The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Directed by Christopher Nolan. With Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman.
I would imagine that it would be very difficult to sustain a high degree of creativity and artistic freedom over three films in a series particularly when the first two were such big successes. I’d imagine that as the capital investment in a franchise goes up (Rises had a budget roughly 25% higher than The Dark Knight and 100 million, or 60%, higher than Batman Begins), so do the number of voices clamoring to ensure that the new film doesn’t take too many creative risks.
The Nolan brothers certainly had their hands full. They had to dovetail the story lines of two prior successful movies into this third and final film while creating enough unique plot substance to close out the trilogy without leaving too many loose ends. They did it successfully though even at a longish 2 hours and 45 minutes runtime, certain storylines seemed rushed to me. The Dark Knight—the best of the three films in my opinion—benefited from being relieved of the need to provide a lot of background information which the first film supplied. This gave the writer and director the ability to focus on building a lot of depth into the principal characters. This is something Rises is missing; the narrative complexity leaves no time for the characters to breathe. With Inception, Christopher Nolan didn’t seem to sacrifice character development in order to tell a complex story having masterfully balanced both. He doesn’t quite pull that off here.
A couple of examples may suffice. While we already know Alfred quite well from the first two movies, in this film, part of his charming sagacity is missing. In the earlier films, particular Dark Knight, we learned that Alfred’s wisdom was grounded on certain life experiences which he relayed through stories. In this film, he’s reduced to declaring wise-sounding aphorisms but they come across as a bit whiney and somewhat pesky. Similarly while Ledger’s Joker is developed as a precision instrument of tortured evil, Bane is presented as a brute-force sledge hammer that seems just a tad too typical.
But the Nolans do make the most of the complexity (which really begins to take shape about 45 minutes into the film) and use it to build an engaging action movie. The film is suspenseful and surprises and delights at just the right times. The effects are wonderful and the acting is solid (and the addition of Anne Hathaway in a skin-tight body suit is a nice addition). Jonathan Nolan’s artistry as a writer really shows towards the end in the final few scenes of the movie and I watched the credit roll satisfied instead of frustrated.
If you want to understand the philosophical themes the Nolans were going for with this series, you’ll get the best representation in The Dark Knight. So this film doesn’t break new ground philosophically but you’ll have plenty of fun watching a lot of ground get broken.