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Initial verdict on The Dark Knight Rises:

[ 80 ] July 23, 2012 |

Very Return of the Jedi. It’s not nearly as dark or accomplished as its predecessor, and it descends into maddening silliness at times, e.g. every time Bane “opens” his “mouth.” More on the politics, as well as some general comments of the spoiling variety, from someone the Washington Post contacted as a “Batman expert,” can be found below the fold.

Let me preface this post by noting that I’m extremely fond of both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and have written extensively about the thematic and technical accomplishments of both:

So I don’t want to read any comments about how someone with a doctorate in English Literature would be predisposed to disliking The Dark Knight Rises because, if anything, the opposite is true: I’ve studied Christopher Nolan’s films and am intimately familiar with the hallmarks of his style. Now that that’s out of the way, I’ll be blunt:

This is easily the least accomplished film in the trilogy. Batman Begins is the most structurally sound (in narrative terms) and thematically coherent of the three: Nolan orchestrates his narratives such that they advance forward in time, indepedently, as they build Bruce Wayne into a believable character. The Dark Knight is structurally and thematically chaotic by design: Nolan can’t seem to decide which scene belongs where (but cuts to it anyway) and is so indecisive about the film’s argument that I can plausibly claim that it’s all about dogs. But that structural and thematic anarchy is acceptable in a film that belongs to the Joker: form follows content and the both are better for it. The Dark Knight Rises shares its immediate predecessor’s commitment to structural tumult and thematic incoherence but lacks a compelling motivation for doing so. The charitable version of this argument would go like this:

Nolan’s narrative is disorganized because Bane claims to be committed to an ideology very similar to the Joker’s. The only problem with that argument is that it’s not true: his heart belongs to a fascistic order that values discipline and loyalty above all else (the League of Shadows) and the plan he carries out requires military precision. He protects the nuclear device by moving it and two decoy convoys around Gotham in a coordinated fashion. The device is ultimately lost because he adheres to the plan so rigidly that Gordon and his cohorts are able to create a map that tells them when and where each convoy will be at a given point in time. The Joker’s plan? It doesn’t even make sense. But The Dark Knight can be forgiven its formal incongruities because the resulting confusion enhances the experience the film. If a sequence seems make no sense it’s because the Joker’s lost the plot. If nobody appears to know what’s going it’s because nobody knows what’s going on. Lest this seem unnecessarily abstract, let’s consider an example of the interpretative consequences of the film’s formal difficulties:

In Gotham’s sewers, Bane recruits those like himself—the insecure thumbsuckers raging with a sense of entitlement, desperate to justify their own laziness and failure and to flaunt a false sense of superiority through oppression, violence, terror, and ultimately, total and complete destruction.

The odds of discovering something deliberately insightful in a John Nolte review are always vanishingly slim. I know that. But half the blame for Nolte’s inability to grasp the most basic of plot points belongs to Nolan. Members of the League of Shadows aren’t “insecure thumbsuckers raging with a sense of entitlement,” they’re an army who can coordinate convoys with military precision. Nor are “laziness and failure” terms that apply to an organization whose members successfully perform a controlled demolition of Gotham’s infrastructure. Also, these people made a Batman. In short, Nolte pulled off the impressive feat of getting the League of Shadows exactly wrong. His politics may have predisposed him to mistake a paramilitary organization like the League of Shadows for the Occupy movement, but Nolan’s direction encourages Nolte’s misunderstanding.

Which is only to say: in this instance Nolte’s stupidity can be excused. Tomorrow I’ll address instances in which it can’t.

UPDATE: I don’t agree with all of this—it puts The Dark Knight on a pedestal for what I take to be the wrong reasons—but it’s damn smart, and well worth the investment.

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  1. Craigo says:

    I’ll just note that Bane is clearly in favor egalitarianism, if you ignore the scene where he tells Batman that he’s lying.

    • SEK says:

      If he’d been a cipher like the Joker, we’d have to suss out his politics. But as an active agent in the League of Shadows — after having been unexcommunicated by Talia — we have a pretty clear idea as to what he believes, including but not limited to capital punishment for property crimes, etc.

      • Anderson says:

        Doesn’t matter. His goal is to destroy Gotham; the chaos is just part of the plan. Bane enjoys the chaos because he feels superior to it. See “Male Fantasies,” vol 1, passim.

        • SEK says:

          Sure, passim, except Bane’s critical motivation had nothing to do with chaos, which was just the jimmies ‘top the sundae of an unwanted protectorate. Talia was his motivation, plain and simple, it’s just sad the film militated against understanding the relationship in that light.

          • Anderson says:

            We may have to break out Aristotle on causation here, but Bane’s personal motivation for joining the League, etc., can be distinguished from the League’s goals, which are evidently to create chaos.

            I kept thinking, in both BB and DKR, about the GOP hatred of cities as intrinsically decadent and un-American, and the League certainly plays into that.

            • SEK says:

              Decadence isn’t inherent, though. In both films, the implication is that if there had been more wealthy people like the Waynes, the League wouldn’t need to take action. None of the films oppose the accumulation of wealth, just the pointlessness of doing so without contributing to the society that made that accumulation possible.

              As for breaking out the Aristotle, Bane may not be the perfect citizen, inasmuch as his actions weren’t motivated by “the right reason,” but his powerful loyalty to Talia and his discipline in executing the plan she convinced him would restore a proper (if obliterated) polis to Gotham surely place him on the side of “restoring balance” rather than “anarchy.” Balance is, after all, the point of the League, even if it’s understanding of the concept is a wee bit limited.

        • Lee says:

          Isn’t reading Male Fantaies, Vol. 1, akin to reading the Necromonicon?

    • proverbialleadballoon says:

      i agree with sek, bane’s motivations stem from the whole league of shadow’s subplot, which i thought was the weakest part of the movie. it was less interesting to me that bane was related to al ghul rather than his own thing, because that makes the dark knight trilogy into batman vs the league of shadows rather than batman vs himself/villains.

  2. Craigo says:

    And while I had my problems with Bane’s voice, and couldn’t understand a line or two here and there, those two speeches he gives in the second act were pretty forceful and charismatic. Granted, they were almost certainly overdubbed, but Bane/Hardy can fake conviction very well.

    • SEK says:

      I’m mostly deaf and do quite a bit of lip-reading, and needless to say, that was quite difficult to do with Bane. In fact, much of the dialogue was so loud I could barely hear it.

      • proverbialleadballoon says:

        the distortion in bane’s voice also made it hard to understand what he was saying. i guess hardy does a good job, it’s hard to tell really.

    • Lee says:

      The most disappointing voice in a superhero movie was Venom in Spider Man 3. Venom was one of my favorite Spider Man villains so I always had a distinct voice in my head for me. High-pitched, shrill, and not all together there. They got the not all together there part right but not the high-pitched and shrill part.

  3. Kinda surprised there’s a blanket condemnation of Bain’s voice. When they gave him the voice of a German aristocrat (I think mainly in the first act and at some points in the second) I thought it went a long way toward making Bain an effective symbol of “a fascistic order that values discipline and loyalty above all else”.

    But yeah when they make him sound like Grumpy Ian Mckellen, not so much.

  4. Some Guy says:

    Wow; I DARE you to interpret Bane less correctly.
    While the villains’ endgame goals were very pretty vague, I thought that the whole “watch us easily destroy your society, because we -can-” part was pretty well established.

    A failing of the film is that it didn’t establish any reason for discontent among the non-elite. Oh, it’s mentioned once or twice, but we never see anything that gives credence to it.
    The idea that DKR is a “Conservative” movie, or more loosely that it is a giant Fuck You to OWS in general, requires one to be looking for it; not so much as Where’s Waldo, but more like the History Channel aliens guy.

    Yes, Bane leads a revolt under a Stalinist banner of fiscal justice, but he is enabled to do so because of the corporate greed and wealthy-entitlement of the Plutocracy elite, who try to flaunt their sense of superiority over others.
    He’s playing both sides against each other, in a big game of Every Society is Three Meals Away from Anarchy.
    And John Nolte just walked right into it. Good job, champ.

    The movie itself is about an hour longer then it needed to be. The entire first act is superfluous, as is Catwoman, no matter how much I enjoyed watching her ride the batbike. The Pit of Exposition, which only serves to expose and build suspense, doesn’t really serve its purpose well, and gets drowned in psychobabble.

    I could live it all of that, but the ending was just borked and contrary to itself. I just pretend that nothing after the Batman statue/Alfred’s return happened. Then I’m happy again.

    • SEK says:

      Elsewhere, a friend of mine mentioned that it would’ve been the greatest superhero film ever if the camera stopped on Alfred and the screen just faded to black. I’m inclined to agree.

    • Anderson says:

      Oh please. If you thought Catwoman was disposable, you had no clue what movie you were watching.

    • proverbialleadballoon says:

      what?! catwoman was the best part of the movie, by a mile. the international jewel thief kitten, rather than tortured soul beat-up kitty like the last couple catwomen. the interplay between her and wayne/batman as she robs him, he catches her, lets her go, and so forth was fun and interesting, probably because hathaway nailed it, 21st century meets 50′s style. when the catwoman subplot is not attended to for what felt like 40 minutes in the middle of the movie, the movie drags.

  5. Jfp says:

    This is maybe going to come close to the worst sort of thing any critic can do which is to say what a movie should be about, but Scott you got me thinking that if the first film is about Batman and the second about the Joker then perhaps this one wants to be about Bruce Wayne. Except Nolan never really gets there. Nolan give Wayne a catalog of weaknesses and troubles (Spoilers!): his hermitage, his inability to connect, Selena Kyle, his Hubris, his crippling by Bane, his false assumption about the identity of the escapee, that all the major characters know exactly who he is, etc. And yet there’s really no character there.

    • SEK says:

      This is light-years away from the worst sort of thing a critic can write. You’re on solid ground, Jfp, you just need to prove the existence of what isn’t there. (I know that sounds glib, but I don’t mean it to be: I think you’re right that there’s a fundamental flaw in Wayne as a character, but defending that claim requires you to define what a well-adjusted human being would actually be, and that’s where you enter the swamp, never to be heard from again.)

      • DocAmazing says:

        there’s a fundamental flaw in Wayne as a character, but defending that claim requires you to define what a well-adjusted human being would actually be

        That’s where the animated series Batman Beyond really stood out. The kid that Bruce Wayne brought on to be the new Batman was forever being warned to stay away from Wayne, ‘cuz he wasn’t right in the head, and some examples of his not-rightness were shown. For a series that was obviously aimed at pre-adolsecents, it did a pretty good job of making clear that normal people don’t creep around Gotham City at night looking for fights.

        • proverbialleadballoon says:

          i think that nolan really let the opportunity slip through his fingers. he could have made something more like dark knight returns, instead he made the trilogy about the league of shadows.

  6. TT says:

    Haven’t seen this one yet; however, of the first two I think that Batman Begins is a vastly superior film in every way. The Dark Knight is just too disjointed and badly structured, and even though “structural and thematic anarchy is acceptable in a film that belongs to the Joker”, Nolan wastes too much time on the Dent/Two-Face plot line at the Joker’s expense. And then, as if he’s running out of financing from the studio, Nolan just kills off Two-Face at the end without ever really developing him into a distinctly interesting villain.

    • daveNYC says:

      I disagree. Batman Begins is an origin story, so it ends up spending 30 minutes telling us the background we more or less already know. Then it ends up being stuck with an evil plan that’s only slightly less stupid than Lex Luthor’s real estate scams.

      Dark Knight gets to skip the Batman origin and gives us a great intro to the Joker in the first ten minutes. Then the film just gets lucky, as Ledger’s Joker manages to own each scene so that you don’t wonder about the plot holes and the like.

      • SEK says:

        Batman Begins is an origin story, so it ends up spending 30 minutes telling us the background we more or less already know.

        But it does so in a compelling manner. And it’s not a half an hour, it’s more like an hour and a half. The exact time’s in one of the linked posts, but I can’t recall which one. Nolan generates interest in a re-telling of a familiar story not because the story’s inherently interest — though some would argue it is — but through how he re-tells it, through the specific interplay of the flashbacks with the film’s contemporary narrative. (More on that in the second Batman Begins post linked above.)

    • I wouldn’t say TDK wastes time on Dent. Like everyone else in the movie, Dent is merely a plot device to give us more insight into Bruce Wayne/Batman, but in this case he’s the most important character in the film. Namely, TDK isn’t really about the Joker, it’s about Batman and Dent, who are two imperfect sides of the same coin. Dent is what Batman is not (corruptible, vengeful), but at the same time he’s everything Batman needs to be (a legitimate authority). From the final scene of Batman Begins all the way through TDK, Nolan is pretty clearly saying that Batman is not a savior for Gotham, that at best he’s a necessary evil who creates a whole new host of problems himself. Dent begins TDK as Bruce’s hope that he can stop going out as Batman and entrust the city to legitimate law enforcement, but he ends the movie by creating a tremendous problem for Batman, as word of Dent’s crime would further erode faith in law enforcement and deification of Batman, the vigilante.

      Really the final half of TDK is a rather long indictment of Great Man theories of social action. Batman can be as great as he can be, in fact he’s personally perfect, but it’s wholly irrelevant, because individuals are meaningless, and institutions are all important.

      • Informant says:

        Nice piece of analysis. Recognizing the “Great Man” critique (which I think was overlooked by a lot of critics) is particularly perceptive.

        • Well to be fair to the critics, it’s really hard to watch Ledger’s brilliance and realize that the Joker is a glorified macguffin.

          • Medrawt says:

            It’s also really hard to watch a movie where the purported macguffin is on screen talking and doing stuff and killing people and orchestrating mass terror and then swallow the idea that he’s really a macguffin. Macguffins usually aren’t eligible for Oscar nominations.

            In other words, it’s not necessarily enough to say “hey, you misunderstood the brilliant point,” you actually need to look at whether the movie did a good job of communicating its brilliant point.

            • Well, Nolan wasn’t exactly subtle in making it obvious that the contrast was between Bruce and Dent. He starts by making Dent almost exaggeratedly brash and cocky, and the subject of public adulation, in stark contrast to Bruce, who is moody, unhappy, makes himself a public fool to conceal his dual identity, and is largely rejected by the only two people who know the truth because of his identity as Batman. By the end of the story, Batman is even explicitly laying it out for us when he orders the coverup of Dent’s crimes.

              But yeah, Ledger’s performance completely steals the show, and he’s the damn Joker to boot, which makes it hard to not see him as the central foil to Batman.

              • SEK says:

                Which is another way of saying that the Joker broke the film, which was my point. It has this tidy narrative structure, tries to adhere to it, but there’s this person in the middle of it muddling it up so successfully that he becomes the film’s focal point. So one problem with calling the Joker a macguffin is that he’s introduced in the first act, yes, and bows a bit in the third, but he occupies almost the entirety of the second. Structurally, then, he’s not much of a macguffin. There’s also the fact that macguffins tend to be objects, not people. But my main contention would be that you seem to think Ledger stealing the show is anomalous instead of intended. The heft of the film’s thematic weight shifts depending on whether you hie to the former or the latter, and I haven’t encountered a solid case for the former yet.

                • I don’t really think that at all. Quite the opposite, really, I think that’s why Nolan felt the need to make the contrast between Dent and Bruce so overly-stark, and then to have Batman explicitly lay out the point to us multiple times in the movies final 20-30 minutes.

                  And I didn’t really mean to say that the Joker was a true macguffin, I just couldn’t think of a better way to concisely describe his role in the plot, which is sort of inverted from the traditional portrayal of the Joker as Batman’s id.

              • Medrawt says:

                I haven’t seen TDKR, because I wasn’t a fan of TDK, and I’ve got only a very limited interest in swimming against the conversational tide about why I didn’t like the movie. But I don’t know how to read what you’re saying except as a criticism of the film. I’m suspicious of auteur theory in movies, but Nolan wrote and directed this thing, so I’m assigning him responsibility for both telling a good story and telling it well. I think it tells a bad story poorly, and whether or not you agree that it was a bad story, that the Joker is set up to be the magnetic center of the audience’s attention works powerfully against the Batman/Dent dynamic. It’s not like the Joker was unleashed on the filmmakers as well as on Gotham; in neither the narrative of the film or the creative process of the filmmakers is he actually the chaotic force he says he is. He was put there to do stuff. If him doing what he was put there to do distracts from the intended message of the people who put him there, they shouldn’t have put him there.

                • SEK says:

                  I’m suspicious of auteur theory in movies[.]

                  I’m not sure where else you’d find it … but more seriously, this is going to be the source of our disagreement. I’ve been on a few sets and am so stubborn in the face of evidence to the contrary that I do adhere to auteur theory, especially on films that cost ghastly sums per second of screen time. That said, in this instance I don’t think I need auteur theory to substantiate the claim that Ledger’s on-set performance altered the script because, well, Nolan’s said as much. He was a chaotic, captivating presence during the shoot, so Nolan and his brother were re-writing the film as they shot it. The Dark Knight is one of those rare instances, then, in which the director losing control of the film mid-shoot can be considered to be an intentional act.

                • I think that’s right. Nolan seems to fall into a trap of having it both ways with TDK. The central arc of the trilogy is Bruce’s character development, and Nolan obviously wants to further that with Rachel’s death and Dent’s failures and Alfred’s disapproval and Bruce’s brooding and ultimate ineffectiveness, but he also wants the big summer blockbuster, and the attention from Ledger’s brilliant performance. I don’t really like arguing about movies that should have been made, but I think the last two movies would have been better if the Joker had been saved for the third movie, with perhaps Rupert Thorn emerging as a far more ruthless crime boss than Falcone to serve as the main antagonist in TDK.

                • Medrawt says:

                  “In film” was a vestige of when the comment included an aside about how much credit/blame goes to the head creative type in film vs. television. I don’t know if anyone has ever cared to try and advance auteur theory for TV shows. I don’t have developed thoughts on either subject. I was just trying to get to the point where I say “look, all this was in Nolan’s control”.

                  And the story you tell, which I hadn’t heard previously (but I haven’t been hunting down info on the making of TDK) may explain some of why I think the film turned out to be a mess, but it’s still indicative to me of a problem in the film’s basic design.

                  To point to a somewhat less popular but still widely beloved (before its widely hated conclusion) entertainment that I thought was crappy, at some point the writers of Lost advanced the contention that the reason people on the show didn’t share information and in general behaved like the most incurious creatures under the sun was that if they didn’t behave as such, (a) all that talk talk would make for bad TV, and (b) it would mess up the pace of the mysterious story they were telling. To me, when you say stuff like that, you haven’t just missed the forest for the trees, you’re in the wrong forest, telling the wrong story.

                  But if Nolan was really starting out with the notion that the Joker was going to be the villain at the fringes who allowed Batman and Dent to demonstrate their similarities and differences, then Nolan should’ve stuck to his guns on that regardless of Ledger’s magnetism. (Except what he really shouldn’t have done is tried to tell both stories in one movie, which was the first thing that upset me on leaving the theater, before all the other stuff I didn’t like started coalescing in my head.)

                • SEK says:

                  he also wants the big summer blockbuster, and the attention from Ledger’s brilliant performance.

                  The Dark Knight‘s one of the few auteur-type films where it’s really interesting to compare the original to the shooting script. Ledger added so much dialogue that the impression is that the narrative was being bent to his improvisational whims, which for a major summer film that doesn’t star Harrison Ford is very much outside the norm. All of which is only to say that you’re correct, Nolan should’ve structured the trilogy like, well, a trilogy, but we should credit him for recognizing when he’d struck a vein as he had with Ledger. Not using what he’d found would be the more criminal offense, to my mind.

                • I agree. I don’t mean to imply that I didn’t like TDK, in fact I loved it. It would be cool to be able to see the version Nolan had intended, however, and to see if that would have led to a different TDKR.

                • SEK says:

                  But if Nolan was really starting out with the notion that the Joker was going to be the villain at the fringes who allowed Batman and Dent to demonstrate their similarities and differences, then Nolan should’ve stuck to his guns on that regardless of Ledger’s magnetism

                  This is where we’re never going to agree. I think that Nolan’s recognition of Ledger’s magnetism is what made the film, and the fact that he allowed that magnetism to run roughshod over his Dent/Wayne dualism points to his potential as a director. Unfortunately, the fact that Inception was a rigidly structured disaster and The Dark Knight Rises attempted to replicate the messiness of The Dark Knight for no particularly compelling reason makes me think that Nolan may just have been lucky. His earlier films — Memento and The Prestige in particular — both depended on their rigid structure to make sense. If you momentarily forgot the premise of either, you’d lose the plot. The Dark Knight was the first film in which he ceded some of his authority to his cast, and the film was the better for it. But instead of loosening up, he did Inception, which was so rigid I sussed out the plot eleven hours before the film ended, and The Dark Knight Rises, which despite being a mess was sadly predictable. Talia and Robin were outed during their first conversations; Wayne’s fate was telegraphed with Alfred’s imagined flashforward, etc.

                • I think the one thing that hurts the Batman trilogy in this sense is that Nolan doesn’t have a particularly strong desire to really give much depth to the supporting characters (Rachel and Dent in particular are pretty comically shallow given how important they are to the plot arc). This makes some sense given that none of the non-Bruce characters are important for anything other than how they affect Bruce’s character, but it does sort of draw you away from the story Nolan is trying to tell that the only other characters that are really memorable are the Joker and Gordon because Legder/Goldman do such fantastic jobs playing them.

                • Medrawt says:

                  SEK – While I agree with you about Nolan’s generic shortcomings as a filmmaker (the only movies of his I haven’t seen are TDKR and his pre-Memento indie, and my favorites by far are Batman Begins and The Prestige), I disagree about the execution of TDK, because when I’m watching a single movie I’m less interested in the growth of the filmmaker than I am in the success of the movie before me, and if Nolan’s thing to date is making rigidly structured thesis-puzzles, then the success of the movie depends on its success as a thesis-puzzle, and the Joker mucked all that up. I generally sort of want movies to be the best version of whatever they’re trying to be, but as a result I have a pretty high standard for movies that tell me loudly and at length that they’re about some Ideas, because it’s a pretty rare film that actually does that in a way that I think is interesting, coherent, and intellectually provocative. In this case, I just never had trust that Nolan had control over the Ideas he was discussing. Learning that a lot of Ledger’s material was basically improvised on set kind of confirms that. One of the things I struggled with was how intentional the disjunct was supposed to be between the Joker’s rhetoric (“I don’t make plans”) and his actions (“I’m planning all over the damn place”) was supposed to be, and learning that the script was being modified on the fly certainly doesn’t improve my trust that Nolan et al. were really in control of their rhetoric.

                • SEK says:

                  Brien and Medrawt: Your last two comments are in the process of being responding to in my next post. (You’re my Jokers mucking up my plans?) Please don’t be offended that I’m not responding to them in this thread.

  7. daveNYC says:

    My most basic problem with this movie was it spent too much time on the mooks. Ms Hathaway was freaking nailing it as Catwoman (most of the time), and Bane was doing a good job of chewing scenery. Unfortunately, i thought too much time was spent following future Robin, Gordon, and the various other non-Batman, non-Catwoman, non-Bane characters.

  8. wetcasements says:

    Nolan’s batflicks are such over-hyped turds.

    Give me Tim Burton’s first one any day.

  9. heckblazer says:

    I don’t see Bane as representing Occupy Wall Street, I see him as representing the Tea Party. Gotham under Bane looks like the wet dream a militia extremist while oiling his gun.

  10. Anderson says:

    It can’t be ROTJ without Ewoks. And thank god, there are none.

  11. KCMO says:

    The problem I’m having with the film is despite the fact that it’s 2 1/2 hours long, it feels chopped-up and, in some points, incomplete. How many themes did they touch on in this damn film?

    I can’t remember where I saw it, but I have to agree with whoever said it would’ve been better if they broke it up into 2 parts.

    • KCMO says:

      Also Scott,

      Do you have any recommendations of people who take as much time and care in breaking down films and/or film scenes as much as you do? I find myself reading from beginning to end without pause.

    • SEK says:

      The problem I’m having with the film is despite the fact that it’s 2 1/2 hours long, it feels chopped-up and, in some points, incomplete.

      Exactly. It’s difficult to ascribe motivations to a character when narrative overlap isn’t in the service of character development, as it is in Batman Begins.

  12. Daragh McDowell says:

    SEK – thanks for starting on the ‘Tea Party Rises’ myth that just won’t die. Might I add two other suggestions that the film isn’t a condemnation of Occupy a) the way the film depicts stock brokers, b) the entire character of John Daggatt.

  13. SEK says:

    UPDATE: I don’t agree with all of this — it puts The Dark Knight on a pedestal for what I take to be the wrong reasons — but it’s damn smart, and well worth the investment.

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  15. KSE says:

    Maybe I need to watch this a second time, but I agree with this:

    Nolan’s narrative is disorganized because Bane claims to be committed to an ideology very similar to the Joker’s. The only problem with that argument is that it’s not true: his heart belongs to a fascistic order that values discipline and loyalty above all else (the League of Shadows) and the plan he carries out requires military precision.

    …and I’d take it further. The villains’ scheme in this film makes no sense, and no sense can be made of it.

    I strongly suspect that there was at one time a DKR script written with the Joker as a villain, and elements of that script were clumsily transferred to this movie to keep scenes or elements that Nolan wanted to preserve. The whole wall-off-Gotham-only-to-nuke-it (with the would-be leaders of the League’s brave new world still inside!) makes a ton of sense as one of the Joker’s double-crosses, false choices, or general anarchic mindfuckery, but I would defy anyone to explain to me what the hell the League of Shadows could possibly have been trying to accomplish assuming their plan had actually succeeded.

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