The Dark Knight Rises: How Not To Do Fight Scenes

by: Matthew J.R. Kohler

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In my time in watching movies, I have never seen such a popular movie that has terrible fight scenes.  By this point, everyone should know that Christopher Nolan does not have an eye for fight choreography, and that Christian Bale and Tom Hardy are not fighters.  Instead of breaking down this terrible flick, I’m going to break down what could have been interesting fights.

In the first movie, Batman is trained by the League of Shadows (ninjas!).  Like I have said before, effective fight scenes are more than just action; they are part of the story.  In the fight, you should show the character’s transformation.  When Bruce Wayne first returns as Batman, it was fine.  But his first fight scene was pitiful.

Batman and Catwoman team up to take on Bane’s henchmen.  The fight scene could have been fun, but half of the dang men fall without being hit.  Literally!  The camera is fairly far away, and the lighting is too dark, so it’s hard to see anything.  Maybe that is for the best because twice do you see men run up to Batman and fall (without getting hit).  How can this be in your film?  Your movie cost hundreds of millions of dollars!  Why didn’t you at least shoot it like the terrible fight scene from Batman Begins?  Sure, that’s camera cuts galore, but at least we aren’t watching the equivalent to tortoises slugging it out.

Slow and steady should have been the theme for this movie, because that’s all the fight scenes amount to.  The first Bane versus Batman fight is a prime example.  This is the first scene Batman and Bane face off.  Now, remember: both of them are trained “martial artists” and this is what happens.  Sure, the final bout of Batman Begins was cut a lot to appear to be faster, but at least someone had their hands up!  Why does Batman think he should be crotch-forward with his hands down?   There should be continuity within the fights.  Yet there’s Batman going from simple, close-quarter knockdowns to wide arm throws.  The fight is laughable, and every second falls flat.  It starts with Bale swinging (in a shot that is angled to where you can’t even see Bane getting hit).  This continues to happen later when Bane throws a turnaround punch.  The blow completely misses Batman, but because this is the Nolanverse, he goes a-tumblin’.  I think the only part of the fight that works is when Bane briskly climbs down a chain.  Although, that little moment represents the horrible truth about this movie: it’s more interested in showing you physical feats that the characters can do (like pull-ups!) than actually showing them perform cool, useful fight moves.

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When a protagonist is beaten in a fight, a film will logically show him or her train for a rematch.  Training in this film, though, is nothing more than Bruce working out.  How do push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups prepare you for the fight of your life?  What if Batman had to learn a new style, or instead of heading directly for Gotham after rising from the prison, he travels to a new teacher?  Either of those would have made his return much less lame.

Batman’s first fight back from the pit is saving JGL.  Once again, Nolan did not understand how to use Batman in action scenes.  Several times the henchmen are holding guns and not using them.  Why?  Earlier in the film they were going to kill everybody because Batman said, “They just don’t care.”  So why didn’t they just fire while Batman is fighting them all?  Another thing— Batman is a ninja, so why didn’t he throw a flash bomb to blind them all, before knocking them all out?  Then, you could have JGL open his eyes to him finishing off the final opponent.  That way, this movie would have one less stupid scene.

Speaking of stupid scenes…of course it had to happen: the rematch between Batman and Bane.  Against the backdrop of Gotham’s police and thugs “duking it out” (or clearly pretending to hit each other, rather) our main protagonist and antagonist engage in one final bout.  This fight is supposed to be the climax of Bruce’s “training” for 30-plus minutes in the pit.  And, the first thing we see is…him throw the exact same punch at Bane from the first fight…???  Holy Cannoli is this sad.  This fight is also pathetically slow with the added minus that Batman, for some odd reason, has forgotten how to fight.  Just like their prior fight, mistakes occur left and right.  Bane throws a sidekick at Batman with his right leg.  When it shows Batman react, Bane is recoiling his left leg.  Nolan forgot the 180 rule that day I guess.  What turns the tide in this fight is that Batman punches Bane’s mask, which apparently makes Bane blind.  I’ll say it again: Batman is a detective and a trained fighter, so why didn’t he try this earlier?  I would like to have seen Batman try to break it in the first fight.  Bane would have then had to defend himself.  That way, Batman would know Bane’s weakness, but would need to figure out a strategy to take him down

The biggest problem of this movie is the action.  Nolan never new how to show action or tell a story through it.  This film is perhaps the worst example of that.  With glaring errors with the fighting, continuity errors, and henchmen just falling, it’s a shame that this movie cost so much.  My advice is, never watch this movie.  This movie is a crime against what I’ve been working on and many others before me have been working on: to tell stories through action.  Nolan is an embarrassment to fight scenes and action storytelling.  Hopefully, the passage of time will bury this film.

Rating: 3/10

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