As a general rule, I do not go into the details behind giving certain films their star ratings, but in this case since release of The Dark Knight Rises, there has been something of a critical backlash against Christopher Nolan’s trilogy ending blockbuster. Criticisms have been levelled against the film for being too long, too slow and not as good as Batman Begins or The Dark Knight. These criticisms may be valid, but there seems to be a sweeping idea that The Dark Knight Rises is somehow a mediocre or even sub-standard film that has been overhyped and fails to deliver what it promised.
I’ll defend my interpretation of The Dark Knight Rises, which is something I honestly never thought I’d have to do. The main problem that people seem to have with it, is that it’s not as good as Batman Begins or The Dark Knight. This is certainly a fair criticism, because it lacks the unexpected edge that the original film had, and for all his Sean Connery in a goldfish bowl theatrics, Tom Hardy’s Bane is no Heath Ledger’s Joker. So it seems clear to everyone that it is the weakest of the trilogy.
Comparisons to its predecessors is natural and if studios are going to roll out big budget franchises then they court this comparison themselves. However, looking at it from a wider view, can we really say because it’s not as good as two films it does not deserve five stars? When you consider the genre of super hero films, or even expanding it to comic book adaptations or further as simply action films, how does The Dark Knight Rises look in comparison to them?
Well if you consider that the best comic book action films (aside from Nolans’ first two) are few and far between. Aside from potentially Spider-Man 2, who many have actually excited, enthralled and tried to develop a character? Films like Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World pushed visual action to the limits and are almost their own category of awesome, while with the best will in the world, Thor, X-Men 2 and Iron Man don’t come close to the level of quality that Nolan’s Bat Trilogy brings to the table.
The problem it appears relates to hype and expectation. Lacking the surprise of the original and the storm surrounding Ledger’s tragic passing, fans expected The Dark Knight Rises to surpass both of its predeccessors, which in retrospect was an ungodly amount of pressure that neither of those films had to face. It’s partly down to the marketing of the film, which endlessly mentioned both films and whipped audiences into a frenzy, but we, as fans, were complicit in this deception. We desperately wanted another Batman Begins or The Dark Knight, and when it didn’t surface people began to grumble and complain, which lead to a growing idea that The Dark Knight Rises was somehow not very good.
Aside from the level of art direction, cinematography and acting, what The Dark Knight Rises has that other comic book films lack is characterisation. Just because Nolan is happy to spend some time with the characters as they do things that actual people do does not mean that it’s boring. Yes, The Avengers managed to pull-off the over-the-top candy-coloured comic book film that most comic book fans (myself included) wanted, but that doesn’t fit the Universe in which Nolan’s films are set. The dialogue, interactions and exposition all help to build to a crescendo of action in the final act that is almost unparalleled. The audience have been taught to care about the characters as human beings rather than simply mask-wearing cliches.
The minor niggles are now being used a scapegoats to lesson the work that has gone into making this fantastic film. Things like not being able to understand Bane when he spoke, or the classic criticism that it “has too many endings.” The same thing happened in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, does this mean that this is somehow not a five star film too? The Shawshank Redemption has about three endings and overran for about 15 minutes, is that somehow not a great film too? The simple fact is no film is perfect, but you have to consider the films against those that peceeded it within the genre, not just the franchise. It’s different if you don’t consider The Dark Knight or Batman Begins as excellent top-notch films, because then there’s a context to your concerns, but for those of us who love the last two, The Dark Knight Rises is more than good enough to earn its five star rating.
It’s ok to be disappointed, but as with all films, time will tell its own story and I have no doubt that The Dark Knight Rises will be considered an excellent film for years to come and it wont be long before The Dark Knight films are hailed as one the best film trilogy of all time.