The Dark Knight Rises has been out for over a week now, so it's high time we take another look at one of this summer's biggest movies. We've had two reviews of TDKR here at ComicBookBin, one madly in love with the film and one ambivalent. My review was the ambivalent one, one which I now feel isn't quite hard enough on the film in question, and as I reflected on TDKR over course of the last week I felt that my review could use an addendum of specific grievances. So here we go!
Like any Christopher Nolan film, with his monumental achievement Memento being the exception, The Dark Knight Rises seems to weaken exponentially with each successive viewing. Unlike the rest of Nolan's impressive filmography, however, where flaws are acceptable collateral damage to an overall brilliant cinematic experience, TDKR's shortcomings shake the blockbuster to its very core.
One of the advantages TDKR and other Nolan films have is that with their often stentorian, in-your-face presentations and densely convoluted plots, they don't allow the viewer much time to think about what is fundamentally flawed about any given scene before the viewer is caught up in a deafening, mind-numbing action sequence or the viewer is forced to attentively try to decipher dialogue through poor audio mixing. With each successive viewing, though, that viewer becomes more astutely aware of those films' distinct imperfections. It's almost an endearing quality of Nolan's body of work that for all their brilliance each film presents something inane: the superfluous "kick" in the climax of Inception; Harvey Dent's laughable courtroom judo in The Dark Knight; Scarecrow's goons being able to simply pour poisons into an open water main in Batman Begins; the inability of the filmmakers to explain the magic trick in The Prestige without ultimately falling back on the Tesla-clone-machine contrivance (because that made sense); etc. These films all sit firmly on solid foundations, though, despite erring in varying degrees.
It's a different story with TDKR. For a discerning audience, multiple viewings of the film will educe one unfortunate fact: The Dark Knight Rises really isn't that great. So, I'd like to present some specific problems I had with this film, one gripe at a time, and make my case for this not being a very good movie.
Today's gripe: Why are Commissioner Gordon and the GCPD so stupid?
The first half of The Dark Knight Rises is arguably the strongest bit of the film, but that doesn't mean it's impeccable; not by a long shot. One scene in particular has the GCPD converging on a speakeasy, and as their suspects escape from the bar into a back alley and into the Gotham sewers, Commissioner Gordon leads a blind charge to apprehend the fugitives.
Here's the problem: I know TDKR is far from being a police procedural, but why would police brass like Gordon, armed with only a pistol no less, take point in a SWAT breach of a sewer system? Why aren't they even using flashbangs to clear the area below the manhole before they descend into a killzone? It's idiotic scripting, and it leads to one of the weaker moments of the first half of the film, which is Gordon being captured by Bane's men and promptly escaping, but not before Bane gets his hands on the retirement speech Gordon had left in his jacket pocket.
It's a sequence of events that elicits a specific problem, that the writers of the film knew where they wanted the film to end, but not how to get there, and because of that the film suffers from a strange periphery of plot lines that don't really go anywhere or have any bearing on the end result of the film. Gordon diving headlong into Bane's clutches only to roll off leaving behind a document (which really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things anyway) is just one example of this, but there are many others.
If that particular scene was the only problem I had with Gordon and his GCPD, I'd be alright with that, but the stupidity doesn't end there. Later in the film, Gordon and John Blake convince Foley to send EVERY SINGLE POLICE OFFICER IN THE ENTIRE CITY into the sewers. This doesn't even make any sense, and here's why: If every single police officer is going into the sewers to smoke out Bane, who's answering phones back at the station, who's investigating open case files, who's doing paperwork, who's watching over holding cells in jails, who's standing on city street corners or patrolling in their cars, and who the hell is responding to emergencies?!? It's such an awkward plot contrivance that the Nolan brothers and David S. Goyer are deliberately defying logic to propel their script forward. When something like that happens in the scripting stage, I think you need to go back to the drawing board. I mean, what the hell were these guys doing for the four years it took to develop this movie?
If that's not enough jackassery for you to mull over, then think about this as well: what was up with the "Charge of the Light Brigade" that Foley leads against Bane's assault rifle-armed, tank-supported minions? Sure, it succeeds somewhat, but why? Why, when they are so desperately outgunned, didn't they attempt to outflank Bane's goons, and why do those goons, when they have a sea of cops only a few yards in front of them, have such terrible aim? I get it. It's symbolism. It was the GCPD's last ditch effort to retake the city, but it was such a colossally stupid effort, which I think sums up quite a bit of the film itself.
Speaking of summations, the scene in TDKR that perfectly sums up Gordon's stupidity is just before Batman takes off in the "Bat" with the nuclear bomb in tow. Batman gives Gordon a rather unsubtle hint that he's Bruce Wayne, and Gordon, standing mouth agape for several moments after Batman has taken off, actually has to spell it out by exclaiming, "Bruce Wayne?!" Come on, Jim. John Blake could tell just by looking at the guy, and you've been working with him for over a decade and had no clue.
Not only does this make Gordon look like an imbecile, but the movie is taking its audience for idiots too. As if the flashbacks to Gordon putting his jacket over young Bruce's shoulders, and the knowing look he gives to Batman to acknowledge that the vigilante is in fact Wayne weren't enough, the Commissioner has to punctuate the gravitas of the moment with a hamfisted "Bruce Wayne?!" Yeah, we fucking got it. Holy shit.