I started this reevaluation of The Dark Knight Rises as talk of possible Academy Award nods for the film emerged. To be honest, the film doesn't deserve any Oscars, and if it were to be nominated for Best Picture, you might as well read that as, "Hey, Mr. Nolan, sorry you didn't win in 2008. Here's an olive branch from the Academy." You know, the old Scorsese and The Departed conciliation.
In any case, I've set out to amend my review of TDKR with some specific gripes each day for... three or four days, maybe. I don't know. We'll see. But today is Day 2 of "A Gripe a Day Keeps the Oscars Away," so buckle up.
Today's Gripe: Why doesn't Bane's plan make any sense?
Maybe you can help me wrap my head around this, but what the hell was
Bane's actual goal anyway? He wanted to blow up Gotham. Gotcha. He
acquired a nuclear bomb to do so. That's a big check next to "Obtain
A-Bomb to Destroy Gotham." So, what was all of this other superfluous,
illogical stuff he was doing?
Let me lay this out to try to make sense of it (spoiler alert: I don't
make any sense of it): Bane starts by kidnapping a nuclear physicist who
knows how to turn the nuclear core of Wayne Enterprises' clean fission
reactor into a weapon of mass destruction. (I'm consciously overlooking all the flawed logic behind the airplane scene that's supposed to make everyone think the plane simply crashed so that I can move on, because this zany, hyperbolic stuff comes with the action movie territory). Then, Bane and his League of
Shadows henchmen move into the cozy sewers below Wayne Enterprises and
begin recruiting street urchins. One of the urchins dies, being washed
out into a drainage basin, and that's never really explained. Given
Bane's predilection for not taking mistakes too kindly, I guess it
doesn't need to be. But the whole reason they're in the sewer seems to
be to cave in the basement of Wayne's R&D department to get their
hands on some Tumblers. Cool. It seems like it would be easier to just drive them out of the building instead of through a sewer, but whatever.
Commissioner Gordon stumbles across their hideout and accidentally
leaves his retirement speech that outs Harvey Dent as a murdering
psychopath behind with Bane. None of this part of the plot makes any
sense in the context of Bane's ultimate goal, but it happens regardless.
Mark that down as inconsequential tangent number one.
Ok, so concurrently they have Selina Kyle steal Bruce Wayne's
fingerprints and hatch a plan to bankrupt him. Why? So Daggett, who Bane
is in cahoots with, can takeover Wayne Enterprises, but what's-her-face
has already moved in on the company at Bruce Wayne's behest. So Bane
kills Daggett for being a worthless dick, and he holds Wayne's board
hostage. Of course what's-her-face is really Talia al Ghul, who is
Bane's master and Ra's al Ghul's daughter, so what was Daggett's purpose
that whole hour or so leading up to his death? I'm not really sure. Maybe it's to finally coax Wayne into giving the company over to Talia. Ultimately, he's Nolan's red herring, I guess, but doesn't serve any purpose other
than being an obvious diversion for the audience, and there's no build-up to speak of for the planned Daggett takeover, or any acknowledgement that any of this was planned by Talia or Bane. It just seems like dumb luck. Mark that down as
inconsequential tangent number two.
Anyway, Talia coerces Lucius Fox into helping her unlock the core from
the reactor. Bane takes the core, the physicist turns it into a bomb,
and they devise a detonator. Ok, this was their plan all along: to blow
up Gotham City. I guess I can overlook the whole Daggett thing. Ra's al
Ghul had said in Batman Begins that Gotham was a den of sin and he had
tried to destroy it through economics. When the economics didn't work
because of philanthropists like Thomas Wayne, Ra's resorted to terrorism
and decided to just have Gotham wiped out completely, but he was
stopped by Batman. A nuclear bomb sounds like the way to go to fulfill
al Ghul's mission.
But, hang on a second. You might as well go ahead and mark that down as
inconsequential tangent number three, four, five, and so on. Bane's not going to blow up Gotham
right away. Nope, he's going to trap every last cop in the sewer (as if
he was able to plan something that ludicrous just by leading Gordon
into the sewer and accidentally letting him escape; not that it was ever so much as implied as any sort of intentional ruse anyway) and destroy every
bridge leading out of Pittsburgh-Gotham, and then he's going to play a
little game of guess who has the detonator. You see, the core has a
half-life or something of five months, and when that period ends it
blows up, but if anyone tries to escape or intervene before then,
whoever has the detonator will trigger the bomb early. Just to make things interesting, Bane also kills the physicist that armed the bomb, meaning absolutely no one can diffuse it. Make sense? I
didn't think so.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is left badly injured in a prison somewhere half a
world away. Bane's kept him alive so he can watch Gotham crumble on CNN
apparently, but Bane's also left Bruce with a very obvious and
unguarded egress, a licensed chiropractor, and a bunch of people intent
on helping Bruce escape. It's not on purpose, judging by Bane's surprise
when Batman turns up back in Gotham.
While Bruce is still in absentia, however, Bane is doing a little
redecorating in Gotham, leading a people's revolt against the
establishment and the 1%. But wasn't it Ra's who implemented the vulture
capitalists Bane is now hunting down? What are they punishing these
rich people for exactly, and why punish them more than the murderers,
rapists, and thieves whose existence is abhorred by the League of
Shadows? Isn't Gordon's pseudo-fascist crackdown on crime preceding
Bane's takeover something that the League would have been somewhat OK
with considering their mission statement? And why has Bane sided with
the down and out of Gotham if he's just going to blow everyone to
kingdom come anyway? Maybe it's poetic justice, but this not only goes
against Bane's posited goals; it goes on for months... somehow. It's
ridiculously and idiotically protracted and counter-intuitive. It might
be more explainable if Bane and Talia were simply trying to let the core
deteriorate until it exploded, but they've got a detonator for Christ's
sake! Just blow the damn city up and get it over with! That's your plan
all along, and you even try to do it once Batman escapes from the
reverse roach motel you left him in, so what the hell?!
Not to mention the fact that Bane uses Gordon's speech to--well, he
blows a hole through a prison wall with a tank. Wait... What purpose did
that whole speech tangent serve again? Ah, yes, it's symbolic of undoing everything Batman has done for Gotham City, but how does it progress the plot exactly? It doesn't. Bane reads the speech, Blake makes a snide remark to Gordon, and Bane breaks everyone out of Blackgate Prison. There was an entire chase scene dedicated to getting that speech into Bane's hands, and it really accomplishes nothing that couldn't have been accomplished otherwise.
The point I'm trying to make is that none of it adds up, and it's all
indicative of what I'd identified in the film's plot yesterday: the
writers knew where they wanted TDKR to end, but didn't know how to get
there. So, you have this movie that plays out like a metaphor for a
bunch of guys on a road trip, without a map or GPS, and they refuse to
stop and ask for directions. Never mind that Bane wouldn't be able to
eat or drink while wearing that elaborate mask that keeps him alive, or
that having the nuclear bomb out in the open accompanied by two decoys
is utterly stupid; that's nitpicking. The movie just isn't competent
overall and leaves myriad dangling threads that go nowhere before the film concludes.
I'd like to point out that even if part of the plan was to slowly grind Batman down into dust physically and spiritually, which is something that I mentioned but apparently failed to make explicit enough, what with trying to lay all of this convoluted mess out in great detail, it is still absolutely ridiculous and does nothing to answer the questions I've presented in this piece.
"Oh, they were trying to break Batman, and that's why they occupied Gotham City for months doing idiotic things? Sounds totally plausible now." That's sarcasm. Please put your boners away, slavering Nolan-zombies.
I loved the previous two installments in Nolan's Batman trilogy more than anyone, and, yes, it was a troubling realization I came to about TDKR, but it's time to let go.