Before I begin with this I’d just like to state that I love Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of Batman; both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight were fantastic films and, despite quite a few flaws and a complete failure to live up to the hype that surrounded it, I still found a lot to enjoy about The Dark Knight Rises. On the whole I felt that it was a good movie, held together by strong performances, a stirring soundtrack and the calibre of special effects that we’ve come to expect from Nolan and co.
However, for me, despite all of these strong points, I just couldn’t bring myself to rave about TDKR like I had the first two films. I just found that there were too many niggling things that damaged the film for me and, whilst discussing the movie’s failings with some friends over drinks, I decided upon the one thing that really annoyed me about TDKR.
My dissatisfaction originated from one key plot twist. Up until that point I had been perfectly happy to excuse the clichéd evil scheme (obtain control of nuclear device, cause havoc, etc), the general lack of Batman featuring in most of the film (maybe the film should have been titled ‘Bruce Wayne: A Biopic’) and the fact that every epic sequence had been ruined by the fact that it featured in the trailer. These were all excusable because I had come to appreciate Bane as the film’s antagonist; he had been given an interesting origin story and Tom Hardy’s performance was both menacing and memorable.
Then Talia al Ghul (Marion Cotillard) showed up, and ruined everything.
Okay, I will admit that, when I first watched the scene where she is revealed to be the mastermind behind the entire evil plan, and promptly stabs Batman in the side, I sat there mindblown, thinking ‘what a twist! I did not see that coming!’ Then I began to think about the implications of this revelation, and found my enjoyment souring.
My biggest objection is the fact that, by having Talia as the mastermind, the scriptwriters instantly negate Bane’s impact. Prior to this moment, he had been portrayed as an anarchic, intelligent criminal with revolutionary ideals, as someone with a high enough IQ to formulate a plan to blow Gotham sky high, bankrupt Bruce Wayne and hold the United States hostage, whilst also boasting enough strength to break Batman’s back. So far so good, we have an excellent supervillain on our hands. Except, with Talia in the picture, all the credit for the masterplan, the highjacking of a nuclear device, the hit on the stock exchange, the revolution in Gotham, is taken away from Bane, making him little more than a thug who has been acting, not out of greed or revolutionary zeal, but out of love for his commander.
Essentially, Talia’s role in the film completely undermines Bane as a villain, and completely takes the focus away from his beliefs and motives (something which is highlighted by his completely underwhelming death moments later, which consists of him being shot against a wall – hardly a fitting end for someone who acted as the film’s main villain for two hours.)
In all fairness, I do accept that having Talia in the movie provides a fitting link back to Batman Begins and also stays true to the source material (whereas sticking with Bane as Ra’s al Ghul’s child would have been a major deviation). I just think that there could have been better ways to integrate her into the story, rather than sidelining Bane in the film’s final scene. On this occasion, I sadly think that Nolan was trying to be too clever for his own good.
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