The Dark Knight Rises: A Disappointed Review

After attending a marathon trilogy showing of the three latest Batman movies, my brother Kirk’s summary of The Dark Knight Rises was “okay but disappointing.” Kirk and I share the same taste in films, and we had a long discussion about what went wrong with this film and franchise, which we have followed since before we met Adam West at a car show when I was 4 and Kirk was 2. Here are some opinions, which are mine but are molded by my discussion with Kirk.

Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray DVD

The Dark Knight Rises (Blu-ray/DVD Combo+UltraViolet Digital Copy)

Like the James Bond movies, The Dark Knight Rises has certain strong points intrinsic to the character. Compelling visuals, cool gadgets, slick cars, colorful villains, and intense action are all as expected. The stadium terrorism scene is particularly gripping. Catwoman’s character shows potential.

The problems in the movie replicate some flaws in the last movie, made more glaring by the lack of a Heath Ledger to dilute them. Mediocre writing and poor editing combine to hamstring a great character and dazzling special effects. Undeterred by widespread complaints about The Dark Knight running too long at 152 minutes, Christopher Nolan and David Goyer have now brought us a 164-minute movie.

This would be more acceptable with a better plot and pacing, but instead the highlights of the film are broken up by long digressions into anti-heroic angst and excessive subplots. Displaying a cynical masochism that has plagued comic-book scripting since the 1990s, the beginning of the film drags as it wallows in portraying Bruce Wayne as the poor billionaire’s Howard Hughes, insane, eccentric, and unheroic. The writers’ compulsion to tear down the hero culminates with Bane “breaking” Batman, a storyline I have always found about as appealing as watching my favorite sports team lose the big game.

The film’s forced attempt at a sensational ending, stupidly leaked to the media before the opening weekend, caps off an ill-conceived and illogical plot. The last movie, apparently feeling a need to imitate Spider-Man, wrapped up by suddenly turning Batman into a fugitive for no particular reason at the end of the movie, departing from the thrust of the plot and from the character’s seven-decade history of working with law enforcement. This movie throws in a similar twist at the end, which I won’t spoil here, apart from saying it’s another attempt to generate cheap publicity with the lame device of feigning to kill off a major character everyone knows isn’t going to be killed off. For the money Nolan and Goyer are being paid to portray DC’s most commercially-significant character, they should have the creativity to come up with something more compelling than reheating the leftovers of the “let’s have readers vote on whether or not to kill of Robin” storyline.

Despite these gripes, I’d recommend the film for Batman fans. But it’s the weakest offering of the trilogy, and a disservice to a great character who deserves better. My advice to DC and Warner Brothers: get a writer who understands character and plot development, don’t let the kids drive the Batmobile.

3 thoughts on “The Dark Knight Rises: A Disappointed Review”

  1. I didn’t expect my brother to post a review but I have to say he is pretty accurate 🙂

    DC comics have never struck a cord with me. I was always partial to Marvel comics myself. I think I was spoiled by Superman type characters in the DC universe. It’s hard to get too emotionally involved with a hero that for all intends and purposes is invincible. Batman was always the exception rather than the rule for DC for me. I think for that
    reason I was always attracted to Spider-man. He was very strong and smart but had his limits. The danger was always very real. Same goes for Batman. I still love Superman 2 though 🙂

    BTW why do comic books always initially start off with calling characters *THE* batman and *THE* spider-man. We don’t call Thor, *THE* Thor. Just drop the freaking *THE* next time. That’s always bugged me. Continuing…

    After surviving the Dark Knight trilogy in a single sitting (6pm to 3am on a Thursday night) I found it striking how the Nolan branded movies have devolved over time.

    For my money “Batman Begins” is just about the perfect comic book movie. It’s got the girl, the gold watch, it has everything! It seems to have the perfect blend
    showing the origin story without bogging down in too much detail, its not campy, its dark, and some excellent realistic action scenes. If it were a Rocky movie it would be Rocky 1/2. Rocky 2 being an extended cut of Rocky 1 🙂

    “The Dark Knight” is basically Rocky 3. It has one of the best villains of all time. Everyone loves Joker/Clubber Lane, right? TDK starts off on the right foot with an amazing old school bank robbery in all its IMAX glory. The next action piece involving Batman isn’t nearly as good. Scarecrow is dispatched unceremoniously in a rather weak sequence involving batman fighting dogs of all things. The dock scene from BB is more satisfying than this sequences. The other action sequences in TDK are pretty amazing in comparison. I love on set practical effects so I particularly enjoyed the downtown Chicago scene where Joker’s semi gets flipped. If you watch the special features you will
    discover this was done for real! But where TDK falls apart for me is like Roy said the ending. Why do we need to make Batman a villain again? The logic stretches until it breaks. Gotham’s sensibilities will be irreparably damaged if they discover that their DA wasn’t a “White Knight” after his fiance, boss, co-workers were all brutally murdered by a psycho? Come on! That’s L-A-M-E. Everything about the end was forced and unnatural.

    Also this movie starts a disturbing trend where Nolan begins to obsess over minutia the audience doesn’t care about like redesigning his suit so he can turn his head! and how deal with dogs!!! which seems to go on forever. Is there an unreleased cut scene where this was an important plot point out there because I was actively trying to find it this time I watched the film and it still makes no sense.

    Now we come to the “The Dark Knight Rises”. Prediction: PAIN. DKR is the a weird combination of Rocky 5 and Rocky Balboa. Like Rocky 5 there is no Batman/Rocky for like 80 minutes. Others have commented about how cool the first action scene was with Bane airplane heist but it seems completely ridiculous to me. And I love ridiculous action sequences!

    The beginning of the movie is just so damn depressing. All the main characters seem like they are phoning in their lines like Chrissy from Three’s Company. All the passion is gone. The only sparks of life come from Cat Woman (note I didn’t call her *THE* Cat Woman heh heh). Bane seems like he will be this terrifying villain but even with the back breaking sequence it just kind of falls flat. He’s just no match for Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul who does make a brief Ben Kenobi like appearance.

    Once Cat Woman helps get Bruce out of his funk he dons the Batman costume again and things start to get moving. Batman/Rocky Balboa gets a few new toys to play with but he never really achieves full throttle in this movie. It sort of just limps along. The final fight scene with Bane ends pretty much the same way Rocky Balboa does.

    DKR takes on a even stronger political tone than in TDK. I’m never sure what stance the artists are trying to make. Are they pro-police state or anti-police state? Are they for the 1% or against the 1%. For example, in TDK spying on everyone to stop the Joker is presented as a necessary evil. Fox is so disgusted that he threatens to resign over the matter. Batman volunteers to destroy the technology after the crisis passes. If only we were so lucky. DKR evokes images of the “coming storm” with financial crisis and the collapse of society. Scarecrow makes an appearance as judge and executioner for the 1% crowd.

    I have to admit the ending was somewhat satisfying. I hadn’t thought of Roy’s “let’s have readers vote on whether or not to kill of Robin” angle. Batman has been trying to retire since TDK with Harvey Dent so this ties up that lose end nicely while opening a new door of possibilities with the introduction of Robin and his discovery of the Bat Cave with Batman/Cat Woman are drinking cocktails on the sidelines.

    1. Thanks for the detailed review of the trilogy! (Or should I say THE trilogy!) What I remember about the DC/Marvel thing is that we started off with DC when I was just over 3 (so you would’ve been 1), and I mostly read Batman and Superman then until I was about 4-1/2 when I discovered Spider-Man and started reading Marvel. I liked DC and Marvel pretty much equally until we started hanging around older comic-book collectors when I was maybe 7-8 and you were 5-6 (remember Chuck aka “Snuffy” from church?–he had a little brother your age whose name I forget), and somewhere between then and the time I was maybe 9 I had adopted the general pro-Marvel/anti-DC bias that was prevalent in our age group then. This sentiment started to change in the early 80s when they revamped Teen Titans to compete with X-Men, and I’d say from about 1983 on I’ve gone through phases where I liked Marvel better and where I liked DC better. The first Batman movie Warner did got me pumped up for DC again, as did Batman Begins. I rank Batman Begins as one of the top three to five comic book adaptations of all time. I agree that Neeson’s Ras al Ghul is very good. And Ledger’s Joker was great and made the second movie rank high on my list, also, but in that movie I did start to see some of the flaws discussed above then. That dog-fighting scene you mention was another one. Batman has nothing in his utility belt to fight dogs? However the Batmobile’s awesomeness rolls over all these flaws in the end. I hope they make another movie, I just hope they write/edit it a little better next time.

      (Editor’s note: Following this post, Mr. T has contacted the Comic Book Collectors Club expressing pity for the fool in casting who passed him up for the part of Bane. “That sucka they picked needs to wear a mask to have a mohawk, mine is natural!” T remarked. T also pitied his agent, who he said is a turkey for failing to get him the part.)

  2. Kirk, First Batman was ORIGINALLY known, in the books of the 1940s as The Batman, so calling him that is an acknowledgement of that era. I call him the Batman, by the way. Selina Kyle is never referred to in the movie as the Catwoman, although some newspapers refer to her as the “Cat,” which was what she was called in Batman #1.

    For me, the last Batman movie is a reminder of why I am not a fan of the LAST Batman movie. Logic totally falls apart at the end.

    I saw the movie last night with John Caputo. Now I like the parts with Catwoman, they were the best part of the movie. In fact when she out on her motorcycle, I said, “I want of those.” John thought I was referring to the motorcycle. But the absurdity of the plot takes me out of the movie. And there is actually little Batman here and when we see him, he is not an imposing figure.

    One jolt, the bad guys go into a crowded area and shot a bunch of people. After what happened in Colorado, it was a tough scene.

    Oh, and a few thousand people are killed, but don’t worry. There are no bodies, no aftermath, no grieving widows or children. Dead bodies, from bridges being blown up, disappear as they did in the Watchmen


    It does bother me that police are so inept and that the military is even more so, to the point that it doesn’t make sense. In fact TIME doesn’t make sense in this movie.

    Gotham, Manhattan is taken over, by a bad guy, and there isn’t, even today after 9/11, even a flyover by the military. Just like in the last movie, with no effort, the bad guys not only hold off the military and the police they control them. How? How did they manage such a massive invasion and destruction? The only time the police fire on anyone, before they blow up a bridge for no reason, is when they fire at Robin” and miss at point blank range with machine guns.

    Time flies. The police, all three thousands of them, are trapped underground while Batman, one person, gets rehabilitated and his broken back is fixed. How long? An hour, three hours? Three days? NO! Three months!! Almost four.

    So Manhattan is cut off from the world for four months. How does food get into the island? Fuel? Medical care?

    And the 3,000 cops trapped beneath the surface for four months? Now, in real life we saw the men buried in that mine shaft. But these guys come out, well feed, healthy, with perfectly clean uniforms although they have not bathed in months, and are in perfect physical shape to launch an attack. Hell, they don’t even wear sunglasses after being buried.

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