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Commentary: No joke, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ could rise above predecessor

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

A lot of folks don’t think Christopher Nolan’s next Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises” can top its predecessor, “The Dark Knight.”

That, my friends, is unfair to expect.

The third and final film in Nolan’s Batman trilogy features Christian Bale’s Batman, of course, but also Bane (Tom Hardy), Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), and rumored appearances from Ra’s al Ghul, who was featured in “Batman Begins,” his daughter, Talia, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a cop.

All that aside, it doesn’t feature Batman’s most famous arch-nemesis, Joker.

Heath Ledger’s take on Joker in “The Dark Knight” has become a cultural staple. His involvement in the film undoubtedly helped it rake in north of $1 billion at the box office, whether it be because of his performance or his untimely death earlier in the year.

Of course, it would be hard to top that if that’s what Nolan’s prerogative was.

But it’s not. And he’s wise not to make it so.

If Nolan were looking to try to up the ante from “The Dark Knight,” he likely would have utilized Riddler, arguably the second-highest-profile villain in the Batman universe. Instead, he chose Bane, who’s recognizable in his own right, but certainly not in the same caliber as Joker.

Even without Riddler or Joker, people shouldn’t expect less from “Rises.” Just because the film might not feature an iconic, over-the-top villain doesn’t mean it can’t be great in its own right.

Other franchises have gone on to produce follow-ups just as good, if not better, than entries perceived as “great.” Look at James Bond. The series has endured for 50 years now, and Daniel Craig’s “Casino Royale” is regarded by many as one of the finest films in the series, comparing favorably to the Sean Connery-era flicks.

What’s to say “Rises” can’t do that as well, and that Hathaway and Hardy can’t live up to Ledger?

The first theatrical trailer for the film and a six-minute prologue was released in December. With exploding football fields and mid-air heists, the scale on “Rises” looks bigger than ever, and that, along with Hathaway’s sultry take on Catwoman and Bane’s creepy confidence, make me think “Rises” has enough going for it to at least become “The Dark Knight’s” equal.

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