Now more than ever, it is important to go and see The Dark Knight Rises. So in a sense it is not that important, whether it is a good movie or not. But a show that everyone sees is a grand opportunity for discussing the principles of writing and story, so I am going to take a brief pass at it.
This is only a partially successful story. Bigger is not better. The plot’s overloaded with exposition, and it sags in the middle like an underdone pancake, which should be fatal in an action film. If and when you go, you will be able to tell when I mean — the audience will shuffle, sneak out to the restroom (it’s a bladder-aching 164 minutes long), or scrunch candy wrappers. But it’s a great Batman movie, fully displaying how heroic you have to be to climb into a bat suit and fight crime. There’s lots of yummy bits that will make a fannish heart glow; the movie walks the line between originality and faithfulness to the mythos perfectly. His toys! his tech! his vehicles, OMG! Catwoman is wonderful, Commissioner Gordon is great, and keep an eye out for the hint of a Bat successor. Bookended by a slam-bang beginning and ending, the work hangs together, both as an individual movie and as the conclusion of a trilogy. The makers had the courage of their convictions, bringing Batman to an actual ending. In the movie universe — or, at least, THIS movie universe — he’s done, and he’s not coming back. (What this will do to a proposed Justice League of America film I have no idea.)
Where did it go wrong? The large answer to that question is, when they decided each movie had to top the previous one. This forces each one to be more epic, more disastrous, more stupendous — and you can’t do that believably. (What must realty prices be, in Gotham? Is anyone at all willing to live there any more?) In the smaller sphere, if I had to put my finger on a point of fail, it is Bane. A tedious 80s relic from the outset, he drags along with him the silly break-the-Bat plotline. Combined with the need to top the previous film, it makes this one not only suspend your disbelief, but hang it by the neck until it’s dead. (I am omitting a whole raft of spoilers here, but nurses and doctors will be annoyed by this movie.) Batman has such a deep rogue’s gallery, there was no need to resort to second-string yawn-makers like this. CGI could have brought us a terrifying and convincing Clayface or Man-Bat; the noir sensibility could have been magnificently met by the Ventriloquist, and if you want SFX a Mr. Freeze, now tragically equipped with his wife Nora, would have been a tearjerker. None of these villains could carry off a “destroy the entire city” plot, but how about if you don’t do that?
Since there’s a definite ending to this Batman, I expect we won’t see another Bat movie for a while. The buzz about a JLA film is not encouraging, ignited as it is merely by the box office of The Avengers. No more megastupendous worldsaving, guys! How about scaling it down, and giving us a nice simple bromance? A sincerely-crafted Superman-Batman movie would be a lovely thing to see. Or step out of the Bat universe entirely, go around, and come in from the other side. Give us that long-promised Astro City movie about the Confessor!
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