The highly anticipated conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy was always going to succeed financially which makes its reversion to formula a little bit disappointing.
Perhaps it’s unfair to compare The Dark Knight Rises to its predecessor seeing as how Nolan set the bar so high for himself, but it has to be done to understand why The Dark Knight was great and The Dark Knight Rises was not so much.
The film goes back to focusing on the Caped Crusader where The Dark Knight was dominated by Heath Ledger’s Joker. Nolan’s films all feature characters with mental disorders or obsessions – Guy Pearce’s character in Memento has anterograde amnesia, Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins has a fear of bats, Leonardo DiCaprio’s guilt over his wife’s death in Inception, Al Pacino in Insomnia suffers from (guess what) insomnia – here Wayne is depressed over Rachel Dawes’ death and his own loss of place in the world feeling he has no identity without the cape and cowl.
Wayne’s attempts to struggle with his own demons are brought to a head when Bane (Tom Hardy) raises an army and steals a nuclear device holding the city at ransom. Already the film sounds like Die Hard 3 and the characters’ rushing around trying to find the bomb aren’t a million miles from Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson driving like mad through central park. There’s even a familial connection with the villain in the first film like there is in Die Hard 3.
This ticking time-bomb aspect to The Dark Knight Rises is what brings it down from the high-standards in which it was anticipated. Nolan resorts to clichés of the thriller genre in a film that feels more like a tidy-up to the trilogy than a worthy film in its own right. There were three occasions in the film in which a good-guy character was a split second from death when another good-guy comes in and saves them. These are things we’ve seen hundreds of times and are disappointing to see in a trilogy that broke so much ground.
However the film is not a failure. With the benefit of being the middle film of a trilogy The Dark Knight was able to end on a downbeat, which was what made it so powerful. Audiences couldn’t tell who would die as characters were exploded left, right and centre. The Dark Knight Rises on the other hand treats its characters as if they’re too precious to kill which makes it a pleasing conclusion but sacrifices any suspense.
The actors are all superb here with Michael Caine giving his finest performance of the trilogy as Alfred, and Anne Hathaway is the Selina Kyle fans hoped she would be. Overall the trilogy plays out like the Star Wars trilogy with an exciting and original first film, a powerful second film and a somewhat disappointing finale. Let’s just hope Nolan doesn’t add any CG dance numbers to this film at any point in the future.