Movie Stars and Gossip
No-one is saying that The Dark Knight Rises wasn’t one of the biggest films of 2012 – if success were measured in hype alone, it would arguably be the greatest film ever – but unfortunately, Nolan’s trilogy-ender partly died on that very same sword. Expectations weren’t met – but then, that wasn’t ever going to be possible – but even worse, the film seemed to be riddled with problems, in terms of technicals and creative elements. And some of us were left sadly disappointed, even despite some of the incredible moments.
Too much time was spent in the time after Nolan’s third film was released picking apart the film and complaining about the problems the film had – and my own analysis of the film followed that thread, albeit with some qualification, and millions of words were spent bad-mouthing the director and the creative decisions behind Rises. This however isn’t just yet another venomous moan about the problems of the film, it’s also an exploration of some of the very specific problems of Nolan’s trilogy ender that the next Batman director will need to avoid.
As a film writer, it’s inevitable that you face angry tirades of “you think you could do better?” in comment threads and on social networks, so it’s about time someone answered that question. So, ahead of the blu-ray release, here’s what I would have done to fix the problems of Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises.
Batman should have died, or at the very least his fate shouldn’t have been as overtly shown on screen as the ending of The Dark Knight Rises handled it. It was even all hinted at, from the pre-release assertions that there would be some definite closure and that the trilogy would represent an end to the images of the smashed bat cowl and the careful attempts to build up the lore of Bane after Batman & Robin’s lucha abomination.
Nolan was leaving, Christian Bale was leaving, and Warner Bros were making noises about a reboot coming next, so there was an unprecedented opportunity to do something memorable and profoundly affecting by killing Bruce Wayne off. But the opportunity wasn’t taken and instead we got a not wholly fulfilling conclusion that undermined most of the Wayne character development up until that point.
True, some theories suggest that Alfred was merely dreaming a happy ending for his friend and charge, because the alternative was unbearable, but it would have been an awful lot better if Nolan had simply infered what Alfred had seen or not seen, rather than showing us.
How To Fix It
Kill the Bat. Simple as that. If the Dark Knight trilogy was envisaged as a self-contained story arc, like the equivalent of a comic book one-shot, Nolan and Warner should have been brave enough to follow through with the film’s revelation (that the symbol was enough for Gotham) and killed off Bruce Wayne.
The idea that Bruce Wayne will ever have a “happy ending” is a betrayal of the character, and an unfair dilution of his personal history: the one thing the darker side of the comics has always ominously suggested is that Wayne is compelled to don his costume, to exorcise the demons of his family’s death, and that it would take something catastrophic to stop him. Unfortunately for Wayne fans, death is the only suitable answer
Alternatively, if Warners were too concerned about the negative connotations of killing Wayne off, Nolan should have cut his film when Alfred smiles in the cafe, and not revealed Wayne’s fake feeling happy ending. That would have filled the need for finality, as well as offering a more poetic ending to the film, which would arguably have fit better with Nolan’s wider body of work.