If I tell you not to see The Dark Knight Rises, will you listen? If I tell you it's a bad movie, will you care? I assume not. I assume that, as a cultural touchstone and the follow-up to the most successful superhero movie of all time, you'll see it anyway. And you probably should. This is one of those movies you kind of need to have an opinion about: it's divisive. And I'm sure a lot of you will like it. There are things to like. It's fairly well shot, the action is pretty good, and Catwoman is really quite amazing.
But it was nowhere near enough.
According to the internet, Dark Knight Rises was budgeted at around $250 million. Avengers, in contrast, was a relatively low-budget art house film at $220 million. Keep in mind that Disney still managed to squeeze out a 3D version at the lower price-point, as well as a Hulk. While I'm sure Warner Bros. will get their money's worth at the box office, I certainly felt ripped off.
There are many diverse and valid interpretations of Batman. This wasn't one of them. It's cribbed from some great versions of the character, but only superficially. There are elements of the character lifted from Kingdom Come, Dark Knight Returns, and Batman Beyond, but they're taken so far out of context as to be laughably stupid. For example, Bruce Wayne retiring and wasting away in his mansion is far more believable if he's 70 than 34. Also, Bruce is a total dick in this movie.
As bad as Batman was, this Gotham is even worse. Rather than go through the trouble of creating a city with its own character and complexity, Nolan stole New York. Sure, there was a prison and a football stadium in the middle of Manhattan, but other than that, it was just New York City. As in, you can actually see the half-finished Freedom Tower. It's right there. Oh, and now they're on Williams Street: didn't even bother to digitally change the street sign. This is at least as much a New York movie as Ghostbusters.
I'm sure it's all intentional: Gotham was Chicago in the last movie; New York in this one. Gotham's every city (or something). It's a real city, with real problems, real villains. And the real villains in this movie are basically Occupy Wall Street protesters.
Regardless of the justification, it comes off as lazy. Actually, a lot of this movie does.
Like the other movies in the trilogy, the plot's lifted from a handful of famous Batman stories, stuck in a blender, then sewn back together. But this time it lacks nuance. Comic geeks will see the threads a mile away: Knightfall, Dark Knight Returns, and No Man's Land seem to make up the majority of the structure. Again, don't get excited: none of these stories were given the treatment they deserve, just faint echoes of elements sacrificing what made these stories worth telling.
To put it bluntly, this was to several of the greatest Batman stories ever told what X-Men 3 was to the Dark Phoenix Saga. This is by far a better movie, but there was a similar sense of sacrifice; by touching on these ideas, the filmmakers have made it less possible for them to actually ever be adapted faithfully.
Like I said earlier, there were some solid aspects, first and foremost Catwoman. But it should be noted that she doesn't actually belong here. She's superimposed on a story she doesn't fit in. Ironically, the best part of the movie actually makes the movie as whole worse by slowing it down and dragging it out.
Meanwhile, the plot is a mess. There are holes, non sequiturs, and even a key section I'm pretty sure was out of order. Things happen which make absolutely no sense. And, finally, the end may pull on your heartstrings if you don't think about it, but if you're paying attention, Batman just comes off as a total asshole.
I know not everyone is having the same reaction, but I've noticed some trends worth considering. The people who love this movie, by and large, aren't Batman fans: they're Nolan fans. If you've never read the stories this is taken from and you love Nolan's first two installments, this might satisfy you. But if you're a diehard fan, I think this is mostly just going to piss you off.
I mean, come on. At the very least, they could have gone with "Richard."