Let me preface this by saying that I am a HUGE Batman fan; I own several graphic novels, grew up on Batman: The Animated Series and had many of their toys, and just love the fact that he is a super hero whose only super power is super richness (oh Bill Gates what you could have been). I also had my own very specific ideas as to how Nolan’s trilogy should have ended. I think The Dark Knight was great for what it was and did in fact elevate the genre of comic book movies. Unfortunately, The Dark Knight Rises did not do the same.
The Dark Knight Rises has a lot of problems, the two most shocking being that Bruce Wayne wants to quit being Batman and that EVERYONE KNOWS WHO BATMAN IS! This is Nolan’s creative license on the character so I won’t mention Bruce wanting to quit again but the second will definitely get its due. More disappointingly, however, especially upon the second viewing is how bloated and ridiculous some of the plot elements are. Simply put, The Dark Knight Rises tries to do too much thereby only allowing many aspects to be half realized.
The perfect example of this comes from inclusion of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s completely superfluous Blake. It seems Nolan loved JGL so much in Inception he wanted to add him to TDKR and figured he could kill two birds with one stone by having Batman “live on” despite Bruce Wayne’s retirement. Had there been a separate movie that just revolved around Blake and his growth into wanting to follow Batman’s code it could have been a very engrossing movie. Unfortunately his entire arc seems shoehorned in, only giving the audience the bullet point decisions he makes along the way. The moment between he and Gordon when Bane reveals Gordon’s true speech about Harvey Dent (which for some reason everyone chooses to believe, even though he’s clearly a terrorist that is trying to set his own agenda…) should have been poignant but instead was completely devoid of emotion because the audience was not allowed to get a feel of the relationship, or more importantly allowed to watch their relationship grow.
Another example of the bloatedness of TDKR comes with the 99%/Occupy Wall Street motif. Nolan should be commended for trying to implement this into his big budget summer blockbuster but its utilization was only at face value. Selina Kyle’s character is the supposed representative of the 99% vs. 1% distribution of wealth, even though she lives in a seemingly low quality apartment she has stolen enough high-class items to make it livable. Unfortunately it never comes across completely clear on screen. Instead of having a true goal, something the character is striving for throughout the movie, she is used as more of a catalyst for events. Her wants and desires (aside from wanting to get her slate clean) are more implied to the audience and even then they are weak. Why does she steal from the rich and keep for herself? Is her life a struggle or is she fairly well to do? Had her character been more firmly sketched out she could have been a major force for the social commentary Nolan was trying to make, instead all that was shown were a bunch of non-rich people tearing apart beautiful homes of the rich (this is why they can’t have nice things).
It has been well documented that Nolan has always wanted to make a Howard Hughes biopic and that TDKR allowed Nolan to implement some of those ideas into the movie. Unfortunately they don’t add a single thing to the plot. Apparently Rachel Dawes’s death is the cause for Bruce Wayne becoming a recluse but that seems awful flimsy. More disturbingly is the fact that Bruce also retired Batman for the same time period. Sure it is ridiculous that Blake can guess that Bruce is Batman just by looking at his fake smile but how didn’t everyone figure out that Bruce was Batman when both had disappeared for the exact same amount of time? Also, for being a recluse Bruce is sure eager to get back into the public eye. Having not been introduced to recluse Bruce before he caught Selina Kyle in the act didn’t allow the audience to really get a feel for who Bruce had become and his hermitous lifestyle was too easily shed.
This is not to say that TDKR wasn’t enjoyable or exciting. It definitely had its moments. And for the connotations that are attached to summer blockbuster it was better than most. To say it changed the game and transcended the genre though would be folly. This movie is probably the worst of the three in Nolan’s Batman trilogy and pales in comparison to The Dark Knight. Nolan’s Gotham will sorely be missed as he created a very tangible and realistic world in his effort to bring comic books down to Earth. TDKR is a solid comic book blockbuster but ultimately comes up short of the quality of the predecessors of the previous to Nolan Batman films.