It has been eight years since Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) fell to his death. In that time, over a thousand violent criminals, under new laws inspired by Dent’s death, have been put away. Now, with the city in peace, there is pressure to repeal the law, kick out Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), and move on. The peace, however, is about broken by Bane (Tom Hardy), a super-strong villain with an army of dedicated mercenaries. There is talk that he is a child born in The Pit, a deep, dark prison, who did the impossible and climbed out. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has lost all his money due to some machinations (involving sexy, able burglar, Selina, the Cat, (Anne Hathaway) and must put the company in the power of Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) so that a prototype fusion energy source, convertible into a massive bomb, stays out of the wrong hands. There’s also John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a beat cop eager to do good who seems to know Batman’s identity (and Johnny on the Spot for many dramatic events).
The story is a good one, no question, but it is not made as carefully as it could have been. The pieces don’t need putting together, but rather things need to be done (but aren’t). It’s like everyone (in story) just got lazy. The drama is more reliant on Batman’s human side and personal relationships. That’s useful in tying up the trilogy, but not at the cost of telling a full story with a mature plot.
There are some significant imperfections. Examples. When Gotham falls under “martial law” for five months, they don’t establish the environment. Everything just moves ahead with the impatient speed of a drum beat. Go go go go go go go. This is five months of anarchy we’re talking about, and yet everyone is clean shaven and well nourished. The same is true of The Pit. In fact, I’d call The Pit a general failure. Bane knows the dark because of his time in The Pit, but when we go there I wouldn’t describe it as dark so much as an Afghani cave. Imagination aside, it goes along in that same even pace while [Spoiler] bulks up and tries to climb out.
These are problems of production, but also of editing. There’s a scene where cops, including Blake, are under fire from a sniper behind them. A few cops go down to sniper fire, but Blake stays on hold taking cover, as if preparing to jump out towards an enemy in front of the car. But the sniper’s behind him who just runs out of time before he can take Blake out. Blake isn’t a coward, but is able (supposedly), so what is he doing? It’s just a blunder. One of any number of Blake-oriented blunders like his taking a wee break while he’s supposed to be evacuating the city. Okay, that’s a script error, but somebody should have picked it up.
Since I’m talking about characters, I’d like to call out Anne Hathaway as a far better Catwoman than I anticipated. She was a strong character with her own will and agenda and, as I said, immensely capable. She is someone we needed to establish in The Dark Knight (2008) and kept involved far more in The Dark Knight Rises. Sadly, she was made and unmade in this movie and didn’t get her due. She suffers the exact inverse of Blake and Gordon, who never became interesting enough to get out from their portrayors’ shadow. Whenever she was on screen, I was confident in something cool happening, whenever they were on screen, I was consistently disappointed in their Keystone Copping.
The film has the most comic book feel of the trilogy. Super-strong psycho, a costumed hottie thief, a silly remote location (without sense or explanation)–all tend to undo the kind of arms-length realism Nolan built up over the last two films. That’s not necessarily a bad thing so long as they’re done with conviction and intelligence. But only one of those turned out to be the case.
Music from Hans Zimmer is good, as usual, but not as varied as it was in Inception (2010), nor given the room, free of explosions or screams, to be comfortably enjoyed. The result is that I only heard it because I listened for it. Still, as I say, it was unvaried, with only one or two themes.
I wasn’t immensely pleased with The Dark Knight, and wondered at people’s response to the movie. I felt Batman Begins (2005) was a cleaner narrative with a well-balanced plot and resolution. The Dark Knight, on the other hand, kept beating the dead horse of Batman’s relationships with, in my view, a more childish idea of romance while also expanding the number of main characters without enough time to establish them (probably because they–Dent and Dawes–weren’t very interesting characters). What do you get when you focus too much without enough time? A slide show. In The Dark Knight Rises, they doubled down on that formula of expanding focus but then expanding the runtime by about ten minutes.
I’m being pretty rough on a movie that I basically enjoyed. I saw that Ebert had given it three stars and thought he might have missed a trick, now I think he’s probably right (I’ll have to read it next). The movie needed to be better because it is supposed to be the last. The story does, very very very much, leave open a new series of films, but I don’t expect Nolan to be involved. Perhaps co-writer, Jonathan Nolan will take over.
Take a look, but I’d recommend the matinee. Oh, and there is no extra scene.
Second thoughts after a second viewing:
At the end, Gordon reads an amalgamation of the very end of A Tale of Two Cities, but appears to be reading a passage somewhere around the middle of a book. What a dumb detail to get wrong.