Though the Dark Knight Rises is not a bad film, it is decidedly a mixed bag. There are some great moments, but some gaping flaws that cut it off at the knees and keeping it from, well, rising to great heights.
It seems this series is really only as strong as the villain in each film. And while no one should compare Tom Hardy’s Bane to Heath Ledger’s career-defining Joker role, it’s hard not to miss him here.
Bane is largely a one-dimensional, overly grandiose “super villain” in this film. The staunch realism of Nolan’s earlier work evaporates when he’s on-screen, making this film feel like the most “comic-booky” of the trilogy. He often seems two steps away from tenting his fingers a la Mr. Burns and cackling maniacally.
But even this is overshadowed by his voice. Even with the reported vocal overdubs, Hardy is sometimes completely impossible to understand. He mumbles through his mask in some ridiculous faux-British accent through the entire movie, and it gets irritating by about the second scene.
At times, it almost sounds like he’s doing a bad, drunken Yoda impression through a tin can. Dealing with Christian Bale’s Batman voice for three films was bad enough, but with two of them, it all becomes too much.
It’s true that the Joker is a much more multifaceted and complex character than Bane in almost all of the Batman comics, so it’s unfair to compare the two. But it’s difficult to sit in this film and not think, “Man, I really miss Heath Ledger.”
The rest of the cast is seemingly on point. Michael Caine reprises his role as the best Alfred Pennyworth seen on film, and Morgan Freeman is once more solid as Lucius Fox. The two play well as Wayne’s “father figures,” though it is a shame that Caine all but disappears for the second half of the film.
Anne Hathaway proves to be a serviceable Catwoman, though her role is largely inconsequential. The film wouldn’t lose much was she written out of it.
Gary Oldman and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are both spot on as the heart of the police force. If Inception hadn’t totally proven that Gordon-Levitt was ready to step away from Tommy from Third Rock from the Sun, this film cements it.
There are some pacing and transition issues throughout the film, leaving it feeling a little stilted and disjointed. Some scenes — Bruce’s sudden return to Gotham for the final act being a fine example — feel rushed, as if a lazy way to get a character from point A to point B, simply to push the plot forward.
The occupy analogy that runs throughout much of the film seems a little odd and forced, too. One almost expects Bane to start shouting, “We are the 99 per cent” at any given moment.
There are also several gaping plot holes that just make no sense. While it’s true that a movie based on a comic book requires a certain suspension of disbelief from the get-go, Nolan’s films have been so firmly planted in reality that it wasn’t really necessary until now. That’s why some off these issues feel so glaring. (Spoilers ahead.)
- How does Batman escape a six mile blast radius at the last second at the end of the film?
- Why does no one seem concerned by the residual radiation that would surely pound Gotham after a nuclear bomb goes off close by?
- Why is Bale using his famed Batman voice around people who know his secret identity?
- How does the world’s greatest detective not manage to deduce that knocking Bane’s mask off wouldn’t have some sort of adverse effect on him?
- Who on earth thought it was a good idea to have Liam Neeson appear in a vision a la Obi Wan and impart a major plot point Bruce surely couldn’t have known otherwise?
- Since when is the cure for a slipped disc to string someone up on a piece of rope and to punch them in the back?
All of these things might seem moot in a series like The Avengers, which assumes audiences have to take a leap of faith to swallow the entire premise. But in this world, it just seems incredibly out-of-place.
This is not to say the entire film is terrible, because it isn’t. There are some great action set pieces, and the last 45 minutes are largely very entertaining, at least in terms of a visual spectacle. It’s also nice to see Bale finally face an opponent that can stand up to him physically. The fact that these two can actually brawl is a nice touch that was missing from the other films.
The Dark Knight Rises is not a bad movie. But it follows the best comic book film of all time, casting a shadow so large that anything would probably seem inferior in comparison. It steps out of world that feels real and grounded and flounders around in traditional superhero tropes — something that really hurts it in the end.