Last year, I wrote reviews for every superhero movie that came out and this year, I’ve slacked quite a bit. I wanted to sit down and write an Avengers review, but there were only so many ways I could write, “I love this movie.” I wanted to try and write a review for Amazing Spider-man, but there are only so many ways I could say, “this is better than Sam Raimi ever did.”
Then, I saw Dark Knight Rises and after sharing my displeasure on Facebook and Twitter, and getting questions about how I could hate the movie, I decided it was best to get all my thoughts together. Please know two things before going on:
1) Spoilers are ahead (duh).
2) I hate that I’ve gotten to this point. Popgun Chaos was started to share the things I love and I take no pleasure in ripping this film apart.
So, let’s move on to some overly polemical statements followed by justification for those statements.
This isn’t a Batman movie – I hope that I don’t have to defend this because it’s pretty apparent. Batman is barely in this movie. Joseph Gordon Levitt is the star of the film, and while he’s great, I didn’t go to this movie to watch Joseph Gordon Levitt play hero cop. If I am going to a Batman movie, I expect to see Batman . . . especially in the third film of a franchise.
As I left the movie theater, I saw a group of kids leave the movie and I realized that they had to have been bored the whole time given that the hero of the movie didn’t show up for more than maybe 30 minutes of combined screen time.
Batman is no real hero - For three films now, we have seen Bruce Wayne struggle as to whether or not he wants to be a hero. While that may work for the first movie, the second and third films have now shown us that Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman because of some quest of vengeance in the memory of his parents, but because he was in love with Rachel Dawes. Once Rachel is dead, he has no motivation anymore and has given up being Batman FOR THE PAST EIGHT YEARS! This is heroism? This is being selfless and “giving the people of Gotham everything” (as Selina says in the film)?
And, given that Batman had been retired for eight years, doesn’t that just mean that he was Batman for maybe a year to stop Ra’s al Ghul, the Scarecrow, and the Joker and that’s it? It’s absurd to think that the people of Gotham would look up to a guy who barely did anything and then retired for eight years.
Honestly, other than beating up a couple of costumed villains, how is Batman a hero? How has he inspired anyone?
What does Alfred want?! – One minute, Alfred is giving long speeches about how Bruce Wayne needs to be a hero, then after Bruce is Batman again, he is giving long speeches about how Bruce shouldn’t be Batman! MAKE UP YOUR MIND, OLD MAN! And then, he just leaves the movie as if Michael Caine had better things to do than be in this stupid film.
Seriously, in three movies, Alfred has been the most inconsistently written character I’ve ever seen.
“Real” American Hero - one compliment that is constantly thrown Nolan’s way is how “real” Batman is, but these films are no more “real” than a giant, psychic octopus killing New York City when one really thinks about it. I mean, what do people mean when they say that these movies are “real”? Is the flying car “real”? How about the deus ex macguffin that can supply Gotham with clean energy or be turned into a nuclear weapon with the touch of four buttons?
I guess what people mean by “real” is that Nolan’s Batman franchise is dark, brooding, and depressing. Of course, the story of a lonely orphan on an obsessive quest for vengeance that leads to his destruction is a dark story, but this movie was hero-destroying pornography that was more preoccupied with tearing apart an icon than inspiring others. Batman is destroyed in every way possible, much to the delight of audiences. So, what does that say about us?
Maybe we don’t want inspiring heroes who do good things and never give up on us. Maybe we feel like our heroes have abandoned us and this is how we get back at them . . . by dragging Batman through the mud rather than crafting a story where he is clever, wonderful, and inspiring.
Of course, my favorite Batman story, “R.I.P.” did something similar by having a drugged Bruce Wayne wandering the streets of Gotham, but the comic was strange, obscure, bizarre and beautiful. It was about identity and how no matter how bad things look for Batman, he always has a plan.
This movie was a dark meditation on how hopeless the world is and how Batman isn’t really all that special.
Plot holes - These are too numerous to really go into and I didn’t take hard notes as I subjected myself to this movie, but there are enough to hurt the film’s credibility. The biggest in my mind is that Bruce is put in Bane’s prison in . . . um . . . Tatooine, and once he finally (and mercifully because it took so long to get past this annoying plot contrivance) escapes, he is penniless and without an ally in the world and he just somehow makes it back to Gotham. No explanation as to how he could just make it back. He just is.
Also, Joseph Gordon Levitt can figure out on very little evidence that Bruce Wayne is Batman and that Batman didn’t kill Harvey Dent, but he can’t figure out that Jim Gordon has been lying this whole time? And, why would he be so indignant to Gordon once the truth has been revealed?
Speaking of Jim Gordon, why would he write his big confession speech down and then just carry it around on himself the whole time? The night at the charity event couldn’t have been the same night Gordon was taken by Bane, so he just wears that jacket all the time with the secret, horrible confession written on it so he could whip it out any time he wants to admit he is a bad person.
Worse than that, why do people believe Bane when he reads Gordon’s confession? He is a terrorist in a mask that had blown up most of the city and threatened to set off a bomb that would destroy the rest! HOW IS THIS MAN TRUSTWORTHY?!
Also, the passage of time in this film was really weird.
Wait . . . you’re telling me that JGL is some normal, average cop and he can replace Batman – a billionaire who trained with assassins?
Christopher Nolan has no respect for the franchise - While the idea that Batman is more than just Bruce Wayne is fine in theory, it fails in the practice of this movie. In the comics, Batman trained partners in order to establish a legacy. Nolan’s films have a Batman who was a hero for maybe a year and then disappeared.
The last fifteen minutes of the movie are the most insulting, however. Joseph Gordon Levitt’s full name is revealed as “Robin John Blake” and he seems to decide to become the new Batman. If the character was “Richard Grayson,” “Tim Drake,” or even “Jason Todd” or “Terry McGinnis,” I would have been okay with it. But, random character with a name that is an allusion to Robin is insulting. It acknowledges a character tacitly, but asserts Nolan’s refusal to craft a movie that is true to the source material. I mean, how hard is it to name Selina Kyle’s friend “Holly”?
Further, it shows the vast difference between Marvel films and DC films. Marvel movies are full of winks, nods, and references to other characters and stories while DC films always seem so small in comparison. There are no other heroes in Nolan’s world. There is only Batman and the five villains that he fought a few times in ten years and that is just so damn small compared to how beautiful and wild comics can be.
Maybe this is what people mean by “real” – which is “small” and “boring.” One hero and five villains in an entire world where there is so much potential for greatness and stories.
I forgive Joel Schumacher – I never thought I could forgive the man who ruined Batman so many years ago, but I have because of The Dark Knight Rises. See, Joel Schumacher never saw the potential for a Batman movie – he thought of them as “just comic books” and therefore felt no responsibility to make them anything more than flashy, trashy films. His mentality was completely wrong-headed, but at least he didn’t have any pretentions about what his movies were and what they weren’t.
Christopher Nolan knows better. Dark Knight was a great movie about the precarious balance of chaos and order and how far both sides will go. That movie showed that Nolan knew how to make a comic book movie with substance and with Dark Knight Rises, he failed so miserably that it’s embarrassing.
Furthermore, when Schumacher left, Batman movies could still be made. Nolan has left the franchise in such a state that another Batman movie isn’t conceivable in the near future.
Yeah, I can hear you now, you’re screaming at your computer and saying, “BUT WHAT ABOUT JOSEPH GORDON LEVITT AS THE NEW BATMAN?!” He’s exactly the problem, because from here, audiences will have two different mindsets:
1) If Joseph Gordon Levitt isn’t Batman in the next film, they will be confused because of how this movie ended.
2) If he is Batman in the next film, then there will be people who will say “Wait, isn’t Bruce Wayne Batman?”
Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.
Also, the DC motto for the past few years has been bringing in the most recognizable alter egos to the heroes themselves. Hal Jordan is Green Lantern. Barry Allen is the Flash. Bruce Wayne is Batman.
(okay, so I don’t forgive Joel Schumacher, but I now hold Nolan in the same contempt or worse).
I can’t say “what I would have done” because it isn’t my movie. I can, however, say what I wanted from a Batman movie, so here it is:
- I want a batman who never gives up – not one who was Batman for maybe a year and then quit for 8 and returned for no reason.
- I want a hero who soldiers on because it’s the right thing to do rather than quitting because his girlfriend is gone. Or a hero who is just obsessive because he lost something when his parents died that he can never get back.
- I don’t want “real” Batman because real life sucks as this movie has made abundantly clear. I want mad, daft, awesome, cool, confident, beautiful, insane Batman.
I’m going to go watch Mask of the Phantasm to see Batman done right.
Sam said everything I wanted to say in a much shorter space:
“This was a fantastic movie about a GCPD detective. One of the best I have ever seen…about a GCPD detective. He was both the star AND the real hero of the film. However, as a film about batman…”concept” or reality…it missed the point. Which just propagates my dislike for batman in general. He bores me incencently. I would much rather watch a comic book movie than a boring movie that uses a comic book character to create some point about humanity just because the director didn’t want to actual READ the source material.”