The Dark Knight Rises Review

The Dark Knight Rises
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman

You’re gonna love the new Batman. Comparably untouched by studio meddling, Christopher Nolan’s ambitious follow-up to The Dark Knight breaks the precedent set by X-Men: The Last Stand and Spider-Man 3 that all comic book threequels have to suck. “Breaks” isn’t even the right word. With the brute force and visual muscle of its immersive large-format IMAX action sequences, “eviscerates” is better.

Eight years after Batman took the fall for Harvey Dent, the posthumous Dent Act has all but stomped out organized crime in Gotham City. Bruce Wayne has hung up cape and cowl, skulking about his neglected manor with the shades drawn. It takes the catastrophic threat posed by terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy) to draw Wayne out of his self-imposed exile. Everything is at stake, and Batman depends upon the aid of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman, who spends most of the movie in a hospital bed), a hotheaded rookie cop (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and (just maybe) cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). 

At a paunchy 165 minutes, The Dark Knight Rises could admittedly use some leaner editing. That it pulls double duty as Batman’s grand finale and an introduction to so many important new characters keeps the film from feeling as conclusive as it should. However, as an exhibition of raw blockbuster filmmaking, it caps the trilogy superbly, claiming within its bloated whole some of Nolan’s most impressive camerawork and exhilarating set pieces.

It’s no secret that the director had a lot to live up to following the overwhelming critical acclaim and commercial success of The Dark Knight. The Oscar-winning performance of the late Heath Ledger cast a pall of uncertainty over the third and final chapter in his Batman universe. Could any villain live up to the anarchic menace of the Joker? Speaking through a speech-muffling respirator, Bane doesn’t elicit easy comparisons, except by contrast. It isn’t a performance-centric role, but Bane is an effective antagonist because he represents, for once, a legitimate mortal threat to our hero. When’s the last time a comic book movie made you feel, with anything less than 100% certainty, that everything would turn out okay?

Plinky plink. Plinky plink. And then there’s Catwoman, whose appearance is marked by a campy Hans Zimmer piano motif. Anne Hathaway was the subject of much internet derision when Nolan cast her to play the beautiful and deadly Selina Kyle, and though she easily dispels cursory fanboy criticism, the screenplay has difficulty reconciling her sinister sexiness with the otherwise encompassing gravitas. That Catwoman doesn’t quite gel shouldn’t be too surprising; Nolan has never shown a proclivity for writing great female roles.

Last of the new recruits is Officer Blake, who’s conveniently assigned to every major crime scene in the city. Consequently, we spend a lot of time with a character who, in the context of a nearly three hour film, never feels terribly important. All due respect to JGL. His character arc takes a dramatic, if predictable, turn in the epilogue that fails to justify the surplus of screen time leading up to it.

Each of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. From an action standpoint, The Dark Knight Rises is the pinnacle of the franchise. From the explosive airborne opener to Batman and Bane’s climactic knock-down-drag-out fistfight, it’s easy to overlook the litany of legitimate story and pacing problems it suffers en route. To an extent, those issues are forgivable given that the film is otherwise so clearly superior to the brain-dead blockbusters that presume to call themselves its competition — but online there is enough hyperbole already. “Take the bitter with the better,” as Michael Caine once said.

If The Dark Knight Rises has one glaring flaw, it’s that the conclusion feels insincere. Kudos to Christopher Nolan for taking Bruce Wayne, one of the most beloved and iconic characters in popular culture, to some startlingly dark places. It’s encouraging to see a filmmaker challenge an audience that Hollywood attempts to relentlessly appease. However, the final few minutes feel more like studio-mandated concessions than the cathartic conclusion the epic saga deserves. The audience is inappropriately left with a wink and a nod to what’s next.

But in an age where big screen comic book adaptations cut with safety scissors, that Nolan’s gritty take on Batman exists at all is remarkable. The Dark Knight’s bout with Bane yields some undeniably incredible moments made all the more impressive by the 65mm IMAX camera. If you’re a fan of the franchise (like any of you aren’t), seek out the biggest screen you can find, with the loudest speaker system, sit back and prepare to be pummeled. You’ll love it. — Colin

SCORE: 3.5 stars

  • La Menthe

    The Avengers gets four stars and this three and a half? I know it’s not the same reviewer, but still…

    I will say, though, that you are the best reviewer when it comes to ratings, Colin.

  • scott

    Yeah, saw it today and wow what a blast. That’s a movie. I liked all the epilogues and the very final scene did seem a bit odd, but when you consider one of the main themes of the first film, that Bruce must become an idea, it’s actually very fitting.

  • scott


    Even the theme from DK where Bruce was trying to get Harvey to take over for him informs the very final scene. You know, I think this was pure Nolan.

  • scott

    You know DKR blew me away and I totally forgot about the Man of Steel trailer for the entire day until I just saw an article about that movie. I find that amazing because I’m a huge Superman fan and was extremely excited by the preview. It looks really, really good. Pretty unexpected. I don’t want to get my hopes up again, but I will certainly see it!

  • indianamcclain

    Can’t wait to hear what the gang has to say on the podcast.

  • C’mon man

    Okay first off great review. But really banes performance wasn’t great. I’ll give u it’s not his voice and the mask limits the amount of facial expression u can see but hardy still killed it the way his eyes looked and how he tilted his head when he spoke. I think this is my favorite of the franchise even over TDK bcuz all tho rises was longer it didn’t feel that way to me where as TDK dragged a bit at the end and rises exploded for nearly 3 hours. I’m pressive I would give it 4 stars and I do applaud u for the way u reviewed this completely nailed it cept for bane. And I thougt JGL gave the performance of his career and I can’t wait to see if they continue the franchise. All tho it appears as if WB will be rebooting

  • Zac

    Wait the same Colin that attempted to verbally berate me for defending The Avengers at the year’s halfway point poll gave the movie 4 stars?

  • Deven Science

    I didn’t love it. I really liked it, but its dark and heavy plot doesn’t make for a rewatchable movie that I would use the word “love” to describe how I feel about it.

    I loved The Avengers, which while lighter fare, is more fun, and will be seen many more times over the years.

  • Zac: La Menthe was referring to my review of The Avengers on the site, in which I gave it 4 stars. I’m assuming Colin wouldn’t have given The Avengers 4 stars.

    As far as whether or not it is fair to give TDKR 3.5 stars and The Avengers 4 stars, I think they are very different movies with different goals. Comparing ratings like that is never an easy thing to do. Each movie has to be judged on its own terms.

  • Zac

    Oh sorry Sean. I wasn’t even talking about TDKR at this point, a movie I have very complicated, mixed feelings for. I completely agree with you that the 2 films are incomparable, but I was, for a moment anyway, baffled at the lashing all fans of The Avengers took on the site by someone, who I thought gave it 4 stars. Sorry to La Menthe and to Colin

  • I got nothing from the first Batman/Bane fight. I mean Bats having his ass handed to him didn’t seem like that big of a deal since he’d pretty much been half-crippled up to that point anyway. Of course he was going to lose in horrible fashion. He’d been back for what, like 10 minutes? In the books, when Bane took him out, it was more impressive, because Bats had been spending the last week rounding up a bunch of criminals that Bane had set loose on the city and was completely exhausted.

    The opening was “Cliffhanger” all the way, and I couldn’t understand why Bane spent most of the film sounding like a jolly Sean Connery. I think someone else pointed out that the sound for the voice was just shit. At no time did I have a hard time understanding him, and of course there was some heavy ADR work, but the sound seemed to come from somewhere else entirely. Also, I know that we can’t see much of Hardy’s face, and who knows what the delivery was supposed to sound like in the first place, but while his voice really got up there at times (again, he sounded like Connery in “The Rock”), he seemed to completely lack ANY expression in his face. Again though, that might not be HIS fault.

    I thought the first act had way too much going on, like it seemed pretty disjointed and jumped around a lot between things that didn’t really matter, or at least things that could have been carried out much more efficiently. I mean, the last movie was really long too, but the things that happened throughout seemed to be a lot more important and there didn’t seem to be a wasted moment. THIS film really isn’t clever enough to justify that.

    Maybe the lack of memorable set pieces played a hand in that too. Again, Batman’s back for a whole scene or two and then disappears for a full hour in the middle (though we get plenty of Bruce), and the rest of the crew back in Gotham isn’t all that interesting or fun to hang around with. Nice to see Morgan Freeman get out of the shop more, but Michael Caine’s barely in the movie. When we do get Bats back in Gotham, it plays out pretty nicely, but man, is it a chore to get there at times.

    I didn’t think this film was bad by any means, as there was a lot I enjoyed, but like a lot of “final” films, it seems very concerned with spending a lot of time introducing new complications (Wayne’s companies are already going down the toilet, do we need another half hour of putting nails in the coffin?) that don’t ultimately seem to really tie into the endgame. There’s nothing on the level of “Let’s give Harry amnesia and spend half the movie dealing with that before making it completely irrelevant”, but it’s still kind of ridiculous.

    Speaking of ridiculous, Bane is literally disguised as a delivery man at some point.

    After having re-watched a lot of the film at my theater tonight (we have it on 4 screens this weekend), I thought that this may have been a rare case where I would have liked to see a two-part finale, because there were obviously some ideas and subplots that they wanted to run with, and while I didn’t dig them so much in this film, they could have been better in their OWN film. Also, considering the fact that this film is sort of based on two different storylines (“KnightFall” and “No Man’s Land”), a 2-film arc would have suited the story well.

    Part one could have dealt with Wayne coming out of retirement, dealing with his company’s financial woes, etc., and having more than one scene as Batman to help re-establish a rep before having his ass kicked by Bane (again, make it MEAN something), which would have been the cliffhanger, perhaps ending with Bats in Bane’s former prison. Part 2 could have started with him in prison (a nice callback to “Begins”) on the road to recovery while Bane and Co. turn Gotham into a No Man’s Land. Bruce makes it out, makes it back to Gotham with more than 30 minutes of screen time left to go, he builds up his army to face Bane in the finale, and then you could have things play out the same as they would have in the film we got. I think splitting a book that’s no longer or no more eventful than it’s predecessors into 2 movies is bullshit, but this is different, and man, it would have been nice.

    Wow, I went off on a rant there. As someone else said though, I liked it, didn’t love it, and it’s not one I see myself re-watching a whole lot.

  • Zac

    Wow I don’t necessarily agree with all of what PlanBFromOuterSpace had to say, but he was dead on in the end. Splitting it into 2 final parts would also work on the level of real establishment of John Blake, Selina Kyle, and most importantly, Miranda Tate. The two parted conclusion would be remembered in the same vein as Kill Bill, and would ultimately be successful. Also I, as well as dirty Frank probably,love the “jolly Connery” voice, as it does work certain levels.

    Here’s where I disagree with your points.

    The film tried extensively hard to create huge set pieces, in part of the place of the Joker, and in part to end the trilogy on an epic note. It just so happened that they failed. The Dark Knight Saga was never a Nuke maguffin series, it just doesn’t jell in. The drugged water vapor is more effective in Begins, because it shows the cities true colors. In desperation, this film tried to go the Mission Impossible route. Unfortunately for us, the film series is not as much of a globe-trotting journey as the film-makers think it is. I know this is going off on a tangent, but in MI4, the fantastic Brad Bird takes on a journey where he manages getting us all on board with Tom Cruise and his team stopping a threat that is ultimately very real. The Dark Knight is also very real but in a wholly different relevant way.

    Alfred of course is the heart of the series, and it tortures the audience that he doesn’t have the presence that guided Bruce through the first two films. Bruce, as well as the audience are affectively, having the heart ripped out of us.

    Bane, ultimately was somewhat underutilised, as Tom Hardy, in my opinion, gave a great menacing performance that sadly didn’t go as far as it should have.

    Now despite these gripes and several other complaints, I really did enjoy the film. It closes out the seires in the most effective way that a one-film-finale could. The Film’s ideals are for the most part, well presented, and this ultimately is a worthy close for one of the best trilogies of all time.

  • Nathan

    Bane rocked. Batman was awesome. Gadgets were cool. Set pieces were cool. I loved the movie.

    It was easily the best movie of the year so far for me and much more complete package than Avengers. Nolan movies work hard at providing rich motivations for the characters which something I found lacking in other super movies.

    But then again, I really like Superman Returns so what the hell would I know.

  • Falsk

    I’m glad someone else noticed Bane’s Sean Connery-esque voice, too…

  • Big Hungry

    I have to say I was let down by this film a bit and yes I noticed the Sean Connery-esque voice too (not that big of a deal to me). I will need to re-watch it but right now this movie is my least favorite in this series. I did not hate it but it was a let down. While the acting and look of this is better than the Avengers… I did have more fun watching the Avengers.

  • SunnyPistol

    The film blew me away. Bane was a bit of a let down but then again i’m not a Hardy fan. Regardless I am still planning on seeing it at least 2 more times.

  • “I have a unique knowledge of this prison facility. I was…formerly a guest here.”

  • I can’t believe that I forgot to ask this, but is Alfred really seeing what he’s seeing at the end, or is he just seeing what he WANTS to see? Is there a top still spinning somewhere? I knew as soon as he gave Bruce what was essentially Ben Affleck’s speech from “Good Will Hunting” that there would be the callback.

  • Falsk

    Oh man, Plan B. You picked up the “Good Will”-ness too. I love it. Also, it could’ve been worse–we could’ve just seen the back of his head. BWAAAAM!!

  • Now if they aren’t messing with our heads at all, if what we see is exactly what we see, can anyone answer THIS: Was The Bat equipped with a refrigerator? Also, was there anti-shark-bat-repellent involved? They kept cutting back to Bats in the cockpit while it was going out to sea, it’s clear he wasn’t ghost riding it the WHOLE way in, so at what point…

    I’ve said too much.

  • Well I just got back from it. Really, really enjoyed it. Funny though as I liked a lot of the Bane imagery but it would be counter acted by his voice either being “thrown” somewhere else, or as mentioned just lyrically chatting away. Sounded like Tom Selleck trying to sound badass with that occasional squeak! Someone mentioned “The Rock” and I thought that too at one point.

    But I’m still digesting it all. A very good wrap up.

    Saw the Man of Steel Treaser in IMAX and found it as uninteresting as I did on the web. I know its a teaser not a trailer, but I don’t think it’s as profound as some seem to read into it all. Those shots of the butterfly and the kid running around the washing line, the gull etc all look like any typical commercial for a local healthcare authority (to me). Early days though…

  • there is a lot of bad direction / ideas in the film.

    Nolan does a number of scenes three times PARTICULARLY the Harvey Dent Memorial scenes at the beginning WHICH is 8 years after the fact?! And is only there to make note of why all the criminals are off the street.

    This film goes back and repeats the problems from Batmen Begins – to much philosophizing and conflicts that are not based on the personal but the societal. How Nolan forgot what worked so well in Dark Knight is mind-numbing.

    The choice of covering Bane’s face with the respirator for the entire film is misguided and robs a great actor of a chance to show more range. Why Nolan didn’t do a Darth Vader like helmut off scene, or more dramatic and risky, let Bane only receive gas thru the nostrils! (I DON”T CARE ABOUT COMICS – DIFFERENT MEDIUM)

    Nolan is a master at geeky / high concept action but he still has not learned how to direct hand to hand fighting with interesting choreography and camerawork.

    Nolan implies 5 month, 12 million siege of Gotham and we get street scenes that wouldn’t make the B roll on ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. 12 million people and the street are empty, we get fight scene between a couple hundred villains and cops – weak. (nolan no liky CGI) Nolan has displayed a clothes fetish for some time now and here it works against him as Commissioner Gordon and others run around clean streets in pressed Banana Republic!?

    WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY TOOOOOO LOOOOOOOOOONG the whole Robin stuff has no point, cut it, spare me. Nolan obliviously can not say no to any actor he has ever worked with and finds a place for them in every film (evidence – scarecrow is back)

    The Batwing was dumb and heavy, again Nolan’s fetishes do him wrong here. He loves all things practical but hanging that real prop above the street just doesn’t hold up.

    So the ending was just a sick practical joke on Alfred?! Real cool Batman

  • About the mask, in the comics (at least in the beginning, I don’t know what’s happened to the character since…), Bane didn’t even need it, and he ran around without it all the time. He was a normal looking guy for the most part. There was a drug-delivery system that he had to pump himself full of “Venom” (which was like a super steroid), but the mask still didn’t have anything to do with that.

    The city DID seem pretty deserted considering that most of the population wouldn’t have made it out. Also, are we to believe that everything was just OK at the end? What the hell happened to all the other criminals that were on the loose? It looked like everything went back to normal, including Gordon being back in charge, despite the fact that he revealed himself (in writing, whoops!) to be a co-conspirator in the covering up of the death of Harvey Dent. God, the fact that he was going to go off-script by reading his OWN script at the ceremony at the beginning is ridiculous. Yeah, that wasn’t going to fall into the wrong hands…

    I can’t believe I hadn’t mentioned this yet, but I got to be a cop in the movie when it filmed here in Pittsburgh. I’ll probably have to go over it like the Zapruder film once it hits Blu-Ray to identify myself, but I know I’m in a few shots around the time where everything goes to hell. I’m walking past Matthew Modine when that one tunnel explodes, I’m IN the tunnel when it explodes (movie magic!), and there are also a few shots before and after the explosion when the same group of cops has their flashlights and guns out. I got to drive a GCPD cop car too (which didn’t make it into the film), and while we were waiting around for half the day, me and my partners decided to give ourselves backstories so that we could make sure that we were the most fucked group of cops in movie history. I decided that I was the naive young rookie fresh out of the academy who’d never seen action before, while one of the other guys was the cop that played by his own rules, another was 3 days from retirement, and the last one had the wife that was due to give birth annnnnnny day now. If ever there was time for grim-and-gritty “Police Academy” reboot….

  • Matthew Modine – one more waste of screen time – CUT IT, DONT NEED IT, poorly written too

  • here is proof of my idea (support by planB’s comic book knowledge) that Nolan was in error covering Tom Hardy’s face:

    This Bane or BRONSON in Dark Knight Rises – which the better film? I rest my case. Nolan threw away his best tool with this costume / character direction


  • POW!

    Nolan is usually much better with utilizing his “from what straight-to-video hell did they dig up THIS guy?” actors, whether it’s someone like Michael Jai White or Eric Roberts in “Dark Knight” or Tom Berenger in “Inception”, so I was waiting for Modine to actually MATTER, but it didn’t happen. Meanwhile, I don’t really know who the actors are that played the dirty suits that got a lot of screentime in the first act, and in any other Nolan film, they would have been more recognizable character actors as well.

  • Holy shit, I forgot about Rutger Hauer in “Batman Begins”! Another good little role and performance for someone that had been off the radar! “Rises” was really missing these kind of guys, and then Oldman, Caine, and even BATMAN get robbed of screentime. Weak, dude. weak…

  • “Michael Jai White or Eric Roberts in “Dark Knight” or Tom Berenger in “Inception” -so true and the common theme between all those characters is they were there to serve the story, push it forward!

    Modine, JGL do not! (even the Harvey Dent sh*t does not push the story forward, old news, been there done that)

  • Big Hungry

    rus in chicago… I agree with alot of what you are saying.

    Another thing to note is this movie starts off with such an amazing action set (the plane) it never is able to equal that again for the whole movie.

    The twist in who the villain is in this movie really is not that interesting to me. It kind of even weakens Bane’s character.

  • James

    Reading a lot of these posts I get the feeling a lot of people in here really just can’t sit down and enjoy a good blockbuster flick. One of the better one out there. It is Batman. Also the best Batman flick put out at this point. His trilogy as a whole, I mean. People need to take a chill people and just actually enjoy watching a movie. This isn’t Transformers, so calm yourselves.

  • All we were expecting was something that was put together as well as “Dark Knight”, and we certainly didn’t get that. It was a step down in that regard. The filmmakers definitely bit off more than they could chew.

  • James – where do you go to discuss and debate the quality of films (due to your love of film) other than a film website? read my comments, they are about some basic direction flaws that Nolan should be above at this point.

  • kyri

    completely agree with all that Rus says about the film..

    bane – mask – how did ANYONE thought that was a good idea. It looked nice.. but you know what. Tits also look nice, didn’t see any of that in the film.
    I would also cut the Pit scene. a hospital would’ve been more appropriate to the “Nolan universe” *whatever that is.

    Also lack of violence in this one was a bit of a problem.. bane strangles only in wide-shots? how about a closeup? times it felt that he went out of his way to NOT portray violence on screen..

  • James

    rus in chicago- I for sure picked up on flaws in this movie. I do agree with you on one thing. That comics and film are two completely different mediums of entertainment. I just didn’t find these flaws to ruin the movie. I found that that the good outweighed the bad in The Dark Knight Rises. Was the Dark Knight a better movie? Yes. Was The Dark Knight Rises more entertaining in its spectacle? Yes. In my opinion. I feel he ended the series with a bang and in a satisfying conclusion. It is almost like Chris new he couldn’t top TDK. So instead he poured his heart out into creating one of the best all around summer blockbusters, with a little bit of though thrown in. I feel you were too harsh towards the movie. I guess agree to disagree. I was blown away with this movie still. My 200 mile drive to a town with an IMAX to finish of Nolans bat series was worth it.

  • dickweed

    How long did it take Batman to graffiti the bat symbol made of gasoline on an entire building? And why did he waste that time instead of just helping the people of Gotham?

  • Brendan

    He’s a symbol, dickweed, that’s why he did it. He inspires hope to all who saw it, which is as important to defeating Bane and his army as his actions.

    I disagree with Colin about Officer Blake never feeling important. I don’t know what film he was watching, but his importance was made know all through the movie if you were paying attention. I don’t know how to explain it better, but that’s the feeling I got.

    I felt the film did have it’s pacing issues, though. It was almost too much movie for one sitting, yet it still had some spots where it bogged down. I think it’s one of those movies that will benefit more from a re-watch due to its length.

    Here’s my nit-picky-not-at-all-important question: did Bruce wear that high-tech knee brace for the rest of the film, or did his knee get healed somehow?

    Also, nice cameo for Bruce’s doctor! Got some chuckles at my screening.

  • Just because you aren’t familiar with an actor’s entire filmography doesn’t mean they come from “straight to video hell.”

  • @37

    What I meant was that a lot of these actors that get these small supporting parts in Nolan’s films (Hauer, Roberts, White, Berenger, Modine) had been pretty much off the mainstream radar for a while. They’ve done good work in the past (and I’m sure they kept doing good work, just to a smaller audience), and it’s nice to see them again in something that people will actually pay to see, something that isn’t making it’s world premiere on the New Release shelf at Blockbuster. It looks good on the resume and it certainly can’t hurt their profile.

  • Understood. Thanks for replying.

  • sky

    I love the newest batman !!!!! it’s an amazing story thats kicks off from the very start keeps you on the edge of your seat!!!!!