The weight on Christopher Nolan’s shoulders coming into The Dark Knight Rises was roughly equivalent to a skyscraper with an elephant on top. He knocked The Dark Knight out of the park (and out of the city limits), so the anticipation and expectations for the follow-up seemed so high that it was difficult to imagine anyone leaping over the bar. But this is Nolan – a director who should get his own Wheaties box.
Audiences still have a while to wait before passing judgment, but early reviews are in, and the consensus is that the film demolishes those high expectations along with Gotham.
Here’s a quick recap of what critics are saying so far:
Justin Chang, Variety
Running an exhilarating, exhausting 164 minutes, Nolan’s trilogy-capping epic sends Batman to a literal pit of despair, restoring him to the core of a legend that questions, and powerfully affirms, the need for heroism in a fallen world. 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.
Edward Douglas, Coming Soon
The story isn’t quite as solid as “The Dark Knight” and the main villains aren’t quite as memorable, but having a director with such a strong vision and conviction to fulfill it makes Nolan’s Batman finale pay off at least as a bookend to “Batman Begins” even if it may require quite a bit more patience than both previous films.
Todd Gilchrist, The Playlist
Nolan’s film is a reminder that superheroes aren’t merely a frivolous distraction, or even a wish-fulfillment fantasy, but an embodiment of our best selves – or at least what we want our best selves to be. A cinematic, cultural and personal triumph, “The Dark Knight Rises” is emotionally inspiring, aesthetically significant and critically important for America itself – as a mirror of both sober reflection and resilient hope.
Tom Huddleston, Time Out London
As its running time suggests, “The Dark Knight Rises” is a sprawling, epic feast of a movie, stuffed to the gills with side characters, subplots and diversions. So 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. 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.
Matthew Leyland, Total Film
The director and his co-writer/younger sib Jonathan have cooked up their most ambitious scheme yet, bunging faith, idealism, social revolution (via Charles Dickens!) and a combustible crisis that could backbone an entire season of 24 into the blender.
As the scale and stakes balloon, Nolan maintains taut control; if anything the storytelling coheres sharper than “The Dark Knight.” The trick lies in holding fast to what he – and we – care most about: the cost to a (Bat)man’s body and soul. This time, it’s painfully personal.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
The real world threats of terrorism, political anarchy and economic instability make deep incursions into the cinematic comic book domain in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Big-time Hollywood filmmaking at its most massively accomplished, this last installment of Christopher Nolan‘s Batman trilogy makes everything in the rival Marvel universe look thoroughly silly and childish.
Drew McWeeny, HitFix
The clock has always been ticking for Bruce Wayne. The shadow of death hangs over this entire series, and while I think it is a great film, an impressive film, “The Dark Knight Rises” is a film I cannot easily describe in terms of fun.
Some people want fun from their comic book characters, and I don’t fault them for that. There are incarnations of Batman, both in print and on film, that I think perfectly mine the potential fun from the premise. Nolan wasn’t after that, though. Instead, he decided to explore the madness that would drive anyone to wear a rubber suit and face death every night, and what it would take to heal someone so profoundly broken. And by following that one idea through these three films, he’s created my own personal favorite interpretation of the character on film so far. Is it the ultimate Batman, the best anyone can ever do? Nope. I’m not sure there could be such a thing. One of the reasons for the enduring popularity of the character is that it’s so limber, and it can survive re-interpretation for many reasons and in many ways.
Nev Pierce, Empire Magazine
Still, whether you believe this betters “Begins” or eclipses “Knight,” it is certainly a satisfying conclusion to what is now — we’re calling it — the best superhero series of all time.
Jim Veyvoda, IGN
Christopher Nolan and his team have delivered the grandest, most emotional and superheroic chapter in their Batman saga. “The Dark Knight Rises” is a fitting emotional and narrative conclusion to this particular interpretation of the enduring story of Bruce Wayne the man and Batman the legend.
Like anyone is all that surprised.