In this Screenwriting Hack on Dark Knight Rising you’ll learn:

  • Why Dark Knight feels about seven hours long
  • Why the arch-villain Bane totally blows as a villain
  • Why the final showdown feels about as cinematic as an insurance seminar

Warning: This blog post has mild spoilers. Nothing earth-shattering. (Like the surround sound of the movie.)

But if you’re concerned about such things, then maybe go see this movie first, then come on back.

“There’s a Storm Coming, Mister Wayne”

This column pains me. I’m a Chris Nolan film.

I loved Memento (doesn’t every film school grad have a Memento love affair at some point?), liked Batman Returns, LOVED Dark Knight, LOVED LOVED LOVED Inception.

It’s safe to say Chris Nolan single-handedly become the FIRST director that become marketable as an attached element of a film. (Look at old Inception marketing, and you’ll see it’s Nolan they were selling, not DiCaprio.)

That being said: Dark Knight Rising is an uneven, inconsistent, visually-stunning, long and seriously flawed film. Let’s start off with my no.1: complaint:

Script Writing Lesson No.1: Don’t Put Your Hero Off-screen for Most of the Second Act

If you saw the film you know that Bruce Wayne/The Batman spends a good portion of the second act in some dingy, foreign prison that looks like my first college apartment.

FREE Movie Idea SeminarWhich is fine. I mean every hero must face a crisis moment. But the problem is, Bruce has been in a crisis from the start. He walks around in the beginning of the film with a cane, sports a hipster beard, and lives like some Howard Hughes OCD hermit.

So..he starts off weak and hurt and moves to second act where he’s..you guessed it…weak and hurt.

“I’m Not Afraid, I’m Angry”

Worst of all, because Nolan realizes Wayne lying in a cot watching TV is inherently undramatic, he cross-cuts constantly to the Gotham City cop brigade and Catwoman subplots. But it doesn’t feel disjointed, odd and somewhat distracting. (Big problem when Catwoman is THE MOST ACTIVE AND INTERESTING CHARACTER in your film that is not about Catwoman.)

And thought the film is just ten minutes longer than its predecessor, this constant feeling of “Where the hell did the hero of this movie go?” makes the film feel like it’s twelve hours long.

And no amount of 3-D can fix that.

Script Writing Lesson No.2: Make the Villain Radically Different From Your Hero

I don’t dislike arch-villain Bane simply because he is named after Mitt Romney and is a tool of the liberal cabal media. (Joke, joke.)

No, Bane sucks because of two factors: a) His stupid mouthpiece deprives us of the best thing a villain can provide, creepy reactions to what the hell is going on and b) He’s not different enough from Batman.

Please don’t tell me the mouthpiece is what the comics did. I don’t care. They call them face-offs because it’s in the face where the battle happens, not the fists. (Green Goblin had the same issue, in my opinion. Too much like a bad Halloween mask.)

“Let the Games Begin”

But my biggest issue with Bane is that he’s crazy, strong, damaged, unpredictable, and psychotic. (All terms I could use to describe Batman.)

The reason The Joker works as a villain is because he truly represents a strange funhouse mirror reflection of Batman. The Joker is charming, funny, and somewhat care-free. Batman is an OCD control freak who can’t relax. Perfect opposites.

So when they battle, it feels like two extreme viewpoints fighting it out. The dour, serious Batman and the whacky, crazy Joker.

But when Batman and Bane face off it just feels like Batman is fighting a circus strongman. Sure he’s STRONG and has a tendency to BLOW up football stadiums but it doesn’t feel like two indomitable forces smashing into each other.

Which brings us to…

Script Writing Lesson No.3: Make the Final Showdown Really Big

This one really pisses me of. I can forgive the first two. But this one drives me batshit crazy.

Slight spoiler here: Bane and Batman face off twice in the movie. The first time in the sewers of Gotham in this pretty cool, creepy scene that looks like my college landlord was hired to look after.

Script Writing 101 Lessons From Dark Knight RisingAnd it’s a good scene. Lots of punching and kicking and more punching. And things don’t go so super well for Batman.

But don’t worry.

They’re going to see each other again. And I mean this fight is gonna be epic, right? I mean it’s going to dramatic and memorable and awesome and…

During the day?

While it snows?

With thousands of people surrounding them?

Sigh.

“The City Needs Me”

What a buzz kill that final battle was. And it had the worst line of dialogue in the whole film.

When Bane finally sees Batman has returned to fight another day, this exchange occurs:

Bane: So, you came back to die with your city.
Batman: No. I came back to stop you.

Huh? That’s it? That’s the big comeback. The resounding line to encapsulate the whole movie and the comeback we’ve been waiting an hour for.

Batman doesn’t even have some cool sarcastic, witty line. He just says exactly what’s on his mind. “I came back to stop you.”

This wouldn’t fly in an intro to screenwriting course.

And it shouldn’t be anywhere near a Chris Nolan film.

“Let Us Not Stand on Ceremony, Mr. Wayne”

The domestic gross for Dark Knight Rising is already at 430 million as of the writing of this column. (And will probably break 1 billion when you throw in foreign.)

But I wonder if Nolan upping the budget of this film to 250 million didn’t find himself dazzled by the spectacle and overwhelmed by where to put the CGI explosions, when he should have been grounded in creating characters and villains that satisfied a soul not reachable by 3-D and Surround Sound.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!!!

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About The Author

Michael Rogan
Editor, ScriptBully Magazine
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Michael Rogan is a former screenplay reader and optioned screenwriter. He is also the founder and editor-in-chief of ScriptBully magazine, and has written a few non-sucky books including "How to Write a Book That Doesn't Suck (and Will Actually Sell)". He has made it his mission to help screenwriters kick ass - and rid the world of films based on action-figure lines.

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2 Responses

  1. Roy

    Good post!
    I would like to add that The Dark Knight Rises has not been shot nor distributed in 3D and that the first installment of Chris Nolan’s Batman franchise was Batman Begins, not Batman Returns.

    Reply
  2. Jonathan

    Well this review really helps me save the $15 I would spend to see the film. Honestly, after seeing the trailers ages ago, the whole thing seemed lame. And now you confirm it’s lame, so thanks. And it’s a shame too, because the first two films were outstanding in every way imaginable. And so it goes.

    Reply

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