The 20 Biggest Flaws of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

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”?

12. What is the point of the subplot that an unnamed citizen holds the detonation device of the nuclear bomb? Why would the citizen, if it weren’t fictional, ever detonate it?

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?

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6 Comments

  1. 10. I think the idea was that if they senselessly killed the police officers, the "people" of Gotham wouldn't have been on their side.

    16. They made mention that Bruce patched the Autopilot of the Bat-wing "6 months ago". He wasn't in it when it exploded. (2 of the 4 people I saw the movie with missed this as well).

    20. Alfred mentions that he goes to Florence for vacation every year. Bruce could have just made sure to follow him there, and then sit down near him. As for how the hell they got there… no idea.

    Other then those.. I got nothing else to add except that I loved your article.

  2. 1. It was a staged kidnapping looked to fail and thus Dr. Pavel was considered dead. The man left behind is a reasonable complaint.
    2. Agreed that a blood transfusion seemed silly, especially because it wasn't a lot of blood anyway, but I'm willing to look past it. It isn't central to the story and didn't ruin the incredibly ambitiously filmed scene to me.
    3. The LoS as I understand it doesn't assume that crime is the problem, it's all aspects of society. The Dent Act was a trumped up version of the Patriot Act and arguably illegal for holding 1000+ without parole/ due process. Just because crime is down doesn't mean Gotham isn't corrupt.
    4. It isn't funded. Fox says he's been collecting all the hardware from various locations around the globe and consolidating.
    5. Stocks move quick, its plausible that a sell-off one day would drastically cripple a company the next. Fox says the next day it'll take months to convince the SEC that they were fraudulent trades.
    6. I don't remember there being concrete descriptions on the prison location in the film. It could be anywhere. We know Wayne was trapped for at least 86 days in the prison. We know that the bomb timer was 5 months (roughly 150 days). Wayne arrives 24-36 hours before the last day. Therefore it logically took him another 2 months to make it back.
    7. The doctor did the repairs on Bane when he was an adult. The doctor and Wayne's keeper never say it was Bane, but they hint that it was. The audience just assumes it was.
    8. There is a definite age question.
    9. No way to decide on this, but Bane's intentions seemed more methodical and about forcing the public's hands.
    10. I don't think that Bane's clan dropped anything. That was the underground movement as Blake said.
    11. Dr. Crane was just a bonus. He never appeared to have grand ambitions to rule Gotham, just assist in the anarchy. Given everyone's fear of Bane it's reasonable to assume that he also feared Bane.
    12. Good point, but maybe we're to assume this "citizen" unknowingly had it. But the audience knows like Wayne that Bane wouldn't let it into the hands of a stranger. He would have it (of in this case, Talia).
    13. Its plausible that the leg braces negate the absence of cartilage. When he's in the prison, his suit is gone, but there's no way for us to know if Bane also took the leg braces.
    14. Fair enough point but it didn't ruin the film for me.
    15. I think it's to just prove to Wayne/ Batman that he doesn't know everything and he doesn't always get it right.
    16. He fixed the auto pilot and ejected before the explosion, likely when he flew through the building he blew up in advance.
    17. Its possible this would all happen, but just as likely as it not happen too depending on natural causes (wind, tide, etc.)
    18. Batman sacrificed himself. Just because Wayne survives doesn't mean that Batman did. Can't assume that Robin is coming back at Batman, he's just likely to use the resources to become a new hero.
    19. We don't know what else Wayne left for Blake. It's plausible that a significant amount of money or assets was left as well. The point is that the legacy of a hero will live on.
    20. It doesn't matter how it happens, the point is that they've all found their futures and peace.

  3. Jordan–
    I agree 100% that DKR was a huge disappointment. I enjoyed the film, but The Dark Knight was a far-superior movie. Too much happened in DKR; too little character development took place; the scale of the events were too severe to be believable.
    The BEST part of the trilogy was that it humanized otherwise comic book characters, as a CT article last week described. Bruce Wayne/Batman was flawed; main characters (pretty women, even) died; secondary characters (Alfred) were real people. DKR went too far with almost everything. There was an atomic bomb, the nation's largest city was held hostage for three whole months, Bruce Wayne traveled halfway around the world after recovering from a broken back with no supplies or resources whatsoever, and there was, conveniently, a "Bat" flying vehicle that could hover and maneuver the skyline like a bumblebee…despite the fact that the developer, Wayne Enterprises, was bankrupt. DKR was a hyperbole, and it really detracted from the believability-factor for me. I hate the Final Destination movies, but part of what makes them scary is that the bad-guy is "death" itself–something that is believable. The first two movies had a believable factor that hooked me in. DKR did not.

    All that being said, I enjoyed the movie–it just did not live up to my expectations. I despise Phantom Menace, but I love Qui-Gon as probably my favorite Jedi (for my own nerdy, idealistic reasons). I am sure I will find something from DKR to latch onto to love as part of the trilogy (I really liked John Blake/Robin, but the character should have been developed a lot more, for example). But, this may be my third-favorite movie of this trilogy.

    Keep up the good work, CT! I've told all my friends I've met in DC this summer about this cool magazine. Hopefully readership will increase!

  4. Thanks Goose for spreading the good word!

  5. To answer all 20.

    1. To cover tracks regardless. Any report of the crash could alert later in the film.
    2. CIA plane with ghost extraction. No coordinates were properly run through public channels so it would make sense that it would take them a really long time to figure out what happened. Especially since the plane was pulled up at a force an angle it can make on it's own with the steering column and still not survive.
    3. Rewatch Batman Begins. Gotham's cycle is always recurring.
    4. The passion of Wayne outweighs his projection. Fox knew this and continued work in good faith just as Alfred kept the house just in case Bruce did ever return. Funding came from downsizing DOD subsidiaries. It was said in the film. I think a better question for this one was why are guns for a 50/50 chance more important than the lives of orphans?
    5. Stock transactions are electric money. In the 8 mins it took to load the program the transaction made while loading would still look normal even by the time the rest of the market would find out about the attack.
    6. Are we to believe a billionaire world traveler does not have connections with more than the US Embassy in a different time zone? As for entering the city, he just used the bat wing aka the bat. 
    7. Incorrect.  It was a tricky story. The doctor was asked many questions. Bruce thought the child was bane and put those words in his questions. The doctor referred to the child as child and bane as bane when answering. He just didn't answer the questions outside of Bruce's context.
    8. Working with round number is easy. However if she was 8 and he was 18, then yes I would believe it. However this not the first movie to have an overage actress or a young looking one with old eyes playing a younger role. Plus this flaw is a nitpick not a flaw.
    9. Bane explains this in the movie. To give hope to the citizens. Also killing 3,000 cops in a short time over trapping them in an impenetrable cage isn't a real "one fail swoop" type move.
    10.  Answered in the movie. Sadistic reasoning is hope. It's like messing with a caged animal for fun.
    11. He was a criminal of the people who believed Bane let him free to reign. Madmen don't need much logic in long term plans. They live for the instant.
    12. Mystery but the reality is even though a myth the detonator is a metaphor. People try and run the city is detonated. Transitive properties state that the people would become the detonator.
    13. Revolutionary leg braces that billionaires who can build a cold fusion reactor have.
    14. You obviously never read the comic. Even though with Maria's casting giving away to her character and causing her to lie in interviews about it Batman Begins explains that Gotham's times that can be chosen formed in cycles. That was the League's belief. So it only makes sense the attack would take the time. The first WTC bombing was planned 8 yrs in advance. Second was almost the same. London bombings was over 5. So it makes sense.
    15. Tie in to the first movie. Even though all three films unlike most of today's ADD trilogies can stand on their own, they all like to have the little tie in to make the viewer want to know more. Especially those seeing this film out of sequence.
    16. Auto-Pilot. Fox says he was the only one who could fix it.
    17. Absolutely. You obviously have never heard of nuclear testing let alone White Sands New Mexico.
    18. He may never return. "Robin" could take the mantle as a different masked man with hopes that Bruce might one day return….aka Nightwing.
    19. I am sure Batman left him more than enough supply in toys. Batarangs are bout in bulk and he was only poor for 24 hours before kidnapping. Again "Robin" would probably not take the main title and just wear a mask as someone else as it was suggested many times to him.
    20. Again connections of a billionaire world traveler. Whose to say Selena did not have a hefty sum? She wasn't even on the plane in the end. They have a clean slate program that can let them legally wash their money as someone else since they can erase their past. Why wouldn't a billionaire keep hidden funds? Why wouldn't he know exactly how to track Alfred's passport to show up in Florence to tail him? Also if you think an independent woman who just saw a man save people for the sheer power of doing the right thing then you don't know women at all. We are lucky the last shot wasn't her at the table with a mouthful of Bruce Wayne.

    Now none of your 20 were flaws in anyway. 

    I would have accepted one of the following as flaws:

    1.  When Bruce was climbing the wall for the first time and jumped, why would he not immediately realize that the belay rope was too tight and pulled him back? For a guy who can build a cold fusion reactor that is plain dumb.
    2. With all the possible gun fire on the stairs of City Hall why would a stray bullet or any attempt at shooting Bane in his unprotected neck and or head not occur?

    Either of those would have been good but never came in the entire article.

  6. 12. Watch the movie again and listen to Miranda when she reviles that she's Talia. She show Bruce the detonator and says "I'm not ordinary, but I am a citizen." she had it the entire time and she was, as Miranda Tate, a citizen. It's right there in the film, Bane was a man of his word.

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