Why the Dark Knight Rises could not exceed the Dark Knight?
At the time of writing this article, almost 7 years have gone by since the release of the Dark Knight Rises.
When it came out in 2012, the Dark Knight Rises was arguably the most hyped superhero movie ever. Sure, Avengers had already released the same year and even though Marvel was beginning to gain a great amount of traction, the Dark Knight Rises was a different beast altogether.
After all, the movie was supposed to be a conclusion to the incredible Dark Knight Trilogy. It was a sequel to the universally acclaimed the Dark Knight. Moreover, Nolan had explicitly made it clear that this would be his last Batman movie and probably his last super-hero movie. All of these things were enough to get the hype machine rolling at top-speed.
However, after all these years and multiple viewings and whatever perspective builds up over time, I can safely say that the Dark Knight Rises could have been so much better. One might argue that the movie is still sitting at 8.4/10 on IMDB. However, it was above 9 at one point after release. Also, it has fallen way more than the Dark Knight that is still sitting at 9/10.
But what went not-so-well with the Dark Knight Rises? There are SPOILERS ahead so if you have still not watched either movie, I strongly recommend you to stop reading now.
1. The Dark Knight’s Ending
The Dark Knight was an amazing movie in its own right. It gave us Heath Ledger’s Joker – the unforgettable performance of the late actor’s remarkable career. It gave us the best batman so far in the form of Christian Bale (with the obvious problem of the growling voice, of course). But Bale was perfect in the Dark Knight, somehow exceeding his already impeccable performance in Batman Begins.
However, the ending of the Dark Knight was a pretty tricky point to continue the story from. Basically, for all purposes, Batman sort-of decides to retire at the end. He trades in his reputation as a savior of Gotham to keep Harvey Dent’s name in the clear. What I felt watching the Dark Knight’s ending was that Nolan didn’t had a sequel in mind or that he didn’t really intend to continue.
Now, when the Dark Knight Rises comes along, it first has the tough task of accounting for its predecessor’s ending in a way that feels natural. Of course, as we all know now, they decide to show that Batman is in a self-imposed exile, brooding away in his mansion like some irritable old man. For some reason, he is also shown to be physically weak (due to muscle loss) and it takes him a while to get into stride. This slows down the movie and doesn’t have the same impact the Dark Knight’s opening scenes had.
2. Batman not Being Batman
Apart from being known as the Dark Knight, what is Batman most famous for. Well, of course, he’s the world’s greatest detective. He is also a master strategist.
The guy managed to down the freakin’ Superman!
However, the Dark Knight Rises pretty much glosses over his detective abilities. Some of it is probably attributed to him being out of touch. However, one can’t imagine a strategist like Batman losing all his money and possessions in the blink of an eye. It just doesn’t add up.
To make matters worse, he ends up giving the keys to his most valuable possession (the fusion reactor) to the main villain of the movie. Just like that. Pretty uncharacteristic of Batman as well his alter ego Bruce Wayne.
Maybe, it was important to show Batman making mistakes to show the power of his adversary. But I’m not sure that’s good storytelling. Contrast this to the Dark Knight where Batman is at his peak and yet, the Joker almost wins. This is exactly what establishes Joker as the most dangerous antagonist for Batman. And that is exactly where the Dark Knight Rises fails.
3. A Bad Villain
Let me make it abundantly clear that I really love Tom Hardy. He is an amazing actor and did an incredible amount of great work portraying Bane. However, it was the script that undid him.
In the first half, he seemed like a very serious threat to Batman. The scene where Bane literally breaks Batman is gut-wrenching and shocking. It shows Batman’s vulnerability like never before and establishes Bane as the big bad in town. The Joker gave mental scars to Batman. But Bane showed Batman that he is simply an old man in a cape.
What should have propelled the movie further was this showdown between Bane and Batman. Two men separated by an ideology but equally competent. What could have been Rocky-like match-up between these two stalwarts turned into a whimpering ending.
Sure, Batman comes back from the dead. After being broken, he works hard to heal the body, climbs out of the impossible well, and reaches Gotham again for the final confrontation. When Batman finally confronts Bane in the mayhem of Gotham again, it looks like we will have the greatest superhero fight of all time.
However, that’s when things go south again. For starters, a stray punch from Batman hits one of the venom-tubes on Bane’s face making him weak.
As if that wasn’t enough, we soon realize that Bane isn’t even the main villain. The main villain is Bruce Wayne’s accidental love interest to whom he had also handed over the control of the fusion reactor earlier.
4. The Plot
Ultimately, it all boils down to the plot of the movie. The plot of the Dark Knight Rises was all over the place.
Basically, Bane (working for Miranda Tate aka Talia al Ghul aka Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter) made an elaborate scheme to rob the stock-exchange so that Bruce Wayne loses control of his business so that he hands over the fusion reactor to Miranda Tate.
And then Miranda Tate can basically stand around as Bane separates the fusion reactor from its core and turns it into a time-bomb. To top it all, he sets the timer to some 3 months ahead so that he can enjoy while Gotham tears itself up waiting for the bomb to explode. And by the way, he also wants to destroy Batman by breaking him but not killing him and instead, making him watch the destruction of Gotham on TV.
Who takes risks like that?
Any super-villain, in their right minds, would NOT leave the chance to kill Batman. Any super-villain except Joker.
Also, if your life-long ambition is to destroy Gotham, you better do it when there’s no one to stop you. Why wait for 3 months just to watch citizens go mad? Why even leave a sliver of a chance for the good guys to come and save the day?
Somehow, the plot of the movie was too big for its own good. It lacked the inventiveness of Batman Begins or the chaos element of Joker. A large part of the movie didn’t had any bearing to the ending where it all comes down to who had more firepower.
Nolan’s movies are thematically clear. However, with the Dark Knight Rises, even that was lacking a bit. The movie was supposed to be Batman’s rise from the ashes. Instead, the Batman is on screen for hardly 15-20 minutes. Most of the time, we see a crippled Bruce Wayne or a dying Bruce Wayne.
So what do you think about the Dark Knight Rises? Do you think it was superb? Or do you also think it could have been a lot better?
Sound off in the comments section below.