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Face-Off: Avengers vs. Dark Knight Rises (Part 2)

07.26.2012by: Paul Huffman
Batman Begins and The Dark Knight went head to head in last week's Face Off, and just as I personally predicted, the race was as close as any with The Dark Knight pulling out a victory by a hair. Both films are masterpieces for different reasons so I don't think anybody would have been surprised if the final fan verdict went the other way.

Before The Avengers was released, I threw together a Face-Off between Avengers and Dark Knight Rises focusing on which blockbuster our readers anticipated the most. The Dark Knight has risen and it's time for the sequel to match up. In my humble opinion, both films lived up to their enormous hype, but do you agree? Which film did better in living up to its potential in your eyes? Before we get started, let's acknowledge that some think these movies shouldn't be compared, they're two different types of films, etc.. Very true. Our mission here is to discover which approach tickled your fancy the most. Let's get cracking.
Tone
Fans rejoiced in the splendid nature of The Avengers. A big part of the praise the film received is how much it felt like a comic book film. Joss Whedon knew what this franchise had to be, and he stayed true to it. With the way each of these individual characters have already been developed, there was little room for the dark and gritty style Nolan made so popular with his Batman series. The Avengers showed us that we all still crave the fun, larger than life, thrill ride that has little to do with confronting the human condition. Bravo Joss, I hope you return to the chair to keep the feel of this film going.
Out of all of Nolan's Batman film, this one definitely translated to being the most out of this world. We got the inclusion of Batsy's aerial toy, the return of the Bat Cave, some of the action beats, etc. That aside, Nolan didn't stray from the formula that made these films so successful, the realism and the gritty feel was there front and center. The liberated Gotham with the snow fall to compliment it was beautiful to look at. I considered giving the edge to TDKR in this category, but both these films gave me infinite amounts of entertainment for very different reasons so I feel both deserve love for their cinematic approach.
Action
Holy shite this film didn't let up when it came to its action beats did it? Also answer me this question, how does a movie that has breathtaking action sequences as its backbone manage to not disappoint on the character development front as well? Sure we had solo films to get to know these characters, but they become even more fleshed out here, while having time to properly develop some new characters along the way. Leaving ample time for Hulk to smash in the air and on the ground, leaving ample time for shoot outs and hand to hand combat, leaving ample time for New York to be ravaged but ultimately saved. With plenty of time to spare for comedic beats we all appreciated oh so much in between.
Everyone knows these films were ultimately more about character study than balls to the wall action sequences, but this one, like the first two films still managed to deliver those goods as well. Batman's first confrontation with Bane was short but oh so damn sweet! When Bane got to what he was doing Gotham we got a beautifully put together sequence accompanied by a "beautiful singing voice." That said, the pace of this film was slower, the action beats not as plentiful as that of Avengers, to make room for that aforementioned character studying that Nolan is so famous for. To be honest, you won't get any complaints here.
Villain
We got our introduction to Loki in Thor's stand alone film but you know what, he shined in his second run for Avengers. We get more of him and more time to get a real sense of his unbelievably loathing for his brother and all the beings he feels are so beneath him. The credit must go to Tom Hiddleston for his performance and how much fun he has with the character, I like my villains to be sarcastic snarky assholes who know how to crack a joke every once in a while and that is Loki in a nutshell. He managed to come back from the ass whoopin he received in Thor and nearly break the spirits of our beloved team before they ever got a chance to get off the ground, and though thwarted, the dudes immortal...so he lives to fight another day.
So much anticipation and debate went into whether Tom Hardy as Bane would be a worthy successor to the iconic villain Heath Ledger created in The Joker. Well all is said and done, and while I don't think Bane was as charismatic or as menacing as The Joker, he held his own and definitely had a presence and a way of carrying himself that made a formidable foe for the Bat. I had a hard time understanding him at times but for most of the dialogue that came out loud and clear I dug. Now I won't spoil anything, but for those who have seen the film, am I alone in being someone disappointed by how his character was concluded? It left a lot to be desired. But that's just me.
Female Presence
Beautiful, feisty, intelligent, and can hold her own in a fight. I was pleasantly surprised how much screen time we got for The Black Widow , she was really well developed here, and Scarlett Johansson portrayed her perfectly. Her introduction was perfect, her mind games with Loki were great, how shaken up she got due to her confrontation with Hulk was powerful, and I really appreciate the tease we got at a backstory that I wouldn't mind being explored in a solo film for more of an opportunity to see her rock her...erm...battle armor. I can't forget to mention Pepper Potts and those lovely shorts.
I've talked to people that were confident in Anne Hathaway's ability to bring Catwoman to life, and people that were very apprehensive about her ability. Where do I stand? She nailed it, I daresay she was one of the two standouts in this film as far as nailing her character and overall performance in the film period. Her shining moment was her introduction as she quickly transitioned from a totally different character into our sassy Selina Kyle, and she never let up with the charisma. Some people may question how integral she really is to the particular story told in this film, but why question it the film was improved with her presence. SIDE NOTE: She really knew how to tease in that outfit. I mean hot damn.
Performances
We have seen the way this wonderful ensemble portray their respective characters in their solo movies, the treat we got in this film was the extensive interaction we got from this talented group of actors. They played off each other brilliantly when it came to the lightheartedness, but you also felt the weight of their early tension. You got the sense all these people were happy to finally get to this and they all brought their A game, even Sam Jackson and Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson had more meat to chew on here. My only wish is Jeremy Renner would have had more of an opportunity to shine, but that's for the inevitable sequel.
Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle and Michael Caine as Alfred (that performance came out of nowhere) were the standouts this time around in my eyes. Caine and Hathaway stole every single scene they were in, with Caine actually moving me to tears a couple times. One pivotal scene between Gary Oldman and JGL sent chills up my spine as well. Tom Hardy as Bane won me over, if his job was to be menacing and come off as a complete badass, he definitely succeeded. Marion Coltiard didn't have much to do, but she definitely lit up the screen when she was around. Long story short, remember those tears I brought up earlier? I haven't shed tears during a film in a while, so bravo Michael Caine, you've given the edge to TDKR here.
Overall
Avengers came alone and like many had suspected it would knocked our socks right off, it's rare something this big and anticipated lives up to fans expectations but it did that and then some. All the elements were there, the action, the humor, chemistry between our main players, the intriguing villain, etc. The main thing I appreciated here is what I thought was going to be the hardest to pull off, giving every character the proper screentime...needless to say that fear was put to bed. Future installments have never been more inevitable, and my excitement for many of them couldn't be higher. Avengers assembled, indeed.
Some of the people I've talked to have compared The Dark Knight to Empire Strikes Back and TDKR to that of Return of the Jedi. I would have to say I agree with that assessment, in my opinion The Dark Knight was the masterpiece of this trilogy, with even holding Batman Begins to a bit of a higher level. But does that mean this film isn't a work of art on its own merits? Hell no. It was a very fitting conclusion to this trilogy and nobody could have done it better than Nolan. Thanks to how good this film managed to be going up against Dark Knight, the trilogy AS A WHOLE will become legendary.
Avengers
So there it is folks, I have a feeling some will agree with this assessment, some will call me crazy. The Avengers rocked my world and left me wanting more right then and there during the credits, TDKR gave me the closure to this series that I needed, but I did ultimately feel that Avengers was the better film this summer. Do you agree? Strike back below!

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at [email protected] with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which summer blockbuster was your favourite?
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