1. It’s directed by Christopher Nolan. Seriously, how many times have we seen a director go on a streak of balancing commercial and critical success like Nolan has over the last decade? Between the Batman trilogy, Inception, and the underrated The Prestige, this guy can do no wrong lately — that’s a series of successes that can go toe-to-toe with Coppola in the 70s. Nolan’s next project could be a feature-length version of According to Jim and I’d be excited for it.
2. It will probably be nominated for Best Picture. The Dark Knight (TDK) is the film most responsible for the Academy raising the possible number of Best Picture candidates from five to 10 in an attempt to recognize culturally significant (i.e. money-making) films that might otherwise be neglected. TDK almost certainly would have been nominated in 2009 under the current rules, which were enacted the following year. You can expect The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) to benefit from both the new rules and the previous snub.
3. It’s not in 3D. I hate 3D. I hate the glasses, I hate how it dims the picture quality, and I hate the stupid gimmicks most filmmakers use to pander to it (“Hey, let’s have somebody shoot an arrow and it will fly right out of the screen!”). Nolan has instead chosen to embrace IMAX, which a great deal of TDKR has been filmed in.
4. The advance word from critics, many of whom have already released reviews, is very strong, including high praise from Time, Variety, Rolling Stone, and The Hollywood Reporter.
5. It’s got the excellent actor/heartthrob/super-cool Joseph Gordon-Levitt in it. Let’s hope for more choices like this one and Looper, and less G.I. Joe movies.
6. Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. ‘Nuff said.
7. Oh yeah, it’s also got Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Marion Cotillard, and Michael Caine in it. Jesus Christ.
8. And, finally, Mathew Modine is in it. Good for him.
9. Composer Hans Zimmer chose to employ chanting in the film’s score, as evidenced by the trailer. I’m a big fan of chanting in movies — it’s awesome for creating an ominous atmosphere (think The Shining).
10. The scene shown in the trailer where Bane seemingly commandeers a plane looks absolutely incredible. This isn’t really all that surprising, since Nolan already showed his deft touch for action in TDK’s opening bank robbery (heavily inspired by Michael Mann) and the chase scene involving Joker’s attempt to capture Harvey Dent. He does a great job of keeping things kinetic without devolving into unintelligible chaos, like Michael Bay et al.
11. Tom Hardy has his work cut out for him as Bane, following in the footsteps of the late Heath Ledger’s turn as The Joker in the previous film. With an already show-stopping performance that was further immortalized (like it or not) by Ledger’s tragic overdose, The Joker made an indelible mark on pop culture in TDK. However, it might be appropriate for a less noteworthy antagonist to fill his place — Batman’s villains have a long history of stealing the show (i.e., Jack Nicholson in Batman, Danny DeVito in Batman Returns, etc.). Originally, studio execs tried to persuade Nolan to use The Riddler as the villain and cast a star like Leo DiCaprio in the role. Figuring that The Riddler had similar qualities to The Joker, they foolishly hoped to catch lightning in a bottle a second time. Fortunately, Nolan argued that the franchise needed to go in a different direction to avoid nagging comparisons to its predecessor. Maybe this film will instead feature a stronger focus on Batman himself, ending the series with a deeper understanding of a character that has been enigmatic and underdeveloped in previous adaptations.
12. Bruce Wayne has a new addition to his arsenal in TDKR — The Bat, that insane flying thing you see in the trailer.
13. It’s 164 minutes long! Oh wait, that’s one of the things I’m not excited about for TDKR, considering one of my only complaints about TDK was… well, it was really long. As great as it was, my mind just stops cooperating shortly after the two-hour mark and reverts to a testing pattern like old school public access television. Well, at least you won’t be able to say you didn’t get your money’s worth. Also, you can pick out the people who caught Thursday’s midnight showings at work/school on Friday morning — they’ll be the people with circles under their eyes who look like they hate life.
14. It’s 100% the final film of the series. Nolan has enough integrity that his word counts when he makes this promise. While follow-ups to such a good series are a tempting thought, the finality ups the anticipation for this one, and provides a sense of closure that is sorely lacking in sequel-crazy Hollywood. Will someone else take up the Batman property down the road? Of course. But at least this trilogy won’t be tainted by it.
15. If it’s anything like the previous two films, it will somehow integrate the scope and grandeur of superheroes with the gritty realism and emotional rawness associated with film noir. Don’t underestimate what an accomplishment that is. A morbidly realistic take on superheroes? That doesn’t even sound like a good idea! And, at times, it has back-fired (see: audience reactions to the logical idea that Bruce Wayne would alter his voice to a more intimidating (albeit annoying) tone when disguising himself as Batman).
But, for the most part, Nolan et al. have made it work. And in TDK, it worked liked crazy. Operatic without being overwrought, allegorical without losing depth, and high-minded without becoming pretentious, this trilogy has walked an incredible tightrope between critical and commercial success. Nolan has found some kind of cultural nerve, and he’s aiming everything he’s got at it one last time. Urban unrest, terrorism, class warfare, political corruption, economic disparity — it’s all there. Presenting these themes in the confines of the superhero genre is not a new idea (X-Men, etc.), but Nolan’s credible treatment has rendered them all the more powerful. He has found beating hearts in largely symbolic characters like Batman and The Joker, and repositioned them in an alternate universe with many parallels to our own. He’s made them real.
The Dark Knight’s presence in pop culture will linger for years to come. Let’s hope The Dark Knight Rises is a worthy successor.