Expectations: Academy Award material, honestly. Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors and he always delivers. I’ve heard amazing things from (most) critics and after the brilliance that was The Dark Knight I was expecting something that surpassed that.
Reality: I cannot even begin to express how much it pains me to write these words down. I’m a critic, so I’m always looking for the good and bad in movies. People often think that this means I am negative, but that’s not the case. I just tell the truth as I see it. So, when I say this, please know it is not out of negativity. I wanted to love this movie so much. Here is the truth: The Dark Knight Rises was a god-awful movie.
If you’ve already seen it, chances are you don’t understand the words you just read. My Facebook feed is full of nothing but people proclaiming Rises to be the best movie they’ve ever seen. If this is the best movie you’ve ever seen, then you need to watch more movies. 21 Jump Street was better. Ted was better. So, let me tell you, in a spoiler free way, whyRises doesn’t deserve a single accolade.
The movie takes place eight years where we left off in The Dark Knight. Nolan takes his sweet time, as he usually does, introducing us to the characters and the situation at hand. Normally, I don’t mind this. I am a patient person. But, literally, the first hour and a half of this movie put me to sleep. This portion of Rises consisted of scenes of Alfred monologuing emotionally to Bruce, random new characters trying their best to let you know why they are there, Bruce moping, and Bane flexing. By the time Nolan finally gets to the crux of the story, to the true action scenes, I had lost interest. The worst part: there wasn’t a strong enough character, especially villain, to carry the rest of the film to its conclusion.
I’m going to make a lot of comparisons to The Dark Knight because that is the film this had to be better than it. The Dark Knight was filled with tense music, amazing acting, wonderful lines, surprising moments, beautiful camera work, great characters and more. Rises had NONE of those things. There were so many moments of corniness; the kind of superhero corniness I’m used to seeing from a lesser director. The script was riddled with cliches. You know how sometimes your brain will hear a phrase and your mind will fill it in automatically with something that either rhymes or a cliched response? If I say, “See you later,” what is the first word you think of? Alligator? It would surprise you if I said, “See you later, space astronaut”, wouldn’t it? Because it isn’t what you expected. Rises had oodles of moments like this, but instead of picking the unusual response that you don’t expect, Nolan went for every cliche, horrid line in the book. This movie is unquotable, unlike its predecessor. I can’t even be bothered to remember the horrible lines.
I wrote an article the other week about directors, and those magical directors who can make their love of filmmaking shine through. Nolan is always one of those few. He has a distinctive flair and edge that stands out. I can tell when I’m watching his movies that he was there. His touch in music, angles, and special effects is obvious. There was only one moment, and I am serious here, where I could feel Nolan’s signature. The moment was the scene with the child singing the national anthem. It gave me goosebumps, and would have given me more if they hadn’t shown the climax of the scene in the damn trailer. So thank you, advertising guys, for showing the one cool thing in the whole movie in the trailer. Where were you, Nolan? Have you been abducted by aliens? Because I do not believe, for a second, that you made this movie. I’d rather believe we are in the midst of a Hollywood director alien abduction than believe that Nolan is responsible for this movie.
Nolan is great at picking music for his films. Whenever I watch the special features on a Nolan movie I always see the great care he puts into the composing of his soundtracks. Now, he does have a trademark sound. It is that high-tension, pulsating, beat. But, usually, in each film there will be little distinctions that make it stand out. In Dark Knight there was the Joker Theme that had that screeching, string noise. Inception had its trademark “whomp whomp” sound among many others. Obviously, I am not a music specialist, bear with me here. But Rises seemed to only have the high-tension, pulsating, beat without any special tracks or any special noises to make it stand out.
Another problem with Rises is character development. That is to say, there was none. Bruce Wayne didn’t change at all. Oh, they tried to make it look like he did. They wanted him to be sad and defeated in the beginning and then awesome in the end. But I didn’t buy it. It wasn’t believable. Marion Cottilard’s character, Miranda Tate, was equally boring, and if you’ve seen the movie that should surprise you. Worst of all, Bane was horribly boring. He had no facial expressions, he had no particular way he moved across the screen, he didn’t even seem that evil. There was nothing in his air and manner of walking that made him seem terrifying. He had a cool mask, coat and voice. There was no personality. There was no pizzaz, not like Ledger’s Joker. Don’t even get me started on Hathaway’s Catwoman, which we all know was destined to be ridiculous, and it was. All I saw in Rises were actors in silly costumes making faces at each other. I didn’t believe they were their characters and that is a fatal flaw.
The fight scenes were even boring. When Bane and Batman finally starting punching each other it was without music and apparently without an interesting choreographer. I’m literally sitting at my house trying to remember something, anything, about the fight scenes that was exciting and I’m drawing a blank. I could give you a list the length of my arm of cool fight moments in Dark Knight but not for Rises.
I think the last bone I have to pick is with the ending, which is majorly flawed. I am not going to spoil the movie, I promise. Nolan has always been exceptional at surprising me in his movies. He doesn’t heavily foreshadow and he doesn’t smack you in the face with symbolism. But, I guess he was in the mood for that when he wrote Rises. I won’t spoil the movie because the screenplay will do that for you. There are oodles of awkward, obvious foreshadowing moments. The symbolism is ridiculous and painfully clear. But the foreshadowing was the worst part of all. Nothing about the end of the movie surprised me at all. One moment, involving Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Officer Blake, was something I could rally behind, and it was something I did predict. But the writing for Bruce Wayne was predictable, cliched and downright childish.
Let me say this again: this was not a good movie. It wasn’t even average. It was downright terrible. I’m so saddened and disappointed to say this. I love Christopher Nolan and his Batman movies. I believe in the way he makes movies. But I think that in Rises Nolan seemed to give up on his convictions; the things that he’s always stuck to his guns about in previous films. Perhaps he’s tired of being snubbed for that Oscar and is hoping that if he takes the traditional, boring path he might finally find Oscar-Glory. I certainly hope they do not nominate him for anything, and this is the first time I’ve ever said this, because The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t deserve a single nomination or accolade.
I could try to tell you to not waste your money, but you won’t listen. This is the most highly anticipated movie of the year. So, at least do this, watch the movie with clear eyes. Don’t let the fact that this is the most hyped-up movie distract you from what is really happening on your movie screen. Nolan has killed Batman himself with half-assed directing, barely-there characters, and a predictable, cliched screenplay.
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