“The Dark Knight Rises” was released on DVD and Blu-ray today, and so I’m re-posting my review that I wrote after seeing the film on opening day. I’m not too embarassed by it yet.
It’s always difficult to figure out how to clearly categorize or define one of Chris Nolan’s films in his Batman trifecta, and none more than “The Dark Knight Rises.” Nolan has always brought his auteur-ish artistry to his projects, even when we’re talking huge mega-blockbusters that basically everyone has been waiting for. But when you boil down and strip everything else away, who is left fighting the eternal battle of good-vs.-evil in “The Dark Knight Rises” that Nolan has molded into something deeper and more philosophical, smarter and more noir-ish than anything else in recent years? Superheroes. Even if Nolan’s superheroes aren’t gifted with fantastical superhuman abilities, and are mortal, damaged, hurt humans like you and me, there’s no denying the roots of “The Dark Knight Rises.” The pure childish escapism of the source material — comic books — cannot be fully supressed, and no matter how well Nolan transforms it and crafts it into something that is artistically superior, something that doesn’t look or sound or feel like something coming from a comic book — it still does.
So what can and what does Nolan do with this movie? He doesn’t cast away the fanboy origins, because he can’t without rejecting the entire story of Batman himself, and instead completely displaces this comic book movie by dumping it into our dirty, noisy modern world. He makes a superhero movie that attempts and succeeds in tackling the instability, the insecurity, the chaos of our current post-9/11, Occupy Wall Street state of affairs with the 99% forever pitted against the 1%. There are still somewhat cheesy one-liners here and there, plenty of geeky technology to drool over, and thrilling action sequences that involve a lot of thugs being flipped over by a guy in a batsuit. But Nolan infuses a terrifyingly now sensibility into the clean and prefabricated world of superheroes, even more than he did with the casually violent anarchy of the Joker in “The Dark Knight.” The result might be an imperfect movie, yes, that struggles with structure and pacing. But there’s no hiding the potent power “The Dark Knight Rises” casually carries within itself, and no denying that the entire audience feels the full extent of it, at least one time or another during the nearly three hours of complete runtime.