By Jonathan Smalls, Film Critic
An action movie is usually a very simple affair: a protagonist identifies an antagonist, and the two parties act out their conflict with any amount of fire power, crashes, explosions, and hand to hand combat. The conflict is right out on the surface, and never goes any deeper than pure machismo. Take Die Hard, and the James Bond series as good examples. The action film is momentarily enjoyable, but it is also very quickly forgotten.
The heroic epic is a different category altogether. It may share some of the production value of an action film, but the conflict also runs much deeper than simply attacking each other physically. The protagonist may question why he does what he does. The antagonist may have some redeeming qualities, and the interaction significantly changes both characters beyond leaving one, or both of them dead. Remember the Godfather series, and Star Wars. The heroic epic stays with a culture for decades, if not longer.
So where is the Dark Knight Rises in all of this? Is it an action flick, or an epic? Is it as high quality a feature as the others, and is it worth all of the hype? In short it is worth every second of the hype it receives.
Before this Batman series no one ever lined up for midnight showings of Christopher Nolan movies, or filled theatres for whatever film Christian Bale starred in. Now the world knows that Nolan is a meticulous artist, who not only crafts every detail of his films for the maximum effect, but casts incredibly dedicated talent to bring such attention to detail to every element of his films. From the actors through the features rebuilding-batman costume designer every is one is passionate about bringing to fans the greatest cinematic experience there is. It not only alludes to previous films in the franchise, but relies heavily on them for plot devices. Any one remember the shock when audiences first heard “Luke, I am your father”? Yes, it is like that.
Are there any stand outs in this film? No, there are not. Every one on screen is in top form at all times. The actors are amazingly strong all around, because their performances are built on top of an already excellent script. The characters all interact directly with each other in a completely believable way, and all of the relationships build to an emotionally satisfying conclusion for audiences.
Yes, you can walk into theatres, and enjoy the Dark Knight Rises as an action film. There are fights. There is espionage. There are explosions, and other forms of spectacle. You can also take the time to identify with the characters on screen, and feel much more of the deeper motivations, their inner conflicts, and difficult choices, and that makes the difference between riding a roller coaster, or the tea cups.