This little story has been bugging me for the past 48 hours - especially since this morning when I saw Rotten Tomatoes shut down its comments section for The Dark Knight Rises when film critics who gave "rotten" reviews started receiving both death and rape threats - and I wanted to put my two cents out there for you guys to read, so here it goes:
If you haven't noticed by now, The Dark Knight Rises - while getting very good reviews (great reviews actually considering it's not only the third entry in a film series but also the third in a comic book film series, period - is not getting the outstanding and universal acclaim it's predecessor - The Dark Knight - received back in 2008.
Currently, as I write this piece, TDKR sits at an 86% rating on RT (123 reviews; 106 positive, 17 negative) which by all accounts is pretty dam good. However, many are making note of the fact that Christopher Nolan's second film in his Batman trilogy, TDK, had a final rating of 94% on RT (282 reviews; 264 positive, only 18 negative total).
While many have been making a fuss over this (seriously, browse through some message boards and you'll see fanboys are freaking out who haven't even seen the film yet), and I want to provide both a logical and rational reason behind this.
When TDK opened back in 2008, the hype behind it was extraordinary. Mostly due to the fact of the late Heath Ledger's death, the film became a cultural and cinematic landmark; a movie that not only transcended the comic book genre, but also any genre film period. It earned phenomenal critical reviews, was adored by the masses, and oh yeah, made over $1 billion at the box office. Not to mention, it forced the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to expand their Best Picture category from 5 to 10 nominees after many felt the film was snubbed of a nomination that year.
Even though all these accolades were nothing short of well deserved, you have to understand the reality of the film by taking into account its predecessor.
2005's Batman Begins - without a doubt a solid, well-made film - was nowhere near as well received nor as good as its successor, TDK, would be. It was the return of Batman on film after the disastrous Batman & Robin in 1997, and to many was thought of as a job well done after such a bad taste left in moviegoers mouths just eight years prior (for those wondering, BB earned a 85% rating on RT; 261 reviews with 222 positive and 39 negative).
Therefore, TDK - as great as it was - was almost certain to be given better reviews by default, as it would be compared - subconsciously or not - to its predecessor, BB.
This is exactly what the issue is with TDKR.
It has both the blessing and the curse of being the final chapter in Christopher Nolan's trilogy preceded by TDK, a film that is not only considered the best comic book movie ever made but also one of the best movies in our past decade. The expectations are at such a high level they are almost impossible to meet.
This is what I am getting at. Of course TDKR is going to be less well received than TDK, it has to follow in its footsteps. I am not at all saying TDKR is going to be a lesser film (I feel it will be a greater one) but critics and viewers alike who see it are going to do nothing but compare it to TDK by default, just like they did with BB. It's just the reality of the human mind.
Put it this way, if TDKR was following up BB, don't you think the reviews would be more positive? Exactly.
Here's what I think and feel is going to happen: at first, many are going to say they liked TDKR, but didn't think it was as good as TDK. They're going to say Bane was no Joker, the movie didn't have the magic, whatever. But over and in time, this last entry in the trilogy will become regarded as the better, more engrossing film. It will be watched and re-watched over and over again, and as years pass, the cultural wave that made TDK so successful will fade, and it will be realized that The Dark Knight Rises, is the superior and fittingly, final film, in Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy.
Thank you very much.