The Dark Knight Rises: A Very Short Review

The Dark KnightBy Brenda Clough

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!

My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out exclusively from Book View Café.

I also have stories in Book View Cafe’s two steampunk anthologies, The Shadow Conspiracy and The Shadow Conspiracy II, as well as in BVC’s many other anthologies, including our latest, Beyond Grimm.

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About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.

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The Dark Knight Rises: A Very Short Review — 5 Comments

  1. Agreed! The middle, always a problem, sags so badly. And so many plot holes. Toward the end, the music was ramped up so relentlessly, I felt like I was in a bad dance club. But Alfred makes you cry–twice. And I loved Hathaway’s Catwoman. This one was weakest of the trilogy, but still worth seeing.

  2. Google around to find plenteous discussion of flaws and plot holes. This one only rolled across my radar today, the plaint of a rock climber: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/07/30/the_dark_knight_rises_climbing_scenes_don_t_make_any_sense_at_all.html
    What is annoying is that a smaller, less over-the-top film could have been a franchise. You could have many films about the adventures of Batman as long as they were tight, freestanding, and witty. He could be another James Bond. But noooo….

  3. It is more than possible to study – discuss the principles that make for good storytelling without seeing one single Nolan offering. There comes a point when you can’t learn anything more from bad writing – storytelling. It only hinders you. Instead, study all one’s life the good, that helps all your life. 🙂 That’s my modus and I’m stickin’ to it like hot grits on Al Greene~

  4. Mmm. That is like saying that you can study Shakespeare by reading the plays. Well, you can. But they were not created to be read. They were meant to be viewed on a stage, played by actors in a theater in front of a live audience. When you sit in your study and merely turn the pages of JULIUS CAESAR, you’re only getting a thin ghost of what the author meant it to be.
    So yes — you can break down DARK KNIGHT and point out all the creakinesses in construction. It could be SO much better. But, when you sit in the movie theater and -watch- it — do you care? Actually, you don’t. As a movie, it is quite good. Its failures keep it from being top-notch — no Oscar, Batman, sorry! But Nolan is without peer as a director (his INCEPTION is one for the ages, and THE PRESTIGE is a stupendous film); I can promise you that you will be sucked right into the film.

  5. This movie was just crap. Overlong, badly paced, padded out where padding wasn’t needed, sketchy were it needed story and just plain stupidly unbelievable. One of, if not the worst movies i have seen in my life.