Few comic book characters have been treated with such reverance as Bruce Wayne has by Christopher Nolan. Batman Begins was a compelling character study while The Dark Knight introduced one of cinema’s most iconic performances in Heath Ledger’s Joker. With these two achievements on his resume, one would assume that Nolan could do no wrong with his third installment, The Dark Knight Rises. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. I’m extremely disappointed to tell you that this was an absolute mess of a film, to the point where I’m not sure what the hell Chris Nolan was thinking.
The film begins with a Bruce Wayne as a devastated hermit, holed up in Wayne Manor with his oldest friend Alfred, distraught over the loss of the love of his life and Gotham’s white knight, district attorney Harvey Dent. Meanwhile, the muscled monster Bane begins to terrorize Gotham while the fearless cat burglar Catwoman looks on. After watching from the sidelines for long enough, Bruce decides it’s time to quit his crying and don the cape and cowl yet again.
Here’s where it starts to get weird.
After a particularly rough battle with Bane, Batman literally says, “Fuck this noise, I’m out” and decides to peace the fuck out of Gotham. He picks Alfred up in the Batmobile and hightails it out of town. There’s only one problem: Bane blew up all the bridges leading out of the city, so they’re trapped there. Unable to find a solution, Batman heads home to catch some much needed Z’s.
He wakes up at 6:00 a.m., his alarm clock blaring Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe.” For some reason, he sleeps in the full costume. He’s actually dressed like Batman throughout the entire movie. Anyway, he goes downstairs and is greeted by Alfred saying, “Master Bruce, ready for your big fight with Bane?” After a comical sequence in which he goes through a bunch of newspapers that are marked with the date of the day before, he realizes that it’s actually yesterday. In a montage, we find out that each morning when the Dark Knight rises, he’s reliving the same day over and over again.
You read that right. The Dark Knight Rises is essentially a remake of Groundhog Day, but with Batman.
This whole premise would be fine, I guess – except that Batman never uses his newfound power to his advantage in his fight against Bane. He just keeps taking Catwoman out on dates to find out more information that will help him have sex her. There’s one scene when it’s literally just Christian Bale looking up the Wikipedia entry on “cats.” It looks like they filmed it on a flipcam at Bale’s house. Meanwhile, Bane literally blows up Gotham City every day. This doesn’t even seem to bother Batman. Several times they show him out holding hands on dates with Catwoman, as happy as a clam while a skyscraper explodes in the background.
Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon is largely wasted. He’s mainly used in a subplot where Batman is trying to steal the Gotham City groundhog from Gordon and the rest of the police. No one ever really explains why they have a groundhog, or if it operates under the same rules as Punxsutawney Phil, but anyway, Batman drives off the Batmobile off a cliff while it sits in his lap. Meanwhile, Joseph Gordon Levitt’s much-speculated role amounts to nothing more than a stand-in for Ned Ryerson. Except his character isn’t named that, he’s named Joseph Gordon Ryerson. They literally just melded the actor’s real name with the name of “Needlenose” Ned Ryerson. WTF Nolan?
Also, in setting up this narrative framework, Nolan betrays the spirit of the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman completely. Any time he sees Bane around town, he cowers and hides as soon as possible. In one scene, Bane and his thugs look around for Batman as a bush with legs scurries away behind them. In another scene, he and Catwoman run into Bane while they’re out getting frozen yogurt at Pinkberry. Batman furrows his brow, pretends to look inside and says, “Uhhh, holy shit, is that the Riddler ordering a Peach Decadence?” pushes Catwoman into Bane’s path, and breaks into a full-on sprint in the other direction, tightly clutching his yogurt the whole way.
Sorry to give it away, but *SPOILER ALERT* the film’s ending doesn’t save it. In the climactic scene, Batman finally wakes up the next morning next to Catwoman, he finally falls in love with her, and they get an apartment in Gotham City. That’s it. No mention of Gotham’s destruction. They don’t even tell you if they let Alfred come along to the new place. All in all, I can’t remember being more disappointed at a feature film. It was a colossal letdown.
Great job, Chris Nolan. Way to mess up the last part of what up until now was a perfect trilogy.