After the credits rolled, I wondered aloud if The Dark Knight Rises was even better than The Dark Knight. I walked into this movie expecting to be entertained but also mildly disappointed. The Dark Knight was probably the pinnacle of comic book movies. I don’t even like to call it a comic book movie. I prefer “crime thriller using characters originated in a comic book.” It really deserves it’s own category. To prepare for the final part of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, I re-watched the first two Batman films. I realized I may have thought too highly of The Dark Knight (TDK) and not highly enough of Batman Begins. As amazing as Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker was and as intense an experience watching that film was, there were some things that bothered me that I may have ignored in my previous viewings. The movie went a little downhill after the Joker was defeated (truth be told, it should have ended there). While The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) definitely had it’s flaws, I think it was a more consistent film from start to finish.
Anne Hathaway was surprisingly one of the highlights of the film. Even though I always find myself liking her work, I was worried when Nolan cast her as Catwoman (she’s never referred to in the film by that moniker). In a movie that was glum and serious, she was a shot of life every time she was on the screen. It helped that she was given the funniest and most crowd-pleasing lines.
Tom Hardy was great as Bane. At least, I’m 85% sure it was Hardy playing Bane. The mask he wears basically covers his entire face except his eyes. While Hardy was an imposing figure while he sought to “break the bat,” I felt like any wrestler could have played that role while Hardy proved the voice (which I understood 85% of time*).
A case can be made that Joseph Gordon-Levitt as beat cop, John Blake, is the real hero of the film. He definitely has more screen time than Batman1. Blake was basically the heroics of Batman without the resources. He was also the soul of the movie taking both Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) to task.
One thing that The Dark Knight has over this movie is the element of surprise. TDKR fails to match the tension of its predecessor settling on escalation instead (“If you thought what the Joker did to Gotham was bad, Bane takes it to the Nth degree”). The Nolan brothers (director Christopher and his brother/writing partner Jonathan) have a tendency to hammer themes and plot points into your skull over and over again. It was one of my least favorite aspects of TDK. They did better this time around but, in all honesty, I pretty much figured out how this movie was going to play out about 45 minutes in (which wouldn’t be that impressive except for the fact that the running time of TDKR is two hours and 44 minutes). Maybe I’m really smart or maybe I’ve just seen enough Nolan movies to know how they set things up. It doesn’t mean I enjoyed it any less but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat. That should count for something.
1. Seriously, Bruce Wayne dressed as Batman was in the movie maybe 30 minutes total. It doesn’t take away from the movie at all but it’s definitely a bold choice for Nolan to not feature him more