It was becoming clear that Nolan was planning to form a trilogy. The Dark Knight ended with Batman on the run, taking the blame for Harvey Dent’s death. It suggested Batman would be hiding in the shadows in his fight against crime. There were no real casting controversies this time. Generally, people seemed okay with announcements of Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway.
After the Dark Knight, people seemed to trust the team making these films. So there was much anticipation when the Dark Knight Rises arrived four years later.
And right from the start? The film kicks off with a nice little plane hijacking by the villain Bane. This Bane appears to be a pretty brilliant criminal and Occupy Terrorist. And yet? The terrific setup from the Dark Knight is not used at all. The film picks up eight years later with Bruce Wayne having retired Batman. The police did their job, so Bruce retired the persona shortly after the events of the Dark Knight. Apparently, no weird bad guys appeared after the Joker. Wayne is in rough shape, physically speaking. The years as Batman took a real toll. He catches Selina Kyle busting into his safe during a party, Kyle is a morally ambiguous character. She is a thief of course, but she is not entirely without conscience.
Commissioner Gordon is deemed a hero, but this is eating away at him…and he keeps a letter on himself at all times confessing what really happened to Harvey Dent. This certainly could have been a real damning situation. Admittedly, I felt it would have been better to bring Two Face back as the central villain, out to humiliate and expose (and destroy) Gordon and the Batman.
Bane starts to wreak havoc on Gotham’s social and financial districts. Forcing Batman out of retirement and into a confrontation, Bane breaks Batman’s back and tosses him in hole. Ultimately Bruce Wayne must climb to the top to get free. The film is a bit on the nose.
It turns out that Bane is teamed up with another villain, who is revealed to have ties from the first film. And their plan just makes no sense. They trap the entire police force underground and plan to blow up a bomb.
What makes the Dark Knight Rises so disappointing as a followup is that it is incredibly sloppy in it’s storytelling. How and why things occur are not fully thought out. The film is full of exciting sequences…but they don’t bring the film together. The film is heavily focused on being a “last Bruce Wayne” story for the Nolan version. But the villains activities don’t really have a satisfying connecting moment. There is, technically, an “Ah HA!” moment. But it still leaves a lot of Bane’s overly elaborate scheming kind of pointless.
As a follow up to the Dark Knight (and Batman Begins) this is a well cast movie full of plot-holes to the point of Swiss Cheese. Catwoman is a fun character, and Hathaway’s performance is great, without drawing on earlier film versions. Freeman, Cain and Oldman are great in their roles, vital to the enjoyment of this film. As a fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he is always welcome, and his tenacious cop Blake (in spite of a “groaner” of a name reveal at the end) is likable…he is also pretty obvious the out of they wanted to make a fourth film without Bale, as the Bale Batman seems to have run it’s course. That Bat Voice starts to grate on a viewer, especially after three movies.
I wish Nolan’s series could have ended on a higher note, but that was not meant to be. We have a movie with some fine performances, some good action scenes and a rather hard to buy into massive plan by villains even taking into account this is a movie about a guy dressed as a bat.