The Dark Knight Rises

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t weigh in on the tragic Colorado theater shootings that so marred this film’s release…

So I guess I’ll just sit here and be remiss, then. On with the show, folks.

Not counting my previous “review”, this is the first comic-book movie I’ve talked about on this site. And so, I’m laying my cards on the table right away: I don’t read comic books. Never have, never plan to. My experience with the medium comes through pop-cultural osmosis, internet memes in the vein of “The Flash makes his pants out of GOES FAST” and “Lex Luthor stole forty cakes, and that’s terrible”, and various adaptations, not the least of which is Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman, the Dark Knight Saga.

Said Saga, a trilogy that concluded in last year’s climactic The Dark Knight Rises, is probably the most well-known and influential trilogy since the original Star Wars. When I realized this, I decided to prepare for the review by rewatching both trilogies in succession.

I’d like to note that while I’ll be drawing quite a few connections between the two stories, I could easily do the same with pretty much any film trilogy you care to name. Three is the default multiple part story length, because it ties in to the prevalent and effective three-act dramatic structure: The first movie introduces the characters and setting while introducing the themes and tone of the story, the second movie has the hero confront obstacles and fail, and the third has the hero regain hope and overcome the opposing force, bringing a close to their arc. Combined with all the trappings of modern movie-making that so permeate both series, the similarities are inevitable.

But, you know, I’m still going to be making lots of Star Wars jokes.

Thanks, geeksofdoom.com, for making my job easier.

Thanks, geeksofdoom.com, for making my job easier.

We start with a superfluous snippet of The Dark Knight’s ending, with Commissioner Gordon mourning Harvey Dent. There’s a pretty sloppy transition from old villains to new ones, as we then cut to guys getting on a plane. Said guys include two face-concealed hostages, who work for “Bane, the masked man.” One of the hostages remains silent as he’s held out of the side of the plane (a nice connection to Batman’s famous rooftop interrogations), whereupon the other starts speaking menacingly, in a voice that…

…Okay, I’ll make a long story short. The Dark Knight Rises is a fine movie, but a bad comic book movie. I say this because when the realism and grit of the setting is so emphasized, all the comic-book trappings seem out of place. I think Begins did this much better than Dark Knight; whenever we see something too outlandish or strange, it ties back into the themes of hallucination, trickery and fear. Batman calling in a swarm of bats to flush out the Scarecrow really worked for me, because everyone reacted with not just fear, but confusion and shock. This, says the scene, is not something you see every day. Though Dark Knight was a much better film, I felt it was weaker in this regard because we get fewer of those scenes, because people have gotten used to a guy in pointy rubber ears and a cape flying around Gotham City.

In Dark Knight Rises, this trend continues, which means that the few goofy aspects the characters have left get thrown into sharp relief. And the most glaring of these is, of course, Bane’s voice. I honestly don’t know what Tom Hardy was going for with his performance, but I do know you can make a fun game of comparing it to other cartoonish voices – my personal favorite is “Dr. Evil meets Marvin the Martian”.

So, yeah, Bane has disguised himself as a hostage. When asked if getting caught was part of his plan, he exclaims “Of course!”, with shades of Raul Julia’s M. Bison. I’m getting tired of this plot twist, but I’m also giving it a pass, because it all started with the Joker’s gambit in the last movie, and to quote Arthur C. Clarke, “If an author can’t plagiarize himself, then who can he?”

Another plane closes in on the first one, and goons start to slide down ropes between the two. I know that guys sliding on ropes is visual shorthand for “we are trained fighters”, but it doesn’t really make sense if you have two opposing vehicles, both going at hundreds of miles an hour, and the ropes remain flush with both planes for minutes on end, as Bane administers a blood transfusion to a cadaver, before crashing the plane with his ultra-loyal thug on board, who he bids farewell with…well, something. I don’t have any real beef with Hans Zimmer’s music in and of itself, but I don’t like how frequently it drowns out the dialogue in order to burden us with endless leitmotifs and horn solos.

Anyway, the guy in the gas mask who’s doing a Frank Nelson impression blows up the cargo jet, escaping to the other plane via zipline with a nuclear physicist in tow. Remember when these movies were a more realistic and serious take on the Batman universe?

Of course - I mean, who hasn't used their legions of loyal goons to fake a prestigious scientist's death? Why, I did that just last Tuesday for a friend!

Of course – I mean, who hasn’t used their legions of loyal goons to fake a prestigious scientist’s death? Why, I did that just last Tuesday for a friend!

Cut to establishing shots of Gotham City, which shows that Nolan has dropped all pretenses and is now just filing the serial numbers off New York City. At a party outside stately Wayne Manor, Mayor Immortal Dude From Lost proves that the Dark Knight snippet was unnecessary, as he recaps the “Dent good, Batman bad” deal, saying that harsher laws proposed by Dent have kept the city free of major crime for years, making Batman unnecessary.

Meanwhile, Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon listens, haunted by quick-cut flashbacks of Harvey Dent’s half-burned, crazed persona of Two-Face. Commissioner Gordon eschews his prepared speech, about the true corruption and downfall of Gotham’s hero and Batman’s fall guy status, instead talking about Bruce Wayne, who’s become a famed recluse after the retirement of Batman – unfortunately, we don’t get a whole lot of Citizen Kane references, because Charles Foster Kane probably wouldn’t be up to dressing in black body armor and fistfighting wackos. A real pity – it would have definitely improved that room-trashing scene.

Anne Hathaway, part of the catering staff, goes up to Bruce Wayne’s room to give him his dinner. She’s confronted by Bruce, who’s crippled but still wearing full “Batman of the Opera” regalia and Christian Bale’s usual beard. Bruce calmly points out that she’s just stolen his mother’s pearl necklace, whereupon the two start mouthing off at each other with such gusto that the only reason they don’t start going at it right then and there is that she beats him up and escapes via acrobatics and seduction. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Batman’s leather-clad better half Catwoman. Not that Nolan wants you to know that – she’s barely even referred to as Selina Kyle, much less a superhero name.

Later that night, Alfred finds Bruce in the Batcave. He’s found out that Catwoman also stole an imprint of Bruce’s fingerprints. Alfred, who’s impressed, makes some nods in a “you both love subterfuge and technology” direction, which leads to a big speech about how he wishes that Bruce could escape being Batman, find love and settle down somewhere, with a richly-detailed scenario of Alfred on a vacation in Italy, bumping into Bruce Wayne at a cafe and not saying anything. This is the first of many improbable speeches in the movie, and they never stop sounding out of place in the otherwise well-written and natural dialogue. Even though this is supposed to be a grand mythical story, it just feels overdramatic that every single character has perfectly-prepared speeches on their origins, motives, opinions and so on. It starts to seem out of place when Commissioner Gordon brings up the aforementioned prepared speech about Harvey Dent, then turns around and speechifies off-the-cuff about the importance of idealism and heroism and so on.

"There isn't even anything written on this, folks. Wanna hear about why I became a cop?"

“There isn’t even anything written on this, folks. Wanna hear about why I became a cop?”

In front of the long-destroyed Bat-signal, Commissioner Gordon is confronted by Officer Gordon Levitt, who has suspicions about Batman’s supposed villainy. Gordon hastily changes the subject to a rash of corpses being found in Gotham City’s sewers. Levitt identifies some of them as orphans, like himself. He goes to visit the brother of one of the dead orphans, trading speeches on life without parents and working for mysterious crime bosses in the sewers, as the boy listlessly draws a Batman symbol. Like absolutely everyone else in the movie, Officer Levitt is a big Batman fan, and (as the movie’s resident mouthpiece for the people of the city) gives the big, declarative, “We want Batman back” speech.

Later, we join Han Solo in the Mos Eisley cantina – ahem, Catwoman in a random Gotham bar, who is negotiating the price of Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints with a guy in a suit. He has a name and a smidgen of backstory, but he’s virtually indistinguishable from the besuited slimeballs who fail to control the bigger villains, except in that he’s (refreshingly) not a mobster. After he and Catwoman trade double-crosses a few times over, both parties scatter when Officer Levitt and Commissioner Gordon come to investigate the city’s sewer system. Gordon, who goes down alone, is captured, deactivated, and dragged to a Jawa Sandcrawler, where he reunites with R2-D2. Wait, wait, wait, no. Actually, he sees dozens of people who are probably not Public Works Administration members, tinkering with the pipes and concrete of Gotham, before being taken to Bane, who is now shirtless for no other reason than to pay homage to the comics, where he had a Mexican wrestler schtick.

"A more realistic and serious take on Batman"... the emphasis here is on "more".

“A more realistic and serious take on Batman”… the emphasis here is on “more”.

Bane is understandably angry at the henchmen who dragged Gordon all the way there – Bane’s read the Evil Overlord List, he understands the stupidity of showing the hero your secret lair – and gets even angrier when Gordon escapes into the sewer outflow, where he’s located by Officer Levitt the next morning, barely alive.

Later that day, Officer Levitt shows up at Wayne Manor. In the grand tradition of new Batman allies, he’s figured out his secret identity thanks to sharing Bruce Wayne’s orphanhood and hatred of crime. He also reveals to Bruce that his company is now evil and negligent. The only thing keeping the company from being taken over by Mr. B. Suited Slimeball from before, is Marion Cotillard, a miscellaneously foreign executive with hugely overemphasized idealism.

Officer Levitt gives Bruce an entirely different “We want Batman back” speech, and Bruce agrees, shaving his Christian Bale beard and Arkham City-ing his way to Commissioner Gordon’s hospital room. The only problem is that he’s checked into the same hospital himself – he’s in horrible shape, his legs having “literally no cartilage”, which a desultory Google search reveals only happens after decades of arthritis. Whatever, this is a guy who’s trying to regain his strength so he can dress in a pointy-eared cowl and punch a Brian Blessed wannabe in a Darth Vader mask in the face.

But before that, Bruce has to engage in some Stupid Billionaire Tricks: He shows up at a convenient charity ball and ambushes Catwoman, who immediately begins the “Best  foreshadowing line” contest with Bruce. The contest is done in a ludicrously long orbital shot, and lasts several minutes before Catwoman wins with “Soon, you’ll wonder how you could ever live so large, and leave so little for the rest of us.” Reeling from defeat, Bruce wanders around for a while before encountering Marion Cotillard. She’s organized this ball to raise money for Bruce’s company, after they lost billions attempting to develop sustainable fusion power to “Save the world”, as she never stops saying.

But that’s quite enough foreshadowing for act 1: Time for Morgan Freeman to earn his ever-present “And” credit. He shows Bruce the huge secret bunker of various gadgets he’s collected since Batman’s retirement, the centerpiece being a mishmash of helicopter, jet plane and stealth bomber. Freeman introduces us to it with a line that, for better or worse, sums up Christopher Nolan’s approach to making these movies: “The thing has some long, uninteresting, Wayne Enterprises designation, but I’ve taken to calling it The Bat. And yes, Mr. Wayne, it does come in black.”

Yeah, that black just makes it blend into its surroundings. Hang on, what is "camo" short for again?

Yeah, that black just makes it blend into its surroundings. Hang on, what is “camo” short for again?

This approach, of logic and explanation taking a backseat to drama and emotion, is one of the biggest unifying factors between this and Star Wars. Take the famous revelation re: Luke’s parentage. It contradicts almost everything we heard about both Darth Vader and Luke’s father in A New Hope, but it makes perfect dramatic sense: Vader was always a fallen hero who represented the threat of Luke’s failure, and the revelation makes Luke seem even more at risk of turning to the Dark Side, especially with his robotic hand that reflects Vader’s ‘more machine than man’ status.

But enough about creepy, masked British guys with mysterious ties to the hero’s past and mentor – let’s talk about Bane. Alfred reveals that Bane was a member of the League of Shadows, Batman’s trainers from the first movie, and that he was mysteriously kicked out of the League…

Yeah, it’s a ripoff. Good thing we explicitly saw Bruce’s father die onscreen in the first movie… and given that we’re dealing with Nolan here, I still wouldn’t put it past him to justify such a plot twist with lucid dreams, huge sums of money, and Native American mythology, or something.

Anyway, Bane is an old enemy of Batman’s mentor Ra’s Al-Ghul (oh, forgive me, Michael Caine, “Razzow Goo”), who has now taken his place and plans on carrying out Al-Ghul’s plan to destroy Gotham City. This revelation fills Batman with a new sense of purpose, putting on some super-strong leg braces under his Batsuit, as Hans Zimmer tries to rupture our eardrums with the triumph of it all.

The next day, Bane and his goons attack the Gotham City stock exchange, in a sequence that is very hard to make fun of because nothing happens for almost ten minutes: Bane pontificates at the top of his lungs, the cops hopelessly try to rescue the people trapped inside, and Levitt proves that he’s the only competent beat cop in all of Gotham. Lather, rinse, plug your fingers in your ears for the crescendoes, repeat.

Eventually Bane escapes on a motorcycle, carrying a tablet with a giant progress bar on it that will cause the Stockpocalypse if it completes. Batman makes his big return, punctuated by cops who reprise their Greek chorus-like role from Batman Begins. The cops are ordered to catch Batman, but only succeed in slowing him down enough to not recover Bane’s tablet before the progress bar completes.

Levitt’s jerkish partner starts chasing down Batman despite his protestations, and eventually leads an entire precinct’s worth of officers to corner Batman in a dark alley – whereupon we get a predictable yet hugely satisfying reveal of the Bat.

Mr. B. Slimeball sits in his deluxe apartment in the sky, as it’s revealed that he hired Bane to raid the stock exchange. We’re spared more of his cookie-cutter dialogue when Catwoman drops from the ceiling and starts ranting. It seems Slimeball hired Catwoman with the promise of “The Clean Slate”, a set of plans to the Galactic Empire’s ultimate weapon…dreadfully sorry, I meant “A computer program that completely erases your existence from the Internet”.  Slimeball says that the Clean Slate was a trick, and that it doesn’t exist – and sics a few of Bane’s thugs on her. Luckily, she’s rescued by Batman in his Bat (yeah, the name’s officially stopped being cool at this point), though she scarpers before he learns too much about her deal.

As Bruce Wayne toils away in the Batcave, Alfred gives a speech that actually makes sense in context: Seeing Batman come so close to death has convinced Alfred that Bruce should hang up his cowl and move on with his life. He reveals the break-up letter from Maggie Gyllenhaal from the last movie, and then quits his job as Bruce’s aide when he gets combative.

The next morning, there’s a really good establishing sequence of Bruce all alone in stately Wayne manor. Then, he finds out just why Bane attacked the stock exchange – using Bruce’s fingerprints, courtesy of Catwoman, he bankrupted Bruce and his company in a matter of minutes. In one of the film’s few reluctant nods toward real life, Morgan Freeman explains, “We can prove fraud in the long term, but for now you’re broke.” Again, it almost seems out of place in this story, that Bruce hasn’t lost all the money all the time ever.

The upshot is that B. Suited Slimeball now owns the company, and with it, all of Batman’s wonderful toys. However, more important than that is Marion Cotillard’s dormant nuclear reactor – which works just fine, but was sabotaged by Batman after a nuclear physicist discovered that it could be turned into a bomb. Marion tells Bruce that the physicist was killed in a plane crash, but this only calms him down enough to put her in charge of the company above Slimeball.

Slimeball is furious when he learns of this and tries to get Bane to kill her. Bane’s gotten all he wanted from Slimeball, though, and snaps his neck after delivering a few trailer-fodder quotes about being “A necessary evil” and “Gotham’s reckoning” and “The Chosen one, prophesied to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force”.

Meanwhile, Bruce shows up at Catwoman’s apartment, saying that a “powerful friend of his” can help her get the Clean Slate program and start fresh. There’s some more sexual tension and bantering, but I guess this relationship that pretty much every scene the two have had together doesn’t exist at all: Bruce gets driven home by Marion Cotillard, who consoles him when all the expensive stuff is repossessed from stately Wayne manor.

People complain about the plot twists in this movie, but I’d be willing to bet that no one saw this next part coming: Bruce and Marion start going at it right there on the newly-bared floor. This is the grand conclusion to the rise and fall of one of modern culture’s most enduring heroes: Sex out of Nowhere. It clutters up the movie, adds nothing from a dramatic or narrative standpoint, and complicates the whole Catwoman deal that’s supposed to be the secondary plot of the movie.

When I think "Dark and gritty modern superheroes", "tasteful nudity" is not the first thing that springs to mind.

When I think “Dark and gritty modern superheroes”, “tasteful nudity” is not the first thing that springs to mind.

Next morning, eternal playboy Bruce leaves Marion sleeping on the floor, and dresses up in Bat-gear to meet with Catwoman, who agrees to take him to Bane. What follows is a sequence ripped almost shot-for-shot from the top-notch “Batman Arkham” video games: Knocking out scared goons one by one, before heading into a closed-off arena and having an extended fistfight with a very repetitive Bane, who handily wins thanks to Batman’s lack of experience.

Unfortunately, there’s no quick-load key in Nolan’s Gotham, and so Batman is neutralized while Bane reveals the next phase of his plan. Having figured out long ago that Bruce Wayne was Batman, he designed his stock heist to take out both at once, and then use each one as leverage to influence the other. What this means practically is, “Bane breaks into Morgan Freeman’s secret bunker and starts stealing bat-gadgets.”

From here on out, the narrative of the film becomes virtually identical to that of The Empire Strikes Back: While the hero’s allies are trapped by the villain’s overwhelming forces, the hero himself splits, and travels to an exotic locale to re-evaluate his training and find a new purpose. Unfortunately there’s no one as magical or memorable as Yoda where Batman finds himself: A fifty-foot deep hole in the ground, and the same ancient prison that Bane escaped from, complete with high-def video (the kind you always see in ancient Asian prisons). Bane is going to destroy Gotham City slowly and agonizingly, and Batman will have to see every minute of it.

Batman, his bones broken and his body frail, decides to exercise his mind first. He finds out that to torment prisoners, there are a series of steps leading almost all the way up the pit, but not quite. To get out you’d have to perform a Super Mario Bros – worthy jump, with the added weight of a safety rope, no less.  Only one person has ever escaped the prison before – the child of a renegade mercenary, who was born in the prison. Batman realizes the connection with Bane – who had earlier said he “was born in the shadows”. Oh, forgive me, Tom Hardy, I meant “BAAAAAWWWN in the nnnyehSHADOWSH!”

I guess if you've lived in the shadows all your life, you need to have a recognizable voice.

I guess if you’ve lived in the shadows all your life, you need to have a recognizable voice. Also, a permanent “huh?” look.

Meanwhile, Bane himself is holding Morgan Freeman and Marion Cotillard at gunpoint. He takes them to the nuclear reactor, and gets the guy he rescued from the plane in the opening sequence to work his magic on it, which turns it into a bomb. Elsewhere in Gotham, Officer Levitt learns of Batman’s disappearance, and relays the news to Commissioner Gordon. Outraged, Gordon sends every single cop in the city except himself, Levitt, and his meanie-head partner down into the sewers and subway tunnels, to search for Bane’s hideout.

As Levitt investigates an unrelated disturbance nearby, he uncovers Bane’s master plan: He’s been mixing concrete with explosives for months, meaning virtually any building in the city could explode at any moment if he wants it to. Levitt realizes that the police are heading into a trap, and shouts at them to get out of the tunnels, but they don’t make it out in time.

We cut to a football stadium, which is on Manhattan Island for reasons of plot convenience. The Gotham football team has a home game today, but after the opening kickoff, Bane blows the entire field up (taking Mayor Immortal Dude from Lost with it), and commandeers the Jumbotron. There’s a sequence that’s really the highlight of the movie for me, where we cut between Officer Levitt (who, realizing that he and Commissioner Gordon are the only cops left in the city, races to the hospital to protect Gordon), Bane (whose voice is forgivable in such a theatrical venue, and who exposits that the city is basically in the same predicament as the ferries from the last movie, and under constant threat of his nuke), and aerial shots of bridges collapsing and buildings falling. It’s well acted, well written, well edited, and looks fantastic – it’s almost been worth the solid hour of plot holes and funny voices to get to this point.

The sequence caps off in a minor moment of triumph, as Commissioner Gordon is attacked by two goons but kills them all by his lonesome, before Levitt has a chance to arrive. Best of all, Hans Zimmer doesn’t even try to make us go deaf!

We then get to this movie’s biggest logical problem – one that, ironically, was almost definitely put in to make the film more realistic. In fifteen minutes, 5 months of Gotham City under siege is chronicled – and we see almost no degradation, no signs of the city slowly dying out and going insane, no heroic attempts to escape or to kill Bane, nothing that indicates more than a few days have passed except for the fact that it’s started snowing by the time it’s over.

Back in the pit with Batman, we see why the five-month timetable was established: Batman is regaining his strength and physical progress, galvanized by the need to save Gotham from Bane’s bomb. In a use of Hans Zimmer’s bombastic score that I actually like, the prisoners start to cheer Batman on as he climbs, recreating the chorus of Bane’s theme music. Once Batman makes the jump and escapes, though, the chanting gets drowned out with Batman’s ‘Achievement unlocked’ music.

 And just like that, Batman is back in the desolate, wintry ice planet of Hoth… er, Gotham. He announces his return with a bat symbol in fire at the top of a building. Bane, when he sees this, shouts “No! IMPOSHIBLE!” Number 24, Bane! You forgot number 24!

Yeah, sure, waste the fire on making a big spectacle, and not for helping the thousands of people who are surely freezing to death...

Yeah, sure, waste the fire on making a big spectacle, and not for helping the thousands of people who are surely freezing to death…

The nuke is set to blow up in less than a day, and he is only able to get Catwoman to join him by offering the Clean Slate program from before – and even then, only because she has to save the city to get to a working computer and activate it. That’s right, folks, she’s the Han Solo in the equation, with the only real difference being a lack of burgeoning romantic interest in Princess Leia (Marion Cotillard, who’s been captured by Bane because he knows of Bruce Wayne’s feelings for her), and Chewbacca being a useless teenage girl who I haven’t even mentioned because she’s nothing more than a tribute to Frank Miller.

We check back in with Officer Levitt, who’s pretty much been leading the entire resistance movement against Bane (read: Batman’s allies and a few cannon-fodder cops). He’s currently trying to locate the nuke, which is being driven in a truck around the city. Commissioner Gordon manages to stop the truck, but it turns out to be a decoy: That’s right, everything that has transpired has been according to Bane’s design.

Or maybe not, as Bruce Wayne lets himself get captured, in an obvious reversal of the opening scene. With Catwoman’s help he frees Morgan Freeman and the cannon-fodder cops, telling Freeman to get to the remains of the fusion reactor, and prepare it to receive and stabilize the bomb. Freeman, in turn, gives Commissioner Gordon a comparatively low-tech device: A signal jammer, so the nuke will only go off when the isotopes decapsulate (which is less than an hour away) and not when detonated.

After an interlude where Catwoman uses the Batpod from the last movie to open up a blocked tunnel, Batman reunites with Officer Levitt, and frees the trapped cops, who are raring for a fight despite, you know, being stuck inside the sewers for 5 months on end. Led by Levitt’s reformed but still jerkish partner, the cops march on Bane’s goons, who all have high-tech Batman gadgets, up to and including Batmobiles. Luckily, though, the Bat shows up as cavalry, and blasts the stolen technology to pieces. Batman gets out and starts punching Bane right in the town hall, breaking part of his mask and causing him to falter.

Now, there’s a particularly goofy aspect of this trilogy that I’ve barely mentioned at all: Batman’s voice. I see the logic behind Bruce Wayne disguising his voice, but in practice it just sounds comical. The reason I haven’t mentioned it before is because, after 2 movies, it seemed Nolan had finally got the message. Batman was about the most taciturn he’s ever been in a major adaptation, usually restricting himself to a few clipped sentences per appearance. Now, though, he shouts at Bane, demanding to know where the bomb is in a repeat performance of his now-memetic “WHERE ARE THEY?” rant from the previous film. The goofiness is only compounded by Bane’s responses, which I’ve made enough jokes about already for you to get the picture.

At this point I must stress that Christopher Nolan is a pretty straightforward and literal writer. And so, it’s no surprise that as the ticking clock runs out, Batman gets stabbed in the back by a former friend: Marion Cotillard. She then twists the knife, as she explains that she was in fact the child of the mercenary, and the only one to escape the pit before Batman: She is Talia Al-Ghul, the daughter of Batman’s mentor. The plan to destroy Gotham City and fulfill her father’s vision was hers alone, Bane simply being the heavy.

Batman is stunned by this revelation, but that doesn’t stop him from gloating when Talia’s detonator fails to vaporize the city, thanks to Gordon’s signal jammer. Bane wisely decides to kill Batman right then and there, but he suddenly topples to the ground in an explosion… Hooray! It’s Catwoman Solo in her Millennium Batpod! I don’t even know what movie I’m watching anymore!

After I check the DVD case a few times to make sure this is still Batman, there’s a very well done and climactic chase scene between the low-flying Bat and Talia’s bomb truck, which is interspersed with shots of Officer Levitt leading a school bus of children out of the city.  The chase ends when Batman forces the truck to crash, killing Talia after the requisite final reflection speech. Batman takes the bomb, which is due to blow up Gotham in minutes, and realizes he has to make a big sacrifice to save the city once and for all. As he leaves, he tells Commissioner Gordon that “A hero can be anyone, even someone who puts a coat around a young boy’s shoulders.” This triggers a flashback to Batman Begins, and Gordon muttering “Bruce Wayne?” as the Bat takes off with the bomb in tow.

Now, this is a pretty common thing in fiction, but I’d like to note that I’d love dearly to have a memory as acute as Gordon, who is well into his sixties and has been a good cop, at this point, for longer than I’ve lived. If it were me there, I’d just be sitting dumbly, thinking “Did I do that to a kid, and then he became Batman? Who was that – am I supposed to know who that was?”

"Was he speaking metaphorically? Is the coat...justice, or something?"

“Was he speaking metaphorically? Is the coat…justice, or something?”

At the Queensboro Bridge (I assume Edward Koch was never mayor of Gotham), the army prevents Officer Levitt and his bus full of children from leaving the city, and he seems resigned to his fate. But then, the Bat flies out, leaving the city well outside the blast radius of the distant mushroom cloud.

The rest of the movie is just wrapping up the various plot threads of the trilogy: Alfred, Levitt and Gordon hold a funeral for Bruce Wayne, who left his money to the city so they can make more orphanages. Gordon erects a statue to Batman in the center of the city, so the paragon of justice in the darkest of times can be crapped on by birds forever. And Officer Gordon Levitt quits the police department and uses a Wayne Enterprises GPS to find the Batcave, revealing his first name as – da, da da DAAAA – Robin!

I’d have gone away from this movie with a much better feeling, if the movie ended right here. However, Nolan’s previous movie, Inception, taught him the horrible mistake that an ambiguous ending to a huge emotional drama was. And so, Morgan Freeman discovered that the Bat’s autopilot was activated before the crash, while somewhere in Italy, Alfred…

 Well, you know how Alfred had that strangely detailed speech about seeing Bruce out of nowhere in a café? I’ll let you guess what happens next. I’m not here to talk about Inception’s ending, but I am here to ask – seriously? That’s the best happy ending for Batman anyone could come up with? When I think “Happy endings for Batman”, I think “He left us a signal!” and “This will be a good life, good enough.” Endings that keep the tone dark while still allowing for some triumph, maybe even tugging at your heartstrings a bit. Not this romantic comedy malarkey.

So after all that, what do I think of the movie? It’s probably the best superhero movie ever made… until you sit down for a few minutes and think about it. Though the drama, tension, and emotion all work well, they’re undermined significantly by the plot’s glaring lack of any common sense whenever it would be inconvenient. And this is the final Star Wars connection – this is Batman’s Return of the Jedi. Sure, it’s still a solid movie that is a joy to watch, but it’s definitely the weak point of the trilogy.

TWO THUMBS UP: The acting, editing, design, and effects

THUMBS UP: Most of the characters and setting, the dialogue

THUMBS DOWN: The music, the numerous plot holes, and the ending

TWO THUMBS DOWN: Funny voices, most of the things Bane does

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