The Dark Knight is far better than the latest/last Nolan chapter of Batman in my opinion. I applaud Tom Hardy’s efforts as Bane and as much as I didn’t really dig the ‘Sean Connery through a fast food voicebox’ voice, I at least liked that he and Nolan wanted to try something unique. That said, Heath Ledger’s Joker set a really high bar as far as villains go and I just don’t think Bane, his army and [SPOILERS] Tate/Talia quite reached it.
Bane in the comics is supposed to be this brutal physical force AND highly intelligent, which overpowers and outhinks Batman. While we definitely get the power of Bane in the film, I don’t feel we really got his smarts. The Joker seems infinitely more cerebral in TDK; he starts off robbing mob money, manipulates the mob and eventually takes over most of their power. He systematically targets a judge, Commissioner Loeb and almost gets Harvey Dent in one night. He sees how Batman cares for Rachel Dawes and then sets into motion a plan to set both her and Harvey as bait to really screw Batman over emotionally. He visits Harvey and gives him a little push to put him on his way to becoming Two-Face, thus thoroughly corrupting Gotham’s hope of a White Knight.
Bane basically depletes Bruce’s money, breaks him physically and drops him off in a prison somewhere. I get that this is supposed to mentally defeat Wayne so that he’ll suffer knowing his city is going to be destroyed, but something about it just didn’t work for me.
What was the point of bankrupting Wayne? I can only think of 2 things that an audience member may be expected to draw from this. 1) Taking away Wayne’s money was one of the mental attacks against him. Take away his resources and he’ll start to feel helpless. But this doesn’t make much sense since he’s freaking BATMAN with all these secret weapons and toys at his disposal. 2) It was to force Wayne’s hand to show that energy device to Tate so that she can yoink it later. But, again, what’s the point if Tate is in on this whole thing and Bane was apparently going to do a hostile takeover of Wayne Enterprises anyway? The kidnapping of Dr. Pavel indicates that they knew the device existed beforehand, so why bother going through all the hoops to steal Bruce’s fingerprints and do a money glitch to his bank account?
If a clearer reason for this plot was given, then the whole first half of the movie wouldn’t have seemed so pointless. It appears smart on the surface but really is just dumb when you think about it.
They kept playing up this class-warfare scenario between the rich and not-so-rich of Gotham, a theme that ties directly to real world issues today. An opportunity to explore this idea of greed and power feels very lost. You think that Bane is some sort of freedom fighter, giving power to the people and possibly even becoming a good anti-hero. But no, he’s just a League of Shadows goon working for Talia to simply get revenge on Batman as well as destroy Gotham. Whereas the Joker was a very well written anarchist villain, Bane and Talia essentially become 1-dimensional bad guys.
So they get their hands on this atomic bomb. And they decide to just WAIT til it degrades and explodes, giving the cops and the hero enough time to thwart the plan. I don’t get it, why?
This bomb scenario is so much weaker than The Joker’s ferry bombs scenario. In TDK we actually see the dilemma playing out through the citizens of Gotham when faced with having to either save their own lives and blow up the other boat or to trust that the others will spare their lives. Huge tension everytime I watch it. TDKR presents a bomb, which we are told WILL go off after a certain amount of time anyway, so we’re basically just waiting around for the last half of the film until Batman climbs out of the prison and does his thing to save the day.
Another huuuuge complaint I have is that in TDK, we actually SEE how The Joker’s actions affect the people of Gotham. We see cops frustrated with how they’re getting creamed. We see one of his henchmen and get a little insight into the type of mind The Joker preys on. We see innocent everyday people getting caught up in the chaos with the hospital and ferry scenes. In Rises, we see that Bane has an army, but they’re pretty faceless. We don’t get a sense of what the hell the people are going through once Bane takes over Gotham. Sure, we get glimpses of people holed up and rich folk getting stepped on and getting their shit took, but that’s about it. No emotional investment into the people making up this city that we’re supposed to care about.
This one’s a very personal nitpick, but apart from WHY the cops were even kept alive underground, I wasn’t thrilled when it came to the whole ‘militia vs police’ showdown. I’m not a big fan of cops in real life, but I understand that they’re a part of this life where law & order exists and that there are good ones as well as bad ones. That said, the scene just felt too pro-law enforcement for my taste. At that point I didn’t really give a damn who was going to come out on top; the civilian militia was faceless and the cops were portrayed as way too heroic and ready for war with bloodlust.
It may have worked better if 1) we saw more of how the police force gets so motivated to stand up for their city, and not just have to assume that they’re pissed the fuck off from being kept underground and being made fools of. 2) we saw Gotham’s citizens stand up with them and joined the fight to retake the city. This could have added alot of depth to this battle, instead of just a mindless brawl/shootout. 3) introduce the dilemma of how the bad guys also have Gothamites on their side, how will they deal with possibly killing someone they once knew? without ANY of this presented to us, we just get a mindless fight scene which is just a setup for..
Batman’s rematch with Bane. He basically tries to box him again, just that this time he targets the mask. Bit of a letdown because lest we forget, Batman is a very smart individual as well (not the World’s Greatest Detective for nothing). I was hoping he’d come back with something more intelligent than ‘I’ll just punch his mouth more.’ He doesn’t even get to finish off Bane properly, Selina Kyle comes in and shoots a rocket into Bane and that’s all we see of him.
I could probably nitpick all day, but maybe I just need to go watch Rises again without the high expectations left from TDK and just have fun. My problems with the film basically come from how it appears and wants to be smart with some sort of message, but really doesn’t have anything to offer other than really big spectacle action sequences.
PS: Really fast stuff - The Lower Whacker chase scene in TDK was waaaayyyyy better than The Bat chase scenes, and the soundtrack to TDK WAS SOOOOO MUCCHHHHH better than the soundtrack to Rises (I guess the absence of James Newton Howard really made a difference here).