on July 27, 2012
After watching this film the first time, I wasn't quite sure what to think of it. I knew it wasn't a bad film, but at the same time it just didn't sit right with me for whatever reason. So I went back and watched Begins and TDK and I think I figured out why I didn't really care for it. In my opinion it doesn't seem to fit with the other two films.
Warning: Some spoilers
First there's the setting. The concept of a broken and retired Batman living as a recluse is interesting, but it seems to sort of contradict what we saw in the other films. We learn that he hasn't been Batman for 8 years since Dent was killed, which made me wonder, why is he in such bad physical shape then? Rewatching The Dark Knight, I didn't see anything to show where these injuries came from. Why is his leg screwed up? The last scene of Dark Knight was him running away from the camera. If he hasn't been Batman since then and has been living like a hermit, how did he screw up his leg? Also, why did he stop being Batman? Rises seems to suggest it was stress over Rachel, although that happened midway through The Dark Knight and didn't seem to stop him. He sort of suggested at the end of Dark Knight that since Dent died, he had to be the hero. That was sort of the point of Dark Knight that Gotham's savior had to be either Dent or Batman and since Dent died, it had to be Batman, but then Rises suggests that Batman just kinda went home literally right after that. Rises sort of gets around this by introducing what I consider to be a highly implausible "Dent Act" in honor of Harvey Dent, in which all of Gotham's criminals are apparently just straight locked up with no sort of legal due process, the streets become clean as a whistle, and Batman "isn't needed anymore". The Dent Act also asks you to believe that everyone now believes without a question that Batman killed Harvey Dent, despite having saved him very publicly from the Joker in Dark Knight. I find it strange that things like this are considered realistic, yet more cat features on catwoman's suit are not. Anyways..
Second, the villains. I found Bane to be just plain underwhelming. Physically intimidating sure, but I felt like they had to seriously water down Batman's competence in order to artificially make Bane more threatening. In Begins and Dark Knight Batman would fight using his surroundings. That's basically how he fights, something he learned from the League of Shadows and Ras Al Ghul. "Always mind your surroundings." Yet when confronted with Bane and reminded of the League, Batman simply charges at him swinging like a brawler. No tech, no using the environment around him, just straight fisticuffs. I realize that he's been "retired" for 8 years, but again, that felt forced and unexplained as I mentioned in my first point, which just reinforces my belief that this was done simply to make Bane seem more threatening. As for Talia, she just felt too much like Ras, and a lesser version at that. Not only does she not get the character development that Ras got to make him interesting, but in the end she's only doing it to carry out Ras' will, which just made her feel like a pawn. The main villian and she doesn't even have her own plan. Overall they felt too similar to the Begins villians. In Begins the villains worked within the system, using it to try to destroy Gotham. In Dark Knight the villains worked to try to destroy the system and induce chaos in Gotham. In Rises, I was expecting another progression to give the villains an overall theme to work with, but it just feels the same as Begins. Talia manipulating the system to try and destroy Gotham.
Third, not enough Batman. Having Bruce trapped in a pit for the better part of the film's second half served no purpose imo. I don't think anybody thought that he wasn't going to escape this pit and return to face Bane. I realize this sort of had to happen based on what we know of Bane and Batman in the comics, but the way it was handled only served to take us away from Gotham and Bane where things were getting interesting, and into a dull situation miles away in which we already know the only possible outcome. Obviously the movie won't end with "And then Batman died in the pit" It employs odd and often confusing time jumps that the previous films didn't have, taking away from the pacing and making the film feel frantic. Once Bane starts implementing his plan and things start to pick up, there's literally a 5 month time skip that glosses over Gotham transitioning from normal society to anarchist warzone in favor of Bruce's previously mentioned antics in the pit.
Fourth, John Blake. I liked the character and portrayal but I felt the "big reveal" about him at the end was totally unnecessary and handled in the worst possible way. First off... his actual legal name is Robin? ....... I'll leave that at that, but what bothered me more about how this was handled is that again, this doesn't seem to be consistent with the previous films. In Rises we get Bruce spouting a bunch of nonsense about how Batman was supposed to inspire people into action and that "anybody can be Batman" Oh really? What about those guys in The Dark Knight who were trying to help Batman take down Scarecrow and some drug dealers? They tried to be Batman and Bruce responded by kicking the living cr@p out of them, breaking all their weapons and then making fun of their outfits. They did exactly what he's talking about in Rises and he personally beat them up for it. Just seems weird is all.. Also, how did Blake know Bruce was Batman? You can assume that since he's a cop he could've done the detective work and figured this out, but he doesn't say that's what happened. He says he literally figured it out by having met Bruce once a long time ago and recognizing he had the same hidden pain that Blake had from losing his parents? Really?! That's it?! How can you reasonably make such a huge assumption based on meeting someone once and looking at their face?
Fifth, Catwoman. Again, nothing wrong with the performance, but I felt her character was unneeded. Nothing she did in the film seemed to matter, except of course for the fact that they decided to let her be the one to kill Bane. The romance between them felt forced as well imo. I don't see why he would be attracted to her. Her ideology is almost the direct opposite of his. In the comics there's a sense that she genuinely cares about him and a lot of that is due to their long history, none of which we get to see here. I never really get the sense that she saw him as anything other than a 1 percenter or necessarily cared about his well being. When Bane "breaks" him, she doesn't seem concerned about him, just concerned about what Bane will do to the city and how it will effect her. It's all about her and I just don't really see what draws him to her in this film.
Finally, the ending. I get it, he retired. Batman gets to live a happy life in Europe or whatever with Catwoman. Great for him I guess, but isn't Gotham gonna be worse than ever now? Gordon will likely lose his job as commissioner because of his 8 year lie to the public and for knowingly framing Batman for Dent's murder. Dent has been revealed as a murderer, meaning the Dent Act will likely be repealed and all these criminals are gonna come pouring back to the streets, including Joker, who isn't dead and who happens to be the direct cause of almost everything that happens in Rises to begin with. I get that they can't use Ledger anymore, but I for one found it strange that they deliberately chose not to once mention the Joker even though nothing in Rises would be as it is without him.
And who's left behind in Gotham to handle this new mess? "Robin" John Blake, a man who now has Bruce's suit and gadgets, sure, but none of the League of Shadows training that would let you take on dozens of thugs/SWAT officers at a time, meaning the first time he suits up and hops down into a group of 5 guys thinking he's a bad@ss, he's gonna get wailed on. Bruce didn't even bother to train the guy like the real Robin. Not only that, but Bruce only met this guy what... twice, for a total of 10 minutes and he trusts him with the Batsuit? But I guess Bruce isn't concerned with any of that anyways. He's "moved on" and I should be happy that he doesn't have to be the hero and protector Gotham needs like we've come to expect from him over the course of this trilogy, right? I just feel like it sent a strange message where you should do what you feel is right but only until you're tired of it, then you should sit back and have some "me-time" with a foxy lady despite the fact that there's still more to be done. I dunno about you but that just struck me as not very admirable and as something no respectable version of Batman would EVER do...
Overall the film is well acted and looks and sounds great, but it's only mildly entertaining and drags in a lot of places. I also felt it was the least realistic of the trilogy which I found unfortunate since the realism is what drew me to the trilogy in the first place. Things like the Dent Act, an old man in a pit who can heal a broken back by punching it, a usb drive that can erase your name from every computer on the planet and a cheesy imo nuclear bomb plot that emerges somewhat randomly near the end of the film serve to make it the most comic-booky feeling film of the three. All that said, again it's not a bad movie by any means and I'd say it's worth a watch, but it's easily the weakest of the trilogy in my opinion.