Most fans haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises yet, but that hasn’t stopped them from deciding that it is an unquestioned masterpiece. And though it might be hard for some to hear this, many of the negative reviews are right. The Dark Knight Rises is not a masterpiece. It is often wonderful, in special effects and filmmaking; however, it is also mired in bloviated moments of momentum-stunting dialogue and a bloated running time of two hours and 45 minutes.
It is seven years after Batman was blamed for Harvey Dent’s murder and the Joker was captured. Batman has disappeared and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse. Only when Bane (Tom Hardy)—Batman’s physical and intellectual match—threatens to destroy Gotham, does Wayne put on the bat suit once more.
As always, the cast is unparalleled, from the usual supporting characters (Michael Caine’s Alfred, Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox, and Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon) to some familiar faces not seen since the first film (no Katie Holmes’ Rachel Dawes, thankfully). Among the new characters, Hardy’s Bane is a muscular menace focused on destruction and revenge. Unfortunately, the comparison to Health Ledger’s incomparable Joker—the antagonist in The Dark Knight—is inevitable, which makes Bane feel monotone and predictable. Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, on the other hand, is definitive. Her slick appearance and intelligent performance rise above the movie’s bleakness. She invigorates the movie every time she is on screen (especially in scenes opposite Bale).
Unfortunately, Christopher Nolan should have spent more time editing the film. Not that the 165 minute running time felt overly long, there were many sequences and scenes that could have been trimmed. For example—and no there won’t be any spoilers here—later in the movie, Bane makes his move to take over Gotham. Unfortunately, Bruce Wayne is elsewhere, trying to get in shape and to learn about Bane’s background. These lengthy, dialogue-heavy scenes simply stilt the story’s momentum. (They do, however, give people a chance to use the bathroom.)
With The Dark Knight being called one of the greatest superhero/comic movies of all time, it is no wonder that the anticipation for The Dark Knight Rises—the finale of the trilogy—has reached fanatical levels. So while it does not (can’t?) meet these heightened expectations, nor is it the best of the trilogy, it is still a superior film from a talented director. The final moments are especially emotional, a moving closure to the Dark Knight story.
My Grade: A-