Monday Morning Roundtable: The Dark Knight Rises


You’d be hard pressed to find any geek that isn’t excited for The Dark Knight Rises. Filming started two weeks ago, and late last week revealed the first picture of Tom Hardy as Bane. So HEAVE asked the staff what it will take for Christopher Nolan and the rest of The Dark Knight Rises cast to top the critically acclaimed The Dark Knight.

Ryan Peters – If I’m guessing correctly, almost everyone is going to say something about the length of The Dark Knight, and how the plot unravels a bit near the end. I’ve heard people lob that criticism since the film was released, and while it’s true that the movie is overlong, it doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of it — and I don’t think a long run-time would do much to hurt The Dark Knight Rises. Rather, I think the biggest challenge for the third installment will be to not fall into common sequel traps; something that The Dark Knight didn’t need to worry about, since it was only a sequel in name. Indeed, almost nothing from Batman Begins has any bearing on the second film, either in plot or character. For all intents and purposes, The Dark Knight is a stand-alone film.

The same won’t be true for The Dark Knight Rises, a fact made obvious in the title and in the few details that have leaked. My biggest fear for the film is that Nolan will add too many characters. The Dark Knight already felt overburdened with Joker and Harvey Dent / Two-Face, and the next movie is going to have to resolve Dent’s story-arc as it simultaneously introduces new arcs for Bane (played by Tom Hardy) and Cat Woman (played by either Anne Hathaway, or the T-Mobile Girl, since they are essentially the same person). And while I’m excited to see how Nolan depicts those characters — especially Bane — I think it’s good to remember that over-complicating a working formula is the hobgoblin of Hollywood.

For example, here is the first Matrix film:

And this is from The Matrix: Reloaded (You can skip to the 3:00 mark, unless you’re dying to hear what dialogue written by a sophomore philosophy student sounds like):

Adding more agent to the fight scenes didn’t make them more exciting, it just made them less meaningful and interesting. If Christopher Nolan can resist the pressure to amplify everything — more characters, more fights, louder explosions — and focus on the pyschologically-driven plot elements that made The Dark Knight so successful, then the next film might also become a classic of the genre.

Wes Soltis – I think The Dark Knight Rises would greatly benefit by being shorter. Joker was awesome and made you crave more of every scene Ledger was in, but Two-Face felt sort of thrown in and the arc of Two-Face (not Harvey Dent) felt rushed and would have been a great set up for the third film, also helping chop off probably a half hour of the movie. That is what sort of worries me about Rises. You have Tom Hardy as Bane (who will be spectacular), plus Catwoman (which will be interesting to watch because Nolan, for the most part, isn’t very great at handling female characters) and the whole story of how Gotham City hates Batman and how Bruce Wayne hates Batman. JGL is in the movie, too. It just seems like a lot of things are going to have to happen in this movie, and Nolan is going to have to keep it very, very tight to reach the heights that The Dark Knight reached.

Everett Salyer – First and foremost, we have to take a look at all of the flaws in The Dark Knight. I’m not trying to say that the movie wasn’t good, but there were some huge flaws that can’t be overlooked. The Joker should have been the only villain that Batman battled in The Dark Knight. The introduction of Two-Face was completely unnecessary and watered down the Joker’s storyline. The movie could have ended with the death of The Joker and set up the third movie with Two-Face.

Christian Bale’s Batman lacks depth. In Batman Begins we get an intense look into the personal turmoil that turns Bruce Wayne into Batman. However, in The Dark Knight we see Bruce Wayne experience personal turmoil because he IS Batman, and it seems to roll off his shoulders. So for The Dark Knight Rises we need to see a more emotional Batman. We need to see him begin to break down under the stress his dual life is causing him. In this movie, we need to see Batman cross the line and go into the darkest parts of his psyche.

In the comic books, Bane breaks Batman’s back. I want to see that in this movie. I want Batman to go so far as a vigilante that it becomes hard to tell if he is the hero or the villain, and I want Bane to be celebrated for putting an end to Batman’s terrorism. As far as Catwoman goes, please for the love of god, keep her as a bit character that plays a love interest to Bruce Wayne. Leave her to set up a fourth movie instead of shooting your entire load into this one. And finally, fuck you Christopher Nolan for shooting the movie in Pittsburgh instead of Chicago.

What can Nolan do to live up to the extreme hype his franchise has created?

Dominick Mayer – The Dark Knight was not a perfect movie. Yes, it had one of the best screen villains in decades. Yes, it turned a comic-book saga into a gritty crime drama. That said, it also had a meandering third act that wrapped up Two-Face’s arc with very little satisfying resolution and spent far too much time on the Hong Kong trip. So, Rises could easily benefit from either trimming its runtime or at least making sure that every scene is absolutely essential. It’s also a bit worrisome to hear how many characters are being added to Nolan’s final Batman installment; while I definitely trust him to not steer the franchise into the unwatchable chaos of Spiderman 3, it’s going to be hard to tie what are on paper a bunch of disparate stories together in 2.5 or so hours.

Amy Dittmeier – Length. My god length. I loved The Dark Knight, don’t get me wrong. But where I can watch Begins and Returns over and over again, I cannot do this with The Dark Knight. It’s too freakin’ long. The Joker is a seminal character and deserves three hours of time to mind fuck Batman, but Bane isn’t like that. He’s smart and cunning, but relies on his brute strength to dominate Batman. Which is going to make for some kick ass fight scenes. But I don’t know if I can sit through another 3+ hour Nolan epic, neither do I think Bane warrants it. I mean I will if it happens. But I’m going to be that person in the theater fidgeting and moving around until the last five minutes.

I also hope they play up the mob angle in The Dark Knight Rises. I was really hoping in the first one Two-Face would go into a “Long Halloween” story line. But with all the rumors that JGL (that’s Joseph Gordan Leavitt for y’all) was going to play a mobster but now isn’t playing a mobster but still may be a mobster, I’m hoping that that will happen in this film.

  • Chriso

    I agree that length is definitely an issue, especially considering how many people and therefore how much potential for subplots they’ve got in this movie. But it’s also about how you close the whole thing out. “The Dark Knight” had a somewhat unsatisfying third act, but it was ultimately pretty exciting, and got us all the more excited for whatever was to follow. Here, Nolan has definitively affirmed that this is it. After this, his Batman saga is done. Over. That’s all she wrote. So for those of us who loved his last two Batman films, and who have always loved the character, a satisfying resolution is going to be important. “Inception” had a great ending, but this time, he can’t leave the top spinning. One of the major problems with “Spiderman 3” (besides, you know, the villain and the dancing and the emo haircut) was that it didn’t leave us with an even remotely satisfying resolution. Peter is slowly putting his life back together, and him and Mary Jane are kind of starting to patch things up? Sorta? Maybe? It was really bad, and for Spiderman fans everywhere, a totally frustrating way to leave the saga. Now, in that instance, the studio (who had already messed up the third movie thoroughly by that point) wanted to leave the possibility of a fourth movie open, a possibility that was very real until a few years ago when Sam Raimi finally had enough. But once again, with “The Dark Knight Rises,” we know for certain that this is the end of Nolan’s Batman. My point in all this is, that while ambiguity works for certain things, I don’t want it here. Either Batman will go on to fight crime another day, or he won’t. Decide that, and give me some emotional closure with the characters, and I’ll be happy.