What Didn't Work
For much of "The Dark Knight Rises," Bane is a compulsively compelling villain – he is driven by a desire to see the world go topsy-turvy (to borrow a phrase from a fellow Playlister, if Joker wanted to watch the world burn, Bane wants to light the match). Part of his plan is to turn the economic status upside down, unleashing prisoners ruthlessly detained on the 1%-ers who are so proud of their new Dent Act. Other parts involve nuclear bombs, kangaroo courts and mass murder. He is so driven, in fact, that we're told he's been cast out of the League of Shadows, the sinister organization introduced in Christopher Nolan's initial bat-go-around, "Batman Begins." You think Bane has it going on until his entire character is undermined by the fact that he has no real motivation besides finishing the job that some dead guy started a couple of movies ago. There are a lot of motivational problems in "The Dark Knight Rises," but this might be the most glaring – it threatens to take the teeth out of Bane, which would be a real shame, even if they are hidden behind that hideous mask. Another huge problem is the movie's structure – it's probably Nolan's most linear movie, and this isn't a good thing. The mid-section of the movie is plodding and soggy and largely Batman free (see below), and the climax feels rushed and oddly unpopulated. People might have complained about the worlds-within-worlds in "Inception," but it was certainly more riveting than moments of this.
There may be fewer plot holes or moments where the suspension of disbelief starts to crumble, and certainly fewer than in some of Nolan's other films (Batman dives out the window to save Rachel at the fundraiser in "The Dark Knight," but we never find out what the Joker does after that? Does he just leave? And why doesn't Leonardo DiCaprio just get Michael Caine to fly his kids to him in "Inception?"). But that doesn't mean that they're entirely lacking from "The Dark Knight Rises." For instance, Bruce Wayne needs a robot leg brace to walk properly at the beginning of the film, but manages to escape from an inescapable prison well without it. Not to mention the glossing over exactly how he gets home from the Middle East in a couple of days. Or how he's able to walk on an icy river (and lay a fairly impressive trail of petrol) which everyone else falls through. And it's handy that Bane appears to have provided the trapped cops not only with food and water, but also with showers, shaving cream and razors. Also useful: the decision by Lucius Fox and the Wayne tech boys to build a countdown clock into a nuclear reactor.
We liked the idea of moving the story on eight years and picking up with an older, bruised Bruce Wayne, and aspects of it work -- Gotham having gotten safe and complacent, in particular. But it doesn't all work in execution. For instance, having Bruce a near-cripple at the start of the film somewhat lessens the impact of his back being broken by Bane later on. If he's already recovered from having no cartilage in his knees, then it seems less of a big deal. Furthermore, how did he get like that exactly? When last we saw him in "The Dark Knight," he was running away from police dogs -- injured from his fall, sure, but clearly pretty active. And despite Batman having not been seen since, he's suddenly walking around with a cane and requiring a knee support to go back into action. And it also feels like maybe Nolan was working out some of the ideas he had for his never-getting-made Howard Hughes film, rather than it organically coming out of the ending of the last film. Not a dealbreaker by any means, but a little more info on what exactly he's been doing for the last few years would be helpful.