When The Dark Knight came out it changed comic book movies. It showed the world that they could be realistic and have a message. That you could enjoy yourself at a popcorn movie and think, really think, about what it would be like to have a superhero in your city.
Now, four years and metric tons of anticipation have passed and we have The Dark Knight Rises. It’s been eight years since the event of The Dark Knight and Bruce Wayne is living like a recluse in his rebuilt Wayne Manor. The city streets of Gotham are clean, thanks to the magical piece of legislation called the Dent Act. The city doesn’t need Batman anymore. Well, until events transpire that force him back into the cowl.
The regulars are all back: Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman slip easily into their characters and most of them do their best work yet. The events of the past two films have begun to take their toll on most of these characters. The newcomers are similarly good, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway standing out. Both bring fresh perspectives as an idealist young detective and Catwoman (although she’s never called that) respectively.
In fact, Hathaway’s Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, may be the highlight performance. She’s ambiguous, sexy, mean, bad ass and troubled all at the same time. She just absolutely nails it. Tom Hardy plays Bane, who you can understand fairly well but the improved audio sometimes sounds a little too loud and a bit weird. It’s kind of like his mask acts as a loudspeaker at times.
Hardy is hulking and scary. He’s an imposing force, but if you wanted someone to beat Heath Ledger’s Joker you’re not going to get it. That was a special performance that is unlikely to be matched in any future comic book film.
The trademarks of this Dark Knight Trilogy and Christopher Nolan are all here. Extravagant set pieces that are thrilling, a complex yet easy to follow plot that makes you think and situations that you can’t help but find yourself engrossed in. Nolan is a master showman. He’s like one of his magicians from The Prestige, and it’s hard not to fall for his tension. As for that thinking part that The Dark Knight did so well? It’s here as well. There are echoes of the Occupy movement and the 99 percent. It’s also continues the idea of a symbol of hope for people and giving your everything to a cause that you believe in.
And I’m not saying that this film is perfect. No no, there are some problems with it that keep it from reaching the heights of The Dark Knight. There are spots in this movie where it kind of drags. There’s so much going on that it almost can’t help but get a bit bloated at times. It’s like eating a fine steak and chewing on a tough piece of meat. This isn’t helped by the fact that this movie has a ton of expository dialogue. So characters are talking about their motivations and what they want or who they are rather than Nolan showing us. Of course, showing us takes more time than telling us so the film would be even longer for it.
For instance, go back and see how much we learn about Harvey Dent and Joker in The Dark Knight from their actions. Then come back and realize how much we learn in this movie from people talking. It takes more time, but it makes things feel a lot smoother and less of a drag.
This drag happens in quite a few spots in the film, and unfortunately you can feel the long length of the film in those spots. And there’s the fact that there’s an odd and large time jump in the film that kind of makes you want to rub your head in confusion. Oh, and Batman is put in a situation in the second half that’s sort of a stretch. There are actually quite a few moments in this film that are a little bit of a stretch actually. Some may say it’s just a movie, but this one doesn’t get that excuse when Nolan’s aim was to make this trilogy grounded in reality.
All this doesn’t kill the movie though. The final act of the movie moves so smoothly and is so exhilarating that it combs over some of the earlier issues. It all amounts to a big juicy spectacle that makes a great close to the Dark Knight Trilogy. It’s a good movie that’s definitely worth watching in theaters, but it doesn’t measure up to the lofty standards The Dark Knight set. It also needs to be said that Nolan and his team have accomplished something truly amazing with these three films. They’ve taken the comic book genre and pushed it to new heights.