Ranking: Every Christopher Nolan Movie from Worst to Best

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09. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

235402id1a_MagnusMask_27x40_1Sheet_VER3.inddRuntime: 2 hr. 45 min.

Press Release: The epic conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Dark Knight Trilogy.

Cast: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

“Yeah, but is Michael Caine in it?”: Hardly. Bruce Wayne’s trusty protector, Alfred Pennyworth, appears for maybe 15 whole minutes. Still, you get to see the ol’ bird shed some tears, and that’s a priceless if not heartbreaking moment.

Career Charge: Mr. Matthew Modine, come on down! Up until this point, the Full Metal Jacket and Bye Bye Love star had been swimming in mediocrity, with the exception of a recurring role on Weeds and an appearance in HBO’s forgettable film, Too Big to Fail. As Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley, Modine does what he can with the underwritten character, injecting enough comic skepticism towards Commissioner Gordon for audiences to hate the guy.

screen shot 2017 07 18 at 9 05 41 pm Ranking: Every Christopher Nolan Movie from Worst to Best

Regardless of his weak arc, he does manage to find his own redemption by the film’s final act, leading a charge against Bane’s henchmen in what might be the most ludicrous scene in the entire Dark Knight trilogy. “There’s only one police in this town,” he declares before succumbing to one lame send-off. How could Nolan do that to Private Joker? …. Ah, I see what he did there.

Best Shot: It’s hard to shake off the brutal confrontation between Bane and Batman. Nolan keeps things claustrophobic with plenty of close shots, which really heightens the stakes at hand. One iconic shot, used rather liberally in the trailers, pops up when a soaked Batman raises his fists at a lingering Bane. It’s easy to miss because the scene itself is littered with multiple background-worthy images, from the painful shattering of Batman’s mask to the way Bane hoists his crumpled body over his head. The film revolves around these tense few minutes and Nolan truly used his magic here. Watch it again, if you dare.

“Hey, can we get some girls in here!?”

Look What the Cat Dragged In: Though she’s never officially referred to as Catwoman in the film — despite the onslaught of marketing prior — Anne Hathaway rises above the title by embracing the role of Selina Kyle, instead. She’s resourceful, curious, aggressive, and feisty, scratching up each scene with feral nihilism. The chemistry she has with Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne is quite palpable, too, which is intriguing given how little screen time the two share with one another. While Michelle Pfeiffer will always be the definitive Catwoman, Hathaway certainly lived up to the hype as Ms. Kyle. So much so that Warner Bros. would champion her performance (albeit meekly) come awards season.

“Some men just want to watch the world burn”: As the nation’s obsessed raced to midnight showings across the country, 24-year-old James Eagan Holmes walked into the Century 16 cinema in Aurora, CO and opened fire. He killed 12 people, injured 70 others, and identified himself as “the Joker” to the authorities when he was apprehended. In response, Bale visited the survivors while Nolan issued an emotional statement, which contained a line that pretty much said it all: “The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.” Not surprisingly, there were at least five other loosely-related incidents across America in the days following, from alleged vocal threats to armed theatergoers.

knightfall Ranking: Every Christopher Nolan Movie from Worst to Best“I won’t bury another Batman”: No, Batman doesn’t die. Prior to the film’s release, rumors circulated online that Bats would bite the dust, especially when the screenplay was revealed to be sourcing material from 1993’s “Knightfall” storyline, Frank Miller’s grim The Dark Knight Returns, and the semi post-apocalyptic “No Man’s Land”. Still, things are quite dire throughout the film’s near-three hour experience: Bane breaks Batman’s back, Gotham is nearly destroyed, and both Gordon and Alfred wind up “burying” Bruce Wayne, making Rises the rare unforgiving third entry in a trilogy. Despite all that, however, the tension never comes close to matching its predecessor, The Dark Knight

Analysis: …which was always going to be a problem, right? The 2008 critical and commercial beast shattered every filmgoer’s expectations of what a Batman movie or a sequel in general could be. It came at a time when Nolan was just starting to realize the world was his oyster, and that expansive scope explains why he can get away with shifting the action between Gotham City and somewhere far out like Hong Kong.

By comparison, Rises attempts the same tricks — look no further than its 007-inspired opening aboard a plane — but ultimately loses its grasp, tackling larger-than-life action sequences that shatter any sense of realism established in The Dark Knight. What’s worse, Tom Hardy is simply an agreeable villain rather than a haunting figure like the late Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as the iconic Joker.

There’s also a breakneck pace to the film, as if Nolan couldn’t wait to sign off from the beloved franchise, which might explain why there’s little logic from beginning to end. Not surprisingly, he’s since expressed his elation to be finished with superhero movies, distancing himself further and further from Warner Bros.’ grand design for DC.

Here’s hoping he one day revisits the series and we can see Mr. Gordon-Levitt don the cape. But don’t hold your breath.


–Michael Roffman

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