Why The Dark Knight Rises failed


‘The Dark Knight Rises’ didn’t succeed like ‘The Dark Knight’ did, most everyone agrees — but why?


Failed! Of course, failure is a relative term — the movie has already made over a billion dollars worldwide. But it’s not so simple — adjusted for inflation, the movie made less than The Dark Knight or even the first modern Batman movie (via BoxOfficeMojo). Additionally, the movie hasn’t recieved anything close to the same level of enthusiasm or critical favor the previous two Nolan movies received. And although most people leave the movie with a feeling of “that was fun,” the previous movie was more along the lines of “that was awesome.”

A bit of a difference.

So with that in mind, how could the movie have exceeded its expectations and truly succeeded past the seemingly insurmountable shadow of its predecessor? A few ways. As you might imagine, there are extreme levels of SPOILERS to follow.

Why did The Dark Knight succeed and The Dark Knight Rises fail? Four reasons:

1) Stakes

Imagine Alfred dying due to Bruce ignoring his surrogate father’s advice — leaving him truly without family.

It may seem silly to talk about stakes when in TDKR an entire city was in danger of being blown to bits, leading to terrible upheaval in the world. But we all knew that wasn’t going to happen. The other problem was the lack of consequences for anyone we cared about — all of the main characters survived. Imagine how much more the movie would have hit home about sacrifice and futility if Lucius Fox or Commissioner Gordon either died performing a vital role in saving the city, or died despite trying to save the city. Imagine Alfred dying due to Bruce ignoring his surrogate father’s advice — leaving him truly without family.

Now, I get why Bruce Wayne survived — in my interpretation of the movie, the point is that Bruce learned that a fear of death was holding him in place, in a sort of sociopathic holding pattern that kept Batman a part of him. He truly feared to be alive, to be happy. The arc of the trilogy, compressed aspects perhaps in this last one, was about Bruce’s realization that although Batman might be necessary, he didn’t need to die as Batman.

But there was a lack of tension in TDKR — conclusions seemed forgone, and only bad guys and extras died. In TDK, there was a real possibility that a group of people might murder another group — there was an odd personal connection there. Here, it’s just random people we barely care about.

2) Escalation

The Dark Knight kept getting crazier as the movie went on, with layers upon layers as the Joker kept getting away with more. Every plan of the Joker had a chance to fail, and he had many chances to “win” — but despite it all, he kept going until the final moments. And although the Joker didn’t win completely, he still won.

In TDKR, the escalation goes like this: brazen attack on the stock exchange, the stadium and city is attacked, months of nothing important, finale. The aspects of Batman that get escalated are bat-cycle to bat-plane to bat-man. Not exactly that exciting — the movie builds in a slow, dramatic manner, which is fine in some ways, but we don’t get increasingly invested as the movie continues, wondering what will happen next.

We know Batman will confront Bane, we know he will eventually escape. Even the parts in Gotham that focus on Blake and Gordon seem truncated and dry at times — their investigations start to heat up, then it’s already over.

3) Real loss

Part of this is sadly tied to the real world death of Heath Ledger — people wanted to see one of the last roles he’d ever play, especially with the ridiculous level of hype associated with the movie. His acting was some of the finest work of a villain in film history, and certainly the best among the superhero movies. I’m not about to suggest that that studio killed him to stimulate box office numbers, nor would I suggest that they should’ve tried it for the third movie. It would’ve seemed too obvious in that case, certainly.

But there’s also a big aspect of The Dark Knight that something has been lost or changed forever. Important characters have died, representing vital parts of Gotham and Bruce himself. In TDKR, nothing has been lost at all.

4) Hope

After the second movie ended, audiences could only speculate madly about what might go next….

After the second movie ended, audiences could only speculate madly about what might go next — so many possible choices. But after this one, it seems kind of obvious. Blake becomes the next hero — whatever he calls himself — and Bruce disappears. But in some ways, that’s a failure too.

And then there are the specific issues with The Dark Knight Rises that seem like they could have been easily fixed. I think the storyline itself is fine, and I like most of the characters. But….

  • Selina Kyle seems like she’s in a different comic book movie. More acrobatic than is realistic. I would’ve preferred to see a harder, more brutal style of combat that I think would also make more sense for someone of her background and build. I thought the little scene in the men’s prison was amusing, but the manner in which she broke the groping man’s hands made no sense. That could’ve been easily changed to something more realistic and still been funny and true to her character. I mean… she leaped backwards out a window!
  • Deputy Commissioner Foley’s arc is totally flat and boring. His change from cowardly bureaucrat to dead “hero” was uninspired and pointless. An unnecessary character that doesn’t get the proper sort of consequences — I would’ve preferred to see him die in the sewers.
  • The football scene was ruined by marketing. It was the first teaser released, and it ruined the tension of the scene. From speaking to people who didn’t see the first teaser, they appreciate the scene a great deal more than most.
  • Blake’s explanation of how he knew Bruce Wayne was Batman didn’t really make sense. He “saw it in his eyes”? Come on. I actually would’ve preferred to see Blake slowly realizing it over the course of the first act. “How could I have missed it?” Etc.
  • The bomb should’ve been explained a bit better. There were a few references to it being a “neutron bomb”, which theoretically wouldn’t have fallout or radiation, just a big kaboom. But that aspect wasn’t addressed at all, which makes it seem like the bomb would have some pretty serious problems down the road. Something that could’ve been easily talked about but would’ve prevented scoffing at the “plot hole”.
  • Talia’s death was a bit ludicrous. Nothing against Marion Cotillard’s acting, which I thought was fantastic overall, but her death scene seemed like a fake death scene. Either it was intentionally bad (in which case, they should’ve returned to see her gone immediately after Batman files away) or it wasn’t (in which case it was just done badly).
  • “Robin” – you know, I was actually okay with this. What a lot of people don’t understand is that most people don’t know Robin’s real name. Sure, you may know about Dick or Tim or Samantha or whoever — but most people don’t. But everyone’s heard of Robin.
  • And I know I may get some disagreement for this one:The city should’ve been partially destroyed. Nothing against a feel good ending, but Gotham didn’t deserve it, even if Bruce Wayne did.

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

24 Comments on “Why The Dark Knight Rises failed

  1. Are you kidding me? Who wrote this article? What a joke? Tdkr failed?
    1. This movie opened to the greatest mass shooting in America, 72 shot12 dead.
    2. Marvel had to make a movie with 4 of their biggest heroes ( Thor, the hulk, captain America and ironman) that could bring people to theaters the way batman did.
    3. Don’t forget that showing the avengers in 3d automatically increased its box office take by a third.
    4. Tdkr has been hailed by critics, fans and comicbook.com as the greatest comic movie of all time.
    5. Tdkr will be the yardstick by which all other comic book movies will be measured from now on.
    6. The movie has made 1.1 billion so far, and will be in theaters for at least 5 more weeks.
    7. Don’t take inflation into account when estimating previous box office receipts, you have to consider bootlegs and downloads of the movie on the web, how many people saw it for free?
    8. This writer doesn’t know shit! What a fucking idiot!

    • You said everything that I was going to say, so I applaud you, Sir, for bringing justice to Batman and this article’s amateurish and essentially false critique.

    • I completly agree what was this guy thinking by saying the Dark kight Rises failed. Thats a joke.

    • all the facts seems accurate, but those opinions are questionable. TDK is vastly superior to TDKR and that seems to be the consensus. this was probably the weakest entry in the series, but that’s not saying much because they were all great. i understand how some can consider it a failure, but only because of how high expectations were.

    • Yeah, he wasn’t talking about failing financially, he was talking about failing artistically. Every point you make relates to money, whereas the actual article — which mentions how successful the movie has been at the box office — talks about the film’s shortcomings in plot and execution. And you have to admit, there hasn’t been the same “this movie should win Best Picture at the Oscars” mania as the last one got.

  2. The autor of this article is a Marvel fanboy? Seriously, the Dark Knight rises is the FIRST 2D movie of the 2012. IT IS A SUCCESS. Maybe I think who wrote this article is a 6 year-old boy. Moron.

  3. The movie will ALWAYS lead to “Avengers was better” or “Dark Knight was better” and I hate that. Just accept the movie for what it is, its not our fault you were too anticipated that you got involved with the marketing. When I first heard of this movie, I wanted to know who was in it, and every spoiler, detail, filming location, set photos and videos. And guess what? This movie was the best one I’ve seen in my LIFE. Not every movie is perfect, I even can say that it had a few mistakes, but I still enjoyed it and watched it over 30 times! I’m a dedicated fan so this article is useless, so congratulations. Now do us all a favor Jeremy, and make better reviews so that these kinds of comments you’ll be getting will go away. Don’t wanna get fired, do we now?

  4. This has got to be one of the stupidest articles I have ever read. And i actually liked this movie better than TDK and not everyone agrees with you so you are writing a false article. And u suck.

  5. by the look of this review you really don’t know what your talking about.. the film has been hailed a a great 3rd and final installment.. and Nolan has done the film justice there’s a sense of sadness will the film with the deaths of aurora, avengers had 3d to boost it’s sales, and I’m a comic book fan of both marvel and dc comics, and batman had to be rebuilt from the shit Joel made, avengers had 5 films as a build up everyone will go and see it of course. all Ivan say is you need to find a career in something else because this review is woeful ….

  6. WOW. This is what I don’t understand: Why do people think just because TDKR wasn’t as good as the previous film, it makes it a bad film? I don’t think any film could beat The Dark Knight, Batman movie or not. The Dark Knight Rises was the farthest thing from a bad film. It grossed over $1,000,000,000 so far, and it did so without the boost from 3D ticket sales like The Avengers did.

    The author of this article is entitled to his idiotic opinion I suppose.

    Here is his Google Plus profile: https://plus.google.com/105813378962382718408/posts

  7. i am going to kill this review very soon ,this person has hurt my feelings very much, desrespecting the movie like this cannot be tolerated anymore
    u can see on my facebook page how i’m gonna beat the hell out this reviewer so he can never review any film in future

  8. I couldn’t agree more with what is said in this article. I came out of TDKR massively disappointed. And all the reasons stated here are absolutely spot on.

    And I agree, there was absolutely NO tension. Just when you expect something big and bad to happen, nothing happens. All the major players come through intact, most without even a scratch. Gotham is only subjugated, but never really destroyed in any major way. Blake’s discovery of Batman’s identity, or lack thereof, is the epitome of lazy writing. How interesting would it have been for Blake to actually do some police work to find out Batman’s identity? The answer: very interesting. And, while on the topic of Batman’s identity, I really thought that in this film, the stakes were going to be so high that Batman’s identity to the public was going to be in major jeopardy — but again, no such tension or sense of danger is presented, and, like most of the movie, everything feels safe.

  9. This article has a few points however I wouldn’t say TDKR failed considering The spirit of what makes a great Batman movie lives in TDKR for example I am a Big 1989 Batman fan and I haven’t seen any other movie pay this much attention to detail as far as character depth goes(I was so emotionally invested into the character of Bruce Wayne portrayed by Christian Bale that I felt like I was witnessing a long lost depressed friend reemerging back to the world and I couldn’t be more happier) The only other Bruce Wayne in which I felt that emotionally invested in if not more was Michael Keaton’s and 2012 was 1989’s Batmania all over again. I love the love and support from the millions and millions of Nolanite’s and movie fans everywhere shouting, typing, selling out movie theaters as well as defending their love for one man Bruce Wayne and I’m glad he is alive and kicking even if he is a fictional character. Everything seems to be heading for digital and green screen, special effects but this was our time as fans to bask in the glory of reality taken place and being captured on film, like the Joker truck flipping over in TDK, or even the hospital blowing up or even The Snow scene in BB where Bruce saves Ducard later revealed as Ras Al Ghul this is not just an experience this is a homage to real film making and I thank Mr. Nolan for taking the time(9yrs) to cater to Batman in spite of the damage done to Batman before (5 yrs from now your gonna wish there were live action films being made 5 yrs from now there gonna miss stuntmen so invest in a shirt with a BB’s symbol and write on it with a black sharpie “Never Again”

  10. Wow! so much criticism !

    Well the movie was actually good.

    The one I would say for anyone thought the movie was bad or failed. Its because of your expectations. Nolan is just a human being like you and us. When he made Batman Begins. it clicked and the people rose their expectations. then Nolan made the Dark Knight. he had his own vision and the movie turned out to be a great blockbuster both commercially and critically. Now people had gone crazy and set their expectations from where Even Batman would not exist LOL. What can Nolan do in this situation? He just made a film by his own vision. The Dark Knight Rises actually came pretty good but it wasn’t an answer to those expectations May Be ! who is at fault then? Nolan or the Public ? That’s what I love about Mathew Vaughnn who made X-men first class. That was exactly the question media asked him that about the expectations and he gives a Rat’s ass. he will make the film by his own just like Nolan.

    Now people are expecting so much for The Avengers sequel? I hope we don’t see an article about the failure of that movie too, even if its a great box office grosser and acclaimed.

  11. Wow.. shut up. This is the most idiotic article I have ever read. The Dark Knight Rises failed?? Yeah, okay sure. You think what you want, but just know that you are wrong. How can you argue with facts? Grossed more than The Dark Knight, especially after one of the worst shootings in American history, and it was not in 3-D. Also, there was SO much hype surrounding it because of how well The Dark Knight did, of course it would be hard to top it. But Christopher Nolan did a fantastic, FABULOUS, OUTSTANDING job.
    I do like The Dark Knight better, in my opinion. But I disagree with how you say there was no tension, part of Gotham should have been destroyed, someone should have died…. whatever! It is how it is. I can tell you I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and I enjoyed every minute of it. Do not waste our time by writing pointless articles that no one will agree with. You disappoint me. This movie with forever remain as one of my favorites of all time.

  12. Give the Avengers three movies and lets see how the third movie does. As far as I’m concerned the third one was a masterpiece considering how they did that most movie franchises couldn’t do: keep things fresh and interesting in the third movie of a trilogy. Sure, there was moments of bad acting and plot holes but name a movie that doesnt have that. Avengers, the biggest selling movie of all time had bad acting, plot holes and even lacked a storyline (aliens want to take over earth for no reason given) and yet that was considered a success? Bullshit. TDKR will be looked back on as a success because it didn’t water down the trilogy. Avengers and other franchises can only hope to be as successful.

  13. All this movie had to do to be great:

    THE BEGINNING: Batman has been fighting crime since we last saw him in TDK, though in a very weakened and diminished state; he is only dealing with your run-of-the-mill criminals, so he gets by. Alfred presents the idea that he should retire, but knows in the back of his mind that Wayne will never give up being Batman, because Batman is who he is; it’s what keeps him alive. Alfred and Wayne both know that the only way he could ever give up being Batman is if some outside entity forces him into doing so by drastically altering his life (i.e., through death OR revealing his identity to the point of rendering an alter ego useless).

    ENTER BANE — this is our outside entity who is going to change Wayne’s life, BY FORCE.

    1.) BLOW THE LID OFF: Yes. You have to literally tear down Bruce Wayne’s world. Revealing his identity to Gotham is one way of going about it. The LOS present a perfect lever for achieving this: arrive in Gotham, announce your plan of destroying the city, and reveal Batman’s identity to the public. Therefore, Bruce Wayne is exposed both in terms of having to deal with this new terrorist threat and the entire police force that is on their way to Wayne Manor to arrest the Batman. What will Wayne do? I don’t know, but this is what I call TENSION. The LOS are highly trained and highly efficient: they come to Gotham and do what they should: expose Bruce Wayne’s identity to get Batman out of the way, and race to get the bomb detonated. Now, Bruce Wayne has to deal with becoming the Batman quite literally by shedding Bruce Wayne, escaping the police by abandoning the manor with Alfred, and at the same time race against time to keep the LOS from setting off a bomb THAT THEY PROMISE WILL WIPE GOTHAM OFF THE MAP. Again, this is TENSION.

    2.) JOHN BLAKE, the hot new cop on the scene, leads the police assault against Bruce Wayne. Blake keeps in contact with the LOS at all-times; he is working for them. BANE is focused on the task at hand, but is so consumed with narscicistic and nihilistic tendencies that he compromises the LOS’ plan by wanting to fight the Batman. He knows that the police will be too slow for Bruce Wayne, intentionally thwarts his capture in the hopes to face him alone, one on one — he looks forward to and savors the moment.

    3.) MIRANDA TATE takes over the Wayne board, etc. Has a relationship with Wayne. Finds him irresistible. Wayne sees a possible long lasting love.

    4.) JOHN BLAKE goes about his business but is really double guessing his involvement with the LOS. He is compassionate at his core and questions what he’s doing with the LOS, rejecting most of their methods but reveling in some — he has a soft spot for people and their freedom at justice — he begrudgingly accepts the LOS mentality, but he questions authority (just like Bruce Wayne rejects the command to execute the prisoner in BB under LOS training). Bane has general disdain for Blake, but accepts him as he is initiated into the LOS under the auspices of Ras al Ghul’s successor (who is yet to be revealed). Bane is skeptical of Blake because he wasn’t taken in by Ras, but taken in after Ras’ demise by his successor. Blake has killed people, but he regrets it — he has been brainwashed into thinking that this is how you fight crime. Blake has a respect for Batman.

    5.) THE POLICE CORNER BRUCE WAYNE — Blake is the one who confronts Bruce, revealing that he works for the LOS, and that his real name is AZRAEL. Blake brings Wayne to Bane — they fight; Bane kicks his ass. Is imprisoned with the rest of Gotham’s wealthy. Bruce Wayne is BROKEN.

    6.) BANE makes his case to the public, telling of an uprising — most of the police force side with Bane, the rest form a fringe — the citizens have turned against each other, those who support Bane and those who don’t.

    7.) Wayne tells Azrael his story; they have similar backgrounds. Azrael has sympathy for Wayne. Says he wants to break from LOS, but doesn’t know how. Wayne gives him the option: Azrael accepts.

    8.) Wayne finds Alfred in the bunker with Azrael. Alfred is relieved. Wayne has a plan.

    9.) Batman gets back in the game. Beats Bane. Finds out Miranda is Talia. She gives him the option of joining her and says that she isn’t angered by her father’s death and the fact that Batman killed him, but instead admires Batman for this; she wants him to join her; says that he will have what he always wanted: a lover and crime wiped clean form Gotham. Batman rejects love because he can’t reconcile that with the death of millions. Talia fights him. Batman Kills her (indirectly) proceeds to displace the bomb, but not before half the city is blown apart, DYING in the process. Half the city is saved thanks to Batman’s actions.





    Foley is hailed as a hero and becomes the NEW COMISSIONER — Foley has newfound respect for the Batman and wishes he was still ALIVE. Remembers Gordon’s words that everyone will always need a friend like Batman to help fight evil.

    Batman/Bruce Wayne is immortalized in the city. Gotham can’t believe that Bruce Wayne was the Batman. Some still don’t believe it even after it was publicly revealed.

    Gotham’s finest attend Bruce Wayne’s funeral service. A somber moment. Foley is there.

    CUT TO:


    Alfred is there. So is Bruce Wayne. HE SURVIVED. Alfred explains that maybe it took something that bad to happen (Fox dying, Gordon dying, half the city dying) for him to give up being Batman. Either that OR your death. And as bad as what happened is, I’m Glad it wasn’t the latter. I’m GLAD you are ALIVE. Bruce explains that even though he’s given up Batman out of necessity, there always has to be a BATMAN. Gotham will be rebuilt. It will get back up. And inevitably things will go wrong again. And there ALWAYS will be a BATMAN. Alfred doesn’t know what this means and we-

    CUT TO:


    Half the city is a skeleton of its former self, but already buildings are being rebuilt, structures in the process of RISING. Half the city intact while half, burned to a char, being built to catch up… A WOUND… HEALING….

    Foley on the rooftop of the GDP. Looking over files. He spots something: A BRAND NEW BAT SIGNAL. He looks to the sky…


    Through the half intact cityscape. RISING up to where we see a lone figure standing a top a skyscraper, looking over the city… Batman… watching… a new protector… RISING….. it is AZRAEL and we –



  14. Pete, what the actual fuck? That is not The Dark Knight Rises. Please keep your inner comicbook fanboy to yourself. That was completely pointless. Don’t alter the movie in anyway. Please and thank-you.

  15. Jeremy, Batman is my Favorite Superhero and I completely agree with you. Compared to The Dark Knight, this movie is a failure. The Dark Knight intimately understood Batman and the Joker. In a way that is near perfection. The Dark Knight Rises completely Fucked up Bruce and Batman. There are more problems with this movie and it just was askew in a way that I don’t think it was ment to be. Bruce would never give up. In alternate universes he has solved crime and discovered alternate dimensions to travel to that still have crime. Giving up is not in Bruces’ blood. Then you have John Blake, who really is the best character in the movie, but there “in the eyes” is really “great” detective work. There are a hundred reasons to know Bruce is Batman, his eyes is one of the weakest. Talia was so Obvious. There are surprising villain turns, and then there is this one. It was so obvious from the beginning, Talia is Talia’n it up. Making baby Damion. They should have revealed her a lot earlier on to Bruce and the audience and then build and used that tension that she could kill Fox and Gordon at any time because they had no reason to not trust her. It doesn’t work when she reveals herself at the end almost like she expected Bruce to escape and come back. The Dark Knight Rises as a movie is weaker. The Avengers is far superior. Marvel is building a better movie universe. DC needs a better plan than what they have, because among TV, Movies, and Comics, I would only rate DC above Marvel in one media and that is in TV. Young Justice and DC Nation is far superior to Marvels’ Universe. Although, Marvel Universe has the superior shorts. Regardless, of Nolan’s trilogy Dark Knight Rises is the weakest of the three. It was such a great series, and Rises is still a really good movie, but it’s just the weakest.

  16. First of all, I don’t see why people have to take differing opinions from their own so personally. If everyone thought the same way, life would be boring, and no evaluations of an art form can be subjective.

    While I liked this movie, I too felt it had problems, from the indiscriminate use of the VERY recognizable bits of NYC skyline (though some scenes were clearly filmed in Chicago) to the way Bane was made into Robespierre. I think Nolan wanted to tell a specific story here, and that it wasn’t really a Batman story.

  17. I actually loved TDKR, but wow – where are all these overly defensive fans coming from? It’s embarrassing to read such hostile, petulant comments from random TDKR “fans,” especially on a site like CliqueClack which usually has very classy, well-mannered, intelligent commenters. If you are a true fan of TDKR, please show it by not acting like a total dick on the comment boards!

  18. Finally, an honest dissection of the dark knight rises…

    I think the author really captured the essence of the sense that despite all the hustle and bustle in the film, at its core, it seemed like kind of a non-event … like I was never really that worried or terrified about what was taking place, like oh its just cuddly bane and his loveable minions…

    Please, fanboys, lay off the scathing attacks and death threats. I noticed that a good number of the more cogent non-obsessed people still agreed with the author. When you get this much hatemail, you know you are probably doing something right, i.e. saying something that badly needs to be sad.

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