Saw it last night, and was a little disappointed with it. The last film really grew on me with repeated viewings. It won me over, despite my natural ambivalence towards a title character in a bat costume. I don’t think that’s going to be the case for this one.
Thinking my way through it afterwards, it has some very fundamental problems. Wayne’s “the world isn’t ready for fusion power” was ridiculous, as we’ve had nukes for decades. Small metal spheres capable of destroying cities are already a reality. Giving it to the government could only solve problems, not create new ones. Talia’s plan was pretty ga-ga. Holding a city to ransom for the express purpose of tormenting Wayne, to avenge a father who abandoned her? And it was necessary to kill herself and all her followers in the process, just to make the point? Yes, she is also “about her father’s work”, but I found the “I learned to love him after you killed him” a bit cringe-worthy.
I don’t want to be too critical here. Nolan created a rod for his own back with the success of the last film. There were elements and ideas I thought worked well, and some great visuals. He has to try to please both readers and non-readers of the comics. However, the story lacked a natural progression. For example, I thought Catwoman was well conceived and acted, but it was jarring when Wayne popped up and decided to put his trust in her. A case of the screen-writer not knowing how to get from A to B.
Batman’s moral code makes a lot of sense in the setting of the last film, a city struggling to establish the rule of law. He walks a tightrope. The moment he oversteps or simply makes a mistake (pummelling the wrong person, or wiping out a family in the batmobile) he just becomes another thug. He must have rules to reign himself in. That tension is a major part of what makes the character interesting. Which becomes irrelevant in what is essentially an all-out warzone. When your opponent’s plan is to vaporise a city, and themselves in the process, really, just shoot them. Batman is an instrument of law, not a soldier.
Here are some of the things I’d change:
Firstly, I’d get rid of the Wayne fusion reactor. The theme of technology outstripping our capacity to use it responsibly was covered more subtly in the last film, with the “big-brother” mobile phone array. If Bane needed a nuclear weapon to hold the city ransom, perhaps he could acquire one from a former Soviet state. Bane himself doesn’t work well as an unquestioning henchman. His dandified revolutionary persona would make a lot more sense if his goal was to set himself up as the mayor of a hostage mini-state. Either have Talia betray him with a plan to set off the nuke, or perhaps even better, write her out of the story entirely. In those scenarios, Bane’s minions are no longer automata, but dispossessed who want a piece of the pie. That would be a situation Batman could grapple with. Trying to keep a handle on the excesses of Bane’s men, while attempting to disable his bomb and perhaps other hostage-holding traps.
Where were the people of Gotham? In such a situation, some would collude, most would keep their heads down, but surely some would resist. Perhaps Batman’s defeat or even death taking out the bomb could inspire them to rise up against Bane’s rule. I think that would be a better setup for the battle at the end. Instead of a sea of blue charging people with automatic weapons and no reason not to mow them down, I’d have preferred to see ordinary citizens mass and take a stand. With Bane’s plans going south, would his thugs dare to fire back, and face the consequences?
Couple other things I didn’t think worked well were some of the character exposition and fight scenes. I found (Robin) John Blake’s “smiling orphans” speech quite clumsy. Show, don’t tell. The fight scenes were mostly just brawls, in the earlier films Batman was a lot more imaginative in taking out his opponents. Exhibit A being how he dealt with the SWAT team in the unfinished skyscraper.
Obviously, this is all completely academic. I’m coming at this as a non-reader of the comics. I’d be interested to hear what people think of the above, and also whether I’m missing anything important regarding Nolan’s conception of the film.