, because this is a movie that wallows in excess. Too long. Too many sub-plots. Too many characters. Too many head-scratching moments, I nearly trepanated myself in the theater by accident. There's just so much needlessly crammed into this movie. And none of it is earned. Nolan doesn't do the work. He just has characters tell us everything and act like imbeciles to try to make us believe it all. This needed to be simpler, more about the costumed characters and less about the background nobodies. It needed focus. You shouldn't need 90 minutes of exposition for the third installment of a film series. Did you set nothing up in the last two? I can't even calculate everything that can be lost with minimal to zero impact on the story.

There's a big scene in the beginning where everybody is mourning the loss of Harvey Dent. There are portraits and large bundles of flowers with thousands of people in attendance for the holiday Harvey Dent Day. This guy died 8 years ago. He was just an ordinary politician who said he loved the people and wanted to help the people and make the city better, which is what every person running for a political office in history has said, including Hitler. This guy didn't free slaves. Why are they acting like he did?

There are just so many things in this movie that make no sense. None of it is derived from cause and effect. It's all contrived because Nolan says so. How did Alfred know Bane's backstory? How did Bane know where the hidden warehouse of tanks and gadgets was located? When Bane pulls Miranda out of line for exile, the next scene has Wayne taken in to see Fox and Miranda, who is randomly just back with all the captives and not with Bane. And when Batman saves Gordon on the ice, he asks "Where is Miranda?" saw her last, idiot. I can keep going, but I want to finish this review before I have to shave again. Sometimes, I wish I was like those cops trapped in the cave-in, and didn't have to worry about facial hair growth for half a year.

I understand that different people put greater importance on different aspects of film. Some people like this for the spectacle and intensity of the sound design and production design, and that's fine. It's easy to enjoy this film in that regard. They are without a doubt this film's most appealing traits. Other people, such as myself, put greater importance on the actions of the story making sense, and having a cause and effect relationship. Those people can't watch a movie like this - which throws structure and plot and character development and basic logic completely in the garbage - and simply accept every single absurd notion, because there are just too many to even count. People who greatly value the common sense approach to storytelling and quality of screenwriting can still be bored by a well-told story if there is not enough drama or conflict working to keep the story entertaining. That's where we draw the line. But...where do the people who enjoy the spectacle draw the line for lack of coherence? This movie just absolutely punishes suspension of disbelief for nearly three hours full-on. What is Nolan *not* allowed to do in terms of the actions of the characters and the believability of the plot? It seems like he can do whatever the fuck he wants, regardless of how unbelievable, illogical, or simply impossible it is. Why must it be that way?

What must he do before you call him out on his bullshit? I know people are going to say "he needs to not entertain me", but that's different. I'm talking about believability. What are you *not* willing to accept? Where is the limit? Is there one?

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