Best movie of the summer?

The Dark Knight Rises features an aging Batman who rises to face a new threat. (Photo by marvelousRoland, used under Creative Commons License.)

By Jake O’Bannon

Have you ever been in a church service where the pastor gives away the main point of the sermon at the beginning rather than in the conclusion? Their goal is to put out what they want you to know right off that bat – they want to make sure you know what they are trying to tell you. Well, I am about to do the same to you, so here it goes: The Dark Knight Rises was the best movie of the summer and concluded one of the Top 5 movie trilogies of all time.

Am I making a decision based on the fact that I am a “Batman-Super-Fan?” Probably. But at least I am admitting that to you up front, right? Don’t get me wrong: I have reasons for my obsession with the third installment of the Christopher Nolan Batman series. The reasons come down to three simple categories: casting, writing, and the trilogy as a whole.

Christian Bale (Batman) and Tom Hardy (Bane) alone make for an appealing cast, but when you add Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine, you have a Dream Team. And speaking of the Dream Team, let’s play a game. Think about whom you would pick if you were able to choose each of the characters in The Dark Knight Rises. Seriously, it could be anybody. Nicholas Cage could be your Bane, the lead singer from Nickelback could be Commissioner Gordon – it’s up to you!

The funny thing is, when I play that game I cannot think of anyone else besides the actual cast to fill those spots. I believe that is a testament to how well casted this film truly was. There is no denying that the cast was pretty much made up of an ensemble of past Nolan movies like The Prestige (Bale and Caine) and Inception (Gordon-Levitt, Hardy, Cotillard, and Cillian Murphy), but there is also no denying the power of that crew.

Take for example the biggest question mark of the film going into the premiere: Anne Hathaway. When I saw she was going to play Catwoman all I could think about was the fact that Ella Enchanted was going to be tagging along with Batman. But honestly, she was stunning. She played the role with both ferocity and sensitivity (characteristics of an actual cat, am I right?). The leads were unbelievable as well, with Bale continuing his role of the Dark Knight, and Hardy portraying one of the most haunting villains I have ever seen (though I still give the nod to Ledger’s Joker). But my biggest surprise from the film was Michael Caine, who plays Alfred the Butler. Do you ever have moments in a film where you can’t wait for a character to make an appearance? This is how it was for me with Caine. Each and every scene he was in brought me to the verge of tears, and his presence alone brought a sense of both calmness and passion to the screen. I cannot compliment the casting and the acting in this film enough.

Listen, I understand that there have been some scattered negative reviews of the film. But how could there not be when it followed one of the greatest movies of all time (The Dark Knight)? Here is why I cannot give this film any kind of negative review: The Dark Knight Rises cannot be looked at as just one movie because it is the conclusion of a narrative. Through Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises, director Christopher Nolan has created a whole new image of Batman. Instead of the confident, somewhat flawless Batman of the past, we find a Batman who is unsure of himself. This Batman is not only the hunter of evil, but the hunted of good. This Batman takes on the role that is necessary for the greater good, no matter what it does to his image.

As far as I’m concerned that’s the formula for a true hero – someone who looks outside himself in order to look out for others. Nolan’s Dark Knight gives us an image of that through his trilogy. The movie was fantastic, but the trilogy as a whole was a masterpiece. I could go on and on about minor details in the film, or how Nolan changed superhero movies forever, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the film: “A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a little boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.” Let the words of Batman be a reminder that any one of us can be a hero. Are we available to rise up to that challenge?

  1. If this bloated, overlong, loud, stupidly grim, plot-hole-filled mess is the “best” the summer has to offer, I’ll do without a best, thanks. Nolan can’t direct action, he has no idea how to trim flab, his dialogue is laughable (and he’s got a tin ear when it comes to voices, too), his understanding of how the real world works is completely undone by his massive ego, and as for the women in his films– wait. What women? Slap some boobs on a cliche and call it a day. Keep your fanboy delusions to yourself, buddykins; as for me, I can wait for a real “best.”

  2. Agree to disagree, kind sir.

    Firstly, let me concede to you that Dark Knight Rises, was a very good movie, and certainly of the best of the summer. However. It was also the worst of the trilogy, and the story left much to be desired. There is one fatal flaw which did much to weaken the overall effectiveness of the movie. That flaw was the twist ending. I don’t know how many people have seen the movie so I will be as general as possible. I am not talking about the “twist” that came in the last 5 minutes of the movie. I am talking about the twist that came with about 30 minutes of film left, when the main conflict of the movie was trivialized and then replaced with an unconvincing, weakly developed conflict, that died in a car accident 15 minutes later.

    If you would like to see the real best movie of the summer, please be so kind as to treat yourself to the Avengers. Though it does not have the depth of themes that Dark Knight Rises has, it at least has internal consistency.

  3. Ah, I disagree with you on the plot twist, Ex-President Carson. Granted, it would still have been a strong movie had there not been that twist, but it was the twist that made me go back to theaters to watch it a second time. That second time allowed me to pick up on little clues throughout and see a greater amount of consistency. Indeed, the first time I watched it, Bane’s plan seemed convoluted and haphazard, but the second viewing made it clearer.

    I think plot twists are the greatest strength of Christopher Nolan’s story-telling. Batman Begins, Inception, Memento, The Prestige, and even his lesser-known early work Following all include memorable and surprising shifts towards the end.

    (I also loved The Avengers. I’m excited to see what Joss Whedon can do with the S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot.)

    1. I still disagree. I thought the plot twist was unwarranted and ultimately damaging to the overall effectiveness of story. But for the sake of argument lets say the you are correct, and the plot twist was indeed a necessary element in the plot. There are yet still further foibles which keep Dark Knight Rises from being the best movie of the summer. I am primarily speaking about Nolan’s character development. Jake, is correct that Nolan’s casting was superb. Hardy, Hathaway, and Cotillard were all admirable additions to Nolan’s all-star lineup. However, the trouble is that Nolan added so many new characters that were haphazardly developed throughout the movie that he took precious minutes away from his more important characters.

      Take for example Catwoman’s little sidekick, little miss what’s-her-name (seriously, does anyone actually know what her name was?). She is introduced three or four different times in the movie, and yet by the end of the film we know almost nothing about her character or what happens to her. we don’t even know what became of her at the end of the movie. Did she die? Did she escape? We have no idea.

      Another example is the other police guy vying for Gordon’s job. Yet another character who’s name I neither know nor care to know. He is ill-developed throughout the movie only to be “tragically” killed by the end of the movie. Why was he at all necessary. At the end of the movie when he dies we are all left wondering “wait, what was his name again?” “Are we supposed to be sad right now?”

      The introduction of these ultimately unnecessary characters detracted from the characters that we wanted to know more about. The addition of too many ill-developed characters made the movie too busy and further hurt the overall effectiveness of the film.

      If you would care to see the best movie of the summer, please treat yourself to “The Moonrise Kingdom.” (although prepare yourself for a series of awkward and uncomfortable scenes about halfway through the movie).