Summer of Super Heroes: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

What a summer it has been for comic book movies. Kicking off the summer nicely with the epic Marvel adventure that was The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble), followed by the massively underrated The Amazing Spider-Man, and finishing up with the colossal conclusion to the Nolan Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises.

For a comic book geek like myself, summer blockbusters don’t get much better than these big-budget adaptations of some of my most beloved franchises. The Avengers was one of those films that Marvel fans had always wished for of but never truly believed it would come to fruition; surely blending all of these characters into one cohesive vision, ensuring none of the characters gets short-changed but still keeping the film concise in a limited 2-and-a-half hour time frame was impossible? Well Joss Whedon has exceeded all expectations and created a compelling summer blockbuster epic that manages to remain kid friendly, while appeasing the pedantic attention to detail of die-hard Marvel fans.

Having seen the movie for a second time this past Thursday, I have concluded that The Avengers is not the masterpiece it has been touted as, but it is a very good movie and up there with Iron Man as the best Marvel movie to date. That being said, the beginning of the movie drags its heels for far too long, and large portions of the second act are held up solely by Robert Downey Jr.’s flawless performance as Tony Stark.

Don’t get me wrong, I love The Avengers for the sheer ambition of Joss Whedon’s project and how it makes me feel to see these characters that I have loved for so long, interacting on the silver-screen, but The Dark Knight still takes the crown of ‘Best superhero movie’.

The Amazing Spider-Man seems to have suffered the opposite fate of The Avengers. I’m a big fan of (500) Days of Summer and, upon hearing that Marc Webb had been given the task of rebooting Sam Raimi’s severely tarnished Spider-Man franchise (I’m looking at you Spider-Man 3), I was extremely excited. I’ve lost count of the number of times (500) Days of Summer has graced my blu-ray player, and the prospect of seeing Peter Parker’s high school dramas and relationships portrayed with a similar focus, dynamic and sense of humour to that of Tom Hansen, seemed perfect for the trials and tribulations of an adolescent Spider-Man.

The Amazing Spider-Man received middling reviews from both critics and the movie-going public, and I really can’t see why reception was so muted. The way the movie shamelessly pays homage to Brian Bendis’ ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’ series, and the inevitable Uncle Ben scene (the cornerstone of any Spidey origin story) struck me in a way that the emotional beats in Raimi’s trilogy never quite managed. It wasn’t perfect, Rhys Ifans’ Lizard was more miss than hit, and some of the plot points that were introduced and concluded within the last 5 to 10 minutes seemed jarring and unnecessary, but this is undoubtedly the best Spider-Man movie we’ve ever seen and it exceeds on an emotional level that The Avengers never quite matches.

Speaking of ‘emotional beats’ in films, The Dark Knight Rises! This film was a complete onslaught on the senses. TDKR is two-hours-and-fourty-minutes of intense heart-wrenching cinema that you have to experience in theatres to truly appreciate. This is how successful cinema is supposed to make you feel… Completely invested in the characters and the emotional steaks that they face.

Sure, there were flaws and plot holes, but the experience was far too satisfying to justify picking apart the tiniest faults. It even managed to provide some semblance of fan service, something that I don’t expect a director like Nolan to pursue with much intent.

Tom Hardy should be commended for his take on the Bane character. Stepping into the role of Batman’s arch nemesis after Heath Ledger provided one of the most iconic performances ever seen on the silver screen must have been a daunting task, but Tom Hardy delivered emphatically and should be commended for his Sean Connery / Darth Vader inspired take on the Bane character.

Overall, 2013 and Warner Bros’ Man of Steel are going to have to pull off something pretty spectacular to beat 2012’s stellar showing of summer epics.

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