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What Worked & What Didn't In 'The Dark Knight Rises'

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist July 23, 2012 at 3:20PM

Over an unexpected and sad weekend, "The Dark Knight Rises," a film anticipated by millions for several years at this point, finally came to theaters. And judging by the film's opening weekend, thought to be around $160 million and the biggest ever for a 2D film, most of you caught it this weekend, unbowed by the sad events of early Friday morning in Colorado.
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Christian Bale The  Dark Knight Rises

Over an unexpected and sad weekend, "The Dark Knight Rises," a film anticipated by millions for several years at this point, finally came to theaters. And judging by the film's opening weekend, thought to be around $160 million and the biggest ever for a 2D film, most of you caught it this weekend, unbowed by the sad events of early Friday morning in Colorado.

The Playlist team have now caught up with it and, very unusually, it's loved across the board (at least for the most part). But all that is not to say the film is without fault. Now that the film's in theaters, and that many if not most of you have seen it, we wanted to dig in a little deeper than our spoiler-free review and examine what worked what didn't in "The Dark Knight Rises." Check our thoughts, and let us know how you feel about the film in the comments section. And as you might imagine, **major spoilers are ahead**.   

What Worked
 

The Dark Knight Rises Bane Stock Exchange
It's thematically rich.
The real innovation that Christopher Nolan brought to the superhero movie was making films that reflect some of the major concerns of our day, and it's a tradition that's firmly upheld in "The Dark Knight Rises." The Occupy Wall Street link was perhaps over-exagerrated in the lead up to its release, but the feel of discontent in the air over economic iniquity is a demonstration of the extent to which Nolan can capture the zeitgeist so well (particularly as the film was in production before OWS was in production). And while the plot doesn't make a lot of sense when you think about it (surely proving fraud is easy when a masked man brings guns into the stock exchange?), using the stock market to ruin Bruce Wayne is a sophisticated and modern way of getting to Batman and bringing down a billionaire playboy. But it's really a slightly more distant event that lingers over the film -- 9/11. Whereas the Joker felt like a little boy wanting someone to play with, Bane and Talia are simply fanatics, pure evil wanting to tear everything apart, and their attacks on symbolic landmarks (bridges, football stadiums) feels like a dagger right to the heart of not just Gotham, but of America itself. And then there's the concept of a French Revolution-style coup in an American city, which is then left to fend for itself; Bane tears up the basic fundamentals of the Constitution -- liberty, justice, and yes, even capitalism. And while parallels are never explicitly drawn, it's clear that like most mass murderers in history, he's a man hijacking a populist cause for his own means. More interesting still is the way the film's politics serve almost as a Rorschach test; you can absolutely make the case for Nolan advocating an authoritarian approach, but you can equally argue for Nolan showing the importance of the collective rather than individuals (Batman can't save the day on his own), and the responsibility of the wealthy to look after the less fortunate (Bruce is only freed when he gives up his company and wealth, donating his house for use as an orphanage).

The Dark Knight Rises Gordon-Levitt Bus Bridge
It's got real stakes and real ambition.
Even those who don't like the work have to admire the scope of Christopher Nolan's films, and "The Dark Knight Rises" is certainly his most ambitious film to date (he wasn't kidding when he said "A Tale of Two Cities" was his inspiration). It's positively novelistic in its approach, taking place over a six-month span (at least), with at least five major characters and dozens of other speaking roles. And all that while melding a genuinely kick-ass blockbuster to something with a little more thematic substance and shooting it on a giant scale -- multiple locations, thousands upon thousands of extras. It'll be a long time before anyone else attempts something on this grand scale in the super hero genre -- except perhaps for Nolan himself. And all the way through, the stakes are sky high. Perhaps because you know that it's the last installment, nothing is guaranteed, and as things get worse and worse, it becomes almost unfathomable that Batman and his allies will be able to turn things around. As the finale comes around, Nolan keeps ratcheting up the tension, adding more and more elements, with the death of millions on the line. The nuclear bomb might be a familiar device, but there's a good reason for that, and the victory, when earned, feels hard-fought.

This article is related to: The Dark Knight Rises, Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Hans Zimmer, Features, Christopher Nolan


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