I saw The Dark Knight Rises twice over the weekend, and can officially report that I liked it. It was a quality story (though not perfect) that provided a fitting end to this trilogy. My first viewing was on Friday night, in a packed, excited house. It was a ton of fun, but the anticipation level, the dense plot, the theater’s too butch sound system (it was cranked up to accommodate the deep, base-y score and sound effects, and managed to flatten out a ton of the dialogue so we missed a bunch of lines) and the weird, kind of moleste-y date happening next to me (more on that in a minute) necessitated a second viewing. The second time around, awesome.
Quick aside: Dudes – when you’re on a date, and your date takes your arm off her shoulders and puts it back on your lap, take the fucking hint. Don’t wait 30 seconds and then try to hold her hand, or put your hand on her knee, or try to rub her back (or all of the above). It’s fucking creepy. This guy wasn’t being domineering or predatory – he was just really awkward – but all the same, fucking creepy. And his date wasn’t into it. And also fucking distracting to the rest of the audience (me). It’s BATMAN! Just watch the damn movie.
Okay, on to The Dark Knight Rises. I enjoyed it. Thumbs up. It took me two viewings for all of the pieces to fall into place, but now I can confidently say that it was good. It wasn’t GREAT, but it was good, and I thought its failings didn’t hinder the overall effect. The Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, with Batman having disappeared from the city streets, and without Batman to keep him going, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse. The decision made by Batman and Gordon to lionize Harvey Dent has had mixed results, with the city continuing to worship its fallen hero, and the passing of the Dent Act, which has allowed Gotham to clean up its streets in a less than ideal method (by not allowing criminals parole). Batman is pulled back into action with the arrival of Bane, a mercenary and former member of the League of Shadows.
The character work was once again great. Bale, Oldman and Freeman stepped back into their roles perfectly, and the new additions to the cast did well. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was great as a young cop struggling within the confines of the system. I particularly loved what Tom Hardy did with Bane. He was huge, intimidating, and yet, very restrained. He was actually a very good follow-up villain to Ledger’s Joker, in that he was the complete opposite. Bain was focused, methodical, and very reserved. He never joked, he stated things plainly – he was always very focused and cold, which is what made him threatening.
And Michael Caine. Jesus Christ, Michael Caine was awesome.
Granted, it’s not perfect. There were several points that I wanted to see drawn out that were kind of skipped over: I wanted to see more development of Selina Kyle’s character – her background, what brought her to this point, etc. I wanted a scene at the beginning that explained a little more thoroughly Gordon’s regret with lying about Dent’s character. We left off at the end of The Dark Knight thinking this was the most brilliant move ever, and open The Dark Knight Rises with Gordon all set to make a speech detailing the truth – I would have liked to have known more at that point about why this decision had caused him 8 years of regret.
I just wanted more – but I understand why a lot of this stuff was left out. They had a ton of ground to cover and were already fighting against a pretty epic run-time, so stuff had to be cut. I get it. But doing so did leave some aspects of the film under-developed.
That being said, I did really enjoy the film, and thought it was a good end to the Nolan/Bale Batman story. I didn’t think it was as good as The Dark Knight, but let’s be honest here – was it ever going to be? As soon as this film was announced, I was kind of dreading it. Batman Begins was awesome, and Nolan took it to a completely different level with The Dark Knight. How the hell do you even begin to top that? How do you top Ledger’s performance with The Joker? You can’t. It’s that simple. That was a brilliant film. I was afraid that even trying to top it would bring the entire mountain down.
So as the release got closer, I somehow managed to find an anticipation level that was excited, yet tempered. Given everything this film had to balance, I thought it did a good job. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t even as tight as what we have typically come to expect from Nolan, but I think it did deliver. Plot holes bug me as much as the next person, but the overall tone of a film and its emotional resonance can be enough to carry it through for me, and for The Dark Knight Rises, the themes of heroism, legacy and Batman as a symbol were enough to bring it past the less-than-perfect plot to deliver an awesome experience.
I don’t really know what happens from here though. Obviously, nobody wants to talk about reboots yet (but I’m sure someone at Warner Bros has already mentioned it at least once), but Batman has been around in one form or another for decades. There will always be more Batman. And whoever takes up the helm next has some huge-ass shoes to fill. I don’t know what direction the character and the story go from here. I have really loved the way Nolan took the fantasy of the comic and grounded it firmly in our world. As much as I loved The Avengers and everything that Marvel had done with those properties, it is also cool to have a hero that isn’t total fantasy. One that could exist in the world we live in. And that is what this incarnation of Batman gave us. I’m not sure what the next step in the development of the story is, but I’m sure we’ll find out in a few years. And as long as Joel Shumacher isn’t behind the wheel, I will probably be fine with it.