Monday, July 23, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I think the easy way to decide whether you'll like this or not is to say if you liked "Batman Begins" then you'll like "The Dark Knight Rises."  To put it simply, this conclusion of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy has more of the implausible comic book-type elements than the more realistic approach taken in the previous "The Dark Knight."  But it does keep at least one foot on the ground, never becoming too absurd.

Eight years have passed since the end of "The Dark Knight," when Harvey Dent (then going by Two-Face) went on a killing spree.  Batman took the fall for Dent's crimes to preserve the heroic DA's memory.  In turn this has allowed Commissioner Gordon to clean up organized crime in the city and make Gotham City about as peaceful as it's ever been.

Meanwhile, the man behind the Bat, Bruce Wayne, hides in his mansion, letting everyone think he's taken a Howard Hughes-style turn.  That is until he's visited by a catburglar named Selina Kyle, otherwise known as Catwoman, though that name is never used in the film.  She steals Bruce's mother's necklace but also something else very important.

At the same time, a mercenary named Bane has escaped from CIA custody and heads into Gotham.  He has a very intricate scheme to destroy Gotham, with the help of a business rival of Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle, and an army of thugs.  After Commissioner Gordon stumbles onto Bane's hideout in the sewers and is wounded, Bruce decides it's time for the Batman to return, against the wishes of his butler and former guardian Alfred.

I don't want to spoil the Byzantine plot too much.  I will say if you go to Wikipedia and look up "Batman Knightfall" and "Batman No Man's Land" it will give you an idea of where things are heading.  There's a little bit of the French Revolution mixed in too, or perhaps the Occupy movement.  Ultimately it leads to Batman perhaps having to make the ultimate sacrifice to save his city.  If you want a hint about that, think of the end of "The Avengers" from last May.  (And though no one else has probably read it yet the fifth Scarlet Knight story, which I wrote in winter 2010, also ends in a very similar fashion.)

To address what I said at the beginning, there are a few things that were pretty implausible.  The fusion generator first of all, especially a fusion generator that can fit into an armored truck.  At this point even if that technology existed, I'm pretty sure it would take up a very large room.   Also, I'm pretty sure you can't pop your spine back in like a dislocated shoulder.  Even if you could, I don't think you could go running around kung-fu fighting people a month later.  And yeah "The Bat" does not actually fly and probably couldn't.

Anyway, it is a little slow in the build-up.  If you were expecting wall-to-wall action that's not really this movie.  There are some good one-liners and puns, but it's not as funny as "The Avengers" nor should it be.  I mean come on, Batman isn't a funny guy.

The end is great, even if it seems to operate under movie time.  I mean it's still dark when they say "We have 45 minutes left!" and then like the next scene it's morning and the sun is shining.  That's a quick sunrise!  I wasn't happy with the ending for Bane, but oh well.  There are definitely a couple of surprises you probably won't see coming, or perhaps you will.  I'm sure if you watch it again the clues will be more obvious.

It is a great way to wrap up the series, incorporating a lot of elements from both "The Dark Knight" and "Batman Begins."  The latter actually seems to be involved more.  There aren't any mentions of the Joker, perhaps out of respect to Heath Ledger, while we get flashbacks of Ra's Al Ghul and Two-Face.  Anyway, I would suggest doing as I did and watching "Batman Begins" beforehand to refresh yourself with some of the important plot points.

Overall it's been pretty incredible what Christopher Nolan accomplished with these films.  While the Tim Burton ones were nice, the Nolan movies made me at least think Batman could be real.  Not only Batman, but also the villains he faces are not so implausible.  Actually Two-Face might be the most implausible just because of how overboard the FX people went on his face.  I mean no one with that kind of damage should be able to get out of bed, let alone go on a homicidal rampage.

Of course if you really want to know how to be a real superhero, you should read the Practical Superheroism posts every fourth Wednesday, which would be THIS Wednesday.  I'm just saying...

On a side note, I hope people come out and support the film.  You shouldn't let the actions of one lunatic stop you from living your life.  That's what we all said after 9/11, right?  And it's still true in this case.

That is all.

My score:  85/100 (3.5 stars)
Metacritic score:  78/100 (3 stars)

Tomorrow is a Two-Fer Tuesday...


  1. Hopefully will watch it this weekend. I tend to go to movies after all the opening weekend hooplah dies down.

  2. Like I said elsewhere, it totally makes sense, what happens to Bane. In the comics having Bane get his butt whupped (by another Batman) had a certain kind of logic. But once we find out what his real story is, it changes everything. He's no longer relevant, especially after Batman exploits his weakness. The whole movie is about exploiting weakness, and the ability to overcome that weakness. Bane couldn't.

    1. To borrow from the Klingons, I just would have liked it if he'd died a warrior's death. Essentially shooting him in the back was not an honorable death for a warrior of his stature.

      I'm a little curious too why they didn't work the Venom into it. I mean a supersteroid like that is far more plausible than the fusion reactor or the Batcopter. Am I supposed to believe that if I just work out a whole bunch I can snap 200-pound guys in body armor like twigs?

    2. Well, yes. Venom is both the source of Bane's notoriety (outside of breaking Batman) and the main reason some fans find it difficult to take him seriously. Perhaps there's also the fact that it essentially makes him an evil Captain America. Making him the mirror opposite of Batman is a far better bet.

    3. I think with the comics it was harder to take him seriously because he looked like a Mexican wrestler, which is why I can understand changing the mask, though it made him hard to understand and he sounded like Sean Connery or Ian McKellan most of the time.

  3. I too thought that the whole spine popping back into place with one punch was ridiculous. But the rest of the film was a masterpiece. They stayed true to Bane's origin coming from a prison and the whole invention of the Pit and the chanting of Rise really gave the movie a kind of theme.

    As far as "fusion" goes, they have fusion now but can only sustain it for like a millionth of a second. I think therein is the wondrous nature of science-fiction. They are asking the audience to imagine that this existing technology has been improved upon by this world scientist and is now available in a smaller form that could be sustainable but is so risky that Wayne doesn't want to turn it on. I don't have a problem in believing that at all.

  4. Yours is the most thoughtful review of the movie I've seen. I'm glad it wasn't just me catching the similarities in endings between Avengers and DKR -- and interesting to note that both stole from you!

    I hated "The Bat" thing -- too gizmo-ish. That and the fusion reactor were the only things that made me step away from buying into the movie, but my problem with the fusion reactor was this:

    Whatever was happening in that core that made it unstable took place over a series of months; let's assume that the reaction was speeding up uncontrollably, with atoms fusing faster and faster into higher elements, and therefore generating more energy.

    (I've got about 1/1,000,000,000,000th of the knowledge needed for this.)

    In the first place, it's a fusion reactor -- so it generates power (heat) by fusing atoms together. If that reaction is speeding up, it's getting hotter and hotter. But even if you assume that it's staying the same temperature (because they're not adding more fuel to it) then still the problem is that you expect to reverse or halt MONTHS of broken-down reactions in SECONDS?

    They were going to take this thing that had been out of control for 83 days and STOP the reaction just like that by shoving it back in a cylinder?

    I couldn't let that go. If you BUY that fusion exists, then you have to have a realistic premise for what's going on. What they COULD have done was have had Wayne Industries dig a 7-mile deep tunnel directly below the reactor, so that if it misbehaved they could drop it down to the center of the Earth, and then that final chase scene still requires them to get the reactor back to that exact location, with 7 miles putting the blast far enough away to avoid harm.

    Because that's what The Bat did: just took the bomb far away. Also, it was a neutron bomb, which means no destructive blast. Just energy, that would have been in a 7-mile deep pit which you could pour concrete down.

    Anyway, I liked the movie a lot, those two things notwithstanding.

    Why don't you get Julian Darius to do a guest post?

  5. I've been waiting for your review and trying to decide if I should see this movie, and you've helped me make up my mind: I will go see it. Thanks.

    1. Do I have to give you a refund if you don't like it?

  6. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I like the idea of Practical Superheroism and will be back to find out more.

  7. I saw it over last weekend and enjoyed it quite a bit. No where near as much as the previous one, but more on par with the first on Nolan's trilogy. They did make mention that Wayne squandered most of his fortune of creating the fusion reactor, and if we're really going to have a 'Mr. Fusion' no larger than a food processor that runs my car by 2017 then having one fit in the back of a large truck doesn't seem that implausible in 2012.

  8. I hated Batman Begins. I'm more of an Avengers kind of girl.

  9. Pat, I saw the movie yesterday and couldn't think of anything to say in a review that hasn't already been said. But you managed to find all kind of points I wish I'd said. nice job. Three unrealistic parts: One, his body is so broken he can barely walk, but a knee brace fixes everything. Two, what you said about his back. Three, how did he stay ripped after lying in bed for three months?

    1. Really I think the two rational ways to have done this would be A) To not have made him seem so injured to start with, just knock him out and then take him prisoner or B)Do like in the comics and have a substitute Batman, in this case John Blake. I can see the reasons for not doing B because they wanted Bruce Wayne to rise and make the sacrifice. A would have been more plausible but when you're having Bane fighting Batman, the breaking his back thing is what you most identify him with so people would have felt cheated.



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