I finally got around to seeing this. I liked it a great deal more than the trailers led me to believe I would, and in general I applaud a superhero movie that can be connected to current events thematically without being hamhanded or falling out of the internal logic of its own world.This is important, because initially I got a vibe that he was going to turn current events into cartoons and risk trivializing a lot of serious things for cheap kicks. The movie worked hard to keep the flavor of audience-familiar headlines within the movie’s own world, and I appreciate that.
Bane and Catwoman were both good, particularly Bane. The ability to get something interesting and almost subtle out of such a blah villain is nothing to sneer at.
So let’s talk about the things I didn’t like, and of course spoilers follow.
Let’s start with the fusion bomb that gets reduced to marginally powerful right away, defeating the purpose of the needlessly complex fusion bomb plot except to create a timer long enough for Batman’s training montage. I get that they think Bane’s “true despair” speech explains why they do this, but that speech heavily implies they expect Batman to come back, give hope to the people, and fail. At which point Real Ultimate Despair will be inflicted.
And then Bane reacts with WHAT IMPOSSSSSIBLE when exactly that happens because he only checks in on the one person who can stop him once ever despite a surprisingly wired Ancient Dungeon of Hell (now with LED televisions!). Which is my second major complaint, because prisons from hell filled with doom and bla bla bla are rarely the functional equivalent of rehab with a team-building exercise at the end. That whole thing could have been replaced with a ten minute ass-kicking to pep talk from Alfred, and we’d be just as far along in the creativity axis.
Batman’s “no guns” thing has been pushed to its limits over and over again, and orienting a movie around him realizing that nuking vehicles from his jet also kills people would probably be about as deep as anything in this one. Many people commented that given how awkwardly Nolan was mixing cartoon violence with the real deal, it would have made sense to include a self-aware reference to the greatest ever Batman bomb disposal plot as a gift to fans, but no such thing was forthcoming.
In fact, that brings me to the main thing that bugged me, which is that the film has no real sense of what it wants to do with the humbling/exile of Batman. It turns de-wealthing into a punchline, and being defeated into Eye of the Tiger time. There are some genuinely eerie moments with Catwoman, Bane, and Scarecrow and their different contributions to Bastille Day, and I thought the whole “terrifying social justice dystopia as a cover story for pure evil” thing was unfortunately downplayed in the rush to focus on the bomb no one gives a shit about.
Me, I still think the worthwhile insight that he’s a hero but also weirdo who gets his jollies beating the hell out of otherized people who fail to be born into super rich families and have their proclivities bankrolled safely into emo hero vs villain is best dealt with in the second, even if it was almost entirely Heath Ledger’s doing. His whole “rising” just feels unfocused and unbalanced in terms of tone; it skims depth and then returns to that travesty of a prison and its idiotic challenges. BEING RUINED MEANS SEX WITH MARION COTILLARD IN FRONT OF A FIRE ON A PERSIAN RUG. And so on. To continue with tortured French Revolution analogies, it was more Marie Antoinette with her milkmaid fetish than anything that felt genuine, and I think that’s probably the most overt example of the aesthetically fascinating but unevenly shallow decisions that Christopher Nolan keeps making in his movies. I guess that puts him punch for punch with another favorite of mine, Ridley Scott.
I could contemplate a dozen different endings (mostly variants on failure rather than death), but I don’t really care about that part because ultimately let’s just get whatever rule forces comic book movies to have the same ending over and over and over again stapled on to the constitution of the universe and be done with it. It’s pretty much written off from the outset, although I admit I was a bit more hopeful given how well the second wrapped up.
I think I got a lot more out of it than I expected, which sounds like faint praise but isn’t meant that way. I don’t feel like watching it again anytime soon like I did with the second, but it was time well spent.