I already had my ticket for tonight’s 12:10am screening of The Dark Knight Rises before I got invited to Warner Bros. Canada’s advance screening last night. I’m going to write two reviews - one with my first impressions from the advance screening, and another after a second viewing the very next day.
Batman Begins was a comic book movie. The Dark Knight was fresh and surprising because it wasn’t a comic book movie - it was a cop movie with Batman as one of the characters. The Dark Knight Rises is another complete departure because it’s a war movie with Batman as one of the characters.
My first impression of The Dark Knight Rises after last night’s advance screening was that it’s better than The Dark Knight. A lot of people are going to argue with me on that point and I predict that the audience will be pretty evenly divided on this issue, but I suspect that the reasons I thought it was so great are going to be the same reasons why other people will say it didn’t measure up.
The fact is that while The Dark Knight was a huge departure from what we expected in a comic book movie, the presence of The Joker added a level of sensationalism that kept a certain summer blockbuster, ‘popcorn’ feel intact. The Dark Knight Rises has no similar touchstone, leaving the audience - like Batman in the film - set adrift to wonder how we’ll ever get back to reality. The Joker, evil as he was, stayed ‘cuddly’. Bane is just a bad, scary motherf***er. He’s wearing a mask so Tom Hardy has to do all of his acting with his eyes, and what chilling eyes they are.
The “is it better than Avengers?” question will be inevitable, even though they’re completely different movies trying to do different things. It would be like comparing Big and Saving Private Ryan based on the fact that they both star Tom Hanks. But with that said, The Avengers got by on spectacle and exuberance. It was the ultimate thrill ride of a movie, but we never wondered how it would all end up (maybe because so much of the final scenes were in the trailer). The Dark Knight Rises is heavy. You feel like you’ve been through an intense experience and it took some time after the credits started rolling for me to come back to my senses and remember that it was just a movie.
The bloody thing is 2 hours and 45 minutes long, but it moves along at a brisk pace. Maybe even too brisk - if I had a complaint, it would be that certain sequences could have used a bit more breathing room. But by the time we reach the thrilling, emotionally-charged final scenes, you’re so wrapped up in it that you’ve forgotten about all of that.
I’m thinking about how The Dark Knight is the kind of movie you want to watch again and again, but The Dark Knight Rises is not. But that’s the same thing with Apocalypse Now. It’s a great movie, but it’s so heavy and draining that it’s not something you want to put on as background while you’re doing dishes or surfing the ‘net.
Come back tomorrow for my thoughts on having seen the movie twice in two days…