So it’s been a while since the final installment of the Dark Knight trilogy hit the theaters, and it has been raking in the millions and millions that it was supposed to rake in. I saw the film on opening weekend, and the reason that took me so long to finally write this review only became clear to me recently, and that’s because from the moment I walked out of the theater, I tried to like the film more than I actually did. The disappointment came as a shock, and I wanted to find a balance between my (as well as everyone else’s) ultra high expectations and the actual quality of the film.
Before fans of the Dark Knight films start screaming all kinds of vulgarities at me, let me be clear: I liked the film a lot. It was excellently made, in typical Christopher Nolan fashion. I especially applaud the tone and atmosphere achieved by the filmmakers, creating a grand scale that felt majestic but not campy.
Ultimately, the grandeur of the film is done in by weaknesses in the plot, the pacing, character development, and minor frustrations with the action sequences. The story itself is simple enough: Batman is forced to come out of an eight-year hiatus to save Gotham City from the wrath of Bane, the film’s hulking masked villain. New characters are introduced, such as Selina Kyle, played spectacularly by Anne Hathaway. She provided important dashes of charm and humor to a film that otherwise drowned in darkness and despair.
Other characters though, were not so developed, or interesting. The always-handsome Joseph Gordon-Levitt doesn’t have a lot to work with playing the good cop John Blake. The other “Inception” alumni, Marion Cotillard, has an even less-developed one-dimensional role, although she still portrays a specific archetype for Nolan.
What makes this film incomparable to its immediate predecessor, “The Dark Knight”, is that the film never progressed smoothly; at times, the film felt clunky and bloated, relying on flashbacks and a really, really intense score by Hans Zimmer to keep it going. Even the emotional sequences involving Alfred seemed sudden and contrived.
Film’s villain, Bane, is just not in the same league as The Joker, in every aspect. It is an extremely difficult task to be really scared of someone when you can only see his eyes. I only occasionally felt the terror that Bane was supposed to embody, at other times he seemed beatable, even vulnerable. Also, what makes the Joker such a compelling and engrossing character (kudos again to the late Heath Ledger) is because he had no agenda. One could argue that not even anarchy was his agenda. It was this mystique that made The Joker such a fascinating character and a formidable villain.
The action sequences in this film were grand in scale and mostly fantastic. From an elaborate airplane hijacking to the final act, most of the actions were well staged and executed. The scenes involving physical combat though, were almost laughable. It has been twelve years since Keanu Reeves kicked some serious agent butt in “The Matrix” with martial arts, and here we are, with Bane using punches that reminds me of Indiana Jones. People have described Bane’s fighting tactics as ‘brutal’. That surely wasn’t how I viewed it.
Add to that a few minor but noticeable glitches in the plot, and I found ‘The Dark Knight Rises” is the weakest installment of the trilogy by far. Once again, I want to say that it’s extremely well made, as is any film by Nolan. But, all things considered, I’d even go so far as saying this film is one of his weakest to date.