WARNING: Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie yet and do not wish to have any clue or hint revealed unto you, don’t read this post. Proceed at your own peril.
Here’s the last paragraph of my 2008 post about the second installment in this series, The Dark Knight:
In short, this movie was so good that now I’m depressed because I don’t see how the next one can be as good, never mind better. I hope the producers ensure that Nolan comes back for a third movie, and they take their time making the next one… this one’s going to be damn tough to top.
No movie has ever disappointed me as much as The Dark Knight Rises.
Just kidding, it was awesome. Far from perfect, and not as good as the last one, but awesome nonetheless. Sure, nothing in this movie is as good as Heath Ledger’s Joker, and sure, there were some plot holes, and sure, the villain’s plot got absurdly convoluted at times, but this movie was still a fun and satisfying conclusion to Nolan’s Bat-story.
1. Anne Hathaway was great as Selina Kyle in this movie, but dear Christ, Marion Cotillard is gorgeous. Again, I barely noticed the plot holes.
2. I am not as big a fan of the comic books as some folks are, but I recognized the influences. It started off as a love letter to Frank Miller: heavy on The Dark Knight Returns, with some Year One thrown in (Selena Kyle and her roommate). It then turned into an amalgam of Knightfall (Bane breaks Batman’s back) and No Man’s Land (Gotham cut off from the world). Geeks far geekier than I could ever hope to be probably saw even more Batman stories crammed in there.
3. I also saw two elements of other, entirely unrelated movies in there. The first is the greater stretch: The World is Not Enough. Renard/Bane is the bad guy throughout the entire movie until it turns out that he’s just the devoted henchman of Elektra/Talia. That meme has probably appeared in plenty of other stories, but TWINE was the first that crossed my mind.
The second has also been done over and over again throughout storytelling history. The hero gets cocky, gets his butt kicked and his spirit broken, turns it around, trains and teams up with a former enemy, and returns to save the day and vanquish the villain. That’s right: it’s Rocky III! But the parallels run deeper: Bane’s mask kind of resembles Clubber Lang’s mohawk and beard; both villains blathered on about pain; the prisoner/doctor in the Pit reminded me an awful lot of Mickey. And when Bruce climbed out of the pit, those cheering prisoners may as well have been chanting “Gonna Fly Now.” I’ll stop.
4. Even though it induced groans throughout the theater, I think I like how Nolan almost grudgingly allowed Robin to be in his movie. “No, Robin will never be in my Batman movies! Never! Damn you! …Ok, but only for like two seconds.”
5. My biggest complaint about this movie is the same as my biggest complaint about the last one:
I thought the editing could have been much better. It felt rushed at times, like I was watching a trailer for the movie instead of the movie itself. In stageplays, in television, in movies there are certain moments that need time to sink in. Sometimes we need to spend a few extra seconds watching a character ponder an idea or absorb a feeling before cutting to the next scene, or to the next line in a given scene. […] The reactions were the right reactions for the characters and their circumstances–it’s just that the reactions came too quickly, almost mechanically. […] To correct this would mean making the movie even longer… which would be fine by me.
The most egregious example was when Alfred left Wayne Manor. It was emotional, but the back-and-forth between Bruce and Alfred was stuck on rapid-fire. We needed more time for that big an event in those characters’ lives to sink in.
6. That’s right: this 162-minute movie wasn’t long enough. I even think it could’ve used a ten-minute intermission, say, right after Bane’s “permission to die” speech.
7. However, I think Nolan absolutely nailed one particular moment in terms of the timing: the scene in which Selina tells Batman that they should leave together, that he’d already given Gotham everything he could. There’s an actual, real life, well-timed dramatic pause before Batman responds: “Not everything… not yet.” And then there’s another pause so that we can absorb both characters’ reactions before moving on to the next scene. I think the whole series could’ve used a lot more of those pauses.
8. Andrew Klavan once argued that The Dark Knight was a sort of paean to George W. Bush and the War on Terror. Maybe, maybe not. But I think it’s safe to say that The Dark Knight Rises is at least a middle finger towards the Occupy Movement.
9. I liked how they treated Batman’s injuries from the last movie. He’d been shot and he took a bad fall at the end of The Dark Knight— it was nice to see that they made at least a little bit of a nod to human frailty by showing that Bruce hadn’t recovered completely (no cartilage, some brain damage, some damage to internal organs). He needed special devices to help him walk, and he wasn’t the fighter he used to be. However, they got away from this medical realism by the middle of the movie: I’m not sure that “popping vertebrae back under the skin and then hanging by a rope for weeks” is AMA-approved, and Bane probably took away the motorized kneebrace while Bruce was imprisoned, which should’ve made walking harder.
10. I loved the conclusion. As has been pointed out endlessly, this movie brought the whole story full circle. Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Shadows scheduled Gotham for destruction in the first movie, and were finally defeated in the last movie. Bruce was presumed dead before coming back to Gotham in Batman Begins, and by the end of the trilogy he’s presumed dead all over again. The Batman’s reputation, in tatters at the end of the last movie, has been restored. Alfred is rich, Wayne Manor is now (quite appropriately!) an orphanage, Bruce and Selina have retired and moved on to a new and happy life together… and it looks like there’s still going to be a Batman. Good enough for me.
All in all, a pretty good trilogy.