Improve the Dark Knight Rises

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.

1- Give Bane a more defined character and motivation. Lure the masses in with promises of egality. Use the exposition of the Dent Act and Batman’s phone hacking in the previous movie to plant seeds of mistrust in “the man”. All of this can result in mild rioting and Bane can use it as an excuse to break open the prisons and take over the city as a warlord.

2 - Divorce Talia from Bane. Having the two be in cahoots is too convenient. Instead, Bane will use the nuke as a way to keep the government at bay but never really intending to detonate it. Talia will strike at the last second and kill Bane to get the activation code. Batman figures it out and confronts her at the bomb site.

Talia will tell Batman that evil will always exist. Even if they lock up a thousand, ten thousand, a million people in prisons, new evil will always prevail. To combat that, the league of shadows will always exist - to fight that evil. Gotham is too big for one man to patrol, even if it is batman, and must be destroyed. Bat kills her with a Batman Boomarang as she reaches for the console and floods the room.

Several months later, Robin gets a package in the mail. It’s the batman cowl, and a letter with a voice-over soliloque that somehow invokes “the dark knight rises”.

3 - The last scene just shows Alfred looking up and smiling, and walking away but doesn’t show Bruce, and definitely not selina.

4 - just do away with catwoman all together.

It can’t open with Batman retired. He can be worn down and relying on inventions too much, but the demon that drives Bruce Wayne will not go gentle into that dark night. Also, if the Dent Act worked so well as to make Gotham no longer need Batman, then that’s not Gotham, that’s some other city that I don’t give a piss for. So a Gotham that’s properly crooked and a Batman that’s coming to the end of his rope. Also, Batman can only find “a good death.”. He can no more quit than I can quit breathing.

If Talia is going to be a love interest, do it properly and make it a grand one - globetrotting, jet-set, etc. Nolan needed to stop being embarrassed and apologetic that it’s a superhero movie. So, I don’t need a Catwoman whose goggles sort of look like ears, just give us a Catwoman. On the same note, I’d want to go all out and bring Ras back via the Lazarus pit. It’s not like this country won’t buy a preachy zealot who died and was resurrected. Bane wouldn’t be anyone’s henchman, rather Ras would come back, “beat the man who beat the Bat” for daring to take over the League of Shadows, and then the third act would be Batman vs Ras, League, and Talia.

Also lose JGL, and have Gordon do all that stuff instead of being useless.

Bane gets laryngitis.

Naked scene with Anne Hathaway. (I’d take a crotchless Catwoman suit too.)


Sorry, that doesn’t seem like an improvement to me. All it would do is force the producers and Schumaker to face an unpleasant dilemma: would you rather insult Heath Ledger’s memory with CGI, or cast some poor sap who’ll inevitably draw unfavorable comparisons to Ledger’s performance? :slight_smile:

So what? It would improve the movie even if the poor sap was genuinely a bad actor. The Dark Knight Rises needs a lot of help to be a good movie in my opinion and most everything suggested here would be a success.

Although I’m skeptical about Marley’s suggestion, I’m pretty sure Bane already has some degree of laryngitis. :wink:

But to just ignore a character from the past is OK? And might not the poor sap wind up an even better Joker? After Nicholson, I thought any other Joker would be a letdown.

If not Joker, per se, at least an interesting villain.

WHEN GOTHAM IS IN ASHES. cough cough cough THEN YOU cough cough



I have two big suggestions, and both apply at the script level. I think “The Dark Knight Rises” had the potential to be a great film, but was severely undercut by some deep structural problems in its writing. Applying the following changes would neatly solve most of them.

(1) Drop the Talia Al Ghul/ League of Shadows subplot entirely.

I think making “The Dark Knight Rises” a direct sequel to “Batman Begins” was something of a mistake to begin with. The League of Shadows was the least interesting aspect of the Nolan Batverse as it was - and tonally incongruous with the gritty realism of the universe to boot. “The Dark Knight” demonstrated that Nolan can make a great Batman movie that is totally divorced, plotwise, from the League of Shadows stuff. I really don’t get the impression that anybody went into either of the sequels wondering what was going to happen to the Al Ghul family and their wacky criminal superorganization.

Focus on Bane. He had such potential, as set up in the first half of “The Dark Knight Rises” - a brilliantly analytical, yet physically imposing villain that lives up to Ledger’s Joker in intensity but in his measured urbanity provides a startling contrast to that character at the same time. The revelation that all of Bane’s apparent clairvoyance throughout the first half of the film was simply due to having Talia on the inside, and that she was the true mastermind behind his scheme, completely undercuts Bane’s development as a frighteningly intelligent antagonist. He devolves from powerful and intimidating to tossed-aside lapdog in about five minutes of screen time. What a waste.

Nolan should have ditched the League, dropped the half-assed Occupy Wall Street allusions and focus on building up Bane as a man who understands how to truly destroy Batman in a way that even the Joker could not. Then breaking Batman’s back would mean something - and, importantly, give Batman all the more personal reason to “rise.” It streamlines the narrative and personalizes the conflict for both characters.

(2) Focus on a single character arc for Batman.

Nolan attempts to give Batman two simultaneous arcs in “The Dark Knight Rises.” They are:

A. Batman moves past the tragic deaths of his loved ones and learns, finally, to live as Bruce Wayne (aka the “Crying Alfred Arc”).
B. Batman must be brought down by his hubris and forced to rebuild himself as the hero Gotham truly needs (aka the “Rise! Rise! Arc”).

Unfortunately, these two arcs are fundamentally incongruous and end up undercutting each other. One requires that Batman ultimately abandon the cowl and cape and the other requires that he embrace it. Either arc could have been tremendously powerful on its own, but played simultaneously ends up weakening them both. Batman “rising” in the big finale ends up feeling like a rejection of Alfred - but then he tosses the identity aside anyway, thus cutting off the “rise” arc at the knees.

Nolan should have chosen one arc and stuck with it. As with suggestion (1), this would greatly streamline the narrative. More importantly, it would fix the inconsistent characterization that marred the titular protagonist in the finished film.

All 3 Dark Knight movies have ridiculous plot holes and plot devices, but I think they work on a more visceral level. Rather than spending time patching up every hole and lose end, I’d hit the basics:

  1. Bane was a lousy character. I left the theater and told my wife that he had Darth Maul syndrome. He’s supposed to be a badass, but we never actually see him DO anything badass. He exhibits an uncanny level of control over his underlings, but we have no idea why. TDK starts out with the Joker pulling off a badass heist, proceeds to him manhandling a room full of other badasses with a pencil, and otherwise has him doing a lot of badass things. The opening airplane sequence is pretty cool, but Bane’s role in it is pretty rudimentary, and it didn’t have the same chilling effect as the opening of TDK.

  2. Get rid of the whole Talia surprise. I know that’s signature Nolan, but it didn’t add anything. I love surprise moments; in Memento when you figure out what’s been going on, it forces you to quickly rethink the whole movie in a new light, and it’s an amazing experience. In TDKR, it just makes you go, “Oh, OK.” And then you start wondering why Talia just didn’t take the other corrupt Wayne Enterprises board member down to the reactor as soon as Bruce showed her where it was. And then, after that big reveal, she just dies. It didn’t bring anything to the table. Instead, focus on making Bane more badass.

  3. But making Bane a badass would have taken so much time! Exactly. That’s why you need to cut out the whole moronic pit sequence. Every time they cut to the pit, I was taken right out of the movie. The pit couldn’t exist in a populated area like that, with no guards and handy ropes sitting right there at the top. Bruce Wayne just walks out of there like it’s nothing, casually tossing a rope in. Ra’s Al Ghul manages to get in and out with no problem. How terrifying this place must be. Also, the sense of scale is way off. It looked like there were maybe 20 prisoners in there, and the one we see most is fat and jolly in his denim shirt. Again, how terrifying. It would have taken about 20 minutes for someone to figure out they could climb up the pit and create a bridge between the levels. Forget jumping, boom, everyone escapes. How terrifying. Now, if they’d re-used the set from The Chronicles of Riddick, that’d be cool. That prison looked like a mess. It looked lived in, it looked old, it looked believable. But they didn’t. They picked this stupid pit.

  4. But if you get rid of the pit, how do you explain Batman not being around for 5 months? I don’t. If your bomb must have a timer, make it like a week. That leaves less room for unanswered questions, like what the fuck was the US special forces community doing for 5 months? Why did an F-22 with a smart bomb not take out the nuke within the first 24 hours? Etc. Bruce Wayne has had 8 years to rot, he doesn’t need 5 months to rot further. It only takes him like the last week in the pit to finally decide to be Batman again, so why not cut out the first 4 months of that bullshit?

There, that’s a start. I still liked the movie, btw.

Batman should be running around on a dock trying to get rid of a bomb, but he keeps bumping into obstacles like nuns, a temperance group, ducks, etc. etc.


Make more of Bane’s voice legible. Sometimes it was like he was talking right next to me, sometimes I was straining to hear him through the ball of sand his head was encased in

I’m interested in hearing more about this Sand Head villain.

Superimpose graphics of the sound effects on the screen: THWACK! OOF! CHUKONG! PAM!

MY Batman doesn’t take seven years off between cases. He also doesn’t wear comically thick Kevlar thatmakes his head look like a bowling ball with pointy ears.

I was hoping they’d go somewhere else with Blake. Don’t make him Robin; make him what Bruce Wayne would have been if he’d gotten therapy: a functioning altruist rising up through the ranks of the department, maybe studying law. He should be Gordon’s replacement, not Batman’s.

Bane shouldn’t be an over-the-top philosopher of EEEvil; he should be a master criminal who knows what to do with a cubic warehouse of stolen cash. He should also be Hispanic (Banderas?). I also like the idea of him, Bruce, Talia and Selina working at cross-purposes with shifting alliances.

I think that’s a very good analysis, especially your point about the two conflicting character arcs for Batman.

  1. I loved the Bane character, but I dislike his motivation and his plotline.

What is his motivation? He wants to torture the population by giving them hope, and then killing them all and himself? It doesn’t make any sense to me. So that should be changed. He should have the goal of becoming the ruler the city. That would also give better motivation to his henchmen.

  1. Talia’s motivation makes even less sense. She should just be dropped as a character.