Where Nolan’s Batman Comes Up Short

Seven years ago, we all began a journey. It started in a distant land with a man carrying a blue flower to the top of a tall mountain. We’ve left it with the same man going into exile after the death of a friend. Where it ends, we don’t yet know (well, some do), but it seems reasonable to think this man will rise again. I’m, of course, talking about Bruce Wayne—The Batman.

Yes, it’s finally here—The Dark Knight Rises week. It’s a worldwide celebration, and many of my fellow film writers will be lovingly reflecting back on the first two films in Christopher Nolan’s record-breaking, genre-changing trilogy, which will all lead up to midnight on Friday when the public at-large gets its first glimpse at Nolan’s latest.

I see these film writers a little like parents sending their toddlers off to school for the first time. I’m the guy that’s going to steal their kids’ lunch money, tell the kids their parents don’t love them. I’m going to talk about why Nolan’s Batman franchise isn’t the best thing since sliced bread. (Maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh!)

But in all seriousness, it’s probably worth examining the series with a true critic’s cap on because, as hyped as these films might get you, they are, in fact, imperfect. No film is perfect, and thinking one ever will be is a little foolish. I really like Batman Begins. I love, love, LOVE The Dark Knight, but to change the pace a little this week (really, who needs another Batman Begins/The Dark Knight review series), I give you the Three Worst Things About Nolan’s Batman:

1.) Two Words: Katie Holmes
Ugh. The soon-to-be-former Mrs. Tom Cruise was horribly miscast as Bruce wayne’s love interest/childhood best friend/Assistant District Attorney(!) Rachel Dawes. It’s not that she’s a completely incompetent actress, but rather that there are hundreds and hundreds better than her and more capable of convincingly playing a genius public prosecuter. You’ll see real Christopher Nolan haters pound the point that he’s seemingly incapable of creating three-dimensional female characters (see also: Hilary Swank in Insomnia, Ellen Page in Inception). Most Nolan fans would (rightfully) counter that by noting Marion Cotillard’s expert performance in Inception. But watching Holmes stumble her way through Batman Begins is Exhibit A in this court case, and it’s pretty damning evidence.

2.) Don’t Drink the Water!
The key to Ra’s Al Ghul’s dasterdly plot in Batman Begins is what’s called a microwave emitter. Cillian Murphy’s The Scarecrow has been dumping chemical agents in Gotham City’s water supply, and this emitter, if activated, will vaporize it all, making the chemical agents airborne.

Now forget for one minute (if you can) the idea that vaporizing all the water in an entire city should, in theory, also vaporize every person in the city since, you know, humans are made up almost entirely of water. The bigger problem is that, for months, the city’s residents have been drinking poison! Hello?!?!? There is a line somewhere in the film trying to write this off by saying the toxins don’t become harmful until they’re vaporized, which is stupid. But that doesn’t cover instances of boiling this water. So all tea drinkers in Gotham City mysteriously died and Gordon and Co. don’t comment on it at all? Call it a big “Oops.”

3.) Convoluted Plot, Thy Name Is The Dark Knight
OK, this one’s a real doozy. Early on in The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger’s The Joker starts killing public servants around the city. One of these individuals is the beloved Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), who takes a bullet for the mayor.

Much later in the film, Batman and Gotham’s law enforcement are pursuing The Joker, and it seems the villain has our hero cornered—that is until Gordon pops up (alive, unbeknownst to everyone but Batman and Harvey Dent) with his gun pointed at The Joker’s temple. It’s a triumphant return for one of the true good guys, but it seems The Joker still has a play.

He’s jailed, and during Batman’s interrogation of him, he says there’s one time to save one of his allies. He must choose his love (Rachel, now played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Gotham’s real hero, Dent. Of course, you know what happens next, but did you catch the Hoover-Dam-sized plot hole?

How in the world could The Joker have planned all this unless he knew Gordon was alive? It just doesn’t compute. You buy it because Ledger sells his character’s diabolical genius tendencies so well. In this way, his performance is one of the most essential to any film in a long time. But objectively, the story falls apart upon introspection, and it only gets worse as it goes on past this point. (How did he know to have the guy with the cell phone in his chest arrested and brought to the same jail as him? How did he know he’d ultimately be guarded by one man dumb enough to take his bait? It’s a plan that’s 100% impossible by any standard of human logic.)

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