When The Dark Knight Rises was released in July 2012, it was met with extraordinary hype and even more extraordinary reception. Aside from earning nearly $1.1 billion dollars worldwide to become the highest-grossing Batman film ever (which it still is), it captivated virtually everyone who saw it. Far from being a creative disappointment, it was widely deemed as equal to — if not better than — its prodigiously celebrated predecessor: 2008’s The Dark Knight.
Much like the slowly shattering ice that opens the film, though, the cracks soon started showing as the months and years passed by. Viewers began meticulously picking apart Christopher Nolan’s epic finale to determine that nearly every element (from its pacing, length, and plot to its sound design, acting, and dialogue) felt uncharacteristically subpar, even unsatisfying in spots.
Sure, a few leaps in logic — such as Bruce Wayne miraculously arriving back in Gotham after escaping his underground prison, GCPD officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) happening to know that Wayne is Batman, and Bane’s lair being beneath Wayne Tower’s armory without Wayne or Lucius Fox knowing — can probably be excused for the sake of their emotional and narrative beats.
However, there are more fundamental issues with The Dark Knight Rises that, especially with a full decade of hindsight, drastically keep it from achieving true greatness. At times, it’s both the best and the worst of the trilogy, and while it’s an excellent film overall, it could’ve been a masterpiece.
The most multifaceted and glaring problems come with Tom Hardy’s Bane, who, admittedly, offers a far superior rendition than Jeep Swenson did in 1997’s Batman & Robin. Nevertheless, his genuinely fascinating and frightening presence as a populist anarchist/revolutionist (who tests Batman and Gotham on physical and intellectual levels) is undermined by several key shortcomings.
Chiefly, his voice is hard to take seriously. Granted, it’s intentionally incongruous to his appearance, and Hardy famously based it on a real person (Romani boxer Bartley Gorman). Also, let’s not forget that the initial screenings of the extended prologue, placed before theatrical showings of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol around the end of December 2011, saw viewers complaining that Bane’s voice was unintelligible, prompting Nolan to fix it by April 2012.
Even with the director’s corrections for the theatrical release, however, Bane frequently sounds cartoonish rather than chilling. (That said, there are multiple moments where it totally works, too, such as during his disturbing “When Gotham is ashes” speech to Wayne in the prison.)