african-american directors series: summer of soul (ahmir-khalib thompson, 2021)
geezer cinema: the tomorrow war (chris mckay, 2021)

the dark knight rises (christopher nolan, 2012)

I'm not a completist when it comes to franchise films, but I have seen a lot of Batmans, so when I realized I hadn't seen the last film in Christopher Nolan's trilogy, I cranked it up, and liked it, as I had the other two. I like Nolan a lot, although I'm not sure I knew that before I started writing this. In a list I update on a very erratic schedule, I have him ranked as my 40th favorite director of all time, between Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese, and if I hadn't used some complicated system to come up with that list, I would never have remembered to even include him. Part of it is his consistency ... of the 8 (now 9) Nolan films I have seen, none of them have gotten ratings lower than 7/10.

The Dark Knight Rises is as good as the first in the trilogy, Batman Begins. Both of those films are overshadowed by The Dark Knight, which is the great one of the three, but both are solid. Comparing it to one of the Tim Burton Batmans, I wrote of Batman Begins, "For me, Batman Returns has a depth that is lacking in the new film, but Batman Begins suggests better sequels ... there was nothing to do after Batman Returns other than succumb to camp." I think Nolan pulled that off ... The Dark Knight does not succumb to camp. I said about that one, "Batman, he's one disturbed fellow, and the best Batman texts also add a disturbed villain or two to the mix." Well, the Joker was so disturbed, and Heath Ledger so great, that you hardly cared about Batman, but it didn't matter ... Ledger/Joker is the reason The Dark Knight is the greatest of the trilogy. The Dark Knight Rises puts Batman back in the foreground. It's not easy ... Tom Hardy's Bane is pretty fucked up, and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman is always distracting us with her fine performance. But Bruce Wayne really is a mess in The Dark Knight Rises, and the picture is better for it.

It's hard to imagine a more impressive cast than the one put together for this movie (John Papsidera and Toby Whale did the casting). There are six Oscar winners (and Michael Caine has won two). Tom Hardy has an Oscar nomination, and even Joseph Gordon-Levitt has two Emmys. All that fire power works against the film in some ways, though, or rather, there are a lot of important characters and each needs screen time, resulting in a movie that is at times over-stuffed. We play catchup on Bruce Wayne (miserable) and Commissioner Gordon (guilt-ridden). Bane has a backstory that needs telling, and then there are newcomers Catwoman (never called that by name) and Robin (sorry, I guess that's a spoiler). Marion Cotillard's character is new, and key to the plot. Getting around all of these folks gets confusing at times, and that is one reason the film is so long (164 minutes).

But I don't want to sound too negative. While I usually find attempts to supply depth to characters in action movies to be a waste of time, here those attempts add to the film. The relationship between Bruce and Alfred is well-played (although again, Alfred disappears for a long time because there are too many other things to get to). Tom Hardy is hampered by a mask and an odd accent, but Anne Hathaway is a great Catwoman (and there have been some great ones in the past, even if not all of their vehicles were good: Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway, and upcoming, Zoë Kravitz). The action is intelligible, without an over-reliance on CGI. The Dark Knight Rises is a good movie that has to deal with being the follow-up to a great one. #903 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century.


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