It should go without saying that there are spoilers below, but then, if you were crazy enough to actually sit through this movie, you know what I’m about to say.
1. Toward the start of the movie, we meet a character named Miranda Tate, played by Marion Cotillard. But this is the first time we’ve even seen her! She wasn’t in the first two movies. Are we supposed to just assume she showed up one day in Gotham City?! Not likely.
2. At one point, Bruce Wayne is seen wearing a light-colored dress shirt, kind of white with stripes. But then at another point, he’s in a black T-shirt. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
It’s frustrating that a filmmaker at Christopher Nolan’s level would let something like that slide. Nice attention to detail, fellas.
3. Who are Bane’s parents?! This guy’s some huge roided-out killer who came from some prison or something, but we don’t know anything about his childhood, his teen years, anything. Plus what’s under his mask? What does it do? How are we supposed to identify with him if he’s some blank slate? Ugh. Boring.
4. Speaking of that: Selina Kyle’s a jewel thief because why again? Last I checked she stole stuff just because the script needed her to steal stuff. That’s just some lazy bullshit right there.
5. Gotham has its own football team?! AND a stadium?! Totally random. They’re just dropped into the plot for no reason.
6. Where does Alfred go? He just freaking leaves Bruce for a while and does … what exactly? Is he traveling the countryside? And then he just shows back up later, unannounced, and then he even gets to be in the final scene. Horrible structure.
7. When Batman and Bane are punching each other, I’m pretty sure they aren’t really hitting each other. I think it’s because Christian Bale and Tom Hardy aren’t supposed to hit each other in real life, which is probably for some dumb reason like safety or insurance, but it just makes the movie like weak and fake.
8. There’s no way Batman could actually fly. Duh.
9. And seriously: How come no one mentions the Joker? HELLO! He was the whole point of the last movie! I don’t know. The more I think about it, it’s like they weren’t even trying.
FINAL GRADE: F-
Haha, zing, etc. I’ve had my sarcastic fun at the expense of recent link-bait lists like this and others. When those posts were making the rounds Monday — a whopping 72 hours after The Dark Knight Rises opened — I was so confused and irritated by their spread that I tweeted this:
16 More Plot Holes from The Dark Knight Rises! Please RT!! bit.ly/NPOwHv— Daniel Carlson (@danielwcarlson) July 23, 2012
I spent most of yesterday and last night trying to figure out what prompted this lists (aside, again, from their general clickability; we’ve all gotta eat). I’ve only managed to come up with a few ideas, and if you’ll forgive me one final list, I’ll try to break them down.
1. Some people were destined to be let down, and they’re upset. Christopher Nolan’s first two Batman movies are among the best superhero movies ever made, if not the very best, and as much as people liked Batman Begins, we were positively blown away by The Dark Knight. It doesn’t matter that The Dark Knight has its own share of plot holes or gaps (I keep coming back to the scene where the Joker crashes Bruce Wayne’s fundraiser, tosses Rachel out the window, then just gets away sight unseen as we cut to the next day). The Dark Knight has been echoing in our collective movie-going subconscious for four years, and the approach of The Dark Knight Rises was greeted with a fervor not even a mass murder could diminish. People wanted this movie to be more than real. They wanted it to become the perfect movie they’d invented, and when it inevitably wasn’t, they rebelled and began to deconstruct or destroy it. I really enjoyed the movie, though in praising it I didn’t call it perfect. I was also willing to see that Nolan wanted to talk about different things this time around. He had different goals, and I think 16-point lists about the imagined failures of a very good movie, issued mere hours after the film’s release, misses the point.
2. People want to win, whatever that might mean. The very smart Corey Atad hit the mark when he tweeted Monday that some viewers “assume Nolan tries to outsmart the audience with puzzles, so they then try to prove they’re smarter than his films.” There’s an air of pissy defiance in these pieces that hasn’t shown up for other blockbusters. Even The Avengers, the third-biggest movie in history, didn’t inspire such bitter and immediate post-mortems. The only gripe I could really find about The Avengers came from Indiewire’s The Playlist a few days after that movie opened. Everyone else seems to have put whatever reservations they might have had about the movie into reviews, not beat-by-beat analyses of every moment they felt was impossible to ignore. Nolan’s Batman movies occupy huge places in our pop culture psyche, and that seems to be enough to make some people want to attack them. He structures his films as games, and that makes some people feel like they have to compete against him instead of enjoying the show.
3. We’re victims of a machine we helped build. A lot of people have been excited about The Dark Knight Rises since the credits first rolled on The Dark Knight. Before the film had a title, story, or start date, it was the focus of intense fan and industry speculation that are increasingly normal for movies based on comic books. We — readers, writers, critics, bloggers, fans, everyone — turned The Dark Knight Rises into pure product, notable not for its content but only for its method and date of delivery. We’ve waited for this movie for four years, we’ve had it in our hands for three days, and we’re dedicated to pulling the meat from its bones in a manner totally different from the way we treat almost every other movie. It’s as if we don’t want to go to the movies as much as we want to check some experience off a list.
When he was writing about this year’s Comic-Con for Slate, Seth Stevenson said:
In the William Gibson novel Pattern Recognition, the protagonist develops a physical illness spurred by the sight of the Michelin Man—a sort of allergy to the semiotics of commerce. By the end of the weekend, I was experiencing mild nausea at the sight of Batman costumes and Big Bang Theory T-shirts and fall-TV trailers. At people lugging around gargantuan bags of worthless freebies. At tie-in toys.
There are lovely little gatherings here of people who yearn to emotionally connect over their favorite manga books and machinima and online cartoons. But there is also a sickness at Comic-Con. A pop culture pathology. I grew increasingly disgusted at the thought of all these people paying for the privilege of being spoon-fed gobs of entertainment gruel. Lapping it up. If you camp out overnight, we might show you a couple clips from The Expendables 2! Frankenweenie! Fringe! The Cleveland Show! Resident Evil: Retribution! Do you have a question for our panel? What was it like to work with Dolph Lundgren? Will the CG dragons be bigger this season? When is your character getting a love interest? Do you find the period costumes help you get into the proper mind frame on set?
Maybe I was being unfair. Perhaps I just hated the aesthetics of an event where Kevin Smith is the prom king, in his doofusy XXL hockey shirts and calf-length jorts. Where 80 percent of the framed art for sale on the convention show floor involves cyborgs, barbarians, zombies, or juggsy ladies in tattered bikinis.
I can’t help but feel that these cringe-worthy listicles about The Dark Knight Rises are indicative of something bigger and way more worrisome than we’ve even figured out yet. It’s not wrong to dislike a popular movie, or to mount an argument against it. It’s always good to examine the art and your relationship to it, even if it means coming down against something everyone else seems to be praising. But lists like these — that are light on analysis and heavy on petty gripes, that mistake complaint for criticism, and that ultimately have no greater motivation than pageviews — are the wrong way to do it. They turn us into consumers when we should be viewers. We don’t even see the movie any more; we just see ourselves going to it.
The Dark Knight Rises isn’t going to disappear when The Bourne Legacy comes out. It wasn’t created simply for us to have something to fuck with while waiting for whatever’s next. There’s way more to movies than just a 72-hour knee-jerk reaction period, and the sooner we try to move on from that, the better.