If you’re wondering how I can possibly write something about The Dark Knight Rises without referencing Aurora, CO, it’s because fellow Austinite Karin L Kross wrote all my thoughts now in a far more comprehensible manner than I could piece together here on Tor.com.
The Dark Knight Rises
Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon Levitt
Oh Batman, how I consume your pop culture treats like candy. The gadgets, the cars, the extensive family of Bat-people who beat up criminals and somehow never manages to clean up Gotham’s streets… it’s a fun universe to visit regularly. When Christopher Nolan took over the movie franchise, I was only familiar with his work on Memento, but I knew he had a reputation for twisty, dark crazy plots that never went where you expected them to go. I was excited. It was going to be fun.
And it was. Batman Begins was a handy introduction to the Bat universe without the cheese of the 90s movies that I grew up with. It was comprehensive without dragging and, despite a miscasting or two, it was a really enjoyable spin on cannon. Plus Christian Bale… I mean, yes, please. Despite his seriously goofy Batman voice, he was a perfect choice to play the self-involved billionaire Bruce Wayne while still managing to be a convincing vigilante. And Matt Bomer’s evil twin Cillian Murphy as the Scarecrow was some nice casting too.
As for The Dark Knight Rises, well, does much else need to be said other than Heath Ledger was brilliant? And that despite putting in multiple villains and several storylines, everything fit together without seeming bloated or rushed? It was a great movie.
So I was incredibly excited about The Dark Knight Rises. It was going to be the last twisty piece of Nolan’s Batman puzzle. It was going to be exciting and unexpected and an edge-of-my-seat thrill ride, right?
Sadly, no. I think I’m the only person in the universe right now who has horribly let down by The Dark Knight Rises. I knew all the “twists” at the beginning and I was never surprised. Not once. How is that possible with a Christopher Nolan film? I knew characters’ real identities far before they were revealed and it all was just horribly predictable. It also didn’t help that I felt like I’d seen nearly the entire movie – or at least all the important plot points – via trailers (and I’ve been avoiding all the clips they’d been releasing) and stills released in the press. It wasn’t excited and that made me very sad.
But I didn’t hate the movie. It was a decent action flick and only sort of fell into the third superhero movie trap. Yes, it felt like Nolan had a long list of “things to tie up” and “toys I haven’t gotten to play with” and then threw them all together so that, from beginning to end, the movie was one big stream of plot. There was no nuance or room for the story to stretch out and find some depth. Bane was a one-dimensional thug with a semi-compelling backstory shoved on him at the end and other bad guys were just as easy to see through. Though I have to admit that the sudden and unexpected (at least to me) appearance of a character from a previous film delighted me, but I wanted more.
The Dark Knight Rises, as much as it attempts to be about Bruce Wayne, feels like it’s about Joseph Gordon Levitt’s junior cop John Blake becoming disillusioned with the world around him while Wayne just sort of cavorts in the background being broody. Levitt, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman (despite the slim screen time) were the only characters I felt had any real dimension to them. Of course Bale was great with the material he was given, but his story felt nearly like an afterthought. And Anne Hathaway was a good Catwoman as long as you didn’t want anything other than a little bit of snark and flirting.
Why is it when I review movies I can only focus on the bad? That isn’t fair. These are great actors doing great work in a gritty action movie that, had it not followed The Dark Knight, probably would have gotten a far more positive reaction from me. It just felt very paint by numbers, this material, after the very complex and dreary second installment.
To avoid spoilers, I really wish Blake’s story hadn’t ended with such an on-the-nose shout out to obvious fans. There were far more subtle ways to get the point across without it.
Overall it’s an okay movie. Nothing spectacular. I just wish the movie I’ve been super excited about seeing for months (Brave, The Amazing Spider-Man, Prometheus) would stop leaving me feeling so “meh” when I finally see them and walk out of the theatre.
Though what do I know? I have Suckerpunch playing in the background and that movie is awful (except for the steampunk zombie Nazis, of course).