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July 29, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises...With Old Men (Part 2)

They say that time heals all wounds.

Okay, except that one -- but the point still stands.  It’s been about a week since I saw The Dark Knight Rises, and I think the passion has died down a bit.  Enough people have seen it to discuss things, and I hope enough time has passed to have said discussions in a rational, non-flaming manner.  There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion, blasphemous as it may be; however, if you’re trying to make your opinion out to be the only one that’s acceptable wile stamping on the opinions of others (and others in their own right), then you’ve got a problem.

So in case it bears repeating -- it shouldn’t, but just in case -- I’m not out to tell anyone they’re wrong for liking The Dark Knight Rises, or for thinking it’s a good movie.  Even with my complaints and nitpicks, I still recognize that it’s a good movie.  Undeniably so, especially since I’ve had some time to think about it and collect my thoughts.  If you liked it, great.  You have plenty of reasons to like it (most of them likely related to Commissioner Gordon).  I’m just trying to provide my rationale.  That’s all.  If your opinion starts to change because of what I said, then that’s just the way it goes.  So let’s keep this post, and this blog, a no-bad-feelings zone, okay?

Good.  Now, it’s time for me to do what I do best: pissy nitpicking.

I have a lot of problems with this movie.  A whole lot.  I know it’s not really fair to compare this movie to The Dark Knight, but those comparisons are eventually going to come up.  The idea that you can’t follow up that movie is going to be a stigma, and likely jade more than a few moviegoers. 

It’s not fair to compare to TDK…but it IS fair to compare it to other movies, both better and worse than TDKR (especially if don’t have much of a devotion to/stake in the Nolanverse).  We’re all people that, at our cores, love and thrive on fiction in whatever form it may take.  We have expectations, hopes, and preferences; we’ve seen enough of it to know what’s good and what’s bad, what works and what doesn’t work.  TDKR is no different.  Just because it’s by a talented group of people and part of a much-adored trilogy shouldn’t spare it from scrutiny; as lovers of fiction, we should be able to cry foul of any story’s failings, whether they’re by an afro-haired blogger or a cinematic demigod.  In fact, the trilogy invites even MORE scrutiny because of the high pedigree and intelligence by design; a smart movie begs for its audience to engage with it on an intellectual level, and the events that transpire should allow for approval (i.e. praise) or disapproval (i.e. pissy nitpicking).

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.  Welcome to...

10) Batman is kind of an idiot.

The other day I made my peace about how Batman is nigh-invincible when it comes to fighting goons.  It’s something that still bugs me, but I suppose I can see why they -- Nolan, his pals, and comic creators in general -- would want to keep it that way.  Batman doesn’t have superpowers, but he’s still a cut above the average man.  It’s crazy to think that a goon is enough to stop him.  Only someone equally-trained or empowered (like Bane) can put a stop to him.  Again, I can see why.

But when Batman inevitably goes up against Bane, I can’t help but feel like maybe Batman is only awesome because he’s bullying people significantly below him.  Pit him against someone that knows what he’s doing, and you realize that the Bat’s a big fish in a small pond.

When Batman and Bane go at it in their Texas Cage Match, Batman’s first instinct -- as is the standard -- is to rush him down and start punching him.  Maybe this is just the Street Fighter player in me speaking, but is it really such a bright idea to get within even a state’s distance of somebody built like Bane?  Especially after spending eight years off the streets?  Why don’t you put that utility belt of yours to good use?  Why don’t you use your surroundings to your advantage?

To Batman’s credit, he does try a few things.  He throws some junk at his face, and turns the lights out, neither of which work.  You’d think that’d be enough to suggest nothing works against this guy…but I just think Batman was just working harder, not smarter.  Why don’t you throw all the shit you have at Bane while you can?  Why don’t you nail him when he breaks into one of his evil villain speeches?  Why don’t you drop something into his eye when he’s about to show you his Ultimate Atomic Buster?  Why don’t you focus on attacking that mask of his -- even if you don’t know it’s keeping him stable, you could at least knock it off with a Batarang or a well-placed punch to distract him.

Thankfully, Batman attacks Bane’s mask in the rematch, but I’m not too impressed by the fact that -- in his eyes -- the only way to stop Bane isn’t with tactics, technology, or skill.  He just needs to keep punching until Catwoman shows up to shoot Bane.  

9) Daggett is an even bigger idiot.

Daggett doesn’t register as a villain to me -- as expected.  In a movie where there’s a masked bruiser threatening to blow up Gotham City, it’s hard to top that.  Thankfully, the movie doesn’t even try.  He’s just a tool to get Bane into the city, get the master plan in motion, and make some commentary about how the upper class is full of conniving pissants.  But when the time comes for Daggett to make like a tree and get the hell out of the movie, he’s offed in a groan-inducing manner.

I just finished giving Batman trouble for trying to rush Bane and show him this sweet combo he’s been working on…but at least in Batman’s case he has an excuse.  He’s been trained to fight.  He’s the hero.  If he doesn’t stop Bane, nobody will.  Daggett has none of those excuses.  All he has is some clout in the business world -- clout that he thinks is greater than a man who looks like he could crunch an elephant like a potato chip.

Remember what I said about this movie taking “shortcuts” when it comes to characterization?  Well, fair reader, I offer you a question: how do you show that Daggett is messing with forces well beyond his control?  If your answer is “give Bane shit about who’s in charge,” congratulations!  You’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises!  Also, you’re dead.

It is just baffling that they would have a character act so stupid just because he’s a lesser villain.  There’s no denying that Daggett is kind of an ass, but here’s the thing: in order to make it in the business world, you have to have SOME form of intelligence.  You have to know things, and know when it’s a good time to attack and when to fall back.  And even if Daggett is something of an idiot, you’d think that his generally ass-like nature would have him put his own survival above everything else.  But apparently I’m in the minority on this; apparently having a bad guy get in Bane’s face and practically beg to get kicked all the way to Budapest is A-OK, because he’s a villain and doesn’t know any better.

Hmmm.  I think the standard business school curriculum needs a bit of tweaking.

8) Only three people can figure out who Batman is.

After the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne decided to hang up his cowl permanently, and went into retirement on that very night.  If I remember correctly from the movie, Bruce Wayne himself became a recluse about a year later.  I guess that year was a rough-yet-introspective one -- without the Batman persona to fall back on, Bruce realized how empty his life was and retreated from the world.  That’s not a move I approve of (I have a hard time believing life isn’t worth living when you’re a damn billionaire CEO), but I can see his line of reasoning.

When Bruce Wayne comes out of hiding, I imagine there’s quite a big ruckus raised.  Fair enough.  And then, not even a week later, Batman makes his triumphant return to the streets of Gotham (and I will gladly admit that hearing his theme fire up as he went to work put a mile-wide smile on my face).  Fair enough.  But…um…wouldn’t it be incredibly easy for people to deduce that Bruce Wayne is Batman because of that?  Wouldn’t people -- the police especially, even if you pretend that nobody saw Batman return or heard of Batman’s return from word of mouth -- be able to start deducing the relationship? 

“Hmmm…days after Bruce Wayne comes back into the world, so does Batman…I wonder if there’s a correlation?”  But then again, nobody brings it up so I guess either nobody cares or they’re all just idiots.  I guess if a pair of glasses is good enough for Clark Kent…

7) Somebody set up us the bomb.

Scenario time.  You’re a wealthy businessman with a sizable amount of control in every project your company undertakes.  You try to create a new energy source that will bring unprecedented prosperity to your city -- but when you realize the dangers that it possesses (in the sense that it can be made into a bomb by malcontents), you shut down the project.  So what do you do with the potential bomb?  Do you:

A) Dismantle and dispose of the potential bomb so that there’s absolutely NO chance of it ever falling into the wrong hands.


B) Keep the potential bomb below a city with twelve million inhabitants -- a city just recovering from the threat of organized crime and nigh-superhuman psychopaths -- with many of the necessary parts intact.

If you said A, then congratulations!  You’re actually using your brain!  And also, you are NOT Bruce Wayne!  Or Cats.

Didn’t The Amazing Spider-Man have this same problem?  Didn’t it also have a doomsday device within spitting distance of some meta-human miscreants?  What is it with movies and NOT getting rid of doomsday devices -- which this bomb obviously is from the moment it’s introduced?  If the fusion reactor wasn’t fully developed because it could be used as a weapon, then why would you leave it in a place where it can be used as a weapon?

I also love how the bomb is ONLY dangerous if it’s detonated, or the final countdown reaches zero.  I have a sneaking suspicion that a nuclear core is kind of a hazard if you just let it lie around on its own…but beyond that, it’ll certainly have an effect if you let it blow up anywhere near civilization.  Wouldn’t a blast like that make some serious waves that would tear through Gotham?  What about lingering radiation?  But I guess there’s no reason for me to worry, since we have the Bat-Messiah to save the day.

6) Robin Blake.  Seriously?

I like John Blake in this movie.  I didn’t know much about him going in, and I didn’t have too-high expectations, but he turned out to be surprisingly compelling.  Makes me wish I’d been able to remember his name for most of the movie, but hey -- actions speak louder than names.

That is, until you decide to throw in a piece of the mythos just for kicks.

I don’t know comics intimately, but I know Robin, so to speak.  I know there have been multiple versions of Robin as well.  Dick Grayson, Tim Drake, and…well, I think there was one more named Jason.  Robin’s an important character to the Batman universe, but I was about ready to divorce all ties of the character from the Nolanverse.  I just figured he “wasn’t gritty enough,” as I said jokingly to my brother.  Blake was Robin in spirit, and I accepted that.  But outright giving him the first name “Robin” felt utterly unnecessary.  In the grand scheme of things, what was the point?  It’s just a name.  It doesn’t change anything Blake did, and certainly doesn’t change his character about five minutes before the credits roll.  Given that the name “John Blake” already sounds close enough to “Tim Drake,” wouldn’t it have been simpler to just leave it at that?

Well, I suppose not.  Especially considering that TDKR contains…

5) The most subtle scene in movie history.

If there’s one thing I can say about TDKR, it’s that it prefers the direct approach.

You know things have gone bad when there’s a shot of a tattered U.S. flag swaying in the wind.  You know Blake’s a hero because he’s leading a school bus full of orphans (and other people presumably, but I’d like to assume mostly orphans) out of Gotham.  You know that Bane’s a BAMF because not even Alfred can go without describing how dangerous he is.  You know Bruce and Selina are going to be an item because…because they have a scene at a ball where they spin in a circle and exposit for five minutes.  This movie will be damned if the audience doesn’t know exactly who’s who and what’s what at every moment.

But the biggest issue -- the moment where I facepalmed so hard the clap resounded through the entire theater -- is with the football scene.  It’s here that the movie takes its biggest shortcut: how do you establish that Bane is a psychopathic terrorist about to bring a new era of chaos to Gotham?  Why, have a stadium full of people, of course.  Wait, that’s not enough for you?  How about a stadium full of people -- and football players -- in the midst of a salute?  Wait, that’s not good enough?  Okay, how about a stadium full of people and football players in the midst of a salute while someone sings “America the Beautiful”?  Ehhhhhh…

Okay, how about this: a football stadium, full of saluting fans and players, decked out in the team colors, some looking a few seconds away from bursting into tears, as a prepubescent child sings “America the Beautiful”?  Yes!  It’s brilliant?

What?  What do you mean it’s so egregiously blatant in its symbolism that it demolishes the plausibility and effectiveness of the scene?  That sounds like un-American talk!

4) The police are also idiots.

Oh, let us count the many ways…

--Nobody believes The Commish when he says there’s an evil underground army.  Yeah, question: why would he lie about something like that, especially in light of two other movies featuring improbably skilled villains?

--When they discover (inevitably) that The Commish was actually right, damn near every cop sans Blake shuffles into the sewers.  Apparently, calling in backup -- like the National Guard -- is too much of a bother for Gotham’s finest.  And apparently, so is leaving a few guys behind to keep an eye on the streets.  Not like it matters, though, because they all get trapped underground.  (Which begs the question of how they survived for so long…or why Bane even let them live in the first place instead of just blowing them all up.)

--Admittedly, I like seeing the PD line up for a standoff against Bane’s forces.  But even as cool as the image is, I can’t help but wonder how tactically sound it is to assemble in the Shoot-Us-All-In-The-Face-As-We-Charge-At-You-In-A-Straight-Line Formation.  I’ve never been in any wars, but flanking the enemy is a viable strategy, isn’t it? 

--Foley wants to break off from chasing Bane’s men to go after Batman.  Nice to see that you’re making GREAT use of those three thousand Gotham policemen. 

--That’s…actually about it.  But they're still dummies. 

3) Only orphans are affected by city-wide sieges.

I’d like to think that I have a pretty good memory (it certainly helped me keep track of what episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! I missed back in the day).  But for the life of me, I can’t remember an element that would have had a major impact on the movie’s credibility.

Where are all the people in the middle of this?

Let me think for a minute.  There’s…let’s see, there’s the scene where the stock exchange gets attacked, and all those suits are under fire.  And then later, there are a bunch of people holed up in…a library, I think, while Bane’s forces march through the streets.  Oh, and there are people at the ball where Bruce and Selina cordially meet.  And…uh…er…

Where ARE all the people?

With the exception of the football scene (which in itself earns negative fifteen million points for being so egregious), there’s a distinct lack of, shall we say, audience participation in all the chaos.  That might work in other movies, but in TDKR -- ostensibly an epic disaster movie -- seeing how normal people fall apart and react to extreme situations like Bane’s siege are vital.  But they’re noticeably absent.  Batman is out to protect the people of Gotham City, but we see them so rarely they might as well be figments of his imagination.  There are news reports about how bad things are getting in Gotham, but can you imagine how much more potent it would have been to see those people suffer in a dedicated sequence?  Or, let me come at this from a different angle: instead of hearing about how things have gotten worse for the orphans without Wayne Enterprises’ funding, why can’t we see their luck (among other things) start to sour?

I guess we have more important things to look at, like the Batmobile or something.  Oh, speaking of which…

2) Batman’s armory is surprisingly accessible.

Question.  Why in the world would Lucius Fox and all his pals sanction keeping multiple Batmobiles and other technology in Gotham City? 

“They’re for Batman,” you say?  I don’t buy that.  There’s only one Batman, and that Batman has been out of work for nearly a decade.  He has a Batmobile and Batcycle that, last I checked, aren’t doing so badly in terms of repairs needed.  Why not just maintain the one vehicle (okay, three -- the Batmobile, Batcycle, and Batplane)?  Why risk letting others stumble upon an entire hangar full of weaponry?  Why, when you’re worried about a fusion reactor that could be used as a weapon but also as a means to bring about economic and environmental revolution to Gotham, would you leave tools that can be used only as a weapon within frightening proximity?

“Oh, maybe they’re producing them for other companies.  Maybe they’re prototypes that they’re going to sell to the highest bidder to bail out the company.”  Yeah, um…they don’t really need to build prototypes.  Fox and pals know the Batmobile works.  (Which begs the question of how the people who build this stuff don’t immediately begin to suspect something when their tech is used to chase razor-loving clowns…but I suppose that’s a question for the Batman mythos overall.)  They don’t need to have a bunch of Batmobiles lying around.  More to the point, they don’t need to have a bunch of Batmobiles laying around in Gotham City -- again, a place attacked by psychopaths in two earlier movies.  Send that shit to somebody who can use it!  Give them a fruit basket, too!  “Use these to bolster military efforts” or “To the police with love”!  Don’t leave WMDs lying around and collecting dust!

1) This is not a movie about Batman…except when it is…except when it isn’t.

This movie is more than a little problematic -- and it seems like the more I think about it, the more I realize what the center of those problems is.  A noticeable percentage of the issues I have with the movie relate to Batman/Bruce Wayne in some way.  When he’s on-screen doing his thing, his thoughts, words, and actions are token, dull, contradictory, aggravating, or any mix of the four.  But when he’s off-screen, the movie itself becomes a sort of countdown.  “When’s Batman coming?”  “Batman’s the only one that can save the day!”  “Isn’t this movie supposed to be about Batman?”

And yes, it IS a movie about Batman.  But with such a heavy emphasis put on characters like John Blake, Catwoman, Bane, and The Commish, there’s not as much room for Batman to spread his cape.  These are five separate characters that, outside of a few scenes, operate almost completely on their own.  They have to be developed and given time to shine independently, because they’re acting independently.  Batman ends up getting marginalized in his own movie, which is a curse considering that he’s essentially the Bat-Messiah.

On the other hand, Batman being marginalized is also something of a blessing.  He’s the hero, but he’s also the least interesting character amongst the cast.  He’s got a rival in Bane that puts him to the test, but when the rematch inevitably comes Batman hasn’t learned anything besides “hit him in the mask” and “punch him harder.”  He goes through a struggle, but it’s hard to feel something for a character that spent the first hour of the movie alternating between moping and snark, and then spends nearly the rest of the movie being the thrilling conversationalist that is Batman.  He’s just…dull.

I feel like Batman could have been done better.  I know instinctively that comics have done the Dark Knight extremely well.  I know that there have been moments in the DCAU where Batman has been done well.  I know that in the movies -- even in the Nolanverse -- Batman has been done well (the fact that I’m only raising these issues now, having seen the other two movies, should be some testament to that).  But Batman here?  This…this is not a hero I want to get behind.  It’s not just because he’s gritty and dark, or because he’s not Captain America or someone similar.  And if you’re making a superhero movie where your hero is fundamentally flawed in all the wrong ways, why should I like the movie?

Riddle me this, riddle me that.  Why should I care for the big black bat?

And Now, the Conclusion

When the credits started to roll for The Dark Knight Rises, people started applauding. 

Claps and cheers filled the theater, with the cheers of my viewing party being well among them.  But in my case, I didn’t clap.  Not a clap, nor cheer, or even a smile.  I just sat there, staring at the screen, with a hand over my mouth as if trying to hold in some puke.  The stewing period had begun, and it wasn’t going to stop anytime soon.

With more than a week gone since then, I’ve managed to gather my thoughts, try to prove my case, and come to a conclusion.  And that conclusion is a surprisingly simple one:

I really don’t like The Dark Knight Rises.

It’s painful for me to say that, or even think that, but I have to be honest with myself here -- even if it’s likely that my opinion grinds against the popular mindset.  I went in expecting something good, even if it wasn’t to my tastes; what I got was something worse than I could have ever thought possible given the talent, resources, stakes, and of course hype.  So let’s break this down step by step, shall we?  Remember that list of predictions I posted?  Let’s see how they stack up.

1) Based on my previous chart, The Dark Knight Rises will be somewhere around here on my SmartChart.

Nope.  TDKR certainly wants to, and tries to be, a movie that’s intelligent by design -- and in terms of ideas it certainly pulls that off.  Unfortunately, intelligence by design begs bigger risks and deeper evaluation…and in my eyes, the fact that I’ve blown some eleven thousand words discussing the movie (most of those words being negative) means that the execution suffered somewhere along the line.  In other words, it's right around here:

2) TDKR will be a good movie.  Not the greatest thing ever, but as competent as I predict.

Half-and-half on this one.  Even if I didn’t like it, I still contend it’s a good movie…just one that’s glaringly incompetent at times.

3) I will have a newfound appreciation for Batman.  That said, it still won’t be enough to make me love him more than anyone else.

Again, nope.  I actually feel less attached to Batman than I did before.

To the movie’s credit, though, its ideas shine through at least a little bit in regards to the Dark Knight.  Batman’s strength comes from his image -- his ability to strike fear into the hearts of malcontents is noteworthy, and a huge part of his superhero identity.  Unfortunately, that same terrifying reputation has made him a stranger, even a (perceived) threat, to the people he’s sworn to protect.  The reason Gotham needed a face like Harvey Dent to rest easy was because people need white knights -- something that the Bat could never hope to provide.  It’s an interesting idea, and one that made me think deeply about Batman as a character.  That’s still not enough to pacify me, though.

4) I will be able to rest easy, knowing that some of the low review scores and complaints about the movie have no power over my experience.

I’m going to make a mental note.  Whenever critics say “Movie X has Problem Y,” they’re not just blowing smoke.  That said, the fact that I went to see the movie and judge for myself means that I’m not so much of a sheep that reviews dictate my every action.

5) If someone asks me what I think of the movie -- friends, family, or otherwise -- I will be able to answer, without hesitation, as such: “Really good.  It had its flaws, but I enjoyed it.”

I was completely wrong about this one.

When my parents asked me what I thought about the movie, I answered them both, in two separate conversations, in much the same way: “It’s frustrating.  I had a lot of problems with it, and I was expecting something better…but it’s still a good movie.”  And even that might be a little too generous; if I’m committed to expressing my opinion, maybe I should just outright say “The Dark Knight Rises is a bad movie.”  But I won’t.  I can’t.  It just doesn’t feel fair to other opinions, or the people who worked on the movie.  It doesn’t feel fair to condemn the movie just because I had problems with it.  If it was an objectively bad movie, like Jack and Jill, then I wouldn’t have any problems saying so.  But that’s not the case.  Lots of people like TDKR.  Some people don’t like it.  Whose opinion will become part of the public conscious and pop culture annals of history -- love, hate, division, indifference -- will only be seen in the years to come.  So all I can do is what I’ve been doing all along: express my opinion, and why I feel the way I do.

I’ll give my final thoughts in a moment.  But before I do, I want to take a look at this movie in a different light.  Even though it’s not fair to compare it to TDK, there is one movie that DOES warrant a fair comparison.

Let’s do this.

Lightside Mode

A lot of people have argued that it’s impossible to compare a movie like The Dark Knight Rises to The Avengers; they’re completely different movies with completely different characteristics, styles, and goals.  That’s true in a lot of respects, but you know what?  I don’t think it’s quite off-base.  There may very well be points of comparison that can help us decide which movie is “the better movie”.

And to that end, I say The Dark Knight Rises is the better movie.

You all know what I think of The Avengers (in a nutshell, it’s fantastic).  It’s a lot of fun, and is currently my favorite movie released this year.  But for all its fan-pleasing qualities, for all its bombast and delight, the movie isn’t exactly ambitious.  It’s ambitious in the sense that it required a huge gamble on behalf of Marvel Studios, and in the sense that it built a multi-year, multi-movie, multi-million dollar continuity designed to pay off with one fell swoop.  But story-wise?  Ideas-wise?  Design-wise?  There’s not that much to latch on to.  The Avengers plays it safe with its story, preferring simplicity over anything TOO substantive.

TDKR takes risks.  Like the movies before it, TDKR tries to do something different, introducing themes and ideas, and keeping some form of decorum in its proceedings.  It tries to be a legitimate story, one beyond the trappings of comic book silliness.  Is it perfect?  Far from it -- but TDKR puts forth an effort to try and reach a storytelling apex.  In the same sense that I’d prefer a Suda51 game -- a stylish yet typically-flawed product -- over the average shooter -- a functionally-airtight but stylistically unsatisfying product -- I think there’s more merit to TDKR in light of The Avengers.  I for one reward ambition with praise…and the final movie in the Nolan trilogy is more than deserving of it, from me as well as others.

There’s no such thing as a perfect movie, or game, or book, or anything with some semblance of a story.  The Avengers is no exception (given that 75% of the movie’s problems could have been solved if they’d gagged Loki the moment they captured him).  But as I’ve said, a story is able to succeed because its positive qualities outweigh the negative; what’s good about it overpowers what’s bad.  You expect me to believe that TDKR is a failure just because it’s easy to nitpick?  Not a chance.

Is it the greatest movie ever?  No.  But it tries, and it gambles, and it comes out as a notable finish to more than a half-decade’s worth of continuity.  Get caught in the hype.  Go see it…well, go see it again.

Darkside Mode

The Avengers is the better movie.  By far.

Don't give me that look.  Now shut up and let me finish, Batman.

In terms of “ideas”, The Avengers isn’t exactly the place to turn…but then again, it doesn’t need those things.  It’s a superhero movie that puts the superheroes -- in all their colorful, characteristic glory -- in the spotlight, and has them doing superhero things.  What it lacks in intelligence by design, it more than compensates in its execution.  It’s more than just fun and a chance to revel in explosions and Hulk smashing; it’s a chance to see fantastic character interaction and spirit.  It’s not the kind of movie that’ll spark an intellectual discussion, but it satisfies on a raw emotional and spiritual level -- something as praiseworthy as trying to tackle the origin of humanity.

The sad thing is, for all its proposed depth and complexity, TDKR fails to satisfy on that level.  There are good moments and good characters and good ideas, but none of them gel together in any potent way.  There’s a disjointed nature to it that prevents it from affectation that The Avengers excelled at -- and because of it, I can’t help but feel distant and alienated from the movie.  Whereas TA showed the effects of an alien siege on the city and its populace, TDKR makes those effects uncomfortably unspoken.  Whereas TA had its heroes (heroes far stronger than Batman) worn down by grunts and facing impossible odds, TDKR is content with having Batman only face trouble  when he’s brawling with Bane, and even the race to save the city from the bomb is a linear, almost-uneventful progression of events.  Whereas TA let itself be free to include a multitude of tones, TDKR remains decidedly cold and somber throughout -- a consequence of being gritty and dark that in this case hurts the movie.   Whereas TA makes you care about the characters, the world, and the exploits to save it, TDKR...doesn’t.

Like I said, I’ll gladly admit that TA has its flaws and points worth nitpicking -- but those flaws are more difficult to see in light of all the good, and the sheer amount of fun you’re having.  With another viewing, I could likely pick out that movie’s problems.  In contrast, it only took one viewing (not even the movie’s full runtime, for that matter) of TDKR to make me ask all these questions -- questions invited by the movie taking an intellectual risk, and hammered because of it.  And really, what is it that makes this movie “smarter” than The Avengers or any other superhero movie?  Because it makes allusions to real-world problems?  Because it offers social commentary?  Does it even come to a definitive statement on those issues, or does it just say “This is a thing, and it’s bad” or “This exists in the real world, so it should exist in this movie”?  Does this movie and the ideas/opinions expressed in them change your outlook on life, or drive you to action?  And even though I try to be fair to the opinions of others, I will immediately bitch-slap anyone that suggests that this movie is better (or even good) because it’s darker.

Is it the greatest movie ever?  No.  It tries, and it gambles, but it’s a disappointment on several fundamental levels.  All the work put into this movie ends up showing just how many missteps have been taken.  Don’t be swayed by the hype. 

The End

Notice how I left off something in that last line?

Let’s try and reach a common ground here.  What makes a movie good, in a lot of respects, comes down to the answer of a simple question: “Are you glad you saw this?”  If you -- you, in spite of the words of critics, bloggers, and even your closest friends -- see a movie and say “Yes,” then that’s what’s important.  You have to come to your own conclusions -- and sometimes, that means coming out of your comfort zone and trying something you might not enjoy.

I went into The Dark Knight Rises as welcoming and as impartial as I could be.  I went in, watched it, and walked out.  And rather notably, I walked out disappointed.  But even with that in mind -- even with this post alone nearing the six thousand word mark -- I can’t bring myself to say “Don’t go see this movie.”  That’s because 1) you probably already have, 2) you need to see it for yourself to decide, and 3) even with all my issues and nitpicks, I still can’t say I regret seeing it.  That's where I stand, without hesitation.

Even though I don’t go to the movies that often, I’ve still managed to see some stinkers in my time.  Legion, 2009’s Friday the 13th, 2011’s The Thing…not to mention the movies I’ve seen on TV, like Dungeon Siege, Twilight, and ESPECIALLY Percy Jackson.  Those are movies I’m most certainly NOT glad I saw.  And that’s a list that, notably, The Dark Knight Rises isn’t a part of.  This trilogy-capper isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen, and doubtless it’s not the worst thing you’ve ever seen, either.  It’s just frustrating.

And that’s really all there is to it.  Maybe you agree with me.  Maybe you have other nitpicks.  Maybe you disagree, and plan to incite a manhunt so you can shove my head atop a pike.  That’s fine.  What’s important is that you know what you like -- just as I do.

That’ll do for now.  See you all around.

Wait a minute.  If Miranda Tate was really Talia al Ghul all along, and she was out to get revenge on Bruce/Batman, then why did she sleep with him?  

This movie is really -- 


  1. Hah. I was thinking the same as you were for number 8, surely someone, somewhere must have worked it out.

    Btw, I voted you as a Liebster award winner. Check out http://myerlamoviereviews.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/that-award-thing.html for more info.

  2. And I would assume that someone went ignored. "Bruce Wayne is Batman? Man, get outta here." And then they shoved him into a puddle of mud.

    And thanks for the vote. I'll graciously accept...even though praise gives me hives.