The Dark Knight Rises ★★½

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

This review may contain spoilers.

Wow, what a train wreck, and Nolan only has himself to blame as he not only directed, but is credited (as if anyone would want credit) for co-writing the script as well.

What’s wrong with the script you might ask (if you were in a mood where you actually might care about this). Well for starters the film seriously plays with time. No, not like some sci fi film, or Nolan’s own Inception, but in the real life (but absurd) story telling. Eight years have passed since the Joker made mockery of life in Gotham – Batman has disappeared and is being blamed for the death of the “hero”, former mayor Harry Dent, who has been anointed a martyr to enable Commish Gordon to “clean up the city”.

At the same time Bruce Wayne has become a recluse – no-one has seen him in 8 years – funny that nobody put 2 and 2 together, but that’s the comics business, boys and girls. But what is irksome is that after 8 years, Wayne is still hobbling around with a cane, feeling sorry for himself concerning the choices the Joker forced him to make. Oh sure, his physical malady is explained away – he has no cartilage left in his knee… but later, when Batman returns (hmm wasn’t that another film title?) he seems to suffer very little effects of, not only his ailment, but the fact that he’s 8 years older. Michael Caine, as Alfred was an old codger in the last film – he must be ancient now. Sigh.

Further, there’s a bit of story line involving a 3 month stay in a middle eastern prison. Wayne seems to appear there overnight, and then the further passage of time just seems… wrong, as if those three months were a one week stay in some twisted resort. While telling this prison stay story, the film also tries to shoe-horn the tale of a youngster, born in the prison who was able to escape. We meet that character as an adult and, you guessed it, the age of that character just doesn’t mesh (nor does the comparison between that character and its protector).

As long as we’re speaking of time – two and a half hours is too long, and the film seems to seriously drag as there are so very many little side trips taken here. I suppose Nolan was trying to make this a very deep film, which is admirable, but when you couch it in a cartoon…. It just doesn’t mesh. If you are making a serious film, expect that viewers are going to expect plausibility, especially in the motivation department. The main villain of the piece is a guy who reminded me of The Humongous in The Road Warrior. I almost expected him to say “just leave the gas and walk away”. This guy suffered some kind of accident in his youth, so has to wear some bizarre breathing apparatus that covers most of his face. This seems to be a theme in the Dark Knight Series, where all faces are distorted and or masked. This dude was supposedly the disciple of some secret sect (which Wayne was also a part of, before rejecting the leader’s ideological preachings on anarchy). Ok, so the dude is an anarchist – which allows some hocus pocus about upsetting the status quo – but then there’s a nuclear bomb thrown into the mix, which totally destroys the credibility of his motivation. If he’s trying to “save” the downtrodden, urging them to rise up against their oppressors, then why nuke em afterwards?

I also seriously felt that Nolan was in a trap here. He had so many characters to juggle, and plot points he wanted to drive home – I got the feeling that he was thinking “hmm, I’ve got to give Gary Oldman more screen time – oh, and since I’m now invested in the possibilities of Gordon-Levitt’s character (more on that later), I’ve got to have him show up in just about every scene. Oh, and gee, we’ve got the Catwoman in this film, can’t ignore her either, and since Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are around, I’ll have to write stuff for them as well”. Well you did it, congratulations – but the film suffers for it.
Caine in particular is a fine example – he has some serious face time in the first quarter of the film, and then disappears until the post script wrap up. In trying to give Oldman more face time the script turns this old codger into an action figure (and feel free to roll your eyes at this one). He manages to escape danger so many times I was hoping to hear a Max Von Sidow voiceover as Ming The Merciless saying in amazement “Gordon’s Alive!!!”

Now – spoiler alert (though I’m not going to reveal the BIG TWIST). Nolan infers that Wayne, after once again saving Gotham, has conveniently faked his death, and has now found the peace that Alfred was hoping he’d find (that the faked death also isn’t plausible… oh well, just roll with it). Now the important thing – in this post script (which is a crummy way of explaining things that you couldn’t fit into the script, because the sucker was way too long already), you have Gordon-Levitt’s character reveal that his full name includes Robin. Aha, you think! Here is why he’s in virtually every scene (more than Batman actually) – he’s going to become the “boy wonder” even though he’s hardly a boy. But nooooooo! From the post script it appears that he’s going to actually take over the mantle that Wayne has caste aside, becoming the new Batman – which is where the title of the film starts to make sense. However – as much as I like Gordon-Levitt (in spite of that damned hyphenated name), he simply seems too slight to play an acrobatic, super dude like the Batman.

My final analysis is this: The Dark Knight Rises is about half the film of its illustrious predecessor – so half the score is just about right, but I’ll nudge it higher just a bit, for in spite of all its flaws and a seriously too long run time, it still holds some entertainment value. Just don’t think too hard about what you are viewing (which I’m sure runs contrary to what Nolan envisioned).