“The legend ends.”
Spoiler alert: this is a story analysis website, likely to reveal major plot points... proceed with caution!
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There are so many good things to say about The Dark Knight Rises. It was a truly exceptional film, and yet... it seemed to be lacking that extra little bit of greatness, didn’t it? What was missing? After careful consideration, I think I may have figured out what this film needed. It was tricky, and here’s the reason why: the director, Christopher Nolan (who was also one of the writers), made some very good choices. But they may not have been the best choices. That’s the writer’s goal: make the best choices possible.
Before we get to those choices, let’s talk praise. Nolan’s films are often technical marvels. This was no exception. (I only had one technical qualm with this film, but more on that later.) The new Catwoman was a pleasant surprise, and Bane was certainly an antagonistic force to be reckoned with. The stakes were higher in almost every way, resulting in a spectacular climax and a very fulfilling resolution to the Batman trilogy as a whole. This will most likely be The Dark Knight Rises’ most memorable aspect.
Now, on to the choices: the first involves the ‘plot twist’ of introducing Talia as the real bad guy behind the scenes. I am aware of her importance in the original comic book series... but honestly, what did this do for the story? I feel that it greatly weakened the character and role of Bane. By suddenly introducing him as the henchman only (of a far less intimidating villain), it also brought into question his motivation. And I have to say, being the caliber of villain that he was, Bane’s death sure seemed... anticlimactic.
The other choices involve the story’s subplots. Whenever a film’s pacing seems to drag, it is often the result of not working your subplots as well as you could be. In the case of The Dark Knight Rises, I think there were just too many subplots. One way to fix this is by removing some of the more unnecessary characters. (Like deputy commissioner Foley... he really didn’t do anything for the story.) This makes for a much tighter film, and frees up time for more important characters. (Also, my only technical qualm: you won’t have to try and liven the pace with incredibly loud drums that smother some of the dialog.)
Now, I’ll be the first to readily admit that these suggestions might not be the best choices... but I do think they are stronger. Instead of having Bane as the henchman, why not make it Talia? Imagine Bane using her as the final weapon against Bruce Wayne—how ingenious would his plot have been then? The other one has to do with Foley’s hatred of Batman. Why not remove Foley and give that arc to Robin? Then he would have come full circle, from hating the Dark Knight to becoming the Dark Knight. It would have also given Batman a chance to come full circle, and truly be the mentor to his chosen successor.
Overall, this was a remarkable finish to Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but it could have used a few tweaks.