Review: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

Sometimes in life, you deal with things on a scale.

For instance, when dealing with someone’s attractiveness, you’re also factoring in your location. “Where is this person and what is the general level of attractiveness that surrounds them?” are the questions you might ask yourself. Pam from The Office, according to Ryan from The Office, is only a 6 in New York, but an 8 in Scranton. See?

So when talking about The Dark Knight Rises, I can rate it on different scales. Three different scales, to be precise. Here are the three questions:

1. How does TDKR rank among the movies released in Summer 2012?

2. How does TDKR rank among all movies, ever?

3. How does TDKR rank among the movies of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy?

Question #1 is a no brainer. This summer has been sort of a dud when it came to movies. Sure, The Avengers was pretty good considering how many people you had crammed in there, and I liked The Amazing Spider-Man all right and there’s even the new Woody Allen flick for the less commercial crowd, but throw a Christopher Nolan movie in there and all bets are off. This is hands down the best movie released this summer. End of story.

Question #2 is a little trickier. The Dark Knight (which we will get to in a minute) was a phenomenal movie. It was a triumph of story, acting, and direction. It was a movie in which everything came together in a perfect storm of awesomeness. And the Academy Awards completely skipped it over. It was a ridiculous snub. They ignored basically everything except Heath Ledger’s performance, which might have been simply because of his tragic and untimely death. I don’t expect the Academy to recognize this movie after they skipped over its predecessor. TDKR is set to smash the box office, and it will be a very successful film in the history of films, but it’s not going to be an Oscar front runner this year by any means.

Question #3 is the most important. How did Nolan follow-up the smashing success of The Dark Knight? How do you follow up the moral contradiction of Harvey Dent, the death of Rachel, the philosophy of being a hero? How do you follow up The Joker, for crying out loud?

I guess my answer is that you don’t. At least TDKR didn’t. It was a good movie–a beautiful movie. It was gorgeously shot. Anne Hathaway, who I wasn’t sold on as Cat Woman, was deliciously funny and on point, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt just knocked it out of the park as a modernized Robin. The last minute twists and turns are good too, as they are surprising without being confusing.

Are you sensing the oncoming “but?”

Unfortunately there is a but. And that but lies in the fact that this film followed up a movie that it both couldn’t match and also couldn’t effectively wrap up. Bane, who you can’t understand half the time, follows up The Joker? What was the deal with Bane anyway–you enter Gotham City eight years later, supposedly all cleaned up, but somehow everyone is already talking about this super villain in the sewers. He had very little introduction, very little build up, and very little expression in his partially obscured face. Sure, he’s got muscles, but it was hard for me to be scared of him, honestly.

And I’ll just say that the ending was a cop out. I don’t care that maybe it left you feeling warm and fuzzy when you left the theater. The Batman trilogy was about the philosophy of heroes. It was supposed to make you question the depths and darkness of your soul, not leave you feeling warm and redeemed.

In fact, the story seemed to struggle with its identity a lot more this time around. Maybe under the pressure of wrapping everything up, Nolan couldn’t be as clean as he has been in the past, but the story felt rushed, disjointed, and without a concrete idea tying everything together. Am I the only one who felt this? The rushing sound of a letdown?

This movie will be a box-office success, receive tons of critical love, and go down as a successful finish to an ambitious franchise. But really, did it let itself off the hook? Did it fail to make the final push along the thread of doing what superhero films typically do not–make you think? Maybe. It might have sold itself a little short.

Verdict: B/B+

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