The Dark Knight Rises: So-so Film or Simply Unable to Live up to the Hype?

The Dark Knight Rises (“TDKR”) was good, but it wasn’t very good, and certainly not great. Despite the hype around it, including claims of a possible Oscar nomination for Best Picture, it certainly wasn’t great. To give you some perspective before reading this author’s opinion, you should know a few things:

  1. I’m certainly a geek, but I’ve never been a fan of comic books;
  2. Accordingly, as someone who doesn’t know the stories, I don’t bring backstory into the theater with me, instead requiring the movie (or, as here, trilogy) to stand on its own;
  3. Unlike many comic book fans, I recognize that the substantial differences between the two media (i.e., comics and movies) prevent the movie from staying completely faithful to the original comic;
  4. As far as I can tell, I’ve never allowed hype to affect my enjoyment of movies; and
  5. I give a ton of leeway to films that require me to suspend my disbelief by so much.

I’m going to try to minimize spoilers, but at this point, I’m guessing most people that might find their way to this blog have already seen it. For those that haven’t, if you have any capacity for deductive reasoning, you’re going to be able to deduce what I’m saying, and that’s as good as me just saying it outright. Ergo, you’re being warned:

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

Damn, for an Action Movie, It Sure Did Drag at Times

I really appreciate that filmmakers are making longer movies. We’re paying increasingly higher rates for movie tickets, so they all should feel burdened to give us our money’s worth. Instead of a 90-minute movie, the entire story should be told by adding 30-60 minutes of movie. I don’t want to fault the film for adding an extra 60 minutes, but filling in those 60 minutes with more setup material (for a subplot) is not what I had in mind. There’s enough setup required for the primary plot. I don’t need another round of it partway through the movie. Some of it is necessary, as subplots themselves are important to a film with any significant depth, and we need to understand what’s going on in the characters’ heads. TDKR took it too far, though. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for things to get interesting again, and eventually they did, but if the extra 60 minutes is boring filler, we’re better off with a 90 minute movie after all. (Note: Not all of the 60 minutes was unimportant, so in this case, I would have cut out about 30 minutes of the movie. That’s just a guess, though. I’d have to see the movie again to be sure, so come back here after the movie hits HBO. I’m not going to see it in the theater again.)

Would you like an example of where we could have used some boring filler that would actually make the story more cohesive? Well, then . . .

The Hidden Enemy

Even with a movie where I must suspend my disbelief to enjoy it, it seems a bit much to expect me to believe that a character would spend his or her entire life becoming one of the rich and powerful in a sinister plot . . . to bring down the rich and powerful. Huh? How do you think people get rich and powerful? The lottery? Usually, no. Inheritance. Yeah, sometimes, but all of the rich were targeted simply because they did the things that are required to become rich and powerful. If you believe those things to be so unfair to the less fortunate that terrorism is justified, you’re not likely to do those things yourselves. Sure, it’s a twist that makes you say, “Oh, I didn’t see that coming,” but if you make the mistake of thinking about it for just a second, you then say, “But how? Why? That makes no sense! It’s a twist for its own sake!” Without a better explanation, you’re left expecting a sequel or prequel to explain it all, and that’s not an option.

For comic book geeks, there’s probably plenty of explanation over the decades of writing, but I (and many other filmgoers) are left hanging, struggling to justify what the movie did. It’s Nolan’s job to write the story, not mine. I don’t mind having to make some logical leaps – in fact, I like that movies require that – but this was central to the story and raises serious logical inconsistencies.

Bill Gates is not in the midst of a secret plot to take down the rich.

Casting

I heard a rumor that one of the characters introduced in this movie would be – I can’t say this without a spoiler – Batman’s successor. I went into this movie saying that if this were true, it would ruin the film for me considering the actor that’s playing that character. Well, it turned out to be true, but fortunately I was exaggerating. While the film wasn’t ruined, it certainly hurt. Ultimately, though, it was a good way to end the trilogy, and it made sense that the character was the successor. My issue is with the casting only. I know you all like him as an actor, but he isn’t suited to play that role.

Edit: The Evening Star

One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen was the Evening Star, which was the sequel to Terms of Endearment. (I had a subscription to HBO. I was already paying for it, so I figured I’d watch it. If it makes you feel any better, my life is less valuable because it’s stained with the memory of that movie.) One of many problems with that movie was that it was about tying up loose ends. The movie itself had no meaning outside the scope of its prequel, which is to say the movie itself was worthless. At times, the Dark Knight Rises fell into the same trap. Much of the movie that was dedicated to setup wasn’t even setting up the story but rather wrapping up the prior stories from the first two movies. Yes, it’s a trilogy, but it has to stand on its own. The parts that wrap up the past must do so by representing a step forward so that what’s happening now has actual value. Interestingly enough, the movie did that in one sense — ‘you must fear your own death to reach your full potential’ — but  fell short enough to annoy me. I wanted the current story to be the focus, and it wasn’t.

Most Importantly, the Hype

The hype concerns me the most. I’ve never been one to raise my expectations too high going into a movie. It would seem out of character for me to be unfairly harsh on TDKR simply because people were saying it might get nominated for Best Picture. Still, it’s a possibility I have to accept, and I’m sure something many people will assume. Take all of this with a grain of salt. The bottom line is that it wasn’t a waste of the $5.00 I paid for the movie ticket. (Yeah, you read that right. I paid only $5.00.) The popcorn, however, wasn’t worth half what I paid for it, but that’s my fault.

Again, I reiterate, this was a good action movie. It could have been a great action movie. The Dark Knight was a great action movie. Inception was a great movie. Nolan has it in him. A shame he didn’t end the series on as strong as a note as I came to expect of him.

Or maybe I’m just getting old. Get off my lawn, you brats.

Follow me @GSLLC

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3 responses to “The Dark Knight Rises: So-so Film or Simply Unable to Live up to the Hype?

  1. “I don’t bring backstory into the theater with me, instead requiring the movie (or, as here, trilogy) to stand on its own;”

    Nolan altered/alters the back stories so much that really he just retains the concepts of the characters, or builds a cross-section based on the entire historical arc. The characters in the film are unique unto themselves and their motivations are related to the films.

    “it seems a bit much to expect me to believe that a character would spend his or her entire life becoming one of the rich and powerful in a sinister plot . . . to bring down the rich and powerful.”

    …unless that person is affiliated with an organization like the League of Shadows, which had used economics as a methodology to try to topple Gotham before in Batman Begins.

    “I know you all like him as an actor, but he isn’t suited to play that role.”

    I was skeptical of Christian Bale, and *everyone* was skeptical of Michael Keaton. Unexpected casting can work.

    “Yes, it’s a trilogy, but it has to stand on its own. ”

    Hence all of the “setup” you speak about. Much like TDK, this one stayed self-contained. I appreciated the fact that you didn’t need to see either of the previous two (though I have repeatedly) and Nolan “stretched his wings” here and did things a bit differently. Each one has been a bigger build than the previous.

    “If you believe those things to be so unfair to the less fortunate that terrorism is justified, you’re not likely to do those things yourselves.”

    I don’t mean this in a harsh fashion, but you missed the point there. The “bettering things for the less fortunate” was a smokescreen. It’s very French-revolution-esque.

    In the end, I don’t have a financial stake in the film, so it’s not a matter of great importance if anyone else liked it as much as I did. But I just wanted to leave a few thoughts to some of your points wherein I think you might have been over-harsh and/or not picked up on what the film was “saying”. 🙂

    My own review will be up later this week…

  2. “Unexpected casting can work.”

    Perhaps, but for me, it didn’t in this one instance. I guess what you’re trying to say is that, if they create another movie with the actor as the protagonist, then it might just work. However, they aren’t going to do so. That was it, and it was bad casting.

    “[Y]ou missed the point there.”

    While I see that they were willing to kill the poor and middle class non-police, their goal was to stop those in power who were corrupt. Why? Because corruption hurts the poor and middle class non-police. From the perspective of the League of Shadows, the poor and middle class non-police (and probably some police) were necessary casualties in a war against the elite, so they were hardly seen as enemies. They were probably seen as tainted by the corruption of the elite, adding to the LoS’s willingness to sacrifice them, but it so, they were martyrs, not “the problem.”

    This brings me back to my point. You’re probably right that “rich and powerful” is too broad. It’s really “powerful” that’s the target. Those things are often the same, so both the LoS and those they were “liberating” blurred those lines as well. Apparently, I did too. The hidden enemy wasn’t powerful, but was “rich” (i.e., backed by a rich organization), and was using wealth to help areas beyond Gotham City, so there’s no real hypocrisy there. Point taken, assuming that was your point. 🙂 Nevertheless, I stand by my concern that, with all that dedication to setup, I’d have liked a little less of it in the prison, and a little more of it from after the hidden enemy escaped from that prison.

    “Much like TDK, this one stayed self-contained.”

    It was handled in a way that was, at times, boring. Considering how weak my bladder is, I really could have stood about 30 minutes of cuts from the film.

  3. “Considering how weak my bladder is, I really could have stood about 30 minutes of cuts from the film.”

    Like Bane, I have disdain for weakness. I have trained my body to shut down those functions when necessary, and so should you.

    “Nevertheless, I stand by my concern that, with all that dedication to setup, I’d have liked a little less of it in the prison, and a little more of it from after the hidden enemy escaped from that prison.”

    Disagree. That’s just a matter of opinion. Personally, I liked that – for once – the hero had to work *really hard* to overcome his obstacles.

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