'The Dark Knight Rises' Review By Bryan Yentz
... It's too fast when it needs to be slow; too blatant and expository when it needs to be subtle; to disorganized when it desperately needs order...
To think it's been seven years since Ra's Al Ghul first tried to ruin Gotham in BATMAN BEGINS. . . To think it's been four years since Heath Ledger had us gasping and laughing with the same breath. To think it's all led up to this: the conclusion of the Batman trilogy. It truly feels like the end of an era as there aren't any further Batmans to look forward to. This is it. The ultimate envisage of a master filmmaker. Sadly, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES isn't the piece of diamond-cut perfection many would have hoped for. In actuality, it's a rather questionable effort in a series which has been so well-crafted; from a director who has been so artistically devoted to his art.
Eight long years after the events of the last film, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES follows a crotchety Bruce Wayne as he sulks about his manor in lament. Unable to move beyond the death of his true love, Master Wayne has relegated himself to the elegant corridors of his home; limping from one room to the next in silence. As Bruce Wayne, he's broken, frustrated and alone. As Batman, he's reviled, detested and hated. Both of his worlds have self-destructed beyond measure. Yet, when Gotham faces its darkest hour at the hands of a masked threat known as "Bane", Bruce Wayne will ultimately discover that the world just might need the bat one last time.
It's been a long time coming, but Nolan's visionary trilogy has finally come to a dramatic close. What began as a well-executed foray into superheroism gradually developed into something far more than your typical summer blockbuster. With the advent of THE DARK KNIGHT, Nolan put on wonderful display, the ambitious and cathartic heights a superhero film could reach. Just because a film was about a guy donning a bat suit to beat down baddies didn't mean it had to be vapid, insipid or mindlessly entertaining; it could have emotion, depth and power--villains that made you angry; heroes that made you cheer. With THE DARK KNIGHT, a new level of comic-to-film adaption was attained and plastered into the eyes and minds of each and every viewer. Understandably, it would be difficult for anyone--even Nolan himself--to top such a splendidly performed predecessor. And in all honesty, it can't. But judging RISES on its own merits, it's actually quite disheartening to see how far below the bar it actually falls. While this finale to Nolan's vision isn't without its moments of brilliance, as a whole, it's a massively flawed endeavor; a structurally unsound mess of technicalities and broken storytelling.
While not near the travesty of PROMETHEUS (seriously people, that was an acid-coated middle finger flicked at ALIEN fans by Ridley and co.), I was astounded to witness just how sloppy RISES was as both a film and a final send-off to the vigilante we've watched and applauded since 2005. The film begins on a high note with a clever heist involving two airborne planes, but quickly goes downhill with our introduction to a now reclusive Wayne and a party occurring at his manor. Poorly timed edits rapidly and jarringly cut from one group of characters talking to the next without allowing us--as the viewers--to simply settle into any one single moment. Just as one scene begins, it literally jumps to two others before leaping back to the first scene. The clunky rapidity of such an introduction extends to the entire film. The previous entries in the canon maintained a calm sense of patience about them; scenes were allowed to breathe and progress naturally. However, in RISES, scenes are cut too soon, or begin too late; destroying any prospect of tension-building or proper characterization. Rarely does anything just pacify and allow a single scene to play out as it organically should. Even at nearly three hours, nearly every scene of possible narrative pressure feels forced and actually, dare I say. . . Amateurish? Thankfully, atop the pile of slovenly handled material, Nolan does manage a few moments of genuine emotion. Two examples of this immediately spring to mind: One, regarding a rather heartbreaking instance between Alfred and Bruce as the truth over a certain letter is spilled, and two, a resplendent trice between a tear-streaked Bane and the person he's committed his life to protecting. It's scenes such as these that reaffirm Nolan's ability as a filmmaker and a master of emotion. Sadly, these are beautiful, shining needles in a haystack of error. Ones that make you disheartened at all of the potential; all of the great things that COULD HAVE BEEN.
Extending beyond the shoddy editing and unrepentantly quick pace, the movie utterly falters with plot holes that would make PROMETHEUS blush. ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** In no particular order. . .
1. How on Earth does Bruce Wayne get back to save Gotham when he was literally in another country climbing out of a pit? He has NO money, NO resources, is NOWHERE even remotely near an airport, and yet shows up in Gotham, clean shaven, with hours to save the city from a bomb threat. What happened there?
2. While Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt) knows about ONE particular sewer drain in all of Gotham, how the hell did he know that Commissioner Gordon would swim out that ONE PARTICULAR DRAIN? Again, no tension, no connection scenes, just Gordon in a sewer being shot-next scene, new location and BING! Blake is there too! Magic!
3. How does a weird leg brace "crush" Wayne's leg and automatically repair it? Not to mention allow him to kick walls of brick to pieces? And if something that simple and unexplained could do that, why didn't he get that, uh, like EIGHT YEARS ago.
4. When Batman flies "The Bat" at Bane's horde of gun-toting anarchists, why does he ONLY deactivate the tanks and not give support fire for the police? I mean, he could at least use the flares stored in the vehicle as a thick layer of smog over the enemy. Instead, countless officers are mercilessly gunned down by the enemy. Oh yeah, Batman's "morality" shtick--then why was he willing to KILL Bane directly after this scene when he pummeled his mask apart? Not to mention Miranda when he bombards her vehicle with gunfire and forces it off of a bridge. Also not to mention the men he killed by luring their rockets around the city back into them.
5. How the hell did Commissioner Gordon survive the vehicular fall unscathed when the evil temptress dies from it? He was without seatbelt, next to a bomb in the back of a violently shaking compartment-which was also being blasted by "The Bat".
6. What the hell happened to Catwoman's little protégé? She's in the film, then disappears and Catwoman doesn't even care or mention her-even when a bomb is about to detonate?
7. How did Batman survive a nuclear explosion? The last image--directly before the boom--is of him in the c*ckpit staring out at the ocean he's flying over. And then. . . MUSHROOM CLOUD! Even with the possibility of auto-pilot he couldn't escape the blast radius in time.
8. Why the hell did Bruce sleep with Miranda after having talked to her not but two scenes ago for one minute? She pulls out a picture of his dead woman and that makes him hot for her? There were no romantic hints between the two, mere minute-long conversations about business (this was more of a convenient annoyance than a plot hole; just didn't make sense).
9. Blake knew Bruce was Batman because of "his sad/angry/pained face"? Wow. That's a new one.
10. Why was Marion Cotillard's acting so bad? Her death should go down as one of the most poorly portrayed (abruptly closing her eyes and going, "Ughhh..."). Really? Again, not a plot hole just. . . Just stupid.
11. How does every character arrive at their necessary location without any obvious lapses in time? One scene has Bane placing Bruce in the pit-jail. The very next he's back in Gotham taking hostages at Wayne Tower.
The list of trite conveniences and holes go on, but would take too much time to write at the present moment.
Beyond these issues, another pet-peeve was Bane's "death" or lack thereof. He's the sole reason I wanted to see the film. He's an integral villain of high significance and is hit by an off-screen gun and literally thrown into the background as if he were a voiceless grunt?
F*ck. That. Noise.
Since it was such a juvenile moment of "how do we get rid of him right now?" I figured he'd come sprinting back during the final bomb chase, wounded with mask dangling off of his bleeding face as he jumps upon the cable supporting the bomb from Batman's flying vehicle. What would ensue is a mid-air battle as Bane tries to climb the cable and Batman tries to steer him off. That's what I would have hoped to have happen. . . 'Cuz, y'know, that would have made more sense than what actually did. He's a monument to power and brutality. He's lived his entire life in pain; survived under the most extreme circ*mstances and he's "killed" by a blasé, off-screen character with no personal qualm with him? There's no tension to his death; no moment where we see his dying body spasm. No nothing.
Just. Tossed. Into. The. Background.
Another gripe regarding my favorite character was his voice. When the trailer for RISES first hit and I was gifted with the awesomely gritty voice of a vox-sponding Bane, I was overjoyed at the sound; the dynamic, guttural inflections of his verbiage. And then complaints set in, and his voice was re-recorded. The result--while still slightly true to the original--is a sound designer's nightmare. While everyone else on-screen sounds just fine, Bane's voice comes off just as I feared; as though it was dubbed for a GODZILLA movie. Every time his rhetoric took over, it sounded completely disconnected from the environment; far louder as the people speaking to him. It just sounded like a second-rate choice for sound intention. I would have gladly listened to the original voice with subtitles if it meant avoiding the bad choice in additional dialogue recording.
As far as performance go, Christian Bale actually gives it his best go as the Bat; offering a good deal of confidence and emotion that I feel he lacked in the previous installments. Anne Hathaway is completely unremarkable as Catwoman; exactly what you'd expect from the roster of "sexy-but-lethal" femme fatales. Outside of her integrity to the plot, Marion Cotillard puts on an uninspired performance and feels near useless. Tom Hardy comes out as the best (despite the sh*tty re-recorded ADR), as his character is forced to display feeling through his eyes (as that's all we can truly see of his maw-covered face). Several instances during his final bout with Batman in particular had me in especial appreciation, as his gaze subtly shifted from a simple gaze to that of a fierce, cold-hearted glare--a moment of personal weakness depicted solely through his eyes.
As I ponder the film all the more, I'm coming to find that my general distaste derives from the tone. RISES does not fell like the Batman films of yore; it doesn't visually or tonally carry the same atmospheric heft or color-specified aesthetics as the either DARK KNIGHT or BEGINS. The focus on a president, Wall Street and the constant aerial shots of the brightly-lit city made me forget I was watching a fictional story in a fictional realm. I felt as though I was watching a movie about cops in New York City rather than a tried-and-true Batman tale soaked in the residue and visual palette of a crime-fueled city deemed "Gotham". The entire experience felt far too grounded in our own world; not a fictional one.
Taken as a whole, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES feels, for the first time, as though it truly was written by three different people. It's disjointed, rushed, incredibly choppy, conveniently and illogically written and convoluted. In key parts, the film succeeds wonderfully. As a whole, it's a disappointment. While this foray into questionable "equal" territory didn't rile me as much as the travesty that was PROMETHEUS, I nonetheless found RISES to be a very un-Nolan film. It's too fast when it needs to be slow; too blatant and expository when it needs to be subtle; to disorganized when it desperately needs order. It all ends on a satisfyingly uplifting note, but the road getting there is clumsy, broken and dubious. The trilogy may not end on a whimper, but it sure doesn't go out with a bang.