'The Dark Knight Rises' ignores real football

July, 31, 2012
7/31/12
10:01
AM ET
Hines WardJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDespite Hines Ward's contributions, "The Dark Knight Rises" fails to achieve football authenticity.
Previews for “The Dark Knight Rises” have been running for months, hinting that the movie would be packed with football action. So I joined a few of my die-hard football fan friends, dressed in jerseys, and hit the local movie theater.

We left extremely disappointed, wishing we had stayed at home watching ESPN or the NFL Network.

Simply, “The Dark Knight Rises” is full of errors. Here are just a few examples of where it fell apart.

Stadium security – Security at the Gotham Rogues’ stadium was lax at best. That’s a nice way of saying it was not remotely believable. Bane and his henchman basically marched into the bowels of the stadium with zero resistance. Then he stands at the end of the field for a few minutes waiting for the game to start. As though a huge man in a sleeveless jacket breathing out of the front end of a Mack truck wouldn’t catch the attention of anyone. Come on.

[+] EnlargeHeinz Field
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesThe Gotham Rogues game in "The Dark Knight Rises" drew the smallest crowd to Heinz Field since the Pitt Panthers played host to Maine in an epic 2011 clash.
Crowd size – Where were all the fans at the game? There were huge empty sections of seats, especially in the upper deck. A city the supposed size of Gotham would easily fill a stadium. Even if not, with such sparse attendance, the game would have been blacked out on local TV. Remember: Bane wanted to shock people and get their attention. No way he bothers to blow up a game that isn’t even televised. Major problems here.

One theory: The low number of fans and the poor stadium security are because the Gotham Rogues have poor management and ownership. But if that’s the case, tell us that. Give us a clue. Learn how to tell a story.

Opponent – The Gotham Rogues are playing a team from Rapid City. Come on. Gotham is a giant metropolis, and Rapid City has only 60 percent of the population of Green Bay. They wouldn’t be in the same league. If there was concern that using a real football city would cause problems with the NFL, the filmmakers could have gone with Los Angeles. At the very least, put some thought into it. Director Christopher Nolan clearly just breezed through this thinking no one would watch the movie closely.

Football Problems – The camera pans the Gotham Rogues’ sideline during the national anthem, and we see a shot of Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Keisel, Aaron Smith, Mike Wallace and other Steelers standing there. And also Bill Cowher. Huh? Why Cowher? If Nolan wasn’t going to use Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh’s current coach, then he should have gone with Chuck Noll, who won four Super Bowls to Cowher’s one. Mr. Nolan, when making a movie like this, you need to show the die-hards that you care about the details. I shouldn’t have to tell you this.

Too bad the Noll miss wasn’t the only problem.

Kickoff. Rapid City kicks to Gotham and the ball is taken all the way back for a touchdown by … Hines Ward? Again: details. Ward was a great NFL receiver, but he wasn't fast and he definitely wasn’t a kick returner. In fact, he returned only eight kicks in his 217-game NFL career, none for a touchdown. If Nolan wanted a real kick returner, there was Antonio Brown available right there in town. Last year, Brown became the first NFL player in history to have 1,000 receiving and 1,000 return yards in the same season.

[+] EnlargeHines Ward
Warner Bros.Ward smiles at everything -- even total destruction.
But for argument’s sake, let’s say Ward somehow outran everyone and did not fall into the collapsing field crater. Fine. Nolan then films him turning around in the end zone and dropping the ball in shock. Please. Even in that situation, Ward would probably smile. Details, details, details.

Pacing – So a kid sings the national anthem at the game and that is immediately followed by the kickoff (which Bane blows up). Riiiiight. Please attend one NFL game in your life, Mr. Nolan, before shooting a football scene. Nothing leads into anything in the NFL without a commercial break. Is your excuse that the game was blacked out, so there was no television? OK. But then please refer back to the section about crowd size.

Crowd reaction – More evidence Nolan has never been to a football game. So some guy blows up the field in the middle of a game and the fans all just sit there dumbstruck? Not a chance. Sure, some of them would do that. But at least a few dozen drunk fans would try to start a fight with Bane.

Time – “The Dark Knight Rises” has a running time of 164 minutes. Despite football being a major part of every "TDKR" preview – and the sole reason many football die-hards like myself attended the movie – only five or 10 minutes of footage from Heinz Field made it into the film. The rest was all faraway prisons and fights and bats and cats. Disappointing to say the least.

No resolution – Bane blows up the field in the middle of the game, with half the players on both teams falling into the stadium foundation and … then what? Was the game rescheduled? Were the Rogues forced to play at a local high school or college field during renovations? Were they allowed to leave Gotham for games during the city’s lockdown? Were visiting teams allowed to come into the city to play Gotham during the lockdown? If not, how was the league’s overall schedule affected? Was there a special draft conducted for Gotham and Rapid City so they could replace the players they lost? Countless questions, zero answers. We, the viewers, were left feeling foolish for ever caring about the Rogues.

At least if there was the promise of a fourth installment of the "Dark Knight" series, we would have the hope that these questions would be answered. But there won’t be one. It’s over. While Nolan’s movies had some entertaining moments and did remarkably well at the box office, the many football failings in the finale make it hard to see Nolan’s series as anything less than a complete and total failure.

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