Concluding a beloved trilogy is an unenviable task for any filmmaker, largely because of the unrealistically high demands heaped on by fans delighting in being impossible to please. With the window of success proving to be razor thin, the third and final chapter must accomplish a litany of things simultaneously. By the end, the swan song must surpass, not merely be equivalent to, its two predecessors in quality. It must encapsulate and infuse meaning into their themes, provide them a satisfying conclusion that resolves their hanging mysteries, and bind them together as a gigantic unified text. If the finale is too similar to or too different from the others, feels languished or hurried, or suffers the merest slip-up, it will be branded a failure. Even some of the most notable filmic minds like George Lucas (Return of the Jedi) and Francis Ford Coppola (Godfather III) have faltered under the unbearable weight of their overwhelming undertakings.
With this said, I will admit to being one of those rabid fans. Before commencing with criticism, I think it’s important to say that director Christopher Nolan finished his beloved Batman trilogy (which wasn’t all that beloved until The Dark Knight premiered) in a way that brought the narrative full circle. Unfortunately, this came at the detriment of the film, as overall, The Dark Knight Rises failed to live up to the burdensome hype. Hoping to make a dense (in content, not in subtext) epic, Nolan bit off far more than he could chew. The film feels tightly bound by its overly compressed structure, which only helps prevent flourishes of artistic expression from leaking out the edges. Amounting to the most briskly paced three-hour movie in history, DKR simply can’t spare the time to build the interpersonal relations so vital to the fabric of Batman’s journey. Even the actors, in their rare emotional moments, perform with such haste that it feels as if Nolan is timing them with a stopwatch. And, despite seeming a fool’s bet after this weekend’s box office success, I think in a few short years it will join fellow blockbuster Phantom Menace as “the film everyone saw but no one remembers.”
Working against DKR is the myriad of plot holes and narrative inconsistencies that plague it. While all films contain errors of varying magnitudes, DKR is littered with them. This has become the rule rather than the exception with Nolan’s work. While one of the best in the business at constructing an internal logic in films like Inception and Dark Knight, more often than not, Nolan gets lost in his own thicket of rules and schemes, and is prone to mistakes in plot and character motivation, which repel the watcher from the fantasy he weaves.
Here are 20 questions/problems that arose while watching The Dark Knight Rises, which the film either fails to address or simply blazes through without elaboration. Feel free to debate or add you own questions and thoughts. All that we ask is that you keep your blows above the belt.
SPOILERS ABOUND!! SPOILERS ABOUND!! SPOILERS ABOUND!! SPOILERS ABOUND!! SPOILERS ABOUND!! SPOILERS ABOUND!! SPOILERS ABOUND!! SPOILERS ABOUND!! SPOILERS ABOUND!!
1. The best place to start, appropriately, is the beginning. Why does a clandestine organization like the League of Shadows, which has remained outside the realm of public knowledge despite shaping the course of history, deem it necessary to stage the kidnapping of the scientist as a plane accident? What would organizations like the CIA do to track them down? And, if you’re trying to keep the true intentions of the hijacking secret, why would you leave one of your own (who probably wouldn’t be identifiable after the crash, anyway) behind?
2. What kind of moronic, forensic scientists would be incompetent enough to believe that Bane’s hijacking was an accident, anyway? Firstly, the plane breaks into multiple pieces and, in the process, loses its wings miles away from where the front half lands. Secondly, since plane crashes generally leave the poor souls remaining on board tattered or charred corpses, any effort to transfuse a living person’s blood (such as the scientist’s) into a cadaver would undoubtedly fail to fool police. In the aftermath of such disasters, forensic scientists identify victims by extracting DNA from the areas where it is most ample—tissue and bone. The tiny amount of infused scientist’s blood would have likely done nothing more than leak out on the plane’s interiors upon impact.
3. Why does the League of Shadows maintain its assertion that Gotham is corrupt even at a point in time when (due to the Dent Act) it is at its most peaceful and upright?
4. From where does Applied Sciences keep obtaining funding in the eight years Wayne Industries stopped being profitable? Why would Lucius continue committing his days to producing sophisticated weapons for a man who relinquished his mantle nearly a decade prior?
5. Why would any major stock movement, such as Wayne’s apparent wild act of selling all shares of his own company in favor of futures, be validated by the trade commission during an overt terrorist attack on the stock exchange? Also, despite being risky investments, how would these futures stocks crash to the ground (rendering Wayne bankrupt) ostensibly overnight?
6. As has been brought up in countless internet forum discussions, the underground prison housing Wayne is located somewhere in the Middle East (or possibly Egypt), not South or Central America. Assuming that Wayne had plenty of time to return to Gotham after freeing himself, the logistics of his journey remain hazy. How could Bruce, deprived of money, passport or identification, have been able to charter a plane back to America? And, even more perplexing, how could he have possibly re-entered a city rendered inaccessible after the destruction of the bridges? Are we seriously supposed to chalk this one up to “Batman working in mysterious ways?”
7. Through a series of flashbacks, the filmmakers trick the viewers into thinking that the child that escaped the prison was Bane, only to later reveal that it was Talia al Ghul all along. A glaring inconsistency, however, should have led most viewers to identify the ruse (even if they would have chalked it up to bad storytelling). By the time the tale of the child’s emancipation was depicted in the film, the prison doctor had already revealed that he had performed the life-saving procedures on Bane that left him with a permanent respirator while he was an inmate. If the child that escaped was Bane, then he should obviously have been wearing a mask, which he wasn’t. Why should we ever have fallen for the film’s trick with that kind of error?
8. Remaining on this scene, there seems to be a strange age discrepancy between Talia and Bane. Let’s assume, based on the flashback, that when Talia escaped prison, she was 10 years old and Bane was 20 (I’m being very gracious here). Knowing that Marion Cotillard (Miranda Tate/Talia al Ghul) is 36-years-old (and likely couldn’t play younger than mid-thirties), that would mean that Bane (played by Tom Hardy) should be around 50. Does anyone believe he’s that old?
9. If Bane and his minions had obtained all records after their successful coup, why didn’t they track down the personal information of every police officer in order to kill them directly (assuming they, like Deputy Commissioner Foley, still occupied their own homes)? Why wouldn’t the antagonists make a more concerted effort with their numbers and resources to eliminate their biggest adversaries?
10. Why, if they were on a mission to destroy Gotham’s authority figures (including members of the police), would Bane’s clan continue to drop down shipments of supplies and food to the officers trapped in the sewers?
11. As a medical professional and fellow criminal mastermind, how would Dr. Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow) not pose a threat to Bane’s reign of terror, and therefore be a prime candidate for “exile”?
13. How, if he has no cartilage in his legs, is Bruce able to do any of the physical tasks he does without his revolutionary leg braces?
14. Let’s take a look at the plot of Talia al Ghul, which has to go down as one of the most unnecessarily convoluted in film history. Vowing revenge on Wayne for killing her father, Talia builds her own corporation over a series of years, becomes a board member of Wayne Enterprises, works on devising a machine to actually serve as a nuclear device, kidnaps the said machine’s scientist in an elaborately disguised hijacking, plans a complex attack on the stock market to bankrupt Wayne, romances him, and tricks him into making her CEO of the company, all the while her protector, Bane, incites a successful revolution against Gotham’s elite. And what is the fruit of such tireless labor? The privilege of blowing up Gotham and its unwitting denizens with a WMD. Aren’t the years spent scheming political upheaval and manipulation superfluous when mass annihilation is your endgame? What’s the satisfaction in bringing a city to its knees before extinguishing it? Also, if Talia’s ultimate goal was to obtain an atomic bomb, it seems that there would be much easier and cheaper ways of accomplishing it.
15. From a narrative standpoint, what is the point of introducing Talia as the big bad at all (outside of needing to add more unnecessary plot twists), considering she shares the same motivation as Bane and is not a recognizable villain to anyone but fans of the comics?
16. Given that we saw Batman drive the nuclear bomb into the ocean, how could he have possibly survived? Don’t just say, “He’s Batman, who cares?”
17. Are we to believe that detonating an atomic bomb over the sea, even outside of the blast radius, would save the people of Gotham from any ill-effects of fallout? Would nuclear material moving through air and water not cause mass radiation poisoning, eradicate the water supply, and ultimately render parts of Gotham uninhabitable?
18. Why are we lead to regard Batman’s final act of heroism (delivering the nuclear core into the ocean) as a sacrifice when nothing was actually sacrificed? The event saw neither the death of Bruce Wayne (who proves to be alive if you trust Alfred’s perception of events) nor Batman (considering Robin will likely be taking up the mantle shortly). What’s the point of martyrizing a figure that isn’t dead and is soon returning?
19. How would Robin afford the exorbitant costs involved with being Batman with no job or income?
20. Let’s disregard the implausibility of Bruce and Alfred finding themselves in the same restaurant at the same time in Florence. Now, let’s disregard the fact that it is completely contradictory to every representation of Catwoman as an ardently independent woman to volunteer being domesticated by a man (especially one who had just been fighting to save his previous “true” love). The biggest head-scratcher that arises from the final scene is this: How are Bruce and Selina surviving? Considering Catwoman didn’t have much money and Bruce was bankrupt (in addition to having no estate, which he left to Alfred in his will), how are they paying their way through the lavish cafés of the Italian countryside? Has Bruce, the pillar of morality, suddenly become a common pickpocket?