As much as I wanted to see it, The Dark Knight Rises is a difficult film for me to review. Not only am I ambivalent about the finished product, but even elaborating on my mixed feelings would invoke spoilers.
Try to avoid hearing discussions about it. You’d be a fool not to have seen Batman Begins and The Dark Knight first, but the less you know going into TDKR the better.
Director Christopher Nolan has fascinated audiences with how seriously he’s handled this series. Some of his choices proved brilliant when they originally seemed terrible. But although he’s a slick and creative filmmaker, none of his films are perfect. I’ll try to keep this brief:
- Christian Bale topped his previous performances as Bruce Wayne/Batman. Yes, he still did the voice, but somehow it didn’t bother me. By this point we just go with it. His dialogue behind the mask could’ve used a tweak or two.
- Michael Caine, though featured less in this final installment, acted his ass off.
- Gary Oldman shined in all his grizzled, I’m-too-old-for-this-shit, veteran cop glory.
- Morgan Freeman was charming as usual. Nothing new there.
- Marion Cotillard. I will critique her role as Bruce Wayne’s new love interest with a curt nod of approval.
- To my surprise and relief, Anne Hathaway nailed it as Catwoman. Most people questioned her casting. We all felt pessimistic about the high-tech update of the 60’s TV show costume. A few more gimmicks would’ve been nice, but whatever. Somehow it worked beautifully on screen and she emerged as my favorite character.
- Tom Hardy had the difficult task of following in the footsteps of Heath Ledger. Again, much of the disappointment people are going to feel is from comparing this movie to the last. Hardy did not quite steal the show like we wanted, but he was indeed fantastic as Bane. He was the perfect combination of intelligence, brutality, intimidation and gravitas. Memorable… but not quite phenomenal, which is a shortcoming I can only blame on the writing.
- Oh, the writing. There were fallacies with The Dark Knight that we forgave or poked at after the fact because it did such a great job kicking our ass. (“Did the Joker just stun everyone else in the jail with the explosion or… holy shit, look at him stealing that cop car.”) The plot holes in The Dark Knight Rise are a bit wide. It asks you to suspend a lot of disbelief, even for a superhero movie. Forgivable? Maybe. Debatably. But there were certainly some fuzzy geographic and chronological gaps that made me think “Hmm. Sloppy.”
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt was great, but I don’t like where the writers ultimately decided to go with him. (The only time I actually groaned in my seat involved a later scene with him and an admin woman.)
- A clever appearance by Cillian Murphy, but not enough of him.
- The action was superb.
- The “Bat” was awesome and I’m happy they included it.
- I’m glad Nolan finally learned how to film fight scenes.
- They noticeably overcompensated when they re-dubbed/augmented Bane’s voice.
- A suspenseful climax and a great final act worthy of the film’s grand ambitions.
- People are going to be split on the ending. It worked for me.
In summary, more satisfying than Batman Begins. Less jaw-dropping than The Dark Knight. Nolan chose to tie it back to the first film instead of delving deeper into the underbelly of the second. Not the direction I wanted but, again, maybe it just doesn’t get any deeper than the Joker.
I admire the scope of The Dark Knight Rises, even if it doesn’t always cover the distance (literally and figuratively). Watch it. Enjoy. Learn to like it. Despite the problems, it’s going to be a LONG time before Hollywood puts this much thought into another comic book movie.
I give it a B.