‘Dark Knight Rises’: A guest review by Neal Adams

July 18, 2012 | 6:02 p.m.
dark knight rises6 Dark Knight Rises: A guest review by Neal Adams

Christian Bale in “The Dark Knight Rises.” (Warner Bros)

Neal Adams is a legendary name to comic-book collectors, but he holds an especially exalted place in the hearts of Batman fans — it was the vivid, muscular and irony-free art of Adams that tugged the character back toward the serious shadows and away from the campy 1966-1968 television series that made Gotham City a joke. With writer Denny O’Neil, Adams also introduced the evil mastermind Ra’s al Ghul and steered the Joker’s persona into a truly bizarre brand of lunacy — key contributions that would echo years later in the Batcave films of Christopher Nolan. Adams was one of the special guests at the New York premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” and he agreed to do a guest review of the film.


neal adams king of the city Dark Knight Rises: A guest review by Neal Adams

Neal Adams (Photo credit: Seth Kushner)

I listened to the vibes out there, and they said, “How can anybody beat the ‘Avengers’ movie? Even Batman?”

Well, “The Dark Knight Rises” does NOT beat “The Avengers. ” The reason? It is a totally different kind of movie — to compare them is an empty exercise.

“The Dark Knight Rises,” it turns out, is a classic Batman epic. How can I relate it to you? A Greek tragedy? “The Iliad”? “Macbeth”? It’s a giant movie. “Avengers” was a great comic-book movie. “The Dark Knight Rises” is a great epic.

OK, you’re getting the feeling that I had a good time Monday. Sure, it was over-long, but every minute on the screen had a great performance by a great actor. For those of us who followed Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s career from “3rd Rock  From the Sun,” there’s no doubt that he has come into his own. Michael Caine brought tears to my eyes — and I don’t cry at anything. And Anne Hathaway: Why were they hiding her in the previews? Because she was an incredible surprise. What a great job she did. Gangly and wobbly? Not a bit. She was sleek and sexy. Christian Bale was powerful, and intense.Then there’s Gary Oldman — please stop me, somebody — we’ve all watched Gary Oldman rise to become one of our great actors. I didn’t even know he was a Brit. Could there have been a greater Commissioner Gordon? The answer is “No.” His role, alone, his adventure in the movie, was worth the price of the ticket. I would carve out his role and make a separate movie of it.

Did the story and writing team (Christopher and Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer) spend a year writing this? This is the movie that all serious comic-book-related filmmakers will strive to beat in the next decade. Perhaps they will beat it. I don’t know how. It’s trite to say, “It was a long movie, but it was worth it.” Pretend I just said it. I would have gladly watched two hours more. I can’t even imagine what was left on the cutting room floor.

But now let me tell you a story of why you should not trust this review.

neal adams batman ras al ghul Dark Knight Rises: A guest review by Neal Adams

Neal Adams’ drawing that was presented to Christopher Nolan as a birthday gift. (Courtesy of Neal Adams)

I was working in my studio — this is back before “Batman Begins” came out in 2005 — and the phone rings. Someone named David Goyer would like to come up and say hello.

Marilyn, my wife, wrangler, and our studio’s producer, reminds me with withering gaze, “It’s the ‘Blade’ writer-director, and the ‘Batman Begins’ screenwriter.”

Oh…Kay. When?”

“Twenty minutes.”

101 Dark Knight Rises: A guest review by Neal Adams

Tom Hardy as Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises” (Marcel Thomas / FilmMagic)

“A comic-book guy?”

“No …” (Then she makes that frustrated sound.) “David Goyer, who wrote/directed ‘Blade’ and who’s writing the Batman movie.”

“Okay cool,” I think out loud. I loved “Blade.”

It also turns out he’s a really nice guy. He’s a fan. David is a true fan … and he wondered if I would do a Batman vs. Ra’s al Ghul drawing that he could give to Chris Nolan … for his birthday.

Right then, did I think that they would do a great, right-on version of Batman? I did … and they did.

And so, we’ve seen the work of these comic-book fans, these Batman fans. And here is the third in the trilogy. Would they let us down?

This is why I say you shouldn’t trust me. Read all the reviews. I’m too close. There’s a grin pasted on my face a mile wide. I’ve seen an epic and masterful film, based soundly on all the good work of a handful of writers and artists … and mine as well. Oscar trophies for a comic-book movie? You bet!

— Neal Adams


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Tom Hardy: A Brando for Blu-ray era?

Christopher Nolan takes Batman to a new place

Gordon-Levitt’s summer secret

‘Dark Knight Rises’: Nolan’s masked ambitions

‘Dark Knight Rises’ hits the road

Hans Zimmer explains Nolan’s secrecy

Hathaway: Catwoman modeled on Hedy Lamarr

Chris Nolan opens up about Bane choice

Christian Bale says goodbye to Gotham

Nolan’s favorite scene in ‘Dark Knight’


19 Responses to ‘Dark Knight Rises’: A guest review by Neal Adams

  1. Lady T says:

    Thank U so much for this beautiful,honest n' heartfelt review….Now I'm smiling ear to ear:) God bless U,I love U Neal♥♥♥

  2. Tod'sboot says:

    Your review is one that my brother loves. His name is Alfred. He loves his name, namely because he loves batmans older brother. (hope I didn’t spoil anything.)

    • dispensable says:

      Alfred is Batman's older brother? Why is he British, then? (Is Batman British too? My head is exploding!)

  3. Nina says:

    awesome! you're still the greatest artist who ever draw Batman! jim lee who???

  4. Gabriel says:

    Of all the reviews of The Dark Knight Rises, this has got to be the most important one I've read. A Bat fanatic myself, I completely appreciate trying to be unbiased. But whole the hell can! I can't wait to see this movie!

  5. nishima says:

    How Much Does it Cost to be Batman? Have a look at the expenses to become Batman .http://liveoncampus.com/wire/show/3390405

  6. generaljacks922 says:

    Again Batman,this is so annoying.Just two words – Creative stagnation.

  7. Jim Webb says:

    To this day Neal Adams'Batman IS Batman. So if the Batman's greatest creator likes the movie that should be enough for anybody

  8. Tom says:

    Neal, So pleased to read your review. I would read anything you were ever a part of (even Skateman).

  9. SpenceG says:

    Just saw The Dark Knight Rises a few days ago. I still think that TDK is the better movie because the acting. Heath Ledger's Joker beats Tom Hardy's Bane by a mile. Christian Bale continues as a decent Batman, but I don't appreciate the Nolan's series because of him.

  10. jon kim says:

    Even if we accept the premise that Bruce Wayne/Batman became a recluse and abandoned his crime fighting crusade for eight years, which frankly doesn't feel authentic or honest to the character, there were just too many inconsistencies and leaps of logic in the story that made no sense and were never addressed. These inconsistencies made for a piece of very muddled storytelling and a frustratingly boring movie.

    For example, how can Bruce even continue to be Batman, much less knock any thugs around as he is shown doing, if he has no cartilage left in his knees and is suffering from an assortment of very serious physical ailments? In my view, it would have made more sense for Nolan to have avoided any mention of these issues in the first place, instead of asking us to suspend our disbelief.

    We get that Nolan wants to establish the fact that Bruce is physically fragile, but the very extent of his past injuries appear to preclude Bruce from even being able to function as Batman, even with the very impractical leg brace that he is shown to put on. But never mind. I was willing to give Nolan the benefit of the doubt based on past performance.

    Where the movie really went off the tracks for me, though, was after Bane took over Gotham and put Bruce in the hole in the ground. This is where I really got lost.

    What is the point of Bane trying to take over Gotham and incite a revolution if he declares in the same breath that he is just going to nuke the place after 90 days? Better to just come in and blow it up, no?

    • tyler says:

      Bane never told the citizens of gotham or the inmates who were having kangaroo courts his plan.if you watch the film again he explains to bruce the whole point of this,a false sense of hope.banes goal wasnt just the destruction of gotham it was to torture bruce who had to watch.as for how did bruce get back? thats the only point you got,but even then someone with his reputation cld get a plane.and we dont know but mayb alfred did help?he had 23 days to do it,if you watch the movie again.but if thats all you got cmon i bet you believe a giant lizard or a norse god is more realistic.lol just a movie guy.

  11. jon kim says:

    The absurdity of this premise is illustrated when Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake attempts to save the orphans by fleeing across one of the bridges and is turned back by the military near the end of the movie. Blake is frustrated and upset that the soldiers don't just let him through. Then the father or pastor of the orphanage who was on the bus with Blake and the orphans says that trying to escape doesn't make any difference anyway, since the place is going to blow, and the blast radius is six miles. Exactly! The nuclear set-up essentially robs Blake and the actions of the other characters of any urgency or credibility.

    If Gotham is going to be blown up after 90 days, why would people take the time to convene kangaroo courts to decide whether or not offenders of Bane's new order should be exiled or sentenced to death? Wouldn't everybody be spending their time looking for a secret way out of Gotham? Even if we accept the fact that Gotham's populace decides to convene kangaroo courts in the face of the fact that their city will go up in a mushroom cloud after three months, how does Matthew Modine's Deputy Commissioner Foley manage to keep his house during all this social turmoil? (Remember the scene of Gordon going to visit Modine and talking to him outside his door, after presumably ringing the doorbell? Ridiculous!)

    I suppose the 90 day time limit was to give Bruce time in the screenplay to rehabilitate himself from the back injury that he suffered at the hands of Bane, but this is also improbable. How many people have you met who can come back from a serious back injury after 90 days while being stuck in a hole in the ground in some Middle Eastern country?

    And how much sense did it make for Bane to take the time to transport Bruce halfway around the world, leave him there, and then come back to Gotham to continue his reign of terror?

    I understand that Nolan wanted to dramatize how Bruce needed to pick himself back up again after having fallen so low, but the execution here was just horribly mangled, especially since the whole Middle Eastern hole in the ground scenario managed to open up enormous plot holes.

    I'm sure I wasn't the only one wondering how Bruce managed to get back to Gotham after climbing out of the pit. He had no money, he had been bankrupted, Alfred was gone, and Gotham was allegedly sealed off from the rest of the world by that time, right?

    Even assuming that Bruce found some money to get back to Gotham from that hole in the ground, how did he manage to get all his gear back? Lucius Fox and company were all under Bane's martial law by that time, and Alfred was already gone. Additionally, if Bane already knew Bruce was Batman, wouldn't Bane and Tali and the League of Shadows have raided Wayne Manor and discovered the Bat Cave and taken all of Bruce's stuff by then as well? None of this makes any sense.

    Nolan could have solve this problem by simply having Bane imprison Bruce somewhere closer, maybe even back in his the Bat Cave or something. That sort of irony would have been delicious. Nolan should also have kept Alfred in the movie, instead of having him disappear halfway through. If there was anybody who could have helped Bruce pick himself back up again, it would have been Alfred. Then they could have reprised that very moving scene in Batman Begins where Bruce asks Alfred if he has given up on him yet, where Alfred's response is "Nevah!"

    In summary, the Nolans had the kernel of a very good story idea for DKR: the desire of the League of Shadows in the form of Talia al Ghul and Bane to exact vengeance on Bruce for having killed Ras al Ghul and thwarted the league's plans for Gotham in Batman Begins. From the point of view of the league and Talia, they would have wanted to devastate Bruce in every way imaginable, financially, physically, spiritually, etc.

    Under this scenario, the attack on the stock market to wipe out Bruce financially, Bane's physical pummeling of Batman, and Talia's seduction of Bruce and her infiltration and ultimate takeover of Wayne Enterprises makes sense. Unfortunately, the Nolans never followed the line of this plot through to the end, and they didn't seem to have thought through how Bruce could overcome all this adversity other than by climbing out of a hole in the ground.

    The movie would have been stronger had it established and revealed the motivations of Bane and Talia early on, because then we would have been able to contrast Bruce's apparent demise with his eventual rebirth.

  12. jarvis3205 says:

    No one but Bane & Tahlia knew the bomb would actually blow inside the League & the only persons to know on the inside were the inner circle of Gordon & Lucius.

    As far as Bruce still being able to battle with all of his injuries…there was a very explanatory scene of him wearing/putting on the mechanical exterior skeletal enhancements on his arms & legs that he used in TDK.

    He even grimmaced/cried out in front of Alfred in the Batcave as it ratcheted/crunched down on his leg as he put it on.

  13. filml0ver says:

    @john kim: Is this the first Hollywood movie you've seen? Are you a film student who has just finished a unit on neo-realism? Have you heard of superheroes? Come on! You voice incredulity at superhuman feats, coincidental timing, and narrative gaps. In other words, I think your problem is not with TDKR, but with Hollywood, superheroes, and popular culture in general.

  14. Great review. There are so many homages to the comic books in this Trilogy, but also stand alone as great cinema pieces.

    By the way, I met you at Comic-Con and though I had no money to buy anything from your awesome table, you were very kind to me and talked to me for several minutes. Thank you Neal, Nolan might have reinvigorated Batman onscreen, but you and O'Neil did it in comics. Much love, keep on drawing.

    -Sergio B.

  15. This movie is a good one but it's very sad really

  16. NealAdamsFan says:

    A good movie, but I see John Kim's points, and IMO not a good Batman movie. Very inferior to TDK. TDKR was very out of character for Batman. who is no quitter in the comics. TDK on the other hand is the greatest CBM IMO. It gave us a Batman that was not pathetic.

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