The Dark Knight Rises

It’s been a long eight years for Bruce Wayne.

Setting aside the cape and cowl after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce holes himself up in his mansion like a Howard Hughes recluse – complete with dishevelled appearance, patchy facial hair and questionable hygiene. Peacetime, while it may have been good for Gotham, has not been good for its hero. Funny that the only thing to bring Bruce out of his stupor is not his city, but a new threat: a mysterious terrorist known as Bane.

That’s about the end of my plot synopsis – to mention it otherwise reeks of redundancy, and there are many other (more well-written) reviews that can do a much better job of explaining it.

I think this was probably the weakest of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It doesn’t help that it came after The Dark Knight, which is arguably the perfect blockbuster for its adept balancing of pathos, spectacle, storyline, and intelligence – with the most charismatic screen villain in recent memory as a cherry on top. That being said, this is by no means a bad film. It’s actually quite good in fact – it’s just overshadowed by the brilliance of its predecessors.

What’s disappointing about The Dark Knight Rises is that it revisits the League of the Shadows – the villainous cabal from Batman Begins – villains that were more of an afterthought in the first film than an entire concept to build the trilogy around. What I mean by that is the first film used the League of Shadows as a stepping stone for Bruce Wayne to develop the skills needed to become Batman, and once that transformation was complete, they weren’t necessary anymore – thus their defeat in the first film. The Dark Knight had different ambitions – neglecting to mention the League of Shadows (at least to my recollection) and allowing the central villain of that film – the Joker – to survive for a sequel. The Joker was a villain to build the franchise around, the League of Shadows merely a placeholder for better things – but real life tragedy hampered the trilogy going in that direction.

Rises also suffers from unfocused storytelling, an overly complicated plot to destroy Gotham, and too many characters and comic references shoehorned into its bloated running time. But after watching this, I realized that any criticisms of the film are minor irritants – this may not be the perfect blockbuster, but this is the type of blockbuster audiences deserve. Nolan and co. may have overreached with this film, which lacks the consistency of the other two, but it’s still a satisfying and worthy conclusion to one of the best trilogys – blockbuster, superhero, or otherwise – to hit theatres. Summer movies don’t have to be dumb – and the success of Nolan’s Batman series proves that audiences aren’t dumb either. And that counts for something.

Grade: B+

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