Nathan Jones, like a battered Bruce Wayne, has been dumped at the bottom of a pit of frustration by Christopher Nolan and his media admirers, including our own J.H. Ramsay. A month after it’s release, he’s beefed up and set out to break the back of The Dark Knight Rises.
I went to see The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX the day it opened and as the film rolled I gradually realised that this movie was going to let me down deeply. I left the cinema consigned to the belief that the Batman finale would get a pretty mediocre review in most papers. It wasn’t bad, far better than The Avengers, but it wasn’t the film that Gotham deserved: what was set to be the greatest ever superhero trilogy fluffed its last act.
I was wrong. Most people loved it. My girlfriend, sitting in the seat next to me, loved it. When these things happen I’m thrown into existential crisis. How can I have hated the same movie that everyone else loved? I need to restore my faith in the objective quality of film. I’ve been wrestling with it for weeks, scowling with inner anguish whenever I see a ‘Rises’ poster boasting a swarm of five star reviews. It is for this reason that I dare to incur the wrath of the Saint comment box. Much like the Dark Knight himself, you’ll hate me for it, but that’s the point of Batman; I can be the outcast.
This is not a review. It’s a bit late for that, and J.H. Ramsay pretty much devoted his Saint review to the good side of the film already. I’m pointing out the negatives, the ones which I saw as glaring; and there will be spoilers.
Plot holes don’t necessarily break a film; the whole thing relies on an illusion. There were plenty of problems with the Joker’s complex plan in The Dark Knight, but we didn’t notice because our belief was suspended. Christopher Nolan pulled off a film about dream spies in Inception; he’s a master of illusions. This time though, I couldn’t help but see through the smoke and mirrors.
The way the film dealt with the character of Bane really ruined it for me. His story originates in The Pit, a prison that is “hell on Earth”, out of which Alfred says Bane has risen “from the darkness”. Bane’s back-story seems to hinge on this place and how terrible it is, but when the audience is introduced to the prison through Bruce Wayne it’s not that bad at all. For starters this Pit is filled with really nice people, especially the two in Wayne’s adjacent cells. One is an old sage who imparts friendly advice; the other is a doctor who performs spinal surgery on Bruce for nothing. Bruce gets in no fights, prisoners are always on hand to chant encouragement, and he certainly doesn’t get violated in the showers. This is possibly the nicest prison in movie history. Even the prison Bruce is in in Batman Begins was FAR WORSE THAN THIS. I guess it had the plague once, but that doesn’t exactly qualify Bane to be such a nutcase. How many cancer survivors do you see leading armies of mercenaries?
The Pit prison wasn’t Bane’s motivation; it’s just 45 minutes of irrelevance. We see Bane go from helping a little girl to becoming a psychotic harmonica face who wants to kill a city. Bane’s character is formed off camera. We have no idea why Bane unquestioningly follows Talia Al Ghul to complete her father’s mission, especially considering how her father hated Bane.
Alright, the prison could be a vehicle for Batman’s resurrection. But aside from the fact that Bruce Wayne is a pretty decent free climber, what does his imprisonment really show? He surmounts most of his obstacles, including a broken back, pretty easily and without mental dilemma. The pit is a huge chunk of the plot that is completely counterproductive.
Outside of the prison things are no better for Tom Hardy’s baddie. Aside from Bane’s great introduction, the villain rarely seems to contribute anything meaningful to the film. Bane starts out as truly menacing. He causes great pain almost unthinkingly; his blithe speech belying devastating and unpredictable violence. However, his promisingly fascinating role as a revolutionary anti-hero is scrapped pretty quickly when it turns out he just wants to blow up everything with a nuclear bomb. All of Bane’s revolutionary rhetoric is a lie; his devotion to Talia means that he has been an unthinking servant all along. In the month it takes for the bomb to go off, Bane is condemned to wander Gotham’s streets; yawning through his morphine snorkel as he waits for something to happen. And then there’s his death. Bane’s weakness is, apparently, being punched repeatedly in the face before being shot with a big gun. Compare this to the Joker’s final confrontation with Batman and you should share my disappointment. Scarecrow made Batman face and harness his fear, the Joker preyed on his moral immovability. Bane, on the other hand, is just physically stronger than Batman; that’s all he brings to the table.
So that was why I couldn’t hack the Bat. I’m not venting because I hated the film (it was pretty good) but because I get uncomfortable when an imperfect film like this is so highly praised. People need to keep their standards high or movie makers won’t try. In an otherwise well written review The Saint’s own J.H. Ramsay calls the film “near perfect”, admitting that “it gets shaky at parts”. Why would you give a film a 10/10 rating for being not quite perfect? This is a fallacy that huge chunks of the media are guilty of committing. We really owe it to the art of film to make a fuss when we don’t think someone’s doing it right. Although Christopher Nolan is admittedly some kind of god, sometimes his followers need to question their faith.