The Dark Knight Falls Inexplicably: The Dark Knight Rises Review

I’m at a loss of words right now. The trilogy that was suppose to belong with the greats like Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings. The director, Christopher Nolan, the one that is now proclaimed as the director of our time. The “epic conclusion” to one of the great comic book films of all time. I’ve never been so speechless and disappointed from a film that I thought was going to be one of the greats of this year, possibly decade. I will warn those who read this review, it will contain some spoilers and this is a reaction review, not a day or two of thinking and evaluating review. I assuredly will go see this movie again and make sure my criticism for it is justified, but for now, you have been warned.

The Dark Knight Rises was one giant mess of a movie that tries to achieve so much in a little bit of time, even if that time is almost three hours in length. The Dark Knight Rises has absolutely no flow or rhythm and can literally be separated into three parts, and each part has nothing substantial or fascinating. The Dark Knight Rises has the blandest of characters I’ve seen from Nolan in all of his films and literally puts in useless face time and story where it feels like the entire movie is one bad case of bloated gas. And this is how it comes out, just pure stink.

The final installment to Nolan’s trilogy of the Batman character starts where we left off, except it’s eight years ahead. Moving from the incident and eventual death of Harvey Dent that was blamed by the dark crusader, Bruce Wayne and Batman are both gone from the public. Hiding in the Wayne mansion, Bruce feels no need to go out into the world where he doesn’t belong or is needed. Bruce has always been a character that has been conflicted from outward appearance and inner truth, and he continues this struggle throughout the film. Gotham is clean of organized crime, but it doesn’t mean it’s clear of those big massive villains that always seem to find its way through Gotham. Bane, a violent and bone-crushing mercenary piles through Gotham with weapons, an army and most importantly, a message. This message is for those who have been on the bottom of the barrel. Those who have been left with the trash and need to come and regain their city. With a nuclear device that of course was for good but now has been turned into an evil weapon, the city of Gotham is threatened by a nuclear attack where everyone and everything would be destroyed. Clean slate. That’s kind of how I feel about The Dark Knight Rises too.

There are a bunch of new characters thrown into Rises, mainly from Anne Hatheway as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (though never introduced as so), Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays the admirable John Blake and Marion Cotillard, who plays Miranda Tate, a rich philanthropist who is working with Wayne Enterprises. All three play supportive but crucial roles in this film, and are all part of one giant mishandling of too many characters in one film. Each have their own story, their own importance, their own purpose, but this all has to go back to Batman. What does this character have to do with Bruce Wayne? How does this relationship effect the masked vigilante? Why is this relationship necessary in this conclusion? I felt these questions weren’t really answered, whereas these characters were some part of this final gigantic bow where too much is happening.

Enough of the criticism, let’s get back into the plot. So Bane starts blowing crap up everywhere and eventually breaks Batman where he is sent into some God forsaken land in the middle east and we have no clue how he gets there. Okay, that’s fine. This is where Batman truly needs to literally break himself to regain his proper motivation into why he will go back into Gotham. Blah blah blah. As he’s doing so, Gotham City has become a violent and chaotic mess where citizens are controlling citizens, and the people are doing whatever it takes to survive.

Honestly, I don’t have to continue with explaining this story because you know what’s going to happen. Batman will come, we’ll have this big awesome fight scene and Gotham will be saved. Maybe. Maybe not. The funny thing is is that I absolutely did not care about what happened to Gotham or its people. Honestly, I kind of wished all these characters would’ve died and we can just get The Joker back and play his psycho games. Truth be told, I’d watch the Joker sell soap rather than watch all of this unfold again.

I sound very harsh, and I think it’s not really how I feel about the film, but how I personally feel we’ve been misled this entire time. Nolan’s first two Batmans were nothing short of grand. It has such beautiful flow and connectivity and I, at least, was expecting this big finale where everything was done right in Gotham. But it feels as if nothing was done right in this third film from the flow, the dialogue, the character development and even the fight scenes.

Everything felt so underwhelming. Everything just felt mediocre and flat, and it really was confusing how this was happening cause Nolan is such an advocate from great story telling. And I think the main issue with this film is that there’s just too much going on. In the first of the three part series of the third film in the trilogy, we’re thrown into this situation where we have no clue what’s going on, all these characters mumbling about something and we progress so quickly that we barely get to realize that the trailers are over. Nolan tried to do too much here. Too many story line. Too many characters. Too much ambition without execution.

What really upsets me is that there seems to be absolutely no care in the little details. If there’s one thing about Nolan that I cannot stand is his distaste for any sort of brutality or evidence of violence. Someone gets shot, no blood. Someone breaks a neck, let’s cut it back. Over and over again I wanted to see Bane’s strength and brutality but was shied away. I wanted to get into the war between the Gotham Police and Bane’s army but all I get is some really lame fist fights. And this is not just about more violence. We get a car chase scene that starts in daylight and ends at night. Unless someone is going to say, “oh no, the sun is setting” then you can’t have this happen. And some of the cheesy lines and unintentional comedic scenes… It’s just shocking that a director of this magnitude would let this kind of film making happen.

Another really big issue I had was the fact that this movie moves so quickly but yet is almost three hours! How does that happen? That’s when you know you’re trying to accomplish too much. All these characters are solid but they get no time to shine, and they all have to somehow integrate with Bruce Wayne/Batman, and everything just feels forced. Nothing felt natural. Though Selina Kyle and John Blake are great individuals and characters in the Dark Knight Rises, their presence was shied away from a bloated plot that really didn’t need their involvement. And talk about unnecessary. Juno Temple’s role as Kyle’s sidekick. Wow, literally waste of film.

I didn’t hate everything about this movie. I actually liked it in the beginning, kind of. I was conflicted. I thought there were so many flaws but I still was fixated by what was going on, and then it lost me. With it’s overplayed messages about society and the current state of our country, to the whole idea of Batman breaking completely and rising from new ground. It was just so arrogant and sometimes pretentious. There’s just way too many themes that are trying to be discussed that no theme really excels. Whatever message you want to send to your audience, the message has to come within a package that resembles a good movie. This, unfortunately, is not delivered.

I did not come into this movie with high expectations. I did not come into The Dark Knight Rises hoping for as good or better than The Dark Knight. The movie doesn’t fail because it doesn’t live up to its predecessor. The movie fails because it’s not a good movie. Everything about this final installment yells laziness. Cutting corners. Making sure I make the movie I want to make and put these elements in here, and we’ll get it done no matter what. Nolan has the resume to make whatever movie he wants. And my opinion means absolutely nothing to him or to anyone who reads this review. But from a fan of Nolan’s and a fan of this series, I thought I deserved better than what I got. Batman deserved better. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight deserved better. But when things get too high, gravity pulls it right back down.

The Dark Knight Rises gets 2 stars (out of 5).

4 thoughts on “The Dark Knight Falls Inexplicably: The Dark Knight Rises Review

  1. Thanks for such an immediate response. It’s rare to get such an impression from a reviewer. Besides what is a review but a critic’s honest (hopefully) reaction to the film.

    With that digression out of the way, I wanted to ask you more about your thoughts on the flaws of the films. In the interest of full disclosure, I enjoyed the film a lot more than you did although I think our final judgement of it might be pretty close. I saw the film as part of a marathon the theater was running and had a pretty good time throughout. I think part of that is my relationship to the source material and the history of Batman as a character.

    My main interest is in one of the paragraphs near the end of the review. You say “But it feels as if nothing was done right in this third film from the flow, the dialogue, the character development and even the fight scenes.” Those are interesting criticisms and legitimate ones too. I see them in the film, especially the flow which feels overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the film.

    Do you see these problems in the other films of the trilogy as well? The way you state it here makes it seems as if this is the first time these elements were problematic for you in the film; For me they always have been. Nolan has had issues with clunky expository dialogue before. While the Joker has some killer speeches in the Dark Knight, there are times when his constant monologue undercuts the idea that he is a crazed man, a symbol of anarchy that is destroying Gotham (for a guy who has no idea what he really wants, he really has a good idea of who he is….and what he wants)

    I actually find the action as a whole better than it ever has been. The staging and framing of the action is a lot clearer that it has been in either The Dark Knight or Batman Begins. You could say the choreography has just been exposed for not being strong as the other films try to trick you into believing but that’s another story. I would have to really look back over the series to say anything on character development. I actually appreciate his approach to characterization and its hard to find flaws in his characters from memory.

    I was surprised by a couple things myself looking over all three films again. His editing really is superb in some places. When you mentioned flow, the first thing I thought of was how tight and fluid some of the opening sequences of Batman Begins are. The sequences with Raz al Ghul are incredibly impressive in how they bridge the span of time between his efforts trying to understand criminality and his training with the League of Shadows. It truly is a great example of the power of cinema.

    The other thing I noticed was how flat I found Nolan’s cinematography. People often love to shower Nolan with praise as a “master of cinema” but I find more often than not that he is often just shooting the most basic angle or “set-up” of the action. Wide-shot, Angle-reverse angle, close-up-reaction, etc. I will admit that his practical landscape photography, often in IMAX, communicates an epic tone but you spend so much time locked onto somebody’s face that you rarely get much of the actual environment.

  2. I agree with a lot of what you are saying. BTW, sorry for the long reply, I read this and wanted to reply with an adequate response, but it just takes time. I actually rewatched The Dark Knight Rises on IMAX for the second time, and I will say the least, that I had a better experienced and enjoyed it more than the first. I also picked up some things that I didn’t when I watched it the first time, but nonetheless, my criticisms and feelings about the film are still pretty much in tact.

    The issues of pace and flow is something that I feel is really important. As a film enthusiast, I specifically look at how the director times his film. If a director doesn’t manage and take care of this specific element in film, that I kind of lose focus and am out of tune with the film, mainly because I feel this is one of the, if not, the most important aspect of a movie. Because if you mess around with the editing and how each character is developed, the amount of screen time, etc. then the movie itself can have a very different tone and focus. With regarding that, I felt Nolan didn’t emphasize enough in this area with The Dark Knight Rises. Yes, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight aren’t the greatest examples of this, but it was done well enough where you don’t notice. But in the final installment, we get this rushed, chaotic pace where we don’t get enough here, too much here, out of place dialogue, an unnecessary scene here, etc. These are things as a filmmaker, one should never do. I make some small movies here and there, and I kill myself making sure that every scene is necessary and is in the right place. And I hope that directors with much higher importance and status can also take the importance of scene structure and placement. This is where I felt most offended with The Dark Knight Rises.

    The action scenes were pretty dull to me, as I do feel with all of Nolan’s action scenes. What’s great about his actions scenes though is the way he involves his actions scenes with the plot. You look at his films, Inception, Batman Trilogy, all those actions scenes are nothing amazing, I mean, they have elements that are just superb (semi flip in TDK and the spinning hallway in Inception) but the reason why it’s so great is not because of what is actually happening, but because it makes sense in regards to the story. His actions pieces are not there just to have action. It’s there because it has purpose. Meaning. It had to be there or else we could not move on to the next phase. This also is done well in The Dark Knight Rises, but I felt that underwhelmed with what transpired, mainly because it wasn’t anything really that spectacular. It felt under prepared, under developed. I’m not asking for some crazy action set piece where it has to be something we’ve never seen before, but I felt really disengaged and uninterested at times considering that it seemed it was put together without as much thought and thinking as his other action scenes.

    I mean, I felt it’s not as bad as a movie as I originally thought and I give a lot of credit to Nolan for trying to do something completely different rather than sticking to what worked in the first two films (trying to be innovative and fresh), but it didn’t work for me entirely.

    • I appreciate any response at all! I understand you’re running a blog (and living a life) and have little time to respond to lengthy comments. Myself I am still trying to catch a viewing of TDKR in IMAX, so I envy you. I’m glad you enjoyed it more the second time. The rough edges kind of smooth out don’t they?

      Your observations on pace are dead on. I think his pacing was superb in Begins but got progressively weaker as the series continued. I do wonder though, how much the writing affected the pace as well. As you mentioned in your review, the film was busy and packed to the brim with story beats. Of course filmmakers often say that the edit is the final draft of the “screenplay”/film

      The actions scenes were pretty slack as well. Part of that I think is due to the fact that Nolan is committed to a realism and/or naturalism that restricts the choreography to very basic fighting and yet it has to work dramatically. This results in pretty basic punch counter punch fighting without the pop of say, a kung fu film. And without shaky cam we see how mundane it is.

      I completely agree that as a writer Nolan writes incredible action set-pieces. I think that is his greatest strength as a writer/director: creating memorable plot twists and moments on film. I don’t think had as many moments as the first two. Although I did find the opening sequence with the airplane pretty thrilling.

      I have to give respect to his ambition as well. The fact that, structurally, Batman has so little time in the final film of (his) franchise is impressive.

  3. P.S. Its nice to hear that you’re a filmmaker. Ever thought of sharing your films on the blog? I think people would be interested.

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