Note: Contains major significant spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises.

It feels almost gauche at this point to put out something that even looks like a "The Dark Knight Rises' Flaws" article. The sheer number of them already published has become memetic and has inspired "backlash-against-backlash" takedown pieces that I can't find too much disagreement with.

On the other hand, I think of this piece less as another hit-baiting "listicle" and more as a necessary appendix to my review of the film from last week. In the interest of avoiding spoilers (and keeping the video's running time to a reasonable length) there were issues I had with the way the film played out that I chose to refer to only in general terms. Now, however, a week has passed and I can only assume that the most virulently spoiler-phobic among us have had a chance to see the movie, so now is the time to dig into the specifics of The Dark Knight Rises.


I understand what the film's awkward structure (it features two complete "Batman learns to be Batman again" stories one right after the other) is trying to convey. Bruce Wayne un-retires as Batman, blows it by being rash because he doesn't have the right attitude, and then has to get back up and do it the right way. The problem is, I don't have that understanding because of what happens onscreen. I have it because two characters (first Alfred, later the prison doctor) give speeches directly to the camera explaining "This is what is going on in the plot right at this moment."

This is one of those "differences between mediums" issues. In literature, having one character exposit/comment on the actions of another character is often the main way we come to form an objective view of a protagonist's actions. In a film, (or a play, for that matter) those things are supposed to be evident in the actions we see. The verbal instructions about what we're supposed to be taking away from the action hold no weight because these characters don't have an interior monologue (as they might in a book) by which we can determine their objectivity. Alfred says Bruce isn't in the proper mindset to fight Bane, but half of Alfred's story in this film is about how much he's been lying to Bruce all this time. Not just about Rachel Dawes, but about almost all of his previously expressed support of the whole Batman enterprise.

Meanwhile, onscreen there's not much discernible difference between the way Batman's first "rise" is performed, directed, scored, shot, etc. and the second "rise". A big part of that has everything to do with ...

The Passage Of Time

Visualizing the passage of time is one of the hardest things to do in a movie. That's probably why the traditional ways of doing it (onscreen subtitles, flipping calendar pages, spinning clocks, dissolve-heavy montage, etc.) number so few that they now carry the air of self-parody. Unsurprisingly, Christopher Nolan appears to eschew that kind of illusion-breaking imagery. Unfortunately, he's elected to tell a story where they really might have helped.

Rises supposedly takes place a full eight years after The Dark Knight, and features a second time jump of five months between the revelation of Bane's nuke/hostage scheme and the final battle. Neither passage feels organic.

The world of "eight years later" (or four if we're assuming the previous film took place in 2008) doesn't look appreciably different for one thing, but that's a minor point. More problematically, it doesn't feel like any great amount of time has passed between this film and its predecessor, and that's an issue when the predecessor is being so frequently referenced. Commissioner Gordon looks a little older, yes (huge missed opportunity as Gordon's children would have aged considerably and helped the illusion tremendously ... but we never see them) but Alfred and Bruce don't seem to have aged at all. Yes, they've put some gray streaks in Christian Bale's hair (which doesn't work) and he walks with a cane (though it seems to be partially a put-on) but if the idea is to conjure the ancient, haggard Batman of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns it's not really the same effect.

The five month jump, though, is a much bigger issue. Apart from the Doomsday Clock on Bane's bomb, there's flat-out zero indication that Bane has been ruling Gotham as a warlord for anything more than a few days at best, regardless of how much winter snow there is on the streets when the big showdown occurs. The city doesn't seem to be in that bad a state of decay, and there's very little sense of what kind of toll is being taken on citizens who aren't members of Bane's army, the police or Wayne Enterprises. I mean, not to nitpick, but for a lawless post-apocalyptic wasteland Bane's Gotham appears to have a remarkably well-managed trash pickup schedule.

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