Despite some feelings of strangeness caused by the appalling mass shooting at a screening in Aurora, Colorado, The Dark Knight Rises did exceedingly well at the U.S. box office over the weekend, securing the strongest opening weekend money total of any non-3D film ever. With a U.S. box-office take of $160.9 million, The Dark Knight Rises surpassed the previous champ, The Dark Knight, which had brought in $150 million in its debut weekend.
The Dark Knight Rises is now third overall for opening weekend ticket revenue, behind The Avengers and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, respectively.
According to USA Today, some analysts wonder whether the film will be able to sustain its first-weekend momentum in the wake of its association with the Aurora shootings. That is a reasonable question, but I think that audiences’ word of mouth will decide that, and that the response will be very positive.
That is because The Dark Knight Rises is simply superb. Although it is subject to the distinct limitations of the fantasy action-adventure genre, The Dark Knight Rises is top-quality in every way: cinematography, characterizations, intellectual inquisitiveness, political/cultural implications, action sequences, visuals, sound, music, performances, etc. After a full century of feature-length movies, cinematic action sequences, fights, and chases have become, well, rather boring, but the fact that these are made endurable in the present case is a measure of how strong the story is in The Dark Knight Rises.
The story gets more complex as the film goes on, but it is always clear what is happening and why, and the plot twists are used to provide insight into the characters and their motives, not merely to surprise. That is exactly what they should do.
Regarding the performances, Christian Bale stands out, of course, as he has done throughout the series, and Tom Hardy has been justly praised for his persuasive performance as the villain, Bane. Anne Hathaway does a very good job depicting Selina Kyle, the Catwoman, though I don’t think that she is personable enough in this film to convey the character’s full potential appeal, nor does she show enough of the vulnerability that is an important part of the character. This latter choice may have been imposed by director and cowriter Christopher Nolan, but I think it limits the character’s interest—our weaknesses are as interesting as our strengths, after all. For me the best Catwoman by far remains Michelle Pfieffer.
That’s a minor cavil, however, and it doesn’t diminish the enjoyment of the film appreciably. Standouts among the rest of the cast are Marion Cotillard, who is very good as Wayne Industries board member Miranda Tate, and Gary Oldman, who gets a good deal of screen time as my favorite character in the trilogy, Commissioner Gordon, and does a terrific job of portraying the surprising complexities of the character.
What I found most impressive about The Dark Knight Rises was the evident care and skill with which it was written, as Patrick Ohl notes here. The story line is so strong and is followed with such integrity that the film never seems long even though it runs for two hours and forty minutes. The characters are put into continually interesting and evolving relationships with each other, and from beginning to end the film and it characters are driven by a powerful sense of purpose.
In addition, the various story lines of the trilogy are tied up very satisfyingly, while the writers leave some interesting avenues for further exploration in a new series of Batman films should there be any desire on their part to pursue them. (And of course the revenue for the trilogy suggests that the studio will intensely feel such a desire.)
I cannot express too forcefully how satisfying the resolution of the series is in the final minutes of The Dark Knight Rises. No fashionable relativistic ambiguity here, just a powerful and inspiring devotion to understanding the differing motivations that animate different people, how people respond to crises, the need for leadership and the vulnerability that it imposes on society, the difficulty of knowing what is truly just in any particular situation (while accepting that there is indeed such a thing as justice and that right and wrong are real), the search for personal peace, and many other difficulties of the human condition.
It is really that good.