In 2005, Christopher Nolan blessed the world with the first live-action Batman film since the blockbuster flop known as Batman & Robin. The filmmaker took a straightforward and darker approach to the world of Gotham city that still influences many of the DC films that come out today. Three years later, Christopher Nolan made one of the greatest hero films to ever grace the big screen, The Dark Knight.
This version reintroduced audiences to one of Batman’s greatest rivals, The Joker, with Heath Ledger starring as the “Clown Prince of Darkness”. Not surprisingly, fans made a big fuss over the casting of Heath Ledger as the elite Gotham villain. Prior to The Dark Knight, Ledger’s most notable film to date was Brokeback Mountain, thus DC fans were skeptical that the actor could pull off such a complex and dark role. Heath Ledger pulled off the Batman villain with ease and many consider his version of The Joker as the best live-action adaption thus far.
Of course, Joker wasn’t the only star in the film as Nolan did a strong job with Harvey Dent/Two-Face. While I do think that the Batman villain was killed off too soon, Aaron Eckhart was perfect for the role and his descent to madness was compelling from beginning to end. The entire film was met with high praise from both fans and critics alike, with the rotten tomatoes score being 94% from both critics and audiences. Unfortunately, Heath Ledger passed away shortly after the film’s release. Reportedly, The Joker was set to make his return in the third installment.
However, with Ledger’s unfortunate passing, Nolan had to start from scratch and audiences ended up with The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. The film followed up on Gotham eight years later following Batman’s disappearance, who took the blame for Harvey Dent’s death. However, with the arrival of Bane and a mysterious cat burglar, it forced the caped crusader to come out of hiding and fight a war that he may not win. The final film in the Nolan trilogy came out to rave reviews as well; however, it was hard for The Dark Knight Rises to match the heights that its predecessor did. With all that in mind, is The Dark Knight Rises the worst film in the Nolan trilogy? Let’s dive deeper into the DC film.
First things first, Tom Hardy was a great choice to play Bane. The actor brings the physical prowess of the character that’s required. Yes, it would’ve been nice if the studio hired a male actor of a mixed-race (Bane in the comics is white and Latino); however, that’s no fault of Hardy and I can only judge the actor based off performance. Trust me, Hollywood’s diversity issues are a topic for another day. Despite Hardy being physically capable, there’s no denying that Bane pales in comparison to Joker and Two-Face.
The main issue is that the character didn’t have much in the charisma department. He’s just a bulky badass without much of the personality. This isn’t Tom Hardy’s fault as the actor has proven himself when it comes to roles like The Drop or Legend; however, he’s penned to be nothing more than a big brute. The twist of Miranda Tate being the true culprit was good, but again, she didn’t have the personality that could light up the screen like Joker or Two-Face. Despite Bane and Tate being the centerfold for the core story, they never drag down the film as the events that take place are actually compelling.
Luckily, Catwoman/Selina Kyle fares a lot better here and she’s a great addition to the film overall. Anne Hathaway fits the role like a glove and leaves a strong mark every time she’s on-screen. The Robin/Nightwing tease was very cool and Joseph Gordon Levitt would’ve been perfect for the role. It’s just a shame that it’s nothing more than that. The whole apocalypse/end of the world story is quite fun and the overall arc does ask some intriguing questions that keep the film entertaining. Batman riding off into the sunset with Selina Kyle was a nice ending for the Christian Bale version of the character.
In the end, The Dark Knight Rises is not the worst Batman film in the Nolan Trilogy. In fact, none of the three films should even be considered bad. It was always going to be hard to top Heath Ledger’s Joker and it was wise for Nolan to not recast a new actor. The Dark Knight Rises is the second-best of the three installments because it raises the stakes in a compelling manner and the addition of Anna Hathaway’s Catwoman/Selina Kyle was great.