I was thrilled when the theater lights dimmed and The Dark Knight Rises began… Walking out, I was satisfied but much less thrilled.
It was a good movie, with lots of action, but missing some really critical parts that made the first two films so amazing.
Look, I was delighted by Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman franchise with the 2005 film Batman Begins starring Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne and the infamous Caped Crusader. And the 2008 sequel The Dark Knight was a phenomenal movie, an absolutely stunning (even if arguably a bit long) bit of cinematic genius. So, the bar was admittedly quite high going into the third (and final) film of Nolan’s trilogy.
Unfortunately, it just failed to live up to the very high expectations that it fostered among rabid fans like me.
Most of the actors themselves were good. Bale delivered another terrific performance as Wayne/Batman. Michael Caine as Alfred continues to be an indispensable foundation to the story. Morgan Freeman gives the standard believable turn as Lucius Fox. And Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon is strong as always. What’s great about these three is that each has the chance to show some new sides of the characters that we’ve all become so familiar with.
Other repeat performers, I was less pleased with.
Nestor Carbonell as the mayor, whom you might recognize as the original District Attorney in Batman Begins, turned in a one-note performance with a singular focus on showing how unreasonably fixated he is on capturing Batman. (Think of J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man series, and you’ll be close.)
Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane (aka “Scarecrow”) made yet another appearance, making him one of the few consistent actors in all three films of this trilogy. My complaint is less with his acting and more with his presence — it’s like he had a rider in his original contract requiring him to have at least thirty seconds on air in the next two films. His reappearance was unlikely and unnecessary, and frankly it just bugged me.
Fortunately there’s some new blood spicing up the franchise. I loved Joseph Gordon-Levitt as newcomer John Blake, though I’ve pretty much adored him in everything I’ve ever seen him in, so that’s no surprise. I really enjoyed the story arc of his character throughout the film.
Anne Hathaway was actually pretty good as Selina, and while she was never actually called Catwoman directly, every Batman fan recognized the character immediately. I thought she did a good job balancing the villain (thief) and reluctant semi-heroinne as the story progresses. And she was infinitely less campy than Michelle Pfeiffer in the cheesy 1992 film Batman Returns. (We’re not even going to discuss Halle Berry in the 2004 catastrophe Catwoman.)
Sorry about the “cat-astrophe” pun there… Just mentioning the 90s series of Batman movies brings out the cheese in me.
Then, of course, there’s the new villain in this episode. Tom Hardy’s Bane was just not the least bit scary, I’m sad to say. In Batman Begins, Liam Neeson’s villain Ra’s Al Ghul was creepy and sinister, brilliant and determined. In The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger’s Joker was the ultimate villain, evil, ruthless, and yes, brilliant and determined.
Bane was just… big. With fanatical followers who would do literally anything that he asked. More importantly, he had some creepy ventilator thing on his face that gave him a weird voice. And seemingly he had some master plan that we were kept on the edge of our seats trying to figure out. But frankly, that was about it. As a Batman villain, Bane just didn’t live up to his predecessors in the first two films.
But look, all kudos or gripes about individual performers aside, what so was incredible about the second film (The Dark Knight) is exactly what was so wrong with the third. The story itself, and the message that it tries to convey, was truly lacking. There were plot holes big enough to drive the Batmobile through. I’m reluctant to say much because I don’t want to spoil the film for those who haven’t seen it, but I’ll start with an easy one: what the hell was up with Bruce Wayne’s spontaneously crippled and then suddenly rehabilitated knee?!
And the ending… once you’ve seen the film, talk to me privately about the ending(s).
Ultimately, the movie was entertaining, but nothing special. Maybe it didn’t stand a chance to live up to expectations after The Dark Knight, but still, I was let down. It’s worth seeing, and there are some great moments, but overall it was a bit of a disappointment.