Title: The Dark Knight Rises
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Drama
Director(s): Christopher Nolan
Release Year: 2012
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
What has probably been the most anticipated film of the year for most has finally arrived. After 7 years, The Dark Knight Rises finally closes what will arguably go down as the best iteration of the Batman series for a long, long time. What began as an origin story with Batman Begins, and then what really does feel like one of the best superhero films of all time, if not the best, The Dark Knight. What Christopher Nolan does with The Dark Knight Rises is provide an ambitious standalone movie that ties the trilogy up by coming back to themes and messages from the previous films, and also provides a visual spectacle that you will not find anywhere else this summer. What the film does right though, is all to make up for some huge problems in the script and pacing.
Everything in The Dark Knight Rises is meant to make you feel or think, as is the case with most Nolan films, and in this case it does that whether you want to feel or not. The movie boasts an incredibly profound score by Hans Zimmer that hearkens back to the previous films and also gives the movie its own unique feel. There’s never a moment where the score does not impress, making any scene deliver the emotional impact necessary. This is why the score is probably the most essential part of the film. Even though the acting is incredible, there are many instances in The Dark Knight Rises where characters are so under-developed that any moments they have that are supposed to be significant are only given that significance through Zimmer’s compositions.
This also applies to plot reveals, which are supposed to be twists but lose their effect because of the poorly presented character arcs. Marion Cotillard’s character is an absolute nightmare in this movie that proves to be important later on, but feels so tacked on. Anne Hathaway gets to strut her acting ability thoroughly with Catwoman, and yet never truly feels important to anything happening in the movie. Bane (Tom Hardy) is menacing and a real powerhouse and could have been an incredible villain if the movie didn’t show it’s hand so early on. He was a character that could have been so much more, but instead becomes so much less near the end of the film due to some plot reveals. The only characters that really get to change in the movie are Officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale). However, they themselves don’t necessarily follow an arc, or at least only the bare bones of one.
My biggest gripe with this film doesn’t come from the poorly thought out characters though; it’s the problems Nolan has with the perception of time. This was an issue in Inception and is even more so with this film. Batman is able to get from point A to point B in virtually no time at all if we’re to understand how the movie is being paced, unless they’re showing scenes that take place earlier but are shown later than other scenes. Is it that Nolan just can’t understand how to portray changes in time efficiently, or is it that he doesn’t care about time so long as he gets his action shot or dramatic moment? There are moments within this film that will keep you in awe and no matter how you feel about the way the pacing is handled, the payoff is worth it in the end. Massive spectacles that enthrall the audience are littered throughout the film, recalling back to when Batman is called ‘theatrical’ in the film, and most will forget about how they got to that point and enjoy the scene at hand.
It’s these spectacles that have become a trademark in Nolan’s work, showing massive set pieces and a complete willingness to do something risky with the scenes. The opening sequence in this film alone contains one incredible set piece, but unfortunately, that’s one of the best action sequences, and it’s shown right from the beginning leaving you wanting more of that. Instead we get a lot of fist-fighting from Batman and Catwoman, and only one real instance of Batman instilling fear in his foes as opposed to an entire film of that like in Batman Begins. Nolan seemed to have been more focused on action this time around, which goes against the character of Batman. If this was Man of Steel it would make more sense, but this is a man who tries to utilize fear to get an upper hand in combat. There’s moments when he walks right up to enemies and just starts beating them up. The problem with that is that these enemies have guns, and being out in daylight with enemies who have guns and walking up to them should result in death.
The greatest scenes in The Dark Knight were those of conversation between Joker and Batman. They were a battle of wits, with profound comments that echoed throughout the series and reflected different character’s intentions. This film is more of an action feast that offers many of the same messages from the other movies, with less impact. Fortunately though, the action scenes are incredibly well done and almost every dramatic moment hits the right beat, with the exception of a few character/plot reveals that don’t really do what they intend to. If this was a film that was broken up into two films, I may have appreciated the film more (not going to say who the villains should be so I don’t spoil it for anyone, but there’s another pivotal character who should have been given their own respective film). Instead, what we get is a film that successfully wraps up Nolan’s Batman trilogy, with some flaws and some massive moments. If Nolan has proven anything with his latest two films Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, it’s that he is a very ambitious director. While some of the problems in this film are pretty bad, David Chen said it best in his review of the film: “The Dark Knight Rises takes Nolan’s best and worst impulses and magnifies them to the nth degree.” If you’re a fan of Nolan, there’s no reason not to see this film as it’s definitely not his worst film and is still an incredible experience that suffers from a few problems that can be overlooked because of the shear ambition at hand. On top of that, it caps off what is, and in my opinion will be for a long time, the greatest superhero trilogy of all time.