*Minor spoilers, but nothing too revealing that hasn’t been shown within the trailers.
Christopher Nolan has crafted the greatest cinematic trilogy of all time. Far superior to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Toy Story, Bourne, etc, Nolan’s Batman trilogy is complex and coherent altogether, creating one amazing and original story from beginning to end. Thus, it’s nearly impossible to simply review The Dark Knight Rises outside of the context of its two predecessors.
I will say that the third film has a linear story with a somewhat unimpressive villain with poor and overly used story elements, (*minor spoiler) such as the use of a nuclear bomb, that are supposed to move the plot along, but really hold it back. Bane is certainly an intimidating villain who breaks Batman in more ways than one, stripping and demoralizing him of his very essence, but Bane’s mask was very distracting as it made me feel disconnected from him causing me to constantly remind myself that it was Tom Hardy so that I can be convinced that Bane is being played by a wonderful actor. But it didn’t work, and so Hardy’s talents are simply wasted as a brute. Moreover, Bane’s conclusion was way too sudden and totally out of no where, thus negating the entire build up of how powerful he is. I also didn’t care much for Bane’s motives for torturing Batman and destroying Gotham, for they were way too similar and unoriginal to both Ra’s Al Ghul’s and the Joker’s agendas of upending the city and doing away with structure and presenting an avenue of chaos to bring about needed change.
I came away wishing that Batman and Commissioner Gordon had interacted much more as I’ve always seen him as Batman’s partner in crime fighting. I was also disappointed by its pace and how rushed the story seemed to move along, and, on a more superficial level, I didn’t find this film much fun or any bit funny either. It as a pretty serious Batman story with little wit and lacking a cool factor. However, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance was excellent and I did love the fact that Nolan used a ton of shots from New York City’s skylines and infrastructure, thus making (*minor spoiler) Bane’s occupation of Gotham eerily real with its destruction and empty streets.
I suppose I’m still digesting this third film and a second viewing would help solidify my opinion, but for the time being I am going to say that The Dark Knight Rises is inferior to its predecessors, but that in itself is still high praise and therefore it remains to be difficult to say such because all three films are meant to be one cohesive story that narrates the life of Bruce Wayne as the Batman in its entirety. Batman Begins was amazing because it was a fun origin story, perhaps the greatest of its kind, that handled well Bruce’s emotional torment and developmental growth into the Batman. It brought to light who the man behind the mask really was and why he felt compelled to save Gotham. The Dark Knight was a masterpiece, perhaps the greatest sequel of its kind, for Heath Ledger’s intense performance, for great heroes can only be defined by how destructive and terrifying their arch-nemesis’ are, and for the film defining Batman as Gotham’s unknown savior, a type of messiah that covers and takes upon himself the sins of Gotham. And The Dark Knight Rises was great in resurrecting the fallen savior and having Batman truly save all of Gotham, with Nolan succeeding in bringing all the pieces together from the first film that dealt with Bruce’s fears and provided excellent closure for the entire trilogy.
And so that’s why it’s nearly impossible to view The Dark Knight Rises apart from the other two films. Alone, it’s a very good film that can be exhilarating at times, but ultimately predictable as Nolan’s most stereotypical superhero-ish film out of all three. Yet, tied in with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight to form a whole, the last film transforms into a great film that did well as a finale in rounding out the series and being a heartfelt bookend to how Nolan wanted to conclude his story of the Batman. I really teared up as I was experiencing a mix of emotions in how Batman was saving Gotham, but also in knowing that this was truly the end of an epic era in which I presumably won’t be able to watch something as grand in storytelling as this for a very long time (until perhaps when Man of Steel comes out next summer).
More than anything, and for obvious reasons, this last film is about Nolan just as much as it is about the Batman, for he catapulted the Batman franchise into all-time hysteria and popularity, as well as pioneering a realistic and complex superhero genre that was already being suffocated by Sony’s Spider-Man and Fox’s X-Men and Fantastic Four films before he made Batman Begins. Therefore, The Dark Knight Rises gives Batman, as well as Nolan, the chance to leave a lasting legacy that has enriched and inspired the imaginations of all. I am relieved though that Nolan is relatively young and fresh and hopefully will continue to bless us with more great stories of various genres, but perhaps when all has died down in 20+ years, he’ll revisit the world he created and give us The Dark Knight Returns.
I rate this film an 8 out of 10, but the trilogy gets an 11 out of 10.
For your leisure you can watch a 3-minute short film that Nolan created in 1997, one of his first I believe.