[#WeNerdHard] On The Dark Knight Rising

I was very conflicted about writing a review for the Dark Knight Rises (#DKR) because of…well…the death threats about bad reviews for the movie. I don’t think anyone is going to attack me about it but the idea of having random internet hate over a flonkin’ Batman movie isn’t one of the things I need in my life right about now. But in an effort to clearly lay out the issues that I brought up on We Nerd Hard I decided to write not so much of a review, but an explanation. A reference point in the chart organizing the #DKR HATERS. This is my non-dick-y commentary on the thing that apparently the masses love and I feel completely cold about.

The Dark Knight Rises is the epic third and final installment of Christopher Nolan’s telling of the Batman story and it had a lot of hype to live up to. After The Dark Knight’s amazing success the world clamored for a new even more epic-y installment and Nolan tried to give it to us.

So how did I not like it?

This was the thing I asked myself for days after seeing it. I cut myself off from my friends who were going to see it so that I wouldn’t influence their reviews. I scoured the internet after my viewing on opening day to see if I was in fact a madman and that this movie was the best thing since sliced bread and that I somehow drank contaminated diet Coke right before the viewing hence my broken thoughts on it. But now, after our epic breakdown of the movie, reading everything I can find on it and sitting with it I think I can give a rational response for my dislike.

I dislike Christopher Nolan’s Batman–the character.

Now how did I just figure this out on the third movie? Why didn’t I scream this from the rooftop during the original Batman Begins? Simple: I was in a state of shock. I knew that I didn’t love Batman Begins. I said this amongst my friends (not on the podcast because we didn’t have it yet) but I was way quieter about it because as I’ve said. I was in shock. Batman, my favorite character of all time was taken seriously for the very first time on screen (If you claim the Tim Burton Batman was serious I’ll throw things at you.) I was ecstatic. They even had Ra’s Al Ghul! COME ON! I mean yes, Christian Bale was a bit odd as a choice to me for Batman because nothing about him screams Bruce Wayne or Batman but WHATEVER.


That was the basic breakdown of my thoughts on Batman Begins.

Then came The Dark Knight.

Heath Ledger was literally magic on a stick. He was made of rainbows and sunshine and bacon and health care. He did something with The Joker in The Dark Knight that few actors have ever done with any character EVER. I could’ve literally watched him go for 5 hours and been ecstatic about it. So what The Dark Knight had an extra 45 unnecessary minutes? So what Batman growls like a mad person? So what I didn’t really give a rats ass about Harvey Dent.


Then came The Dark Knight Rises.

Let me set this up properly. I have to acknowledge outside factors. One major factor was The Avengers. Because of that movie I got to watch some of my other favorite comic book characters be brought to life in spectacular fashion.  Robert Downey Jr. is the living embodiment of Tony Stark. I apparently have a crush on Thor.  It was just all sorts of wacky awesome brought to life by Joss Whedon. So with my love of comics satiated I wasn’t hungry like I was in 2005 for a real comic book movie. And not that there should’ve been, but there wasn’t a Heath Ledger in DKR. I understand that was one of those magical moments in movies and we have to accept that it doesn’t happen often. Tom Hardy might have been amazing if 1) I could see his face and 2) if I understood what he was saying half the time.  So this last installment didn’t have one of the best acting jobs of all time on screen and it wasn’t the first time I got to see my childhood taken seriously.

So what’s left? A dude watching a movie. End quote.

Before I continue let me point out a fairly well known nerd fact. We forgive things being wrong or ridiculous ALL THE TIME. Yes, there are those times where people freak out because something wasn’t completely true but as lovers of the medium we forgive comic book movies all the time. It’s part of the contract we make with Hollywood. Give us something we can love and we’ll forgive where you fucked up. I liked The Amazing Spiderman—after saying I wasn’t even going to go SEE it. They gave me a Spiderman I could like and believe in. So what they dropped the ball numerous times with continuity and after reading up on it they actually made a movie I would’ve hated but with last minute cuts saved it–while leaving GAPING holes. SO WHAT. I liked Spiderman and the characters around him. I teared up when Uncle Ben died. I felt the chemistry between Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker.  They gave me enough that I forgave anything else that didn’t work. We all do when the right amount of awesome is given to us.

Back to The Dark Knight Rises.

It’s a flawed movie. To pretend it’s not is to bury your head in the sand. You can love it, like how I loved Avengers, but you have to accept, as have I, that there are flaws. But so what!? Bane is doing epic shit, Batman flying through the city, Catwoman is all Catwoman-y, FLAWS BE DAMNED RIGHT?

And I would’ve agreed if I liked Christopher Nolan’s Batman.

I had no forgiveness in my heart for the flaws. I didn’t feel compelled to go WHATEVER ITS AWESOME. I was annoyed half the time Batman was around—which wasn’t often. There is an essence that I have loved from my childhood about Batman. And in the end Christopher Nolan didn’t make that Batman. Just like he gave his twist to all the characters he used–like Joker, Scarecrow, Bane, Catwoman and more, he gave a very specific vision of Batman and I strongly dislike it. Without the wide-eyed wonder or a ground breaking performance I was able to finally watch what Nolan was giving me and I didn’t like it at all. This movie wasn’t a Batman movie to me. It was a movie with a rich dude who on occasion puts on body armor and calls himself The Batman.

My understanding of Batman has come from years of stories and cartoons that have melded together to create the layers of the character who is known as the world’s Greatest Detective.

I love the idea that the character of Batman is mentally broken and is FOREVER broken. He can’t be brought out of the funk.  He can’t quit being Batman. He’s brilliant. He can out think any opponent. There were running jokes all over Nerddom about “If Batman and __________ had a fight, who would win?” You could throw in crazy folks like Lobo or Galactus and there are those who’d argue BATMAN WOULD WIN (I was included in “those”) because he can out think them. His super power was never being rich. It was being better. Being  4 steps ahead.

That’s not Nolan’s Batman. Nolan’s Batman isn’t the world’s Greatest Detective. Nolan’s Batman wouldn’t have capability to take down the entire Justice League. And that’s what finally clicked in my head.  I simply hate this version of my favorite character. So I didn’t give the finale the forgiveness that we all give movies like this. Without a genuine like of the main character or situations you simply can’t like The Dark Knight Rises.

And I accept that. There are various movies that I judge folks for liking but not this one. This one I just accept I’m incapable of liking it and I believe there are others out there like me.

And its okay.

About the Author

Elon James White
Elon James White is a writer, satirist radio host and founder and CEO of This Week in Blackness. White has been featured on MSNBC, CNN, Huffington Post, Slate, RH Reality Check, Al Jazeera, Buzzfeed and more. White hosts the award winning & critically acclaimed TWiB! Prime on TWIB.FM Monday - Thursday at 6:30pm ET/3:30pm PT.

4 Comments on "[#WeNerdHard] On The Dark Knight Rising"

  1. I left the theater with all the exact same problems you had with the movie. I found myself waiting for the movie to end and when it did I just sorta sighed and felt let down.

  2. All of this. Yep. And that ending … it was like fanfiction on screen. Like Nolan’s apology for doing such a disservice to Bruce Wayne. “Here’s a new person that can be Batman. You all love JGL, right?”

  3. Omg, finally, a safe space to talk about this, I salute you. I think Nolan did give us Broken Batman in the beginning. The trauma of the broken arm in the well, the murder, & then the mob guy saying, “You’ll have to go 1000 miles before anyone doesn’t know who Bruce Wayne is.” But, ok. I agree with you that in the second, OMG THE JOKER it was magic, and I felt like it was a little bit precious-twee of Nolan to not go back & kill off the Joker to let Two-Face live after Ledger died. Because Eckhart lives, but ok. Yes. I get that Dark Knight was a tough act to follow, but Nolan didn’t even try. First, yes, Bane, who you couldn’t understand. My husband tried to say, “Oh, bc the mask,” and I said, “NO, Darth Vader. Recognize.” Second, I thought Wayne was in the Batcave for half of that prison-third of the movie. Third, I felt like the Who’s the Villain Switcheroo was just … it’s bad storytelling. It’s bad faith to treat yr audience like chumps. There was a point at which Hans Zimmer carried the movie when Nolan just could not. When they were at the face-off, yk, and I was thinking, “What is the point of this, they will be massacred, this movie totally sucks,” and the score reprised the chant from the prison? It was like a wind at my back. But it only carried me to the end; it did not blow away the staleness of the project. You are not alone!

  4. Derrick Staton | July 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Reply

    I understand Nolan standing by his word in saying he wanted a more physical challenge of Batman in the 3rd and why Bane was going to be the choice regardless of Ledger passing. But c’mon. You can’t tell me that losing Heath didn’t have them scrambling for the 3rd. For Batman’s so-called angst over what happened in TDK, to not even hint about the Joker was slapping a grown man type of disrespect. And you are absolutely on point that Nolan’s Batman character is meh. For BB, you forgave it because it was BB. For TDK you forgave it because it was the next chapter and was in Ledger-Vision. For TDKR, you looked around for something to forgive it with and there was nothing. Hardy, as good as he is, wasn’t enough Bane to forgive. As great as Hathaway fit the role, Catwoman wasn’t enough to forgive. Action sequences are a dime a dozen so they surely weren’t enough. So we are left to see Nolan’s Batman character for what he was and I just don’t buy Bale as Batman. Yes, I am biased from the Animated Series and Kevin Conroy’s voice. So it’s a pretty hefty cape to fill. And unfortunately Bale never does in the three tries he gets. Everyone else fit their roles and delivered to the point where I rank them slightly above or just on par with their animated counterparts. Neeson’s Ra’s was awesome. Caine’s Alfred, Oldman’s Gordon, Freeman’s Fox, Hathaway’s Catwoman, Murphy’s Scarecrow, and Hardy’s Bane all were great. Ledger’s Joker made many of us almost forget Jack Nicholson’s and is right up there with Mark Hamil’s voice work. But Bale….damn. If he delivered half of what the others brought to theirs, we’d be in full-on epic-awesomeness territory. But I can’t fully blame Bale for his performance. Just as you said, that’s not Nolan’s Batman.I’ll watch the animated movies from DC or Justice League or Young Justice etc etc, and if THAT Batman was on the screen, we would have sheer perfection on our hands.

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