Warner Bros. has lifted the review embargo for The Dark Knight Rises, opening the floodgates for critics from around the movie blogosphere to weigh in with their thoughts about Christopher Nolan’s climactic chapter to his grisly Caped Crusader trilogy. The film is as critic-proof as they come, yet the question lingers: Is it the crown jewel in a popular blockbuster franchise, which has been lauded as much for technical achievements as for storytelling merits (Toy Story 3)? Or does it buckle under the weight of bloated expectations, as has happened with many a trilogy finale in the past (The Godfather: Part III, Spider-Man 3)?
Scroll on down to read some SPOILER-FREE samples culled from some the first Dark Knight Rises reviews to hit the Web, and see what you think (check in later this week for Screen Rant‘s official review of the film).
Few blockbusters have borne so heavy a burden of audience expectation as Christopher Nolan’s final Batman caper, and the filmmaker steps up to the occasion with a cataclysmic vision of Gotham City under siege in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Running an exhilarating, exhausting 164 minutes, Nolan’s trilogy-capping epic sends Batman to a literal pit of despair, restoring him to the core of a legend that questions, and powerfully affirms, the need for heroism in a fallen world. If it never quite matches the brilliance of 2008′s “The Dark Knight,” this hugely ambitious action-drama nonetheless retains the moral urgency and serious-minded pulp instincts that have made the Warners franchise a beacon of integrity in an increasingly comicbook-driven Hollywood universe.
The real world threats of terrorism, political anarchy and economic instability make deep incursions into the cinematic comic book domain in The Dark Knight Rises. Big-time Hollywood filmmaking at its most massively accomplished, this last installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy makes everything in the rival Marvel universe look thoroughly silly and childish. Entirely enveloping and at times unnerving in a relevant way one would never have imagined, as a cohesive whole this ranks as the best of Nolan’s trio, even if it lacks — how could it not? — an element as unique as Heath Ledger’s immortal turn in The Dark Knight. It’s a blockbuster by any standard.
The film has several exciting action set-pieces, many of which utilize the aerial vehicle The Bat, but none of which provoke the kind of jaw-dropping reaction that the truck flip did in The Dark Knight. Still, there are enough brawls, chases, and stuff going boom to satisfy hungry action fans. The battle in the streets pitting Bane’s army against Batman and the GCPD is quite a sight to behold in IMAX. Speaking of which, far more of this film was shot in IMAX than The Dark Knight, but the transitions here between full screen IMAX and the almost “letterbox” effect of regular film can be jarring. That said, IMAX really is the best way to watch this movie. The aforementioned gripes aside, director Christopher Nolan and his team have delivered the grandest, most emotional and superheroic chapter in their Batman saga. The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting emotional and narrative conclusion to this particular interpretation of the enduring story of Bruce Wayne the man and Batman the legend.
From Coming Soon:
Rather than drawing from the comics, Nolan instills real world issues into his Gotham City with a conflict that forays into corporal punishment, the stock exchange and ideas for sustainable energy–all things we might regularly read about in the papers, which either will make the situations more relatable or will have you rolling your eyes at having politics mixed in with your entertainment. Making a story that revolves around the distinction between Gotham’s haves and have nots—something that’s permeating many works of fiction right now–may seem fairly hypocritical for a filmmaker who is probably living as comfortably as Bruce Wayne by now. Fortunately, many of these issues are at least partially forgotten once Bane finally emerges in the Gotham daylight and we see the scope of his master plan to terrorize Gotham City. [Nolan] also figures out a convincing way to wrap everything up in a nice bow, making one feel like he’s created a bonafide Batman story in three movies that can stand up on its own merits completely separate from the comics or any previous incarnations.
From Hit Fix:
The technical side of things is sharper than ever before, and if this really is the last film that Wally Pfister shoots, he’s going out in style. Even more of this film was shot with IMAX cameras than “The Dark Knight,” and it makes for some breathtaking visual moments that match the emotional impact of the film’s operatic final act. Hans Zimmer’s work here is brutal, percussive, borderline crazy. It feels like things are starting to shake to pieces, like the entire world is about to implode. I found the final movement of the film, a good thirty minutes or so, almost unbearably emotional, and I think it may be the best stretch in any of the films. There are some logic issues I have with parts of the film, and we’ll get into those in the “Second Look,” but there is a clean, uncompromised emotional arc that steamrolls those problems for me, and I think the film more than fulfills the promise made by the first two films. ["The Dark Knight Rises"] confirms that these films have always had an endgame in mind, and it has been a remarkable ride, one I would not want to follow. Whoever Warner Bros hires to reboot the “Batman” films a few years from now, I wish you luck. The bar is as high as it could possibly be.
From The Playlist:
In a season filled with big movies that somehow ask even bigger questions, “The Dark Knight Rises” feels like the superego to its competition’s id. An action opus that manages at to be both viscerally and intellectually engaging, Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated third Batman film comes full circle, examining both the Dark Knight and the society that produced him without sacrificing any of the sweeping thrills for which the series is known. A literate, thoughtful and invigorating finale, “The Dark Knight Rises” delivers everything audiences ask for and then some, albeit in fewer of the ways that they might expect. If, as Badass Digest argues, “The Avengers” “defeated irony and cynicism,” then “The Dark Knight Rises” feels like the rock-bottom, lowest-point examination of ourselves which provides the substance to make Joss Whedon’s optimistic vision endure. Because Nolan’s film is a reminder that superheroes aren’t merely a frivolous distraction, or even a wish-fulfillment fantasy, but an embodiment of our best selves – or at least what we want our best selves to be. A cinematic, cultural and personal triumph, “The Dark Knight Rises” is emotionally inspiring, aesthetically significant and critically important for America itself – as a mirror of both sober reflection and resilient hope.
Here’s a breakdown of the initial critical reaction to Dark Knight Rises:
- Nolan’s final Batman film captures the current cultural zeitgeist by touching on timely social issues. That aspect of TDKR could be regarded as preachy by some, insightful by others, depending on their own perspective.
- The IMAX footage is magnificent and demands to be seen in that format. The mixture of regular and IMAX material in TDKR can be shaky at times, but it’s nonetheless an important step forward for the use of said technology as a cinematic storytelling tool.
- TDKR does offer a satisfying sense of closure to Nolan’s interpretation of the Bruce Wayne story. Many moviegoers are going to walk away feeling not only emotionally-satisfied, but also that they’ve just seen the best installment in Nolan’s Batman trilogy (though, obviously, there’ll be disagreement on that point).
Click on the links to any of the aforementioned online publications, to read their full Dark Knight Rises review. Most of them also include insight on where new additions Bane (Tom Hardy) and Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) rank, in terms of staples from the Batman comics who’ve been brought to life in Nolan’s Dark Knight saga.
Sandy Schaefer blogs at Screen Rant.