Some movies are amazing. Some movies aren’t. And then there are the movies that feel like they could have been something really special if they had only taken a little bit more time with the script. They are one notes session away from having great movie on their hands, but instead they settled for being a disappointment.
One of those movies is THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. What would I have done differently? Glad you asked!
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is close to being a great film, but because of a few weird thematic issues and a number of wonky story decisions it only manages to be a pretty good one. The major thematic arc of the movie is the breaking down of Bruce Wayne and then rebuilding him into an even stronger Batman. I know this because it happens twice in the movie. At the very beginning he is a crippled shadow of his former self and then, when the city needs him most, he dons the cape and cowl once more to stop a raging force of evil. Then, halfway through the movie, he is broken again and sent off away from where the main story is taking place. Because Batman has to rise twice in the movie, it actually diminishes the impact of both reemergence.
I would have started the movie with Bruce Wayne still operating as Batman, but only occasionally. He gets more joy from being the savior of Gotham during the day as he brings his pet project of a renewable energy source to the city of Gotham. Bruce should actually be at his best when the movie begins. He should be so close to achieving his goals of being able to hang up the cape and cowl. The best time to break a hero is when his dreams are within his grasp.
The focus of these movies are of one man’s war against crime in his city. This is narrow-minded. For a rich and powerful individual like Bruce Wayne, he should be trying to change the world. This could come into play when he is trapped in the prison. He has focused on his own city so much that he didn’t realize that it’s even worse outside it. Bruce should go from being ready to hang up the cowl because he has made his city safer, to realizing that this campaign should not end until the world is a better place.
The other major misfire in the movie is the handling of Alfred. It feels like he is only in the first half hour of the film and then shows up again for the last three minutes. Alfred needs to be an unwavering supporter of Bruce throughout the movie. When Bane breaks Batman, it should be at Wayne Manor and Alfred should see it. He goes with Bruce to the prison and helps fix him there. This Batman is nothing without his Alfred. The set-up of the cafe in France is also a bit of a let down. These movies have always had the best endings, but this one was telegraphed from the first fifteen minutes. In the end you can still have Alfred at a cafe, but instead of Bruce being there on holiday… It should be someone else. A villain set up in the first half of the movie that escapes because Bane intervenes. Batman would then drop down from a building and land on the table in front of him. “You… You’re supposed to be dead!” “NEVER.”
The other major issue is Bruce showing back up in Gotham after escaping from the pit with zero resources and half a world away. This is such a missed opportunity to show what it is that makes Batman who he is. It’s Bruce’s sheer force of will that makes Batman the legend that he is. It could have been an amazing five to ten minute montage showing Bruce completely stripped of everything and yet still being able to work his way back to Gotham to face-off against Bane. It would be an incredible companion sequence to Bruce training and traveling in BATMAN BEGINS.
There are other issues such as setting up John Blake to be the next Batman, Catwoman’s “clean slate program,” and keeping the villain’s motives a secret until the end. John Blake should be Dick Grayson and he should be Batman’s conduit to Gordon at the police department. Batman is a fugitive and it makes sense that he can’t be seen with the police commissioner. Catwoman should come to Gotham seeking protection from Bane via Batman. The clean slate program is dumb and just shouldn’t be a thing. The true identity of Miranda Tate should be revealed at Batman’s back breaking. She could be an actual long time girlfriend of Bruce Wayne who has been playing a long con to get back at him for killing her father.
I honestly think that had the movie had a bit more thematic structure and a keen eye looking after the odd plot-lines… This movie could have been a great finale to Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Instead, we had to settle for “pretty good.”