- Release Date: July 16, 2012
- Running Time: 165 minutes
Many months ago I decided that I was going to let myself get excited about THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. Really, really excited. Like a kid on Christmas. But with Batman.
Trilogies are always tough, but with director Christopher Nolan’s revolutionizing approach to the Batman mythos and the pop culture phenomenon surrounding the previous installment, the expectations placed on the movie were unfathomable. How could it ever be better than THE DARK KNIGHT? When has a third film ever been the best? Some choose to keep their expectations low, so as not to be disappointed …but where’s the fun in that? Sometimes, all you have is hope.
All right, all right; I’ll stop with the meta-reflection and get to the point. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES is an excellent film and a grand conclusion to Nolan’s Batman saga. But you were probably going to see it anyway, and that’s not what you want to know. You want to know if it’s better than THE DARK KNIGHT or not.
Well, no. Of course it isn’t. Even Chris Nolan can’t re-capture that same lightning in a bottle. But more importantly, THE DARK KNIGHT gets away being the better film because it doesn’t carry the same responsibility that RISES has. By taking the risk to create a conclusive chapter to this greater story about a man fighting injustice to the absolute limitations of his being, there’s an added heft that limits the amount of fun you can have.
And although the heavier story and darker tone prevents RISES from surpassing its predecessor, it’s also what makes the film so good. Though more intimately linked to both BATMAN BEGINS and TDK than either were to each other, RISES feels the most distinct of the trilogy. It feels the least like a Batman movie, and I think this is a good thing.
RISES brings the very personal tale of Bruce Wayne that started with BEGINS and expands it to a full-blown legend. Incorporating the largest ensemble cast yet with an added emphasis on the people of Gotham City. Too often in blockbuster superhero movies the throngs of helpless citizens seem inconsequential. TDK’s ferry scene flirts with the idea, but RISES makes you really feel the plight of the ordinary citizens, and the important role they play in Batman’s legend.
Returning lead actors Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Bats, Michael Caine as Alfred, and Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon do a fantastic job pulling out the more loathsome sides of their characters’ depths. Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox does a wonderful job keeping some of the fun in the murky subject matter, whereas newcomers Joseph Gordon Levitt and Anne Hathaway become the action stars of the picture. Without saying too much, there’s also a handful of geek-squealing surprises in the cast to keep things exciting.
Tom Hardy’s Bane is something I’m still simmering over. As of right now, he’s my least favorite of the major villains we’ve seen. In the same sense as Ledger’s Joker, he shows up as less of a character and more a force of nature, only without the slick style and nuance. Bane is more of a monster, like the shark in JAWS, which is appropriate to the story and as a foil for Batman, but personally I was hoping for a bit more out of the character.
At nearly three hours, the movie is ENORMOUS. Unlike the previous installments, you can feel it’s length at times, so I wouldn’t recommend getting anything to drink during the show. And you certainly won’t want to duck out during the third act, which all the ads correctly identify as the “epic conclusion.” Nolan takes some very bold choices with the ending, with a climax that kept me guessing where the story was going to take us til the very last frame.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES stands out as a conclusive ending to a superhero story amidst a myriad of sequels, crossovers, and remakes in the genre. With the trilogy brought to a close, one can only wonder how long before another actor dons the cape and cowl for another round. For the time being, I am left very satisfied with Nolan’s conclusion, and I can only hope that Hollywood feels the same way.