The theater is jet black with rumblings from the speakers, as I watch the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. As the movie goes along, I’m at the edge of my seat with my eyes sharp on the screen. I’m pulled in from minute one and never bored. The credits role and people around me cheer in ovation but for me my feelings are mixed. I’m certain of two things, one being the movie isn’t dope. The other is the movie isn’t wack. Dark Knight Rises is a good movie but it misses moments to be great. Its ambitious storytelling gets in the way of its own pacing. The reason could be what they chose as themes in he movie, but at the same time they’re poignant caps to the trilogy of Nolan’s cape crusader.
The period this movie takes place is definitely telling that this is the final chapter of Batman. It reminds of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns even though Batman is nowhere near that old. Once again we see a Bruce Wayne with meaning as he interacts with characters that have been in his life. The conversations he has with Alfred are important ones and you get a real sense of family between them. Also we get to see Bruce Wayne & Batman struggle simultaneously which makes for good story especially when Bane finally comes into Gotham. Bane’s plot is epic and it has real connections to Batman Begins.
Bane is a combination of aggression and intelligence making him a great villain for this film. Say what you want about Tom Hardy not being able to top Heath Ledger but Hardy makes the role his own, much like what Ledger did for the Joker. The Joker did things for his own personal pleasure, and made threats. Bane on the other hand made promises. Bane’s the unstoppable force AND the immovable object that sets a plan, then carries it out. When Batman and Bane finally cross paths it’s chilling, I found myself trembling in my seat.
Catwoman and others fit quite nicely in a 2 hour and 44 minute movie, although you don’t notice the time. The theme I got from the movie is about the rich and the poor or the Have and Have not. Catwoman seems like the pin to hold that together, and is supported by other nuances in the film, making it a good story…
So why wasn’t it great?
Well I think because the story that’s told would fit better in an HBO season rather than a movie. There are a lot of moving parts in DKR and comparing to shows like The Wire or Broadwalk Empire, the story’s full scope wouldn’t come together usually until the first 6 to 8 hours; basically one full season. In other words, the movie has pacing issues when conveying time of situations that transpire on key moments. Another option for them was to split DKR into two volumes similar to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. This may have eliminated the pacing issues while giving enough time to elaborate on key scenes or story and further developing action sequences. Since that’s not the topic of discussion lets continue to discuss the film at hand.
Another issue is balancing Bruce Wayne’s redefining theme with the theme of Have and Have Not. Due to both being so meaningful, one of them was going to have to take somewhat of a back seat. Bane’s plan was great but we don’t really get to see how it affects the random faces of Gotham. We see it in the supporting cast of course but the city is more than them; once seeing what transpires from Bane’s plan, you’ll see how important that is. Redefining Bruce Wayne, as much as I loved it actually gets in the way of the bigger picture when in terms of Gotham. There’s no need to define or redefine because I know who Bruce Wayne is. Considering this is the last movie, to redefine him now almost seems pointless since it’s the bookend of Batman Begins. Now Batman’s action scenes also have to take a back seat because of the size and pacing of the story. Considering DKR as an aggressive film, I thought it would have been appropriate to see peak aggression every time Batman hit the scene. We get it when it’s him and Bane, that doesn’t disappoint but the movie is more than those two. Nolan tries to get by with set pieces and grounded action sequences but it’s not enough. However because of the story told, it does fit well but there isn’t enough to go on to say that it’s dope.
Now for the inevitable questions:
Where does DKR place among the trilogy and where does it place with other comic book blockbusters this year? It’s definitely better than Amazing Spider-Man. ASM at times had me cringing in my seat over some of the dumb things they were doing, DKR has nothing like that in the film. DKR however is not better than Avengers. The Avengers pacing is better and of course better action scenes. Although DKR weight of its story and presentation is better than Avengers, it is nowhere near enough to say that it is better overall. For Batman to truly get the top spot over Avengers we would have to compare Avengers to the trilogy, which wouldn’t be fair. Then again for any of those Marvel characters to be better than Batman in a movie, they had to stick all six of them in one film.
Dark Knight Rises is definitely not better than Batman Begins or Dark Knight, but it does present itself properly as the last chapter of an overall great story. Much like Return of the Jedi or Rocky Balboa, it’s a good film but in last place of the series. Rocky Balboa is actually an appropriate comparison; Dark Knight Rises is like an aging Hall of Fame fighter. You know he’s the best but it maybe time for him to step away while he can. The aging fighter feels he has one more in him and does well, but doesn’t perform at the level you knew he could or use to. He just comes off as a good fighter, but you’ll only think about the times when he was great.