The Dark Knight Rises – what the early reviews are saying

A round-up of the first critical responses from the US to Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale’s final entry in the Batman trilogy…

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Can the concluding part of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy impress the critics as much as The Dark Knight did? Will the shadow of Heath Ledger’s psychotic Joker loom too large even for Tom Hardy’s cunning, brutal villain Bane? And, with the superhero franchise now the holy grail for Hollywood studios, is there somewhere for Warner Brothers to take this after Christian Bale?

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Here’s a sample of what the early reviews from the US are saying…

The Hollywood Reporter appreciated The Dark Knight Rises’ mix of comic book fantasy and socio-political reality, calling it “big-time Hollywood filmmaking at its most massively accomplished” and making favourable comparisons with Marvel’s recent prolific movie output:

“This last instalment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy makes everything in the rival Marvel universe look thoroughly silly and childish. Entirely enveloping and at times unnerving in a relevant way one would never have imagined, as a cohesive whole this ranks as the best of Nolan’s trio, even if it lacks – how could it not? – an element as unique as Heath Ledger’s immortal turn in The Dark Knight. It’s a blockbuster by any standard.”

Time Out called The Dark Knight Rises “a sprawling, epic feast of a movie, stuffed to the gills with side characters, subplots and diversions,” admitting that “if the balance skews in favour of grandstanding action rather than emotional resonance, of statuesque icons rather than real people, we can let it slide.”

Their reviewer was not the first – and won’t be the last – to reference the absence of Heath Ledger but admitted that performances like his, and characters like the Joker, are few and far between: “There’s nothing here to match the intensity of Heath Ledger’s Joker, and the movie feels weaker for it. But that was a one-off, and the show must go on.”

For the most part, Nolan’s vision, and his well-documented insistence on shooting as much of the movie as possible using real sets and props, impressed Time Out: “Sublimating CGI in favour of real crowd scenes and massive cityscapes, Nolan creates a grand, dirty, engrossing world, and his action sequences just hum.” 

Variety called The Dark Knight Rises “an exhilarating, exhausting 164 minutes” and a worthy, if not quite as accomplished, follow-up to the previous film.

“If it never quite matches the brilliance of 2008’s The Dark Knight, this hugely ambitious action-drama nonetheless retains the moral urgency and serious-minded pulp instincts that have made the Warners franchise a beacon of integrity in an increasingly comicbook-driven Hollywood universe. Global box office domination awaits.”

All in all, it’s been an extremely positive initial reception for a film that had much to live up to. The question now is, with both Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale bowing out, can Warner Brothers find a way to keep its much-prized superhero franchise alive?

For an opinion on that, we’ll return to The Hollywood Reporter, which said: “The final shot clearly indicates the direction a follow-up offshoot series by Warner Brothers will likely take.”

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And while that may not be giving very much away, we can at least speculate as to what it might mean… Catwoman Begins, anyone…?