If there was one film I was really excited about seeing this summer, it was the Dark Knight Rises. First, I couldn’t wait to find out how Christopher Nolan would choose to wrap up this trilogy after two strong first installments. And second, Inception is one of my favorite movies ever, and the Dark Knight Rises is basically an Inception mini-reunion: Joseph Gordon Levitt, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, and Cillian Murphy all have roles. So needless to say, expectations were high as I headed to the theater last week. My verdict? Good, though not quite great.
My major problem with the film was its lack of a compelling villian, which is a ridiculous problem for it to have given that Tom Hardy is such an interesting actor. But, the character of Bane just did not give Hardy much to work with. The odd face mask that Bane wears throughout the movie muffled Hardy’s speech and robbed him of any impact he might have been able to make through facial expressions. Perhaps comparisons to Heath Ledger’s Joker are unfair, but after such a good villain in the last movie, Bane was almost guaranteed to underwhelm.
Though Bane was a big weakness of this film, I enjoyed nearly everything else, particularly the top notch cast. My big surprise was Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, a role that, frankly, I just could not imagine Hathaway playing well. But, she proved me wrong. The movie was quite dark, and Hathaway added a welcome jolt of levity and wit to the proceedings. My other acting MVPs Gary Oldman (reliable per usual), Joseph Gordon Levitt (painfully earnest, but in the best possible way), and Michael Caine (quite moving in all of his scenes).
The movie was long but didn’t feel that long to me, and its length allowed for lots of twists and turns, some of which worked better than others. I thought the reveal about Gordon Levitt’s character was really cool, but Marion Cotillard’s character bored me and thus I didn’t enjoy the twist involving her. As a non-comic book reader and overall Batman novice, both of these twists were completely unexpected to me, though I got the feeling that many longtime fans saw them coming.
One thing I did see coming, however, was the fate of Christian Bale’s Batman. Though the ending seemed heavily telegraphed throughout the movie and somewhat obvious, I still loved it. I won’t say much more here so as not to spoil it, but I thought it was a satisfying way to wrap up the trilogy.
Finally, I liked how ambitious in scope and in theme the film was. I felt like Nolan was actively trying to make this about something, and whether he succeeded in that endeavor or not, at least he tried. It was far beyond mindless summer entertainment, and it stayed with me after I left the theater.
My Grade: B+
(Image via Washington Post)