The Dark Knight Rises — Review

Film: The Dark Knight Rises, released July 20, 2012

Billed in trailers as the epic conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy, Christopher Nolan’s third installment of his Batman vision carried a lot of weight into the theaters. And seeing as how this movie could have gone wrong in so many ways (see Spider-Man’s handling of Venom in its trilogy finale), I think it’s safe to say that Nolan pulled off a successful finale.

That’s not to say it was great, though. The first two were, this one not so much. And if it’s guilty of one thing, perhaps it’s the fact it played things a little too safe. For a trilogy so good, it’s tough to see the finale not raise yet another bar (I say this as if it’s an easy task to accomplish). I did, however, leave satisfied. Let me rundown my good and bad.

The Bad: Bane. Aside from the fact that no one could possibly follow up Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker, Batman’s villain this time around did not hit home for me. With The Joker, I felt threatened. I mean, he literally seemed insane in the movie and you could never guess his next move. With Bane, I was confused. His entrance left a lot to be desired, his mask looked ridiculous and there was never an opportunity for him to get into our minds, much like The Joker previously did. And when Bane tried, I had to hold back laughter. That voice. Not only was it bad, it was hard to understand at key moments in the movie.

Time frame. I recently had a conversation with a friend about HBO’s new show, The Newsroom, where we talked about time. Even this early in the series, multiple months pass in a single episode, though it doesn’t feel as if relationships do the same. By passing such a long range of time, the viewer misses out on key elements, inside looks to the current surroundings and valuable on screen time between key characters. The Dark Knight Rises suffered from the same thing at times. In one scene, there were 27 days until the bomb exploded, but in the next scene, the bomb would go off the next day. That also added to Bane not being able to threaten you. You never do get a sense of what it’s like to experience Gotham under Bane’s control.

The Good: Setting. Okay, I”m a bit biased here, being from Pittsburgh, but the city held up well portraying Gotham. Pittsburgh’s old-school look downtown really put you into the streets of Gotham. It’s pretty cool to see Batman battling terrorists on streets you used to walk and call home. Thanks for choosing the ‘Burgh, Nolan. I could have done without the Steelers (and Mayor Ravenstahl) closeups, though I’m sure some politics played into that.

The ending. It happened quick, yes, but I’m pleased with how Nolan decided to wrap up the film. I secretly hoped that he’d stay somewhat true to The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel (you know, minus the whole Superman comes to kick Batman’s ass), since that’s where he grew inspiration for his vision. Now, without the same characters, he couldn’t stay true to novel, but the theme was very similar. It’s a clear look that while it’s the end of a specific trilogy, it is not the end of Batman.

Catwoman. She looked good. She played the part and she perfectly pulled at Bruce Wayne’s strings, especially early. The only gripe is that she didn’t see enough of the film, which is odd since it was almost three hours long – there should have been plenty more opportunities for her to shine.

My Grade: B+. It was tough to follow up the A-level films that were the first two installments, but Nolan managed to cap off his trilogy fairly well. It wasn’t great, but it definitely wasn’t bad either. Now, however, I’m interested to see where Batman goes next. Here’s my suggestion: Please don’t do a full reboot with another origin story. I think the option is here to build off The Dark Knight — maybe play up a different part of his world a la the Batman Incorporated, and plenty other, comics — rather than completely reboot like Spider-Man.

Also, it’s fairly clear now that Marvel has raised the bar for superhero movies to what they could, and should, be. Nolan’s Batman is a great trilogy. But imagine if that were built into a full universe, much like Marvel’s cinematic universe, that culminated with something like The Avengers in Justice League. Rumors are that’s what’s in store for Warner Brothers, it’s just a shame that this version of Batman won’t be a part of it.