The Dark Knight Rises Sucks. A Rant.

Sadly, Dark Knight Rises doesn’t have anything even remotely this cool looking in it.

I am shocked at how bad DARK KNIGHT RISES is.

To me Nolan, even at his best (THE PRESTIGE, MEMENTO), has never been more than a mildly interesting filmmaker. He’s ambitious in the least absorbing of ways. He’s way too pretentious to really play off the important pulp he seems to be reaching for. He habitually overcomplicates things. And yet I found DARK KNIGHT RETURNS to be pretty engaging. It certainly had many faults (some of them ideological) and it undeniably benefitted immensely from Heath Ledger’s performance. Still, it was enough to encourage me to go see RISES on the big screen.

And that’s how I found myself sitting through a three-hour exorcise in bloated, clumsy and sometimes surprisingly amateurish filmmaking. With every passing scene my initial curiosity turned to a finely honed hatred.

So I am now an official hater. And let me tell you people something. It’s okay to hate. When this much money is spent on the whims of one man’s vision and that vision turns out to be so tepid and have such a huge disregard for the power and grace of restrained, well-crafted narrative, then yeah… it’s okay to hate. Hate with all your heart. In fact, you can hate twice as much if you’re a creator of narratives yourself, because this guy just got paid millions and millions and millions of dollars to cinematically and narratively masturbate.

First, let’s talk about the good (ahhh charity). Ann Hathaway’s Catwoman is, by miles, the best thing in this overcrowded, misguided concoction. Mila Kunis would’ve been better, but we take what we can get. Of course Hathaway is never called Catwoman, because ultimately Nolan is embarrassed to be doing a superhero movie, as virtually every creative decision he makes here proves, but that’s okay, she’s still cool. However, like all things a little bit interesting in this movie, her character and storyline are steamrolled down into a flat, boring, cacophony and no room is spared for a real or lovely moment. Remember the Joker hanging out the cop car window in DARK KNIGHT? God, what an amazing shot that was! What a moment of character clarity created through pure cinema! Well guess what, Nolan can’t be bothered with shit like that this time around and it’s a great loss to the film.

The 20 minutes she’s onscreen over the course of three hours is awesome! Wait, is that more screen time than Batman got?

Good, that was the best thing I could say about the movie. Now that that’s out of the way… let’s start really hating on this thing.

First, the basics.

The music is relentlessly pounding. Mind-numbing actually. I assume the purpose was to distract us from the rickety story, but it actually induces a kind of battered apathy after three hours.

Christian Bale phones in his performance. He plays Batman as a mouth-breather. He actually never closes his mouth when in the cowl. Maybe he cant breath out of his nose in that thing, but he looks like some poor kid at summer camp with severe allergies. Let’s not even discuss Batman’s voice. That’s just low hanging fruit. Bale seems to be incapable of bringing even the slightest touch of character to Bruce Wayne. He basically just plays his own dazed, hyper-sensitive self. I totally expected him, as Bruce Wayne, to start ranting at someone off-camera at any moment, “Are you professional or not?!?!” Dick.

And where is Batman the master martial artist? Batman the World’s Greatest Detective? Batman the unstoppable force of nature? Not here. Not in this movie. This movie is about Batman the whiny self-involved bitch.

The amazing Tom Hardy is completely wasted on this film… and also mostly unintelligible. He somehow manages, despite Nolan’s best efforts, to make Bane seem genuinely dangerous. But this is because Hardy is an incredible physical actor, not because of a single scripted action or piece of dialog.

The script is an absolute train wreck. There are more plot holes and leaps of logic in this film than in THE AVENGERS, and that movie had a Norse God fighting alongside a monster-of-science against giant interdimensional worms.

As expected The Avengers is twice as fun as Dark Knight Rises. What’s shocking is that it’s only half as stupid.

So those are my general complaints. Now let’s move on to a partial rundown of specific logic loops, sustained stupidity and other asinine aspects that shows Nolan is just basically shrugging and calling it an act of creativity.

BEWARE SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON!

1. Bane performs a massive terrorist raid on the stock exchange to make a single trade that causes Bruce Wayne to go broke. Okay… A. Hacking a computer system does not require proximal space violence. You hack from a remote location. B. What you’re telling me is that the authorities didn’t shut down the trading algorithms when the crisis began and that no one later questioned the massive trade that rendered one of the wealthiest men in the world destitute despite the fact that the incredibly suspicious transaction was performed in the middle of a raid that resulted in a destructive, high speed chase – featuring military grade vehicles – across Gotham that would’ve been news all across the world. Got it.

2. Batman and Bruce Wayne are the least interesting characters to the filmmakers here. Batman’s time on screen is minimal and incidental and his actions are boring. It is a Batman film with no interest in Batman at all.

3. Everyone knows Bruce Wayne is Batman. Every single character in this entire movie with more than a page of dialogue knows this. One character knows he’s Batman because when he was a small boy he met Bruce Wayne and there was “the pain of loss” in Mr. Wayne’s eyes. So he’s basically known since he was twelve. One hell of a perceptive twelve year-old.

4. The “Harvey Dent tough-on-crime” bill has ended crime. Okay, a question. In your lifetime, have you seen a city ever go from total social meltdown to a utopian peace so extensive that the police have nothing to do? And if you have, was it because of a single bill that was passed eight years prior? For all of Nolan’s stated desire to make a “real world” superhero film, he needs to brush up on how the real world works.

Toontown has a more realistic governing set of laws.

6. “Your spinal vertebrae is sticking out of your back, here let me just punch it in! GHA! There, much better. Now hang there while we tell you the same story multiple times using only gender neutral language so we can setup yet another lame reveal at the end of the film.”

7. I once saw an episode of Vice Travel where some journalist tracked down a dirty bomb for sale in Chechnya. Yeah. But Bane doesn’t like doing things the easy way. So, even though he’s vaguely of some Eastern Bloc ethnicity, he doesn’t hunt down some fat, wealthy ex-soviet arms dealer to buy a nuclear weapon from. Or just raid the old Soviet stock piles. His plan for getting his hands on a nuclear weapon is to elaborately fake the death of a scientist (via a blood transfusion by the way. Because that’s how they identify bodies that have fallen from three-thousand feet, by blood type). Then Bane has his accomplice invest billions in Waynetech to build a fusion generator beneath Gotham so Bane can use the scientist to steal its core and turn it into a – not especially large – atomic bomb with which he will then hold ALL OF GOTHAM hostage. And you know what? I have just incredibly simplified the plot for you, because it’s all way more complex than that. I saw someone elsewhere online count out 16 steps to Bain’s “master” plan.

8. It takes three months for the US to send a single special-ops unit into Gotham during the largest terrorist hostage situation in history. And because all of the police are underground for five months (don’t worry, they emerge with clean uniforms on. A dry-cleaner was part of the provisions sent down in a care package I guess) the people of Gotham can’t fight Bane’s army on their own, an army which seems to be no more than about 200 people strong. Let’s explore this a little more. Let’s say Gotham is New York City, which it actually is in this ponderous piece of relentless crap. Now let’s say a terrorist and his private army is holding New York City hostage… for FIVE MONTHS! You’re telling me that the citizens of New York, the military of the United States and all the nuclear scientists of the world… are going to let that happen? That the people won’t rise up immediately, that the military won’t have drones flying around constantly looking for radiation signatures or that every special-op, navy seal and CIA incursion spy in the nation wouldn’t have infiltrated the island, or that the scientists wouldn’t have figure out a way to drop EMP pulse grenades across the island to shut down the mechanical device that triggers the fission explosion in the bomb? Nope, none of that happens! According the brilliant plotting in this movie, the authorities would instead spend five months shooting civilians who try to cross any of the borough bridges.

9. An atomic bomb detonates off the coast of Gotham and everything’s totally cool! No worries! Radiation fallout? Na. Poisoned ocean, forget about it. It’s no big deal, really!

10. Not a single emotional moment is played out through acting or action in this movie. It’s all dialogue. This thing is wall-to-wall dialogue. No one ever shuts up and just feels anything. No one emotes, unless they’re talking. They all tell you what they’re feeling. The film breaks the important cinema adage of show-don’t-tell more than any other movie I can possibly think of

11. And the worst crime of all. The co-opting of the OCCUPY RHETORIC. Maybe Nolan is intentionally trying to disenfranchise the movement. At least that would mean he has some balls as a creator, like Frank Miller. Miller is crap now as a creative person, but he has balls the size of Buicks. But sadly, no. I fear this movie is too toothless and contradicting to have a real stance. Instead we get barraged with half-assed political cliches of the moment whenever Nolan thinks it’ll make a scene edgier. Occupy Wall St. slogans are readily and repeatedly spoken by a monstrous, mad, deceiving, mass-murdering terrorist, as well as from a jewel thief. It’s important to note that I’m not mad because I disagree with Nolan’s (non-)politics here. Trust me, if I heard Tea Party rhetoric coming out of Bane’s mouth, I’d be just as pissed.

A member of Bane’s private army occupies Gotham.

I’ll stop there. That’s not all of my complaints, but you get the idea. I am challenged to think of a single scene that doesn’t strain every attempt at suspension of disbelief on my part.

And here’s the real thing, as a moviegoer I was bored. As a human being I was annoyed… but as a writer, as someone who struggles with my craft to just barely make rent month after month, I am absolutely appalled. It is a given aspect of the craft that writers should always struggle to keep our intentions and themes clear and our narratives finely weaved. It is a given that we should leave room in our work for moments and characters and emotions and, yes, even spectacle, to breath. This movie seems to intentionally subvert every basic lesson beginning writers learn. It’s like a deliberate  master-class on how to write absolute convoluted tedious shit.

And now it’s one of the top 20 highest grossing films of all time…

Emphasis on the word gross.

Posted on by Joshua Dysart Posted in Film & TV, Journal

12 Responses to The Dark Knight Rises Sucks. A Rant.

  1. Sam Stormcrow Hayes

    Wow, quite a list and some very valid points. However, I have to disagree when you give Nolan credit for being at his best (even with caveats) with The Prestige and Memento. I think his best is “The Dark Knight” which, when looking at his overall career, almost seems like a fluke. All of his other films fall away short and while they may be interesting thought experiments (Memento, for example), it’s a premise that actually falls upon any kind of reflection (how could someone without the ability to form long term memories, remember that he has amnesia in the first place?) My point: I think you’re being too nice to Nolan!

    At any rate, one of the points that bugged me in the movie was the unstable fusion core. I could see where they might guess “This thing could blow up in three months if it’s not stabilized” but instead, this thing goes off six months later on the exact second predicted as if it were hooked up to a timer — which it isn’t. That’s… kinda stupid. Meanwhile, time is the only factor in the unstable core, not being knocked around as it’s carried away from Gotham. I’ll stop there.

    I haven’t heard it yet, but I guess Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman do a critique of the movie on Smith’s new podcast, “Fatman on Batman.” It might be worth a listen if you’re interested in continuing the hate.

  2. Jeff

    Wow. Spot. On. My thoughts EXACTLY (although you missed out on Nolan’s complete emasculation of Batman by having CATWOMAN dispose of Bane while Batman simpers on the floor).

    Well done, sir.

  3. Jeff

    I walked out not thinking this was the end of a trilogy so much as feeling Warner Brothers just did a Rocky III remake.

  4. m2a3l

    Brilliant. I thought I was the only one. Thank you, Joshua. Thank you!

  5. Aaron

    Eloquently stated. I’m so glad to know I’m not to only one who thought this film was total garbage.

  6. r.j. paré

    The Nolan Bros. & David S. Goyer set out to write a fitting finale to the current Batman film trilogy. The story has it all – secrets revealed, twists and turns, a fall and a rise, redemption and sacrifice…

    For fans of the Nolan trilogy and the Christian Bale interpretation of the character this film resolves story threads from earlier in the series as well as introducing new characters for potential future stories.

    This movie reflects the era in which it was filmed – a time when people have taken to the streets in protest against a system that allows so few to have so much at the expense of the vast multitudes. While this film may reflect some of the Occupy ethic in the motivations of certain characters – most notably Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle aka Catwoman – it also explores the bloody dangers of extremism.

    Like all great villains Bane exploits the misery of the masses. He justifies his actions by presenting himself as a revolutionary. Thousands flock to his message as the wealthy are ripped from their beds and dragged through the public square. Bane presents as Robespierre for the new millennia. He plays Che Guevera for Gotham City, except that…

    It is all a lie – he is in truth a member of League Of Shadows an organization of assassins & terrorists. His reign of terror, as all such reigns thankfully do, ends when the people rise up and reject such extremism in order to re-establish the rule of law. Batman and his compatriots lead the charge… but Bane’s army is defeated by the freed Gotham City Police Department – the people of Gotham.

    Batman has always been a symbol, an idea bigger than the man. As Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne explains to Det. Blake “anyone could be Batman.”

    And that is where we are left in the uplifting moments of the film’s final scenes: a city is doing its best to rebuild; our Dark Knight warrior-hero enjoys his well-earned rewards with his lady fair while the tools of the trade are entrusted to the capable hands of Robin John Blake to carry on the legacy of…

    … The Batman.

  7. Mike

    But, Rocky III was amazing cinema, Jeff!

    Here’s the thing. Dark Knight Rises (and the previous two Nolan Batman films) are sold to us as a “thinking man’s” Batman trilogy. As close to what it would be to be a superhero in the “real world”. Everything has an explanation or excuse for existing on down to Catwoman’s ears! That’s fine if the movie is actually SMART! I think this chapter fell far short of the mark-still better written than PROMETHEUS, in my opinion, but yeah a helluva a drag after watching an adrenaline rush like THE AVENGERS.

    I meant to just come in and defend Rocky III and went off on a tangent. Sorry!

    • Joshua Dysart

      Did someone say something about Rocky III? DKR may have been better written than PROMETUES (I actually disagree, however both scripts are fucking atrocious), but at the very least PROMETHEUS was well directed, well shot and well edited.There are parts of DARK KNIGHT RISES that are practically incompetent on the technical front.

  8. cathy

    Hello,

    While I deeply respect the right of having an opinion, and being free to voice it…I must chime in with total disagreement.

    I don’t care what any of you say! I freaking loved it! Flaws and all.

    I am that 16 year old girl whose parents were going through a terrible divorce and my world as I knew it fell apart and I had to make due with second hand comic books that I would read until 2 in the morning and lose myself in this dark comic universe. At that time could not even begin to imagine that almost 30 years later I would see this universe come to life in a way that my girl brain could never even imagine.

    The fact that it even exists so that everyone can critize it is amazing to me.

    Funny thing is, all those years later and I am in one of the toughest work gigs I have ever had to battle through and like magic, on one of the worst days, I was taken away for 3 hours and never once thought about how tough it can be in the real world. It saved me again, and that is beautiful to me. That is art, to me. To the heart of this girl.

    • Joshua Dysart

      Hi, Cathy!

      While I have no desire to negate your personal experience, and I really appreciate your comment, I think that for a lot of people here, especially myself, comic books were a huge part of our youth and helped a lot of us get through strange and hard times. For me they creatively empowered me and ultimately became my whole career. However, equating this movie with any memory I have of Batman in comics is a tough sell. This was not the Batman of the comics at all. Or at least not of any run I can remember (I’ve been a reader since the Grant/Breyfogel years on Detective). Still, I am glad you enjoyed the film.

  9. Joshua Dysart

    Great review over at Pop Gun Chaos that tackles this travesty of a film from a different angle. Check it out.

    http://www.popgunchaos.com/2012/07/22/dark-knight-rises-and-then-falls-and-falls-and-falls/#more-2531

  10. Cody Walker

    Joshua,

    First off, thanks so much for posting the link to my site! Second, I whole-heartedly agree with this review.

    My biggest problem with the movie is that Batman just isn’t in it and when he is, he is unheroic, too absorbed in his ex-girlfriend’s death, and then he “dies” at the end. If this were a Spider-man movie, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad because the very nature of Spider-man is to be whiny and emo about his girlfriends, but Batman is a soldier. Batman is fueled by the bad shit that happens in his life and he would never consider quitting.

    To me, the quintessential Batman quote comes from Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis where he says, “People think it’s an obsession. A compulsion. As if there were an irresistible impulse to act. It’s never been like that. I chose this life. I know what I’m doing. And on any given day, I could stop doing it. Today, however, isn’t that day. And tomorrow won’t be either.”

    That is a Batman who doesn’t give up. That is a Batman who actually IS obsessed and is so delusional that he doesn’t even recognize that he is obsessed and can’t quit. That is the kind of Batman that I know and love, not Bale’s Batman who has been torn for three movies on whether or not he actually should be Batman.

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