Imposing in scale and length, The Dark Knight Rises takes viewers on a scenic but meandering journey — two hours and 45 minutes — that can test the limits of patience. But that’s OK. Thanks to some great acting and incredibly satisfying final scenes, these indulgences are easily forgiven. TDKR wraps up Christopher Nolan’s Bat-trilogy with style while offering some honest-to-goodness surprises and moments of pure fan delight.
A few thoughts, in no particular order:
- As Gotham City cop John Blake, Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a wonderful job of bringing this epic down to human size. Along with Gary Oldman as Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, he gives an understated, first-rate performance that stands out among all the costumes and world-ending spectacle. Superheroes and larger-than-life villains are great, but the intimate, Gotham Central aspect of the film is one of its finest qualities.
- Way back when Gordon-Levitt’s casting was announced, there was some wishful thinking that he’d portray a certain sidekick. John Blake isn’t Dick Grayson, but speculators got a huge reward when the film slyly revealed the character’s real first name: Robin! And how about those scenes of Blake in the Batcave, which strongly suggest a future for Batman beyond Bruce Wayne? What a nice way to pass the baton and to let the audience’s imagination go to town.
- In some stories and shows like Batman Beyond, Bruce has grown older and ever more isolated as the Dark Knight. There’s something refreshing about seeing him perform one last spectacular act of heroism before exiting the stage and assuming a new life far, far away from Gotham City. TDKR touches upon the psychological and physical toll that the Batman role had taken on Bruce Wayne, and after a guy has had his back broken, escaped a hellish prison, been stabbed by Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter and flown off into the sunset with an atomic bomb, he’s earned a faked death and retirement.
- Speaking of broken backs, few actors can convey physical pain as convincingly as Christian Bale. That brutal physical therapy scene? Ouch. It’ll take a heck of a thespian to step into his shoes for the inevitable reboot.
- I didn’t quite buy Anne Hathaway as the duplicitous Selina Kyle, but anytime we get a sharp-witted, capable woman in an action film who isn’t there merely to pose unnaturally, that’s welcome. Too bad there wasn’t time to fully develop the Talia angle, because she’s such a rich character.
- Michael Caine almost made me cry. Cheers indeed, dear Alfred.
- Yes, there were parts that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I can’t be the only one who wondered how Bruce got home after ascending from the prison pit of doom, or why Bane would take a risk on shipping Batman, even broken, off to the desert for a flatscreen viewing of Gotham’s ruin. Suspension of disbelief and all that.
- Tom Hardy does right by the hulking, cruelly efficient, and occasionally unintelligible Bane, but Heath Ledger’s Joker remains the Gold Standard for terrifying Batman cinema villains. Speaking of the bad guys, it’s fun to see Cillian Murphy in a cameo as the kooky Dr. Jonathan Crane.
- Can you think of a better fate for Wayne Manor than being converted into a home for orphans?
- On another note, I wasn’t sure what to make of the trailer for Man of Steel, or as some fans are calling it, Deadliest Catch Superman.