The Dark Knight Trilogy: Concluded
It would be hard to communicate the sheer unmoving anticipation that previewed my viewing of Chris Nolan’s, “The Dark Knight Rises.” I’ve been a Batman geek since boyhood and anticipated the first entry from Warner Brothers into the Batman mythos a good year before it came out.
By Summer of 2004 the script had leaked for “Batman Begins,” and I had had read it a good 4 or 5 times. And yet, I’d have to wait another year to see my dream finally realized: a big-screen, serious, intense Batman movie that was beginning to sound like a first of its kind.
Fast forward to 3 weeks prior to opening day of, “BB.” My excitement was at its tipping point and I could only count with numbing anticipation the 21 days that remained. It was torture to come to the theater knowing that I hadn’t come for this amazing film but, rather, Ron Howard’s period drama, “Cinderella Man.” The film was great but I’d already seen it once and all I could think was, “I’ll be watching Batman here in less than a month.” Turns out, as was my luck, I would be watching Batman there in less than an hour.
When I found out there was a press screening to which even some of the general public was invited, I began panning ridiculous offers for anyone’s ticket: $50, offered one guy $75. Nobody wanted to part ways with those amazing tickets. My heart broke but at the last minute my friend Sam was able to scoop up 2 from a nice old couple that would’ve rather seen Cinderella Man (s0 they said. Perhaps they were the nicest people on the planet and realized making a young man’s dreams come true meant more to them than seeing the first in one of many a summer’s blockbuster). We traded and as I stood in line with Sam I couldn’t believe what was happening.
The viewing came and the viewing went and my anticipation for those three weeks to go by only expidited. It was the first time a Batman movie felt like a Batman movie and it rocked the comic book movie world for what will probably the unforeseeable future.
Fast forward again to 2008. I’m between my Freshman and Sophomore year in college (you probably thought I was younger than that from reading the previous paragraph; yes I was a comic geek even as a mid-level highschooler). Though my anticipation took on a cooler, less outwardly nerd-like vibe (thanks college!), its inner drive was perhaps even stronger than my desire to see Batman Begins as I finally had my second Batman-Wish come true: to see the Joker in a way that was scary and unnervingly funny on screen.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that my wish was well beyond fulfilled as, “The Dark Knight,” fully redefined comic-book films for all time thanks in good part to what many consider to be the best portrayal of a villain on screen; Heath Ledger and Chris Nolan’s “Joker,” became a pop-culture icon; the realization that Jack Nicholson didn’t have a corner on the Clown Prince of Crime. And with Ledgers tragic death coming weeks before the film’s release, the audiences felt the macabre humor down in their bones: a chilling performance whose role was surrounded with mystery and intrigue and one which won over enough members of the Academy to earn Ledger a posthumous “Best Supporting Actor.”
The film came and went driven by Ledger’s performance which served to some criticism that, “The Dark Knight,” wasn’t a Batman movie as much as it was a “Joker movie.” If I’m to be truthful I agree with the critique but, as many pointed out, that really isn’t an entirely negative thing as the performance was worthy of the attention the narrative gave it.
So fast forward once more to 2012: a summer for comic geeks (as the last couple of summers had been). At this point one could exchange “comic geeks,” for, “the general public,” thanks in HUGE part to Nolan and his previous 2 Batman films. I would be awfully glib if I didn’t spare some of that credit for Jon Favreau’s, “Iron Man,” Kenneth Branagh’s, “Thor,” Sam Raimi’s, “Spiderman 1&2″ and Joss Whedon’s, “The Avengers.” The last of those titles was released just over a month before the most anticipated movie of all time was to be released: Chris Nolan’s, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
If any film had to live up to the “threequel challenge,” it was this film. If any director could rise to face that challenge, it was undoubtedly Christopher Nolan who at this point has become a household name due in great amount not only to his Batman movies but also to the two films he had produced in the years between the comic franchise: “The Prestige,” which still sits top shelf amongst Chris Nolan’s entries for me, and “Inception,” a film that taught studios that, with the right balance, surreal, ambitious, risky films could be great and audience-winning.
And yet, though Nolan had received much accolade without so much as a hint of negativity, there was still that question lingering as everyone entered the theater to see his last installment in the Bat-Franchise: can this be better than the standard-setter that was, “The Dark Knight”
And that brings us full circle to my (now shorter) review of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
I don’t feel I have much to add to Rob’s previous two entries regarding the film except perhaps to clarify where we would differ. If you read both of Rob’s entries (which really should be considered Parts A and B of the same review), you’ll see a perfectly summarized overview of the film and his feelings (and a good amount of my feelings) about it. Where we split however is where we felt the film lands in terms of Bat-Saga and in terms of Nolan-Saga.
Rob concluded that, while he absolutely had a blast and truly loved, “The Dark Knight Rises,” it fell just shy of “The Dark Knight,” due in part to Ledger’s iconic performance but also, as he cited, for “personal reasons,” as much as anything else. It is for the same personal reasons that I feel, “The Dark Knight Rises,” is not only the best Batman film to date, but the best Comic Book film to date, overpowering, “The Dark Knight” on sheer storytelling and scale (which I’d say cranks it up at least another 6 or 7 notches in terms of scope and character arcs.)
Though I can still confidently say that Heath Ledger’s, “Joker,” is hands-down the best comic villain (or any-movie villain) to grace the big screen, I can no longer say that, “The Dark Knight,” is the best comic book film to hit the big screen. In my book, “The Dark Knight Rises,” now sits as king
What the film lacks in villain-esque iconicity, it gains and replaces what the former film lacked: Batman iconicity.
This is aboslutely a Batman’s Batman movie. I nearly raised to my feet and cheered as I finally felt that fulfilment that, “this is how Batman is supposed to be.”; a carthatic closesing chapter on a young-boy’s-turned-to-young-man’s indulgent fantasy. Wether it was the final acts of Bruce in the prison or in the final 2 acts altogether, I finally felt i could say that the definitive Batman movie had now been made.
See the film twice. There’s so much going on that you’ll feel the pull to inevitably buy two more tickets once the credits role. You’ll also want to relive the final two acts as I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve felt that kind of rush and I know I’m one of many who shares that sentiment.
As a Batman fan I’m sad to see the trilogy conclude but only because I feel the film cannot be topped. Nolan is exiting the franchise and though I, of course, anticipate who will helm the next installment in the Batman-on-Screen mythology, I feel I can confidently say that it and every other comic-film made from here on out will have to live up to, “The Dark Knight Rises.”