31 August 2012

Review: The Watch

(Dir: Akiva Schaffer, 2012)

Tired. That’s pretty much the best way to describe The Watch. Everything about it is tired - the plot, the comedy, the action, the sentiments. It is a complete mish-mash of genres as it strives to be an adult comedy / alien invasion / action / horror / male-bonding hybrid. Not original unfortunately but it probably worked better in this format than if it was just a comedy or an alien invasion movie. That is to say it worked at being mediocre.

The cast seem to be going through the motions. When a comedian is not that outstandingly funny to start with it doesn’t take many repeats of them doing “their thing” before they start to get boring, as their comedic strength turns into an annoyance. I feel this way about three of the four leads, particularly Ben Stiller. He has had his moments - Dodgeball, Zoolander, The Royal Tenenbaums, Meet the Parents - but usually he’s just playing mildly altered variations of the characters in these films, who generally irritate rather than amuse. Fortunately he’s playing the straight man here and he’s ok; a little more bearable than usual. But how different is this role to the characters he plays in Tower Heist or Night At the Museum really?

Vince Vaughn also feels like he’s continually playing the same arrogant Average Joe character which has never been overly funny, but for some reason I’ve never minded him as much. Jonah Hill also seems to be approaching this cusp of over repetition so I hope he can make something of the recognition he received for his dramatic turn in Moneyball before we get bored of seeing him. These three do have reasonable chemistry together and Hill is the funniest of them but only really because his character is the weirdest. Richard Ayoade doesn't fit into the above mentioned criteria for me as I've never seen him in anything (directing Submarine doesn't count), but he plays the outsider of the group and does an ok job with it, yet at times this character feels a little jarring compared to the rest of the group.

Ultimately the issue is that the script is not particularly good and so the film’s really not that funny. There are a few good one-liners and a couple of decent visual jokes, but they generally stem from random things or product placement references (well done to Costco for being featured so strongly and positively!). But most of the humour is of the stupid overly sexual nature, the sort of which I’ve started to become pretty damn bored of. I mean, how many dick jokes does one film really need? But then there was a lot of loud laughter in the cinema throughout so either I just didn’t get it or I was watching it with an audience who lap the dumb stuff up?

The aliens themselves are fairly interesting and pleasingly the film doesn’t shy away from showing us a bit of gore. We’re not given too many scenes with the aliens and the balance of this is about right, as it would otherwise be an easy way to ruin things since the film is trying to be a comedy at heart. Yeah there’s too much cgi and the action isn’t up to much but that's to be expected. The whole male bonding subtext felt like it was only there because these days everyone else is including it. Writers, it’s not always necessary!

The Watch is watchable and entertaining in a very average way. But that’s the problem as it doesn’t have a single new or original idea. The characters are bland facsimiles of what these actors normally do, most of the comedy is too dumb to even be funny and the plot is achingly unoriginal. The trailer makes this all pretty clear so my expectations were set appropriately low. Know this and you shouldn’t be disappointed.

30 August 2012

Review: Shadow Dancer

(Dir: James Marsh, 2012)

Films about the Northern Irish “troubles” have never really appealed to me. The conflict was always something that existed in the background of my youth on television news, but I was too young and never really interested in politics to understand or want to pay attention. None of the films I have seen that cover this turbulent time have stuck with me and I never make any special effort to watch them. So it was unusual for Shadow Dancer's trailer to appeal to me, yet I still had my doubts about it.

Set in nineties Belfast, the film concerns IRA member Collette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) who reluctantly gets turned by Clive Owens’ British government agent, forcing her to become an informant on those closest to her, particularly her brothers Gerry (Aiden Gillen) and Connor (Domhnall Gleeson) who are both strongly committed to the cause. But suspicions start to arise from other members that something is not quite right somewhere within. Principally this is a pretty straight forward set-up, but there is something to this.

Shadow Dancer excels when Riseborough is on the screen. I hadn’t liked her in either of the previous films I’d seen her in (Never Let Me Go and Brighton Rock), but here she is the core and heart of the film and is excellent. Driven by a need to protect her immediate family she is torn by the dichotomy of having to betray some to do so, as well as grasping how this impacts on her political beliefs. She seems lost in this problem and it’s difficult to judge her decisions when any one could ultimately be worth her life. Riseborough is both thoroughly convincing and compelling and holds the film together. All the scenes set amongst the IRA members and the politics are where the film is at its best and most interesting.

On the flip side the film fails to sustain interest when it reverts to Owen and his governmental wranglings, as this side of the story is steeped in procedural cliché and feels flat. Owen is adequate in the role but doesn’t offer anything that he hasn’t done elsewhere - I honestly felt like I could’ve been watching something like The International, that’s how untransmutable he seemed here. However his first scenes are strong, as are the quietly thrilling first ten or fifteen minutes. The film does manage to pull from some slightly different genres with a lot of human drama, politics, some tension and good thriller elements. James Marsh directed the film well. The supporting cast is decent too and particularly of note is David Wilmot who plays Kevin, a more senior IRA member whom Collette appears to be accountable too. He is very successfully unnerving and you're never certain what he’s going to do exactly.

Shadow Dancer manages to tread the right line between politics, decent drama and thrills. For a film of this nature it would be too easy to make it a heavy political study or an over the top action film / thriller, but it works because it's intelligent and there’s real human drama ensconced within this. In fact the main reason it works is Riseborough. A lesser performance would’ve put more light on the weaker police procedural side of the film, but it’s easier to overlook that aspect because of what the rest of it delivers. I'm pleased to say Shadow Dancer left me pleasantly surprised.

24 August 2012

Review: Brave

(Dir: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman & Steve Purcell)

The reputation that Pixar have built for themselves is something worthy of respect. The quality and consistency of work alone is impressive, producing thirteen feature films in eighteen years, with a now settled rhythm of one film a year that allows their work to be that much more considered and of a higher quality. To make the inevitable comparisons to Dreamworks Animation, the other major animation player in Hollywood, who over fifteen years have put out twenty four features but now average three a year, the effects of this greater output can be seen in the differing quality of what they release. Pixar have also been known to exude a braveness in their approach, which for a company making only one film a year is very gratifying. We’ve seen an animated film with a dialogue free first third / a cranky octogenarian as the lead / a rat becoming a chef in Parisian gastronomic heaven. These films are justly revered and make a lot of money, but who really is the audience for them?

As has oft been covered these films are aimed at adults too, which is part of the genius. Animation may appeal to kids as its core audience, but Pixar respects that a) adults need to accompany the young ones, and b) get it right and adults might actually want to go watch without them. Most other animated films try to pull this off with a few jokes that go over kids heads, usually about some older pop culture reference, but Pixar are cleverer than that. What appeals to adults is surely what exists at the core of each film - they have soul and something important to instill in the viewer. Watching Up for example; it's magnificently stirring from the start and the first half is so expertly pitched that I have to remind myself that this is a film aimed at kids when approaching the over-the-top and generally less satisfactory second half. It can be so easy to forget that sometimes and that's the point.

And so to Brave, this year's release. Following on from Cars 2 Pixar had something to prove for the very first time - after all it was the sequel that kids probably wanted most and adults wanted the least. It was their first feature to be critically drubbed and the first not to be nominated for a single Academy Award, but it wasn’t a bad film, it just played more to their core audience and ended up feeling mediocre compared to past glories. Brave doesn’t do enough to be redolent of these past glories either, but it is still good. What’s most surprising is that it takes on the old Disney princess trope, the first time Pixar have done this, however it’s typically not quite as straightforward as that sounds.

Set amongst the Scottish clans of old, fiery Merida (Kelly McDonald) is the daughter of clan leader Fergus (Billy Connelly) and Elinor (Emma Thompson), and is more interested in archery and adventure than being the princess her mother is grooming and expecting her to be. In order to break from this she makes an ill-advised wish that comes true and causes much chaos, ensuring she must rectify things before it’s too late. With this resolutely not being a film about finding her prince and with it set in the highlands of Scotland away from a common magical fairytale world, this is certainly a princess story with a twist.

As ever the animation is high quality and the voice cast do a solid job with Scottish accents abounding all round. The Scottish setting gives the film some personality but it doesn’t feel like a gimmick, it just grounds everything in a distinct world. The story itself is pretty perfunctory but the core message about a girl finding and re-engaging with something key that was missing in her life is a decent and important one. There’s plenty of drama and a few slightly darker scenes, but there’s also a nice line of comic relief from Merida’s young brothers and her father. A key plot point in the second half falls into the Up trap of being a bit overly childish and threatens to derail the good work from the first half, but fortunately it just about manages to stay on track.

Brave is a sweet film and it’s difficult by the end not to be won over by it all and the core message. But it still feels pretty generic and in all honesty isn't as good as a number of the other Pixar films. It still exudes their high standard but the irony is it’s not actually a very brave film; not like the aforementioned Wall-E, Up or RatatouilleBrave is the most Dreamworks like film that Pixar have made, the result of a second half which felt like it could’ve existed in one of their films, a story that feels more by-the-numbers than usual and fairly conventional aesthetics. Except it has the usual Pixar soul which puts it into that rarefied league, which in itself is reason enough to watch.

20 August 2012

Review: The Expendables 2

(Dir: Simon West, 2012)

Let’s get this out of the way from the outset. The best “eighties revival” action film of the last few years was Rambo. It was the sequel no-one wanted coming twenty years after Rambo III, with a character you didn’t care about seeing aged. But you know what? It was absolutely fucking insane, and that was the point – once it got going it was violent and bloody as hell, with a plethora of limbs and body parts blown everywhere. This was pure eighties action film nostalgia; far more effective than any recent examples such as The Raid.

And so The Expendables followed two years later, promising something even more interesting. This time we got an action film teaming up most of our favourite old action heroes with some newer blood, which worked although it wasn’t perfect by any means. The action was good (although not the aforementioned Rambo good mind), it was pretty funny and just all round a lot of fun. Job done. The Expendables 2 therefore does what any good action sequel should – amps everything the hell up!   

There’s no point doing a plot synopsis, you don’t need one. There’s a mission, there are a lot of guns / weapons / explosions, and there are more eighties action stars than at a 'roid convention. You know all this. Did you need anything else? Oh wait, yes, here’s a key thing that’s been added. Arnold Schwarzenegger. We get a lot more of the big man now that he’s politically free and quite frankly that’s something we all wanted. One solitary scene last time made for a fun cameo, but this time we really needed to see him handling automatic weapons and he looked back at home doing so, yet he is starting to look old so I hope that's just our readjusting to seeing him on screen and he looks better in his upcoming films.

Another positive addition is Jean-Claude Van Damme. He was something missing from the first film and actually makes a really good villain here; better than Eric Roberts and David Zayas from first time round. Thing is, you know he is capable of violence and this also fits with one of the two classic eighties villain stereotypes – they’re either European or Russian. However, because we know what he is really capable of from many of his past films, and lest we forget the characters are superfulous here because really we’re watching JCVD, Arnie, Sly, Bruce etc, in the final showdown he does seem to be holding back. In a straight fight without weapons JCVD would probably dominate them all, but this is a true good guys vs bad guys film so it can only go one way and it does feel restrained.

You also can’t argue with Chuck Norris popping up playing another gun-slinging hero. How synonymous has he become to today's audience as an internet legend rather than as an action star? It's good to see him being part of this. It was also pleasantly surprising to see that the film is a little more violent and bloodier than the first one. However things in The Expendables 2 get all a little too meta for my tastes – take Chuck’s characters name (another eighties throwback) or all the stupid throwing round of famous catchphrases. The “I’ll be back” joke is really tired and unfunny now so leave it alone, please. The more modern action stars hold their own well, but do start to feel sidelined as things go on. Still, Jason Statham's in the film being totally badass and The Stath makes everything better.

Honestly you don’t need to know anymore about the film so let’s just leave it with this: The Expendables 2 is a lot of fun and it delivers exactly what it promises. If its brand of nostalgia and violence is what you want to see, then you should enjoy it. I did. It does some things better than the first film, other things not so. Don't worry about that - switch your brain and have some fun with it.

18 August 2012

Review: The Bourne Legacy

(Dir: Tony Gilroy, 2012)

So you’ve produced a nice neat trilogy that happily ties things together. The director and star don’t appear to be interested in making anymore of these films. What do you do? Option a) recast the star and make another film, or b) (dreaded word time) reboot. Except The Bourne Legacy found a get out clause and throws in option c) expand the universe. This was the right way to go. After all, you had a series of films about a man trying to come back from amnesia and figure out who he was and why some shadowy government agency was so hellbent on getting hold of him - a fourth film would’ve stretched this story much too far, and it’s not like Jason Bourne could go back to carrying out missions after the events of those three films anyway.

Expanding the universe was always a convincing idea. For starters Jason Bourne represented an interesting concept, in so much as looking at how to turn soldiers into “super-human” secret agents, whilst the clandestine missions they were tasked with would fall into the realms of seriously classified and could bring down certain echelons of government if discovered. The tagline used in the marketing collateral is right – there was never just one. Clive Owen in The Bourne Identity. Karl Urban in The Bourne Supremacy. Édgar Ramírez in The Bourne Ultimatum. The interesting story in these films just happened to be constructed around Jason Bourne, so why not do something with another one of his similarly endowed “colleagues”?

Meet Aaron Cross. Part of Operation Outcome, a more advanced and hidden program than Bourne’s earlier Treadstone project, he’s positioned as a more physical and cerebral asset but reliant on a concoction of pills to maintain this. With The Bourne Legacy essentially framed around the events of The Bourne Ultimatum, Cross’ superiors are getting itchy feet that their house of cards may tumble and set about taking out their assets in order to cover themselves. Except Cross goes on the run, gets involved with Rachel Weisz’s Dr Shearing, a lab-based virologist who works for the program, and proceed to travel the world. That may be somewhat of an over-simplification but it should be starting to sound familiar if you’ve seen the other films.

Familiarity is something of the point here, which is both a positive and a negative. As mentioned above the concept of government agencies operating in secretive ways is intriguing and there’s a desire to see more of this, especially when it’s a continuation of something that's been presented so well in the past. Clearly linking the story into familiar events is a logical way to expand the universe, but at the same time when this becomes another film about an agent going rogue whilst a bunch of gifted computer geeks and government men with unlimited resources try to track him down at all costs, it can’t help but feel just a little bit tired even if it is quite exciting. We’ve been here three times before, so more emphasis on the “expanding” of the universe beyond introducing a couple of new characters would’ve been beneficial. 

Let’s talk new characters. Weisz’s doctor is interesting enough – she has something of an unexpected life upheaval but deals with it in an un-annoying manner and fortunately avoids anything approaching love interest. Edward Norton comes in as Eric Byer, the man in charge of Operation Outcome and essentially filling the same shoes as Chris Cooper, Joan Allen and David Straithairn in the previous films. I quite liked him in this role but it’s just a shame it was such a facsimile of those that came before. 

And so to the key point. Matt Damon created such a definitive character with Jason Bourne that it would’ve been impossible to recast him. There was something mild mannered about him until survival instinct kicked in and he became both cunning and startlingly ruthless. But we were with him from the start as he dealt with confusion and tried to figure out who he was and why he had these skills. Conversely Aaron Cross knows his situation and what’s going on, so we approach him in a different manner. Played by Jeremy Renner, he has a clearer objective yet we learn very little about him, but he remains personable as well as being suitably physical and cunning. As soon as the casting was announced Renner seemed like the right person to play this type of role. His recent turns in The Hurt Locker, The Town and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol brought him to wider attention and convinced of his suitability, and although the comparisons to Damon are inevitable, don’t forget Damon was initially leftfield casting for this type of role and took his time to define the character, so it’s fair to say that Renner is standing on his own two feet so far here.

Tony Gilroy also seemed like the right choice to direct post Paul Greengrass’ involvement at the helm of Supremacy and Ultimatum. As the writer of the screenplays for the original trilogy he was involved enough to know the universe inside out, whilst as director he’s given us the excellent Michael Clayton and enjoyable Duplicity. On the whole I would say The Bourne Legacy is solidly directed too, but it’s not without issues. There’s too much laborious exposition that makes the middle section really drag, whilst the film ends too suddenly and anticlimactically. The action sequences are perhaps not up to the standard of the other films and they are edited far too fast so that they border on indiscernible at times. It’s repeating the original style but in a less effective way. Yet none of these are what I'd call major issues.

I remain entirely convinced that this was the right way to make another film in the Bourne universe, and on the whole it’s a successful attempt even if it’s not quite as good as the others. I wanted to see more from this world so I was always onside with the approach, yet with that in mind it feels a little churlish to complain that it felt a little too familiar and repetitious and over did the references to Jason Bourne. Ultimately they played it safe and that was probably the right idea when trying to make the transition and re-establish, but it means that there should now be plenty more to aim for in future films because the basis for the story has potential and Renner is a well-cast and engaging lead. So, I look forward to seeing what comes next.

15 August 2012

Review: Sound of My Voice

(Dir: Zal Batmanglij, 2011)

Sound of My Voice is the second indie film to come out in the last nine months that bears the strong presence of actress Brit Marling. As well as starring in the film she co-wrote and co-produced, the same responsibilities she took on in the excellent Another Earth, which saw its release late last year. Across these two films she has proven herself to be one of the most interesting young actresses working at the moment, as both films and the characters she portrays therein are fascinating.

Cults appear to have been a popular subject at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011, with Red State, Martha Marcy May Marlene and Sound of My Voice all debuting there and exploring this strange world from very different angles. Sound of My Voice approaches this by focusing on Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) as they indoctrinate themselves into a small cult they’ve heard rumours about, in order to record and document for a piece of investigative journalism they intend to publish. Everything is secretive and mysterious and hinges around leader Maggie (Brit Marling), who claims to be not of this time and thus has knowledge that will help her followers survive what may or may not come to pass in years to come.

The whole film essentially hangs on the question of whether Maggie is genuine or a con artist. There’s a beguiling etherealness to her - she’s always dressed in white and speaks with conviction and gentleness, but at times tempers this with a pushy harshness. It’s up to the viewer to make their own mind up as to whether there is any truth here, whilst her hiding place and continual attachment to oxygen and other medical items help add an aura of authenticity/manipulation. The fact that you wouldn’t expect a leader of a cult to be an attractive twenty something girl makes the whole thing even more curious to observe.

Peter and Lorna take on the objective observer role for us. They’re total sceptics and Peter particularly, who is a school teacher by day, has reasons for getting involved and wanting to expose what they believe to be fraudulent craziness. Except as time progresses and their exposure to Maggie increases along with their involvement, as they need to continue to appear as credible disciples, you question how close they actually are to crossing the line. Issues in their relationship inevitably flair up and things reach a head, which is all fairly predictable but I still liked how it was done. I found both characters interesting and believable enough, as you see them being pulled in different ways.

The small independent low-budget nature of the film, combined with the way the cult exists in the basement of some mystery location, adds a sense of realism that makes you wonder how many similar groups exist hermetically sealed in their own mundane bubble without anyone knowing. Overall I liked how the film was put together and my only real complaint lies with it being a bit on the short side as I would’ve liked just a bit more. The ending could be frustrating for some but I think it was pitched about right.
I really liked Sound of My Voice. I can see it being quite a divisive film as it’s not exactly entirely original, but it covers an interesting subject and creates enough ambiguity to allow the audience to believe in whichever way they choose. The way Marling plays Maggie is key and she did great job creating a character whom you want to believe but common sense says you shouldn’t, whilst Denham and Vicius are both convincing in their roles. The exploration of belief is interesting, especially when it's presented through such a curious prism. On the basis of both this and Another Earth, I hope Marling doesn’t get swept into the Hollywood mainstream in a way that would diminish the potential for her to create further compellingly intriguing indie films.

1 August 2012

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

(Dir: Christopher Nolan, 2012)

“Why so serious?”  

The teasingly ominous words of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, which were liberally applied across the marketing elements to promote the film as well as featuring on one of the best teaser posters of recent years, are perhaps the perfect question to aim at Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films. Tim Burton’s duo of films revelled in their arch gothic nature without getting bogged down by any associated misery, whilst Joel Schumacher’s successive films lost the gothic edge, added neon and amped up the fun factor, offering the closest recent filmic incarnation to the classic 1960’s tv series. At the end of the day Batman’s a comic book character so we should expect something inherently fun, right?

Not necessarily - and don't think I'm defending the Schumacher films, aside from the genius casting of Jim Carrey as The Riddler. Christopher Nolan and his fellow writers, David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan, recognised the bleak and blackened dichotomy at the heart of Bruce Wayne / Batman. He’s not a fun character in the Adam West mould; he’s a tortured soul, and in order to make this work they made probably the best decision of the whole trilogy - to ground everything in a sense of realism. Gotham here is not the strange dark other-worldly “fantasy” city as seen in the Burton and Schumacher films, here it looks and acts just like a real city. Nothing about the world that’s created feels like it shouldn't exist. This framing helps make the character’s pain seem genuine because, billionaire status aside, it’s more relatable.

This realism creates a potential issue. Batman’s villains are typically larger than life and eccentrically insane, so how can they be effectively portrayed in this "real" world without looking ridiculous or out of place? What I liked most about Batman Begins was its decidedly leftfield villain choices. Scarecrow was creepily effective and completely underplayed by Cillian Murphy (which is a positive), whilst Ra’s Al Ghul was totally unknown but not an over the top character, so worked in the context of a world created with realism in mind. Wisely they went for perhaps the most famous villain, The Joker, in The Dark Knight, and Ledger’s portrayal was superlative, becoming the exceptionally high watermark any comic-book villain must now be judged against. But his approach, his styling, his actions; they all fit into this real world – he was foremost a destructive maniac, rather than a theatrically inclined bad guy. Two-Face suffered by virtue of appearing alongside this character, but he was still interesting and actually served the story rather than being present just for the sake of it.

When the villains for The Dark Knight Rises were announced I was dismayed to hear that Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) would play a role. Yes she’s one of the most famous villains, but with such a large pool to choose from I was hoping for more originality à la Batman Begins, rather than retreading overly worn ground. Yet I’m pleased to say that I was wrong to be so negative about this. The way the character is portrayed and integrated is really well done; she has a relevant role to play within the plot but isn’t really “Catwoman”, she is Selina Kyle. Anne Hathaway is well cast and charmingly seductive, yet strong enough to kick ass and hold her own against all these other dominant characters. In fact she is one of the best things about this film!

Which leads us to the chief villain - Bane. Excessively pumped and wearing a mask/device over his mouth and head, Tom Hardy is almost unrecognisable and at times bordering on difficult to understand, which only enhances his mystique and adds to his menace. And he is menacing. He poses a serious physical threat but despite the savagery doesn’t come across as dumb. There’s something really interesting about the character and though he may not be in the same league as the Joker, he perfectly fits the rough hewn realism being striven for.

It’s hugely satisfying that The Dark Knight Rises closes an arc and makes these three films into a neat self-contained trilogy. The story in this final instalment leads back to elements of the first film, whilst continuing with the thread of The Dark Knight and some of the Joker’s "chaos reigns" -esque ideology, alongside Ra’s Al Ghul ‘s (supposedly) righteous principle that Gotham has had its time, so, solve et coagula. Personally I liked this threat of nihilistic cataclysm over the theatrical megalomania oft exhibited by antagonists of The Bat Man. The reasons have already been clearly set out for us so this time it’s really about the how.

The set-up for this is very satisfactory and the delivery is on the whole extremely good. In terms of what it offers it’s no different from the previous two films, it’s just more of the same which in my opinion is definitely a good thing. What you also get is some of Christian Bale's best acting in the trilogy, as the events of the previous two films are now firmly weighing Bruce Wayne down, allowing us to see and feel more of the depth of his character. Likewise Michael Caine is the best he’s been in the trilogy, although admittedly by this film his character is starting to feel repetitious, but it’s the delivery that makes him stand out more here. Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are both positive additions to the cast and are enjoyable as ever to watch.

Unfortunately the film ends up written into a corner about two thirds of the way through, causing it to drag noticeably and making it all feel longer than it needs to be. Once it manages to ride this out it picks up again, and although the whole story does feel carefully constructed I'm sure they could've found a way around this. The ending also left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied. On first watch I didn't like it at all, whilst on second viewing I wasn't quite as dissatisfied, but I still have issues with it. As much as I'd love to go into more detail it is the ending and I planned to avoid discussing anything too spoilerish. Nonetheless I shouldn’t be too surprised by this as the final fight in Batman Begins and the final showdown with the Joker at the end of The Dark Knight were two of the least enjoyable parts of those films. I suspect that with this being a trilogy conclusion it might be a reason why I had more issues this time. 

My thoughts on the ending and the lagging middle aside, The Dark Knight Rises is a great conclusion to what must surely be the best trilogy of superhero films to hit the screen. I thoroughly enjoyed it and importantly it stood up to a second viewing, which bodes well for future watching. At this point I know it's not the best of the three, that remains The Dark Knight, but I look forward to seeing whether my opinion shifts over time. Nolan has left an indelible mark on the character and it'll be interesting to see what Warner Bros. decide to do in the future, after all there will be more Batman films and there's now a hell of a lot to live up too. I also hope that Nolan doesn't feel the need to return to Gotham, or move onto any other known franchises for that matter, as his non-Batman films have proven he's capable of telling some intriguing stories, of which I'd like to see more. So, why so serious? He's not known as the "Dark" Knight for nothing...