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Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

By Scott Tibbs, August 6, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting end to the Batman trilogy, and completes Bruce Wayne's character arc while leaving room for an expanded universe in the future.

First, it was nice to see Bane presented as a serious threat, after the character was criminally misused in Batman and Robin. Bane methodically wore Batman down before breaking his back and putting him out of action for an extended time in the "Knightfall" storyline in the 1990's, but Batman and Robin portrayed him as a mindless oaf who was easily defeated by Robin and Batgirl. In Rises, he is a legitimate big bad who takes Batman down.

Bane's Venom steroids should have been in the movie, as Venom is an essential part of Bane's character and it would have explained his super strength, including punching chunks of concrete out of pillars with his bare hands. The final fight scene would have made more sense as Bane was weakened when Batman broke Bane's mask.

We get that iconic scene in Rises as Bane brings Batman down across his knee to finish their fight. Batman put up much more of a fight than he did in "Knightfall" but that is understandable given the context. Bane tosses Batman into the prison where he languished for years, and we have one of the silliest scenes I have ever seen in a movie that is not an intentional farce. Batman has a ruptured disc in his back, so a "doctor" in the prison basically punches Batman in the back to put it in place.

No. You can't do that. The human body does not work like that. If anything, that sort of "medical treatment" would make Batman much worse. I would be willing to suspend disbelief if Batman took some of Bane's Venom steroids or had there been some sort of sci-fi explanation similar to the Bat Knee Brace we saw earlier in the movie. Dark Knight Rises loses a full letter grade due to that silly scene.

Christian Bale portrays Batman well, though the raspy voice he uses is still silly. He did not look terribly convincing in the fight scenes, which was not his fault. The problem is that the armor he wears in the movie which limits the mobility of the actor too much. Future Batman films need to find a good middle ground between the tights Batman wears in the comics and the armor he wears in the movies.

I do appreciate that Batman has respect for human life, even if it is inconsistent and often hypocritical. As great as Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie was, having Batman straight up murder people is not consistent with the character. Yes, I understand that Batman often murdered people in the Golden Age, but that has not been part of the character since the Silver Age. In fact, one could make the argument that Batman is immoral for not killing the Joker knowing that the Joker will simply escape from Arkham and kill a lot more people.

The problem here is that Batman is not consistent. You cannot have the character take away Catwoman's firearm and scold her by saying "no guns" and then use guns when he is riding his Batcycle or his Batplane. He either uses guns or he does not use guns. You cannot have it both ways. As it is, Batman gets completely owned by Catwoman when she shoots and kills Bane with the Batcycle's cannons in order to save Batman's life and says something to the effect of guns being necessary sometimes. Batman is supposed to be the hero, but the movie does nothing to convince the audience that Catwoman was wrong and Batman is right.

I found the political undertones interesting, with Bane basically representing the terrorist arm of Occupy Wall Street and Batman as the hero of the one percent. When Bane threatened to obliterate Gotham with a nuclear weapon, the military said "call the President" to find out what to do. A friend remarked immediately "Are you kidding? Obama would be right in there with them." Of course, the President does cave to Occupy Gotham and gives them what they want.

One review I saw criticized the movie for having Bane and his partner (a plot twist I will not reveal here) leave Gotham before the nuclear weapon goes off, especially since they knew in advance that the city would be destroyed. I do not think this is all that unbelievable. After all, Muslim terrorists often sacrifice their own lives to slaughter innocent people, so it is not unusual to think that Bane and his partner would be so committed to "sanitizing" Gotham that they would be willing to die with the city.

There was a great scene between Wayne and Alfred where Alfred determines not to help Wayne kill himself that sets up the final scene perfectly, and Anne Hathaway was great as Catwoman. Tom Hardy was fine as Bane, but because Bane is so huge in the comics, it would have been better to have a bigger actor play Bane.

Having the police basically march to their death like lemmings toward the final confrontation with Occupy Gotham made no sense. Are we to believe that having three thousand police officers march down main street armed with batons to see the first several waves get mowed down by tanks and machine guns was the best strategy that Commissioner Gordon could come up with? This reminds me of the second Bunker level in Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64, where waves and waves of enemies charge into the room where Bond hunkers down only to be slaughtered.

Despite my criticisms, this was a good movie. Detective Blake, Commissioner Gordon, Selina Kyle, Wayne, Alfred and Bane were all written and portrayed well, and the mess that Occupy Gotham created was believable. I recommend at least renting it on DVD, bit this one is worth the higher price of the theater.

Final Grade: B