As I exited the theater early Friday morning after a midnight showing of the third and final film in Christopher Nolan's acclaimed Batman trilogy, the air was filled with excited chatter. "I didn't see that coming!" "I knew it all along!" "I want to see it again!" The crowd seemed quite pleased. I wasn't feeling it.
Then, from somewhere deep within the roiling crowd it came. "It sucked." Now that I felt. While there were plenty of moments in the movie I genuinely enjoyed, ultimately I felt more let down than uplifted.
Why do we suck, Master Bruce?
In case you didn't read the headline of this article before clicking on it (it happens), this is not going to be five paragraphs of beating around the bush. If you've yet to see The Dark Knight Rises and don't want the entire movie ruined for you for all eternity, stop reading now. I'm gonna wreck it.
Now I don't necessarily disagree with Evan Narcisse's critical take on The Dark Knight Rises. He makes several good points, and his ultimate conclusion is sound. "The Dark Knight Rises finishes an operatic cycle of myth-making where a familiar story becomes re-imagined for new times and layered with increased resonance." It does indeed do that thing.
It just does several other things that keep me from enjoying the ultimate entry in that operatic cycle. For instance...
Alfred Gives Away the Ending
Alfred hoped that Bruce Wayne would never come home from his initial self-imposed exile from Gotham. Every year during the time Bruce was away he'd take a vacation, sit in a cafe somewhere, and image he saw the young Master Wayne sitting there with a woman, maybe a couple of kids. They'd not speak — that would ruin the magical moment. No, they'd just nod to each other, and Alfred would know that Bruce had finally made it to the end of the film.
Oh wait, not the end of the film. Just true happiness.
And then end of the film.
As soon as Alfred launched into the tale of his vacation days I knew which way the movie was headed. Had Nolan only included Alfred mentioning the story in passing I might have been thrown off, but he filmed Alfred sitting in the cafe. He filmed Bruce sitting there with his fake girlfriend. He burned the image into our minds so that when it rolled back around to it at the end everyone would see what an excellent film craftsman he is.
I imagine Bruce got completely sick of going to that cafe every day for lunch until Alfred eventually showed up. I'd like to think that immediately after the scene ended he ran off to find an iHop. Nothing washes away the taste of telegraphed callbacks like a Rooty Tooty Fresh-and-Fruity.
I Know You're Batman Because I'm Hurting Too
When commissioner Gordon tells Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake that the city needs Batman, Blake makes a beeline for stately Wayne Manor, because he's the greatest emotional detective that ever lived. He knew Wayne and Bats were one in the same because he too had felt the pain of losing his parents.
No, it doesn't make much sense.
Blake explains that he's no stranger to putting on a mask to please others; to hiding the pain of his parents' passing behind the facade of a smile. Years ago, when Bruce Wayne visited the orphanage Blake was raised in, he saw that same pain. That means that Bruce Wayne is Batman. It just makes sense. Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn't Batman, so who else could it possibly be? That other in-pain guy.
I'm thinking that the fact that Bruce Wayne went all recluse at exactly the same time Batman stopped prowling the night had something to do with it as well.
Why Do We Fall? To Pad the Movie by Twenty Minutes.
Oh my fucking god just get out of the pit already.
I realize the whole prison scene was an important part of Batman's recovery not just from his Bane-induced spinal dislocation, but of years of mourning and wallowing in self-pity. I understand that we needed to see Bruce Wayne at his absolute lowest point. We had to rise with him out of that giant hole in the ground filled with people that no one knows about in this age of satellite imagery and Google maps. I get that.
I was just not entertained by it. We knew he was getting out. Seeing him fail once would have been enough. Hell, I would have loved a montage of him failing, perhaps accompanied by "Harder Better Faster Stronger".
What I really would have preferred, however, was to see how Bruce Wayne got home after being stranded on the other side of the world with absolutely nothing except a passing resemblance to that guy from American Psycho.
The Only Reason Catwoman is Wearing the Leather Outfit is For the Shot of Her Riding the Bike
As the mysterious thief Selina Kyle rode off into the night, all we could see was the light reflected off of her ass.
And Robin Was His Name-O
Oh come on, Robin John Blake? Not Timothy Drake, or Jason Todd or Dick Grayson? I suppose any permutations of those would have been a dead giveaway, but let's not fool ourselves; it was always a dead giveaway. You don't feature an incidental character as prominently as John Blake was in the pre-release media without there being a damn good reason behind it.
It's the same situation with Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate. The actress had to outright lie in order to throw fans and press off the obvious trail they picked up the moment she was cast in the film. Any fan immediately knew who she was really playing, just as any fan knows that Robin was never the real name of Robin, and was only used so the non-fans in the audience would get the reference.
There's plenty to love about The Dark Knight Rises. Catwoman has some great lines. Bane is impressive as hell, even if the movie's final twist neuters him somewhat. And hey, isn't that the guy from Torchwood? I love that guy.
Ultimately the film is a chance for Batman to live a normal life, something the comic books can never let happen. Through this series of annoying events he's earned his final rest. He'll live the rest of his life as a normal Joe, just like you or me.
Unless someone notices a supposedly dead former billionaire wandering about and snaps an iPhone picture.