Why ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ isn’t as good as ‘The Dark Knight’ (Part 1)

The Dark Knight (TDK) is one of my favourite movies of all time, so I had high expectations for The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR), but I’m sorry to say that the TDKR is nowhere near TDK. Now, I’m not one of those persons who gets disappointed easily because of high expectations. In fact, I have the opposite problem. Once I’d decided I want to like a movie before I even watched it, I have trouble adjusting my opinion. So my first reaction after watching TDKR was that it was a fantastic movie, but not as good as TDK, so I decided to give it a 9 (out of 10), but after pondering over the matter for a couple of more days I realized that I didn’t think the movie deserved such a high score, so it was with great reluctance that I downgraded the score to an 8. I still enjoyed the movie, but I think it is vastly inferior to TDK, and there are a couple of main reasons why.



Let me clarify first that I admire Christopher Nolan and his credentials as a writer. TDK, The Prestige and Memento (and possibly Inception, although less for its actual story than for its inherent coolness) all rank within my personal top 20 movies of all time.

But… a nuclear bomb?? A freakin’ NUCLEAR BOMB in a BATMAN movie?? The main plot had loads of potential. You have Bane amassing an underground army waiting for the right moment to strike. Then you have almost the entire Gotham police force trapped within the sewers. As a final masterstroke you have Bane freeing all the prisoners and telling them they can do whatever the hell they want. The entire city was descending into complete chaos and anarchy. Bane has basically accomplished what would have amounted to the Joker’s wildest fantasies. Finally we can determine once and for all whether Batman’s stubborn belief in the inherent goodness of people is justified or that the Joker was right all along. Would the people of Gotham rise together against this threat, or would they eat each other, as the Joker said they would in TDK? Holy Academy Award, Batman! There’s your plot right there! Why in the name of all that is dark and bat-shit crazy would you add a freakin’ nuclear bomb!?

Now, I kind of understand why Nolan decided to literally throw a bomb into the script. He had to find a way to explain why the national government or army wouldn’t interfere once the nation’s largest city gets overrun with criminals and is practically turned into a warzone, or why the people of Gotham wouldn’t escape the city in droves. And it did provide a convenient way for Batman to fake his own death (although I wonder what he would have done had they been able to get the bomb back in its shell on time). I imagine Nolan is a much better writer than I am, so surely he could have come up with other plot devices to accomplish these ends? Perhaps instead of blowing up the mayor he could have held him hostage along with other politicians and some of the most important businessmen in the country, not to mention the entire population of Gotham? I think that’s incentive enough for the government to avoid declaring all-out war with Bane. Or he could have suspended our disbelief and treated Gotham as a self-contained universe within the movie. If Bane wanted to keep people from escaping, he could have just blown up all the bridges straight away and posted sentries along any escape route (which for some reason he didn’t bother doing in the actual movie). As for Batman faking his own death, surely there are many different ways to do that.

There are two major ways how the nuclear bomb turned the TDKR into a less satisfactory movie than it could have been. The first reason is that it became less of a Christopher Nolan movie and more of a Michael Bay movie. Sure, the whole chasing the nuclear bomb scenes at the end were rather exhilarating, but action scenes filled with explosions and collisions is not the main reason why I want to would watch a Batman movie. Even worse, the threat of a nuclear explosion turned the citizens of Gotham into a meek bunch. Apart from a small group of policemen, there were no signs whatsoever of resistance. They all just stayed at home and twirled their thumbs thinking to themselves that just as long as the bomb didn’t explode, they could just pretend nothing is wrong. Or they getting brutally beaten up or murdered if they were wealthy. Come on! I thought the whole premise of Batman was that he was more than a man, that he was a symbol. That anyone can be a hero. Here we have the culmination of the Batman trilogy, a moment when the theme that runs through the whole series could be validated and reinforced. I imagined an uprising. I imagined scenes where we would see the common people of Gotham trying to regain control of their own city.

In other words, I imagined something like this, only with more people on the left side:

Instead nothing much happened until Batman showed up again. How disappointing!


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