Warning: spoilers ahead!
So…was it worth the wait?
The vast majority of reviews seem to think so, as do the swathes of gushing opinions swirling about on Twitter. Did you think it was brilliant? That’s great – honestly, it is. Did you think it was a little bit, you know, shit? Well, take off that hastily improvised tin hat (colander) my friend and come hither, for you are not alone.
I didn’t think it was awful, just that it was a major misstep as far as the series was concerned - there were way too many things wrong with it to call it a success. Below, I’ve listed a few of the most irksome clangers that stuck out in particular for me. These are simply my personal views on a film I’d been looking forward to for a very long time - and I’m hoping for an interesting debate in the comments.
Obviously, the spoilers that follow are vast...
WHAT THE HOLY FUCK HAPPENED WITH BANE?
A foe who is (a) physically, far, far superior to Batman, (b) one of the most conflicted and interesting antagonists from the source material, and (c) played by one of the best character actors of the past five years? Yes please. That will be awesome. Thanks.
So how the fuck did he end up such a threatless, corny, incomprehensible mess? For one, a voice like the bastard child of Uncle Ned and Brain from Pinky and the Brain doesn’t exactly trigger an involuntary penchant for brown pantaloons, especially when it’s uttering daftness like ‘I AM…GOTHAM’S RECKONING’. Comparisons to The Joker are unfair but inevitable, and next to Ledger’s anarchist, Bane was about as threatening as Cyril Sneer. Tom Hardy was utterly wasted, any performance buried beneath mask and ADR, and his potentially fascinating backstory was relegated to that of Talia’s henchman.
Also, the fights between Bane and Batman were gutless and choreographed without panache or flow, shot in frenetic but formless close-up. Yes, this is supposed to give a sense of heft and chaos, but we got blurs of fists and punchy sound effects and it was up to us to sew the two together into a coherent fight. Their final battle should have been immense, but instead it was a perfunctory punching of faces, followed by the crushing anti-climax of Bane's demise. A fitting testament to how poorly the character was realised.
Was it just me or was the film, on occasion, cornier than Jolly Green Giant turds? Not in a fun, knowing, Avengers kind of way (although ‘this one also comes in black’ was pretty cool), but in a way that causes the suspension of disbelief to evaporate, leaving you suddenly very aware that you’re watching a film in which people are dressing up like idiots and making stupid decisions. Batman saying things like "And then I’m gonna GET Bane!", "So THAT’S what that feels like" or "This isn’t a car!" made it sound like the script was written by a guffawing child. And the convenient plot contrivances (Selina saving Bruce in the nick of time, Bruce saving Gotham in the nick of time, Selina saving that urchin in the nick of time) were impossibly cheesy. The first two films somehow avoided the cheese factor, why couldn’t this one?
(...Deep breath…) Bane fakes the death of a Russian scientist then sides with Daggett who has Selina steal Bruce’s fingerprints so Bane can storm the Stock Exchange to put all Bruce’s money into a company that will fail, so Bruce will have to put the company in the hands of Miranda (he chooses her...why?) so she can gain access to the clean energy source and turn it into a bomb so Bane can take the city hostage even though he plans to blow it up anyway, so Batman can recover in the Pit and come back and ‘STOP BANE’, before Selina Kills Bane, Bruce kills Talia, and Bruce takes the bomb far enough away for the explosion not to damage the city. Okaaay.
The film contained great, satisfying character arcs – one of its main strengths - but the plot itself was simply a sequential Generation Game precession of stuff that happened, a lot of which had to be explained to us using huge, obtuse slabs of tedious exposition; Gotham’s ‘siege’ was essentially the cogs of movie plotting clunking merrily along right there on the screen. All of the subtlety of the previous films was gone, leaving an overly-convenient stage for a few (excellent) set-pieces and for the characters’ inevitable redemption.
Talia and Bane’s plan was idiotic. If crime was all-but extinguished from Gotham, why would The League of Shadows still want to destroy it? To fulfil Ra’s’ plan? Well, if this is the case, a plan which takes five months to come to fruition is not a good one – Ra’s’ plan in Batman Begins was a good one; a quick one. Aren’t there easier, less time-consuming, less suicidal ways to blow up a city? Ones that don’t involve leaving the only person who could scupper the plan in a pit, unsupervised, for the exact amount of time it would take for his injuries to completely heal?
There were loads - way too many to list them all - but here are a few: the miraculously-healing cartilage in Wayne’s knee. The people of Gotham taking Bane’s reading of Gordon’s speech as incontrovertible evidence that Dent was evil. Batman not killing anyone, until he shoots Talia’s truck and, um, kills her. Almost the entire Gotham police force being sent underground to look for Bane’s lair, all at once, and then being conveniently kept alive so there could be a big, illogical scrap at the end. How Bane knew exactly where applied sciences was (so he could build his base underneath it), even though it was ‘completely off the books’, even to Miranda. Also, Blake just guessed Batman’s identity? This seemed like a huge leap – yes, it’s in the comics, but still, Blake figures it out and Gordon doesn’t? Hmm.
Plot holes aren’t necessarily a death sentence for a film, but when you spend half of its runtime with a furrowed brow and raised finger it sort of sucks you out of the whole experience, doesn’t it?
If the audience has to be deafened by a film’s soundtrack in order to be made aware that something dramatic is happening, then something has gone terribly wrong.
To its credit the film didn’t feel 165 minutes long, yet apparently there still wasn’t time to imbue it with any reflection or momentum. Some events whizzed by with barely a wink (the stock market heist, Miranda’s introduction and her and Bruce doing the dirty, Alfred leaving, the Board) while others weren’t given room to breath or create heft; both of Batman’s returns to Gotham should have been momentous and goose-pimply, but they were matter-of-factly dealt with within seconds.
The kangaroo courts were brushed over too, pragmatically used to (a) give one character their comeuppance, (b) another character a cameo, and (c) to give us an idea of the kind of place Gotham has become, all in one lumpen dollop. But, besides this and some quick shots of someone being dragged from their home, we’re never really given time to see the consequences of the siege upon the populace. This gives the events of the courts and the siege little meaning, context or gravitas. Oddly, for a film this long, more time needed to be spent focusing on what was at stake because, otherwise, how are we supposed to care? Compare this to the ferries in the last film or the terrified citizenry of the first, and the whole siege felt like a perfunctory plot point instead of a true and proper threat.
The film, for the most part, was unremittingly bleak, which was excellent. But every time the Batplane or Catwoman appeared, any of that brooding melancholy was vacuumed from all existence. Hathaway was great, but her character felt like she’d been plucked from Buffy The Vampire Slayer and plonked into this supposedly dark, functional, real world. When she rode Batman’s bike (WITHOUT ANY LESSONS, remember), skin-tight leather trousers were used so we could all have a good look at her rear. Is it just me who found this teenage voyeurism slightly incongruous? And, why could a seven-stone woman, whose skillset lay in clandestine cat-burglary, twat the snot out of a herd of16-stone goons and leap stealthily from windows? Talia Al Ghul, maybe, but Selina? The character just didn’t fit, her corny flirtations with Bruce were facepalm-rubbish, and - oh, incidentally - how did she know exactly where to find Bane in the sewers?
It was surprising to see Christopher Nolan go with a plot device as contrived and clichéd as a doomsday bomb. The ticking clock has been a lazy plot device used to inject false tension into a flat narrative for decades. Yet having one which took five months to detonate, and having the resurgent Batman show up to deal with it with only twelve hours left on its timer, seemed like thudding action-movie-by-numbers stupidity. Also, wasn’t that ending ripped straight out of Angels And Demons?
If Bruce Wayne DID make it back to Gotham with only twelve hours to spare, then he ended up wasting quite a lot of this time pouring petrol on a bridge so it lit into a cool Bat shape, fixing the Bat-symbol searchlight, legally bequeathing Wayne manor and its contents in the event of his death and leaving instructions for Blake to find the Batcave. Time that could have been better spent sorting out the bomb, maybe? But no, we’re in convenient movie-land all of a sudden, where common sense doesn’t seem to matter.
Shit, I’m already waaay over wordcount so I’m going to have to stop there, although I could go on. Again, I’m not saying the film was bad, just extremely problematic, and it made some simple, unforgivable errors. What did you think of it? Am I talking bollocks, or were you disappointed too?