STUDIO: WARNER BROS.
THEATRICAL RELEASE: JULY 20, 2012
Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins was the best Batman movie the world has ever seen. Then came the sequel, The Dark Knight, and we had a new best Batman movie. So, where does The Dark Knight Rises fit into things? Well, while it appropriately closes out the Batman story that Nolan & Co. wanted to tell, it doesn’t rise to the heights reached by its predecessor. I’m satisfied with what I saw, but I’ve had better. Still, a Christopher Nolan film that isn’t his best is still head-and-shoulders above the work of many other directors. The Dark Knight Rises is worth every penny you will pay for it. In fact, if you see it more than once, it will likely continue to be worth every penny.
I won’t spoil any plot points. So, feel free to continue reading.
Here’s what I liked.
First, up is Anne Hathaway’s turn as a very self-interested Catwoman. I could have thought of a number of other women I would have preferred in the role. But, Hathaway is a more versatile actress than I gave her credit for. Even though I’ve seen her in a number of nuanced roles, such as in Rachel Getting Married, I had doubted her ability to play Batman’s on-again-off-again cat burglar girlfriend, Selina Kyle. But, Hathaway nailed it. I was impressed with her ability to feign empathy one moment and turn cold-hearted the next. She was a decent foil for Bruce’s Batman. Second, Batman is far more aggressive in this go-round. I suppose he had to be, given the scope of the villain’s plan and power but it was nice to see that Christian Bale could let loose in the role every now and again. Finally, the pacing of the film is great. Things never seemed to drag and Nolan does a good job of cutting between lots of different characters—even seemingly “bit” players (who are bigger than we might think)—in order to show that this story is not just about Batman. It’s also about the people of Gotham City.
There are a few flaws to be sure, though. First is the score. Hans Zimmer is a master composer. However, this time around it felt like he phoned in the accompanying music. Oftentimes, the score felt like it was intruding upon the film’s action. Some spots might very well have benefited from no accompaniment, rather than what our ears were treated to. Also, there is not a lot of character development and any acting was sure to pale in comparison to Heath Ledger’s Academy Award-winning portrayal of Batman’s ultimate baddie, the Joker. For the most part, we already know these characters and we’re here to see how their story comes to a close. We needed a new bad guy—Bane—so I expected him to be a bit more fleshed out than he was. He was unquestionably menacing and his ability to dismantle Batman had me on the edge of my seat, the comic book fanboy in me accepting this particular match-up as canonical [enough]. But, Nolan gives us a baddie who is not as mentally formidable as the Joker was in the trilogy’s previous act. Finally, after watching Begins and TDKback-to-back to prepare for the third film, I could not help but notice just how much “guiding the viewer” there is through the use of long soliloquies and monologuing (long enough for the good guy to find a way out of a seemingly life-ending situation concocted by the bad guy). I suppose this is part-and-parcel to the superhero story recipe, but its far more noticeable this time around. Alfred’s grandfatherly monologues are a travesty this time around. In fact, all I could think of were his monologues to Leonardo DiCaprio’s character inInception. Furthermore, Morgan Freeman isn’t as lovable as he was in the first two outings. It almost feels as if he’s still here because hehas to be.
The Dark Knight was the heart & soul of this particular franchise. The Dark Knight Rises somehow lacked the emotional punch of the first two films. It is, by far, the most action-packed and will likely have your heart racing for the third act of the film. I was truly worried with how Nolan would choose to end the series. In the end, the story is brought to a satisfying, if non-canonical, ending. Things are happy enough and the legend of the Batman will continue. We won’t be able to see it in this particular iteration as Nolan has stated that he is finished telling the story he wanted to tell and has no interest in working towards the inevitable Justice League film.
Still, the story that unfolded across all three of these films say so much about what we believe it means to be a hero. Ultimately, the Batman saga is the penultimate hero’s journey. It is a narrative that dares us to be more and do more to do what it is right—living in darkness, victims of the darkness, pushing back against the darkness. Batman is the story of humanity. At the end of the day, he is a man in a batsuit battling goons who are no less human than he. It is why we are drawn in. It is why we connect so intimately with this character. And even though this particular story has come to a close, I am sure that it is not the last we have seen of the Dark Knight. He will grace the silver screen again. Humanity will be waiting.
Thank you Christopher Nolan for telling our story.