We did it! We made it! I was worried for a second…
In Part One – we covered Batman ’66, Batman ’89, and Tim Burton’s Batman Returns…
Then in Part Two – we tore apart Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever and the god awful Batman and Robin…
Now it’s time to review Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy!
Batman Begins (2005)
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale (Batman), Liam Neeson (Ra’s Al Ghul), Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow), Ken Watanabe (fake Ra’s), Katie Holmes (Rachel Dawes), Michael Caine (Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), Tom Wilkinson (Carmine Falcone), Rutger Hauer (Mr. Earle)
Plot: A true origin story following Bruce’s life periodically from the murder of his parents to his travels around the world making himself into Batman, one step at a time. He becomes a member of, and eventually turns against, the League of Shadows, who come to Gotham to get their revenge and destroy the city. As Batman, he must face the Falcone mafia, the Scarecrow, and Ra’s Al Ghul, while trying to rekindle his relationship with childhood friend turned assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes, establishing a relationship with Jim Gordon (one of the only honest cops in Gotham), and working to get his company back from Mr. Earle.
Erik Smash: Ok, so I think we can ALL agree that the previous series of movies: Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and Batman and Robin – all got progressively worse as they went on. All that changed in 2005 with BATMAN BEGINS!
Now with a title like that, you might be thinking, “Oh, it’s a prequel?” but no, it most definitely NOT a prequel, it’s a complete and total reboot, and a badass one at that. This movie basically said, ‘Forget EVERYTHING you know about Batman, it all starts here’ and then it proceeds to take the other movies to school and shows them how it’s done. This might not be the best of the Batman movies, BUT it is probably The Best example of a comic book character being faithfully adapted to the big screen.
It also takes a lot of moments directly from Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One”, so props for that. Not only did they stay true to Batman’s origins, they really delved in and expanded on the mythology.
For those that don’t watch movies, Batman Begins is part one of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, which stars Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, Gary Oldman as James Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred, and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. It’s a nearly perfect trilogy and, just like with the Star Wars Trilogy, the first one is, in some ways, the best one, even though there’s parts in the much darker second one that elevate the series as a whole (just like Empire), and then things are neatly wrapped up in the slightly less awesome final chapter, that still has some of the best moments in the entire franchise (just like Jedi).
I love how everything in this movie is about the exact opposite of ‘Batman and Robin’, especially the tone. This film does everything it can to distance itself from that travesty. What’s more is, this movie actually portrays the characters from the comics VERY accurately. But one of the best things about ‘Begins’ isn’t just it’s gritty, dark, atmospheric Gotham, but the movie’s realistic credibility. The Tim Burton Batman, briefly mentioned his origin, but this movie really delves in and explains how everything is possible. Nolan really shows who Bruce Wayne is, as a character, beneath the mask – his fears, his hopes, his motivations, and his failures.
Some people complain that Bruce doesn’t become Batman till half way through the movie, but I think that’s part of what makes it so good, because it builds up to it, it earns it, and when Batman does show up, rips through the mob, and headbutts Carmine Falcone in the face, the movie goes from good to fucking awesome! The movie could’ve been just about Batman tackling common thugs and I would’ve been happy, but it goes one step further – it gives us TWO of Batman’s greatest villains for the first time on film: The Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul!
There’s technically more Batman villains than ever before, but they’re all handled so well, and not just thrown together just for the hell of it – Ra’s, Scarecrow, Falcone, Mr. Earle, Joe Chill – Hell, even Zsasz makes an appearance!
Mob boss, Carmine Falcone is played by Tom Wilkinson whose surprisingly convincing as a mobster you wouldn’t want to cross. He kind of reminds me of a realistic version of the Penguin. Then there’s Mr. Earle who is the CEO of Wayne Enterprises portrayed by Rutger Hauer, the one guy from ‘Blade Runner’. Earle basically serves as a plot device, but such a good one that I’m surprised he hasn’t been incorporated into the comics yet.
I admit, I feel like the Scarecrow was a little under used in this movie (and the rest of the trilogy), but Cillian Murphy absolutely nails the character of Johnathon Crane! He’s just super friggin’ creepy in the best way. All the scenes with the effects of the fear toxin were also really cool and they made it work into the plot very nicely. I kinda wish there were more of those fear sequences throughout the rest of the trilogy, because they were really powerful. Especially that scene where Batman is caught off guard by the Scarecrow for the first time and he LIGHTS HIM ON FIRE!
Then we have Ra’s Al Ghul, played by (spoiler alert) Hollywood’s resident badass, Liam Neeson, in a twist ending where he reveals his true identity. Years after the murder of Bruce’s parents by a nameless thug, Bruce is unable to find closure. After failing to get revenge, Bruce leaves behind his city and his fortune, in search of his destiny. He travels the world and eventually finds himself training under Ra’s in the League of Shadows, a hardcore ninja clan in the Himalayas. It’s here where Bruce realizes his true calling when he refuses to murder in the name of ‘justice’ and becomes sworn enemies of the clan, vowing to protect Gotham from this band of ancient terrorists. He escapes and returns home a changed man. We watch as Bruce starts a war on crime and corruption as he evolves into the caped crusader. Then, when we least expect it, Ra’s returns to Gotham, to finish what he started years prior.
For the first time ever, the allies are just as central to the story as the villains! Gordon is FINALLY done justice and is genuinely essential to the plot. Gordon is practically Bruce’s sidekick. Lucius Fox makes his big screen debut with none other than God himself, Morgan Freeman. Lucius used to work for Bruce’s father and helps him with his tech kinda like Q. Then there’s Alfred played by Michael Caine, who delivers a stellar performance as his butler / mentor. You also have Rachel Dawes, Bruce’s childhood friend / girlfriend / lawyer, played by the gorgeous Katie Holmes. And then there’s Henry Ducard, later revealed to be Ra’s who shapes him into the Dark Knight.
There’s a perfect blend of drama and action with just enough comic relief thrown in. All the flashback scenes with Bruce and his father are great. There’s a really awesome line that really stuck with me, “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” The scene where Bruce loses his parents is heart wrenching every time. It’s also great to see how the people in his life formed him into who he becomes.
What also sets this one apart from the other Batman movies is Christian Bale’s performance and the portrayal of the character. Nolan and Bale took a note from the comics and made Bruce Wayne the disguise, and also having him change his voice as Batman, which if you think about it makes a lot of sense. A lot of people like to make fun of his growling dialogue, but I think (in this one especially) it’s very effective at making him appear like a demonic vigilante from the shadows. For once, Batman is actually scary. I wouldn’t want to fuck with him.
The ending of this movie is phenomenal – as cliche as it sounds, it really is a nonstop thrill ride.
The last act of the movie takes place within the span of a day, and it kicks so much ass. It starts with Rachel visiting Bruce at the mansion before his party, where she tells him she’s going after Crane. Bruce immediately suits up and charges into action. He confronts Dr. Crane at Arkham Asylum where he saves Rachel, from the Scarecrow’s fear toxin by escaping the police in his suped-up Bat-tank and getting her back to the Bat-cave where he can give her the antidote from Lucius. He then quickly changes back into his tux to greet his philanthropist guests at the party up stairs, as Bruce, where he meets his other adversary, a blast from the past: Ra’s Al Ghul, in a surprise twist appearance. Bruce saves everyone by acting like a drunken asshole and then gets his ass handed to him by ninjas who then proceed to burn his entire mansion to the ground. Yes, Wayne Manor burns down. Alfred saves Bruce and gets him to the Bat-cave where he then has to become Batman once again to save the Narrows from Ra’s, a shit load of ninjas, an Arkham breakout, corrupt cops, and the Scarecrow’s fear gas!
Oh and that one liner Batman says to Ra’s, “I won’t kill you… but I don’t have to save you…” Awesome.
Comiczombie: I think I said “they finally got it right!” about fifty times after seeing Batman Begins. Emphasis on “finally”.
When they announced the casting of Christian Bale as Batman, I was thrilled. This was a match made in heaven, right there with Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. And combined with a director like Christopher Nolan, who was saying all of the right things leading up to production, like “I want to bring the character back to his roots,” and “I was very inspired by works like Frank Miller’s ‘Year One,'” it seemed like this could actually be good.
Turns out it was VERY good, and thank God, because if it was even ‘just ok’ it could have been the end of Batman movies for a good long while, thanks to Joel “Let’s put nipples on the bat suit” Schumacher and the like.
Erik covered most of what I wanted to say already, but a few things to add:
-It was great to see Thomas and Martha Wayne a little bit (well, really just Thomas). Their death scene was very well handled, and you can certainly see why it would fuck a kid up something awful.
-Seeing Bruce train to become Batman was awesome. I wanted even more of it than we got.
-Gotham looks awesome. While I do enjoy the gothic version in Tim Burton’s “Batman”, I prefer this dirty, shitty looking version even more, especially because during the day it looks so shiny and new, but at night it looks filthy, probably smells bad, and just looks like somewhere you wouldn’t want to be.
-Cillian Murphy does a tremendous job as the Scarecrow in the limited screen time he has here. It’s too bad he wasn’t given more to do.
-The scene where Scarecrow drugs Batman, douses him in liquor, and lights him on fire, and Batman, hallucinating and engulfed in flames, just throws himself out of the building? Amazing. I still can’t believe they put that in the movie.
-The Tumbler/ Batmobile is fucking sweet.
-They actually got Batman’s personality right for once! Holy shit! And what’s more, they got Bruce Wayne right! The Bruce Wayne the public sees is every bit as much a mask as the Batman, and is only used to keep up pretenses. If it were up to Bruce, he would let everyone think he was dead and just be Batman all the time.
-It was so awesome to see Jim Gordon get his due. Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl are cool and all, but everyone knows the coolest ally Batman has is the constantly stressed out police commissioner. Gary Oldman is great in the role.
-Rachel Dawes is pointless. The weak link in the movie, and not only because Katie Holmes couldn’t act her way out of a fake marriage. She’s just not a likeable character. And the scene where Batman all but tells her “hey, it’s me, Bruce”? SIGH. She’s just annoying, and really doesn’t add a damn thing to this film. She adds a little bit to the sequel, but that’s neither here nor there. I feel like a different casting choice may have helped, but I don’t know how much.
-The device Ra’s and the League of Shadows steal is pretty stupid. Why they couldn’t have just had the League of Assassins…er…. the League of Shadows steal some weapons Mr. Earl had Wayne Enterprises making, or steal some random shit that could be turned into a big bomb or something, I don’t know.
-Alfred and Luscious Fox were nicely handled, and both add something to all three movies.
-Batman saved King Joffrey. Thanks, jerk.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the cliffhanger ending on the rooftop of the police station. When Gordon shows Batman that Joker card I got goose bumps. No lie. I don’t care how nerdy that is, I got fucking goose bumps. I couldn’t imagine how they would portray the Joker in this film universe, and needless to say, a few years later I was blown away, just like everyone else.
I can’t understate what a bad ass movie this is. When you compare it with what came before, it’s just… it’s not even close. It’s like giving a kid an Atari 2600 and then following that up with a PS4! He’d look at the Atari, then back at you, then back at the Atari, then just sigh deeply.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale (Batman), Heath Ledger (Joker), Aaron Eckhart (Two-Face), Michael Caine (Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Rachel Dawes), Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow), Eric Roberts (Sal Maroni)
Plot: As Batman and Gordon close in on the mafia, they make a pact with district attorney Harvey Dent to finish them off once and for all. In desperation, the mob turns to a maniac calling himself the Joker, who quickly terrifies Gotham and has the police, and Batman, without a clue on how to stop him. Gordon, Batman, and Dent all must pay terrible prices for the choices they have made, but can they overcome them in time to save Gotham?
ComicZombie: Ohhhhhhh, yeah. It’s like all the shit was made worthwhile with Batman Begins, and then it was all washed away with this masterpiece. This movie was so good it was getting legitimate hype for the Academy Awards and making a push to be nominated for best picture (it wasn’t). Heath Ledger won the Best Supporting Actor award for his unbelievable portrayal of the Joker. Everything that worked about the last movie was amplified for this one, and it just destroyed.
Bale seems more comfortable as Batman in his second go (probably because he can actually move in the new suit). Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman continue to be awesome, Cillian Murphy reprises his role as the Sarecrow in a brief cameo, and they even replaced Katie Holmes with the infinitely more talented (but far less attractive) Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes. Ledger is amazing as the Joker, and Aaron Eckhart is great in the role of Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face.
Christopher Nolan’s direction is fantastic, the music is great… just everything. Everything works. Bale’s Batman is menacing as hell, Gordon is portrayed perfectly as one of the only good men in a horrible city trying to do the right thing, Dent is a flawed (and later on he’s… well, we’ll be kind and call it ‘facially challenged’) man trying to do the right thing but not caring nearly as much about doing it the right way, and Ledger’s Joker… while Nicholson played the Joker like a sadistic madman that happened to look like a clown, Ledger played him like an anarchist. He just shows up and takes over everything in Gotham (and in the movie; when he’s on screen you can’t look anywhere else, and when he’s not you’re just waiting for him to show back up again).
My only complaint about this movie is I feel like they should not have wrapped up the Two-Face story by the end, and should have left him for the third movie, but I also understand how his story is so wrapped around this film, with the Gordon/Dent/Batman trio going up against the mob and the Joker. Really, the story of the movie is how the Joker’s inclusion in the conflict destroyed Dent’s life, Bruce Wayne’s personal life (what little of one there was), and the relationship between the three men, as well as Batman’s relationship with the police and the city itself.
Really, the Joker wins. And I think that’s maybe my favorite thing about the movie, is that at the end of the day, yeah, they stop him and all, but he accomplishes everything he sets out to do. I have no doubt that had Ledger not tragically overdosed not long after the filming wrapped that he would have been the villain, or at least featured heavily, in the third film (rumor has it that Nolan wanted to adapt Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s “Arkham Asylum” graphic novel, which would have been incredible).
I have a particular love of the entire sequence that goes from Dent getting into the armored car through the Joker’s escape from the police station. Everything about that entire, what, 20 minutes (?), is just spectacular. The flaming fire truck, the Slaughter is the Best Medicine on the side of the Joker’s truck, the truck flip, the interrogation, the switch-up on where Dent and Rachel are, the Joker’s escape… just awesome.
Also something I really enjoyed, besides the obvious one of Joker’s magic trick, is the way he keeps telling different stories about how his face became scarred. It’s like the Grant Morrison take on the character where his entire history and personality are multiple choice. The only thing consistent about him is he likes spreading fear and chaos everywhere. Also his obsession with his best buddy Batman.
Erik Smash: Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is an epic masterpiece of not only super hero cinema, but the action genre itself. Almost the entire cast from the last movie returns, except Maggie Gyllenhal replaces Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes, and Aaron Eckhart plays Harvey Dent. And then of course you have Heath Ledger as the nefarious Joker, in one of the best portrayals of a villain on film.
Hans Zimmer’s score once again knocks it out of the park. I can’t say that Zimmer’s music is more memorable than Danny Elfman’s Batman theme, but it’s atmospheric tone really fits these movies perfectly. This time he amps up the slowly building theme of the first entry and adds in a creepy theme for The Joker’s scenes.
So the movie picks up a year after Bruce began his war on crime as The Batman and is about the escalation that occurs in its wake. The movie centers around Batman, Gordon, and District Attorney Harvey Dent (cough cough Two-Face) as they work towards bringing down Sal Maroni, and the Russian mob for good. Unfortunately for Gotham, a new class of criminal takes to the stage with the psychotic terrorist known only as The Joker. Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker brings a whole new level of gravitas to this already intriguing crime thriller…
This sequel to Batman Begins starts with a chaotic bank heist. After a rising body count of thugs and mobsters, Heath Ledger’s grim jester first makes his appearance. The Joker then taunts the city’s crime bosses after stealing all their cash and begins to consolidate power as he convinces them he’s their guy to take care of their flying rodent problem. Thing is though, he’s on no one’s side. It was never about the money, it was about sending a message.
The Joker’s motivations are constantly in question, as are his origins. He’s an agent of chaos, constantly changing his back story on a whim, licking at his slashed smile, and claims to not have a plan, but it turns out he’s a mastermind whose planned out every last detail. I especially love the look of the character, a knife-wielding, drug-addled serial killer with a painted face and facial scars. It’s updated, realistic, and very reminiscent of the character’s original inspiration, Victor Hugo’s ‘The Man Who Laughs’.
Ledger’s take on The Joker isn’t just crazy (which he clearly is), but seriously terrifying. Ledger’s Joker is the absolute last person you’d want to run into in a back alley. He’s captivating and mesmerizing, intriguing and disturbing. Heath Ledger’s performance is top notch and notably a very different version than the one previously portrayed by Nicholson. With some of the most memorable line deliveries of motion picture history, it’s really no wonder he won an Oscar, but absolutely devastating that he didn’t live to see it.
The movie is heavily influenced by a number of the best Batman graphic novels ever written: Alan Moore’s “The Killing Joke”, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s “The Long Halloween”, and Grant Morrison’s “Arkham Asylum”.
Besides the Joker, one of the cool things about this movie is that it was actually filmed in the streets of Chicago (and Hong Kong) with a ton of practical effects and some of the biggest explosions in movie history. The movie was also partially filmed with high-def Imax cameras and it really shows! The enhanced scope is especially immersive during the iconic highway chase sequence where the Joker’s after Dent, the Batmobile is blown up, and Batman takes out a semi-truck with his suped-up motorcycle, right before Joker gets the upper hand and Gordon saves the day at the last second.
During the movie’s crazy twists and turns: Batman beats up a lot of thugs, Lucius build Batman a new suit, the Scarecrow makes a cameo appearance only to get punked out by some copy cats in hockey pads, Batman goes to China, The Joker kills A LOT of people, and Bruce almost gives up being Batman for Rachel, who chooses Harvey Dent over him, before being killed by The Joker, ultimately leading to Dent’s descent into madness as the diabolical Two-Face!
Also, there’s this random employee at Wayne Enterprises, who attempts to blackmail Bruce after figuring out he’s Batman, who may or may not be a reference to The Riddler – no seriously, dude’s name is Coleman Reese… Mr. Reese… mysteries! Get it? …
The end of this movie has one of the best exchanges between a hero and a villain. Batman stops the Joker, and as he’s hanging there, reveals one last trick up his sleeve…
The Joker: Oh, you. You just couldn’t let me go, could you? This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible, aren’t you? You won’t kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness. And I won’t kill you because you’re just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever.
Batman: You’ll be in a padded cell forever.
The Joker: Maybe we can share one. You know, they’ll be doubling up, the rate this city’s inhabitants are losing their minds.
Batman: This city just showed you that it’s full of people ready to believe in good.
The Joker: Until their spirit breaks completely. Until they get a good look at the real Harvey Dent, and all the heroic things he’s done. You didn’t think I’d risk losing the battle for Gotham’s soul in a fistfight with you? No. You need an ace in the hole. Mine’s Harvey.
Batman: What did you do?
The Joker: I took Gotham’s white knight and I brought him down to our level. It wasn’t hard. You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push!
Ultimately the movie is a tragedy. Dent loses his sanity and Batman is forced to kill ‘Two-Face’ to save Gordon’s family. In a twisted way, The Joker still wins. Batman takes on the blame for Dent’s murders and becomes Gotham’s most wanted as he races off into the dark horizon…
CZ: I forgot to mention, did anyone else notice that after the Joker takes Lau from the police, and he burns the huge stack of the mobster’s money, that Lau is still sitting on top of the money when it’s lit up? Joker, you diabolical bastard, you!
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale (Batman), Anne Hathaway (Catwoman), Tom Hardy (Bane), Gary Oldman (Commissioner Gordon), Michael Caine (Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Officer John Blake / Robin), Marian Cotillard (Miranda/ Talia Al Ghul), Matthew Modine (Captain Foley)
Plot: It has been years since the events of the Dark Knight, and a retired Batman is forced to return to deal with the threat of Bane and the remnants of Ra’s Al Ghul’s League of Shadows, as well as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Things do not go well for him or Gotham, to say the least…
Erik Smash: I have to admit, this movie did not age as well as I initially expected. You see, when I first saw this movie I absolutely loved it and thought that it was actually superior to the rest. (click here to see my original Top 15 Comic Book Movies – back in 2012) Turns out, on closer examination, I have to admit that it’s probably the weakest of the trilogy, which, as it turns out, is not all that uncommon for the third part of many a trilogy – Alien, The Godfather, TMNT, etc… That said, it’s nowhere near as bad as (the previously reviewed) Returns, Forever, or the unspeakable horror that was Batman and Robin. In fact, The Dark Knight Rises actually a really damn good movie, just not the best Batman movie… mostly because Batman’s barely in it. Really though, besides its faults there’s a lot of awesome stuff in this movie and it’s a great ending to the trilogy that Nolan set out to make in Begins.
Rises delivers one of the best onscreen Bat-villains in the form of Tom Hardy’s Bane!
In the comics, Bane was one menacing adversary who crippled Batman during the Knightfall Saga. Bane has always been a character of cunning intellect and superior strength to match (except for that one time in the aforementioned travesty that was Batman and Robin, where he was regulated to a beefy bouncer on steroids). This movie takes the basic concept of the character and goes a step further. In this version, Bane was trained by the League of Shadows, like Bruce, and hijacks his technology to hold the city ransom. The second half of the movie where Bane’s regime takes hold of the city is inspired by the “Cataclysm” and “No Man’s Land” story arcs from the comics which made me wish they could base an entire movie around that scenario.
In many ways, Bane is portrayed as Bruce’s opposite. (Even visually with Batman’s mouth exposed, whereas only Bane’s mouth is covered.) A lot of people like to complain about Bane’s voice, but I think it works, reminds me of a classic Bond-villain meets Darth Vader. During the movie, Bane does in fact manage to break Batman’s back, steal Bruce Wayne’s arsenal, and take over Gotham, making him by far the most successful super villain in movie history.
ComicZombie: When I first saw this I was not that happy with it. Batman is barely in it, there’s a ton of stuff with characters I don’t care one bit about (John Blake, anyone?), and it just feels so separate from the first two. The time jump from Dark Knight to Rises is jarring, and they took all the stuff from Batman that makes him so cool: the money, the mansion, the cave, the gadgets, and the seeming invincibility. All of that is gone, and most of it from the beginning.
It’s been eight (!!!) years since the end of the Dark Knight, and Batman has not been seen since the night Harvey Dent died. The mob is virtually non-existent in Gotham now, and crime is at an all-time low, so it seems that the pact that Batman made with Gordon and Dent was worth it, after all. There doesn’t seem to be a need for the Batman anymore, which, right away for me, feels like the wrong move. It would have been better if they picked up shortly after the second film and explored the ramifications of the ending, but I think Ledger’s untimely death really changed this movie. They wanted to distance themselves from the Dark Knight and just get on with it.
It seems like this whole movie is dealing with two things: 1) the idea that Bruce espoused in Begins, which is that Batman needs to be a symbol; more than a man, and 2) the fallout from Ra’s Al Ghul’s death and what it means for the League of Shadows.
With regards to the first point, that’s why we get like a third of the movie dealing with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character running around, occasionally sharing screen time with Batman (only once, I think) or Gordon (like three, four times tops). How what we see of him in this movie leads Bruce to believe he could take his place, I have no idea. Odds are close to 100% that he would die his first night out as Batman. Anyway, while his character makes total sense with regards to the whole “Batman is a symbol” thing, I feel like it’s too soon to get into that. If you think about it, Bruce is really only Batman for like a year in the first two movies, and for like a day in this movie. The whole “I’m ready to pass the torch” thing just doesn’t feel earned to me. If this were like the fifth or sixth entry in the franchise, sure. But it just feels like it’s too soon. Consequently there is a large part of the movie, and a large part of the ending, that just don’t work for me.
With regards to the League of Shadows, it seems that ol’ Ra’s was a bit of a moderate, and may have been keeping them in check a bit. Bane? Not so much. He’s all about taking the League to extremes, and is really quite good at it. While the movie doesn’t do a very good job of explaining this, they are running Gotham for a good while, maybe as much as a few months. And it doesn’t take them long to take over, either.
Once they take Bruce’s money and get access to the armory it’s just a matter of taking out Batman, which Bane does very quickly. This is another thing I think feels a little rushed. In the comics, Bane ran Batman through a gauntlet before confronting him, wanting him to be worn down and not at his best before facing him. In the movie time has done that for him. Bruce hasn’t trained in like 8 years, and after fighting like two guys he fights Bane. OF COURSE he’s going to lose horribly. Also, his strategy is shit. He knows nothing about who he’s facing, really, and just charges in. Not a very “Batman” thing to do.
Points for having the fight between Bane and Batman be awesome, though. Best fight in the series. Especially once Batman realizes “Oh, shit. I’m not in shape, out of practice, and none of my tricks work on this guy. He’s bigger, faster, stronger and younger than me, and is going to beat my head in unless I do something”. His desperation shows in the way he starts fighting, and you can tell Bane knows all of this. Great stuff. I also liked how they homage Knightfall with the broken back. You can’t have Bane without him breaking someone’s back. Unless you’re fucking Joel Schumacher.
My other problem is the ending. After Batman apparently dies in the nuclear explosion, the city builds a statue for him. Kind of lame, but whatever. My problem is that the statue looks ridiculous.
Also, Bruce leaves his mansion and estate grounds in his will to an orphanage. OK, that’s cool, but what are the odds some kid is going to discover the freaking Bat cave and see either John Blake tooling around or just immediately know that Bruce Wayne had been Batman? Pretty damn good, probably.
Another problem I have with the ending is that whole thing of “did he die or not?” which only exists because of Alfred’s whole “I have a dream of seeing you all happy at a French café” or whatever. If he had never said that, when you saw Bruce and Selina at the end it would have been like “YEAH!” instead of “…Yay?”. It’s pretty clear he survived the explosion, since he had fixed the auto pilot, and that the Bruce and Selina Alfred see at the end are really there, but how he survived is a mystery worthy of… well, Batman.
Before you think I hated this movie or something, I just want to say that there is a lot to like about it, too. Gordon is great, as usual. The occupied Gotham is awesome, and the place seems more dangerous than ever. I like the prison Bane leaves Bruce in, I thought that was pretty cool and well designed. Bane himself is great, as is the Scarecrow in his too brief (again) cameo. I loved the twist with Miranda Tate/Talia, and thought the reveal was well done. “Catwoman” is awesome, too. The Bat, the new vehicle Batman uses, is freaking sweet. And the fights between Batman and Bane are really awesome. I also loved the scene at the football stadium, and the way the League basically has everyone by the balls for a very long time before Bruce shows back up to crap in their cereal. The whole scene where Batman first comes out of retirement is awesome, too.
All in all, while Rises is definitely the weakest of the three installments in the trilogy, it’s still a strong movie, and worlds better than anything that came before “Begins”. It’s just a shame that the last we see of Bruce Wayne isn’t being bad ass, kicking someone’s teeth in, or even being Batman. He’s just sitting at a café, looking like an average yuppie. For shame.
ES: Great points all around. Conceptually the movie is brilliant, it’s just some of the execution that could’ve been refined. It’s full of plot holes and logical inconsistencies that keep it from being as great as the first two. The fact that Batman retired for 8 years because he was sad and that the city was fine without him seemed wrong. I feel like if they’d hinted at more Batman adventures between this one and the last one I would’ve been happier with this being the conclusion of his story.
I thought it was cool how they worked Talia into the story, but there could’ve been a lot more build up for that ‘twist’ when she reveals her true identity (while literally twisting the knife in). Problem is, it kinda nerfed the badass Bane who, as it turns out, wasn’t really the mastermind behind the entire plot, only to get killed comically by Catwoman. Speaking of, Catwoman is in this movie, sort of. Anne Hathaway is a great fit for the role, but she’s really not in it a whole lot. I like how she’s portrayed more as an anti-hero, much like her comic book counter part.
I feel like the ending is rather fitting, the way it ties together with the first one especially. It could’ve been better though: I don’t mind the Batman statue, except it should’ve been more simple, less detail, especially considering no one actually got a good look at him long enough to base a sculpture off of him. The scene where Batman flies the nuke out of the city implies that he died, because of the way it shows his face (inside the cockpit) right before the bomb detonates off the coast. It’s either an editing fallacy, Alfred’s delusional, or Batman’s a teleporter…
And then there’s
Robin John Blake, who was ok as a character, but they could’ve showed him in a training montage earlier on with Bruce, which would’ve made his taking up of the mantle more plausible. Maybe there’s a training system in the Bat cave? I also don’t see him becoming Batman, seeing as he hasn’t earned it yet, he seems more of a Nightwing type.
All it’s faults aside, it’s a good movie and a worthy conclusion to an epic trilogy.
Well, there you have it. We’ve covered everything from the campy ridiculousness of Batman ’66 to the gothic Batman of 1989 to the campy retardedness of the Schumacher era to the gritty realism of the Nolan films. Some we loved, some we thought were cool, and some were just ok. Batman & Robin gave us both brain tumors.
So what’s next for Gotham’s dark knight? Well, for starters, Ben Affleck will be playing him in Zack Snyder’s “BATMAN vs SUPERMAN” (the follow up to the action packed Superman reboot, “MAN OF STEEL”), leading up to a Justice League movie, with rumors of new solo films for Affleck after that (Or Bat-fleck, as some people are now calling him).
Apparently this take on Batman is more in line with the older version from Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” graphic novel, which could be great, or could be a bit ridiculous. We shall see…
Either way, there’s no way in hell it will be worse than this:
For more from Comic Zombie and Erik Smash, check out our Not-So-Great-Debate series!