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Unopinionated: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Is Better Than What You May Remember

dark knight rises unpopular opinion

Every week, readers send me their unpopular opinions, and on Unopinionated, I explain why they’re unpopular in the first place.

From my inbox: “Sad to see you hating Batman v Superman, when The Dark Knight Rises has to be one of the worst Batman films of all time. That’s not an unpopular opinion, it’s just fact.” – Cheyenne

It’s interesting how quickly some have turned on The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR), a powerfully ambitious film that is quite easy to unpack for various flaws and plot holes that we’ve all come to expect from Christopher Nolan’s brand of filmmaking.

Not that this is an excuse. TDKR is absolutely a flawed movie. Part of that might have to do with how it is justifiably compared to its predecessor, The Dark Knight, which has cemented itself as a lasting future classic within the pantheon of superhero movies (despite the fact that it is far removed from what constitutes a typical superhero film).

dark knight rises unpopular opinion

Expectations were always going to be lopsided with TDKR, so it was surprising to see mostly positive reviews surface as the movie was released. As the years have gone on, however, there’s been a quiet movement to shift the consensus of that film to something much less grandiose than the two Batman films it wrapped up.

And I’m among the fans of this movie who wished for a more cohesive film, structurally. TDKR has not one, but two “rebirth” narratives it forces its Bruce Wayne to endure. Multiple time skips, an overabundance of key players, and some familiar beats from TDR are just a few complaints that weaken the overall product of this film, but they don’t even come close to undercutting how potent this conclusion truly was.

You don’t owe these people any more. You’ve given them everything. – Selina Kyle

What the film does spectacularly is stay on target with what Batman Begins set out to do in the first place (and what TDK carried on so superbly). That is, these movies have always been about holding a mirror up to the deepest fears we have about the post-9/11 millennium — the deconstruction of American capitalism through outside forces, terrorist attacks based in nihilism, and highly invasive government tactics — only to show us how ludicrous it is for us to think that one man can save us all.

Of course, we root for him anyway.

dark knight rises unpopular opinion

TDK played with this direct parallel by pitting the “clean” politician, Harvey Dent, against the vigilante secretly known as Bruce Wayne in a love triangle, of all constructs. By TDKR, audiences are convinced that no one man can save Gotham, but perhaps everyone can unite in righteous fear against a force they don’t understand. This, of course, speaks more relevantly to current events of 2016 even more than 2012, when Barack Obama was poised to win his re-election and the Occupy movement was in full swing.

TDKR makes it clear that violence always has a purpose, whether it’s for the sake of violence as illustrated in TDK, or to be a forced resurrection through the events of Batman Begins. There’s a reason Nolan chose to end this trilogy on the shoulders of the League of Assassins, whose seemingly anarchistic goals are based in some eerily sound logic carried over from the first film.

The film actually begins during a time of peace, eight years after the events of TDK. This peace, of course, is based on the lie that Harvey Dent (and his morals) survived his own death. The white knight was chosen over the dark knight, except the dark knight is the one who made this choice possible.

Speak of the devil and he shall appear. – Bane

Forced into exile, Bruce Wayne has spent this time letting others run the city, and even his company, believing once and for all that the city no longer needs a “Batman.” Meanwhile, a new threat named Bane has set a plan into motion that couldn’t be more ambitious: an actual takeover of Gotham City, effectively making it the hostage of a rogue network of fascist mercenaries.

dark knight rises unpopular opinion

Three new faces enter Wayne’s life as this plan takes off, and they couldn’t be more dissimilar. A young cop named John Blake represents the faith Wayne once had in the Batman role. Miranda Tate, a board member of Wayne Enterprises, helps Wayne enact a new plan to create sustainable and clean energy for Gotham. And the wildcard is Selina Kyle, a thief who shifts between wanting to save the world or giving up to profit off of the chaos.

A good part of the film is used exploring what these new characters mean to Bruce Wayne as he embarks on a war against Bane, but also against his own uncertainty and entanglement with the darkness that he hasn’t been able to shake since the Joker came around.

I don’t know why you took the fall for Dent’s murder, but I’m still a believer in the Batman. – John Blake

But it’s truly the more established cast that helps make the spectacle of TDKR worth caring about. Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman all return to reprise their roles as a shade of Bruce Wayne’s standalone mentor. And Christian Bale himself delivers a more compelling, pain-stricken Wayne than even the TDK, but mostly because that movie did the work to set him up.

Dark Knight Rises unpopular opinion

And that’s the biggest advantage TDKR has, and it’s what helps it overcome its various shortcomings. The film is improved by what came before it, and it also improves them, as well. While franchise blockbusters like The Avengers are to be commended for their commitment to world-building, TDKR is to be celebrated for how complete its story is across its three offerings.

Nolan does a splendid job balancing energetic set pieces (the opening hijack scene is a highlight) with what would descend into mindless fantasy, otherwise. And they save TDKR from being devoid of any fun or awe considering how lacking this film actually is of Batman himself.

A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended. – Batman

But when viewed as a continuation, not a standalone film, these flaws suddenly become less entrenched with the film itself. From start to finish, TDKR works more as an honorable resolution, rather than a climactic high achieved by TDK. Perhaps we wanted something more groundbreaking, or even faithful to the comics that founded this character and how his story ends in our own imaginations. Our expectations aside, TDKR still delivers something that makes sense within itself.

Grade: B+


Do you have an unpopular opinion you want challenged? Let me know in the comments and I’ll take it on in a future Unopinionated article. Or you can email nowconspiring@gmail.com

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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Top 7 Movies of 2012

Image Courtesy of Fanart.tv

This was a fantastic year for movies, so I just had to make a list. Keep in mind that these are the movies I personally enjoyed the most and may not be for everyone. I did leave out some great movies on this list, so I will be doing honorable mentions at the very bottom.

7. Rise of the Guardians (PG)

Image courtesy of catholicexchange.com

What? Pixar didn’t make my favorite animated movie list? Honestly, Brave didn’t even beat out Hotel Transylvania for me. I found it bland, boring, and ultimately underwhelming, especially for a Pixar film. No, Rise of the Guardians makes this list because it simply was the most enjoyable animated film I saw this year. It could have easily been a contrived mess, cashing in on the exciting premise of seeing Santa, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost and the Tooth Fairy fighting the Boogeyman. Thankfully, the movie has some great storytelling behind it thanks to the series of books it’s based upon, making it an action-packed kid’s movie with some interesting, sometimes deep themes. Plus, it was great to see The Sandman actually being the “strongest” of the guardians. Definitely glad I went out and saw this one.

6. Dark Knight Rises (PG-13)

Image Courtesy of Gawker

What a great way to conclude a trilogy. I have to admit that I wasn’t as impressed as everyone else with The Dark Knight, but I more than appreciated how well they crafted such a phenomenon. I had my doubts that DKR would even manage to come close to meeting expectations fans had for this film, but I was pleasantly surprised. Put simply, the movie did it for me. It had plenty of flaws and gaping plot-holes, but it was still an enjoyable ride from start to finish, and they managed to end the trilogy in a way that pleases pretty much everyone. I call that a win.

5. Les Miserables (PG-13)

Image Courtesy of aceshowbiz.com

What more can I say besides the fact that Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman were so good at their roles that absolutely everything else I disliked about the movie pretty much meant nothing because, holy crap, I got to see some of the best acting of the year done to a musical. See this in theaters while you can.

4. Chronicle (PG-13)

Image Courtesy of Best Movies Ever News

What a fantastic movie this turned out to be. At a time when we’re getting bombarded with the “handheld camera” style of filmmaking (Paranormal Activity 4 anyone?), I was relieved to see a studio really nail it with Chronicle. The movie already wins points on not being an adaptation or sequel. It was just an ambitious project that was filmed extremely well and ended up being one of my favorite movies of the year. It worked because it was simple and well-executed with believable characters and, of course, the powers these kids used evolved from entertaining to epic, making the final battle scene one of the best superhero finales I can say I’ve seen.

3. Ted (R)

Image Courtesy of filmofilia.comI hate Family Guy these days. Ever since the end of season 6, I have been extremely disappointed with the show and have completely given up on it. Sure, I watch episodes every so often to “check-in” and see if the show has managed to fix whatever it is that they broke. Hasn’t happened yet, but maybe that’s why I enjoyed Ted so much. Seth McFarlane, the mastermind (and pretty much every voice) behind Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show produced this movie, and it really was like the spirit and humor of past Family Guy were revived. Ted was easily the most funny movie I saw this year, and the reasons it worked go beyond the humor. Just look at how they handled Mila Kunis, who we probably should have hated but ended up empathizing with. The casting was the most well-done aspect of this film, with Ted becoming one of this year’s biggest new stars. Not bad for a teddy bear.

2. Skyfall (PG-13)

Image Courtesy of Collider

I’ve been an avid fan of the James Bond franchise since I was old enough to watch them back when Goldeneye came out. To be honest, however, I haven’t enjoyed a Bond film (with the exception of Casino Royale, though even that was disappointing in part) since The World is Not Enough back when I was just 9 years old. The charm and mind-splitting plot of James Bond just hasn’t been there until we received Skyfall, a Bond movie that finally took some serious risks. They say that Bond films are most successful when they reflect the taste of the times. This is why Cold-War, macho villainy, and gadget hi-jinks were so popular back in the baby boomer days. Now, we’ve finally received a Bond film that adapts to the audiences of today. It was a fantastic action film that utilized the gritty realism and introspection we have come to expect thanks to Christopher Nolan. The villain ended up being the best movie villain of the year, I’d say, thanks to a brilliant performance by Sam Mendes. Just the fact that Skyfall actually took the risk of showing us a more emotional Bond without polarizing what makes him iconic is a testament to how well this film was made. 

1. The Avengers (PG-13)

I just enjoyed this film the most, okay? It wasn’t the most well-made film that came out this year. It wasn’t the best story. It didn’t have the best special effects. It didn’t have the best characters. Still, this was the most fun, escapism movie I saw this year. I lost myself in watching some of my favorite movie heroes fighting alongside each other against my favorite villain from their string of movies. I laughed and cheered alongside hundreds of people watching this movie, which is an experience I’ll never forget. When I think back, I waited four years for this movie, starting with Iron Man, so I easily could have been disappointed if just one of the characters fell flat. Not the case. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk lived up to my expectations perfectly. Thank you Marvel Studios.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Argo
  • Lincoln
  • Django Unchained
  • The Hobbit
  • Cabin in the Woods
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Wreck-it Ralph
  • Looper
  • Life of Pi

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person.

Don’t forget to check out THE JON REPORT every day, updated at 8am for a list of today’s main headlines as selected by my editorial team (me) 

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