Yes, even surpassing the Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy and ‘The Godfather’ Trilogy only because the third installment for each of those was the weak link. Though not the strongest film in its own Trilogy, this film can nearly stand alone, lose little in transition as an indirect sequel to ‘Batman Begins’ and neatly tie the strings from both predecessors with a minimum of fuss while delivering on the journey.
Drawing from 3 very important storylines in the Batman mythos; ‘No Man’s Land‘ (Gotham in disaster), ‘Knightfall‘ (Bane) and most importantly Frank Miller’s groundbreaking and industry changing ‘The Dark Knight Returns’, the film does at times feel a bit ‘smushed’ between the three. Set eight years from the close of ‘The Dark Knight’ (10 years in Miller’s ‘TDKR’), we find the lost soul of Bruce Wayne in need of transition. Here, to me, is one of the few failures in the script. In Miller’s ‘TDKR’, Bruce is an older retired bored still physically imposing but brooding man waiting to find the right death suitable to a crime-fighter of his former self…. in ‘Rises’ we have a Howard Hughes-esque recluse, a shell of the vibrant crime-fighter who traveled the world, who simply withdrew from the world and appears to be waiting for something worthwhile to do in the cape n’ cowl (Alfred has to elude it may be his death). If the script had simply given three minutes more screen time and explanation to this (aside from the Rachel Dawes tidbits), I feel a lot of the story would have situated itself better in the following acts.
That said, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is still a worthy closure to such a hard-hitting epic telling of a comic book journey. As usual, Nolan takes us on the realistic journey of such a legendary fictional universe and delivers us a cast of characters who we easily can recognize with in both scope and circumstance. Just as with ‘The Dark Knight’, we are again shown a comic book world that we easily can watch in awe telling ourselves “Yeah, I can see that happening in today’s society.” And that was the idea that clicked in the very first ‘Batman’ back in 1989 before it got so lost in its sequels… the idea that finally brought Marvel’s comic book heroes to the forefront in the last decade… realism. Comic Books have, for several decades, not been about good versus evil and Boys saves Girl but about the realistic approach these fictional characters, be they hero or villain, take to their lives. ‘Rises’ like ‘Spider-Man’, ‘Iron Man’ and its own ‘Batman Begins’ fulfills that promise (unlike Spidey and Stark as their sequels never lived up to the original).
With great turns from returning stars like Bale and Oldman we get just as great support from Nolan players such as Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and of course Michael Caine in a slightly more limited turn.
Though not perfect in the ‘Bat’ scheme of things, it certainly does reach epic. Popcorn, SnoCaps and no bathroom breaks!