The following spoiler-filled review of The Dark Knight Rises was written in August 2016
I don’t think I have ever mentioned this on the blog before, but I’ve only seen The Dark Knight Rises three times. Once in the movie theater, once on Blu-Ray, and yesterday when I rewatched it for this review. I really liked it when I first saw it in theaters, but when I rewatched it for the first time I was pretty underwhelmed.
Look, I’m not going to come out and say that this film is an ‘underappreciated masterpiece’ or anything like that – not at all. This film has problems. But when I finished rewatching the film last night, I had to admit that maybe I had been a bit too harsh on it for the last couple of years.
The vocal minority online has begun to really criticize this film a lot, but while The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t come close to the quality of the first two films in the Dark Knight Trilogy, I do think it is still a solid ending to an excellent trilogy.
Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises follows a weak and injured Bruce Wayne who now hides in his mansion away from the rest of Gotham. But the villainous Bane and a burglar soon get him back onto the streets of Gotham City. After breaking his back during his first confrontation with Bane, Bruce Wayne must rise again and, this time, save Gotham City from nuclear destruction.
The Dark Knight Rises isn’t nearly as good or as satisfying as Batman Begins or The Dark Knight. But before I tell you why I end up enjoying it, let’s talk about the many issues I have with the film. Compared to the other two films this film has the most convoluted plot of them all, and at times it can even be a little bit dull.
While I normally love Tom Hardy, and while I like the character design of Bane in this film, the character’s motivations and his plan don’t always make sense. Bane is the weakest villain in this trilogy, though not the least memorable. The pit that is described as Hell on Earth is surprisingly easy to escape from, and Bruce really doesn’t have a lot of trouble just being in the prison pit. What is particularly hellish about Bruce’s experience, other than his injury and seeing Gotham crumble on television?
The film also suffers from sidelining the best performance in the film. Michael Caine does a really good job in this film, but he exits the action pretty quickly, and doesn’t return until the very end. Another character that I need to talk about in the negatives is John Blake.
Don’t get me wrong. I actually think Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a really solid job in this film, but his character isn’t all that great. Somehow, someway, John Blake just knows Bruce Wayne is the Batman. He just knows this. Also, the Robin-reveal didn’t work for me at all, even though I would’ve loved a sequel with Blake as Batman.
I also am not a fan of how Bruce Wayne survives the explosion and somehow lives a life with Selina Kyle away from Gotham. I actually think this ending would have been perfect if they had stuck with the death of Batman. That would’ve been a sad, but powerful, way to end a great trilogy.
So those are all of my problems with the film. But I still feel like The Dark Knight Rises manages to pull you in as an audience-member. What I really do like about this film are the performances of Michael Caine and Gary Oldman. Although Caine isn’t featured in a lot of the film, Michael Caine always brings me to tears in the funeral/grave scene. I also think Oldman is consistently great in these three films, and the scene where Batman indirectly tells him who he really is is really touching.
And when you have a spectacle film where the sound design, production design, and the musical score are as solid as they are here, then sometimes compelling characters that you ultimately care about can result in a film where you can excuse the issues that I stated above. It isn’t an exact science, and maybe there aren’t more positives than negatives in this film, but ultimately you care about The Dark Knight Rises. So, while this is a deeply flawed film that may be Christopher Nolan’s worst film yet, I don’t think it is as bad as some people think it is.
7.5 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex