To my knowledge, they’re the two highest grossing movies of 2012 so far. Both are comic book movies. Both were among the most anticipated movies ever released. For months after the release of the Avengers I read comments on articles about both films stating things along the lines of “just you wait until Dark Knight Rises comes out and mops the floor with Avengers.”
After TDKR came out it seemed people weren’t concerned with how good it was as a film, but rather whether or not it was better than the Avengers. Before I get started I want to state that I don’t think it really matters given they’re going for completely different tones, but it seems everybody has to weigh in on this debate, and running a review blog and all, I figured I’d give my two cents/pence.
These are both great movies and I paid to see both twice. I believe the Dark Knight might be the best film made since 2000. I really enjoy the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I have no general bias towards one or the other.
But that being said I believe the Avengers was a superior film.
TDKR has some phenomenal moments, but it’s also full of little flaws, such as the likelihood of being able to predict the half-life of a decaying atomic bomb to the second, or how Bruce Wayne got from the middle-east (presumably) back to a locked-down Gotham in less than 24-hours without a penny to his name and had the time to stop over and grab his suit and equipment, which he subsequently hid somewhere while he strolled along to talk to Catwoman in civilian clothes. How did Batman knock out the guards from behind and then appear diagonally in front of Jim Gordon’s crew on the ice seconds later? There are huge chunks of the film where Batman is nowhere to be seen, Bane is at times ludicrously difficult to understand (and that’s coming from an Englishman with pretty decent hearing), and I think everyone can agree the film is probably 30-45 minutes too long, and they introduced a few too many new faces early on.
Wow, that read like I didn’t like the film at all didn’t it? I did, I promise.
But the Avengers just holds together better. The dialogue is incredible and the script is much, much tighter. Over 45 minutes of footage was cut from the film to bring it to just over 2 hours, and nothing felt wasted or unnecessary, whereas TDKR felt like it needed another run through the edit room to reduce that aforementioned length. The acting might not be as good, but it’s a less dramatic/gritty universe, focusing more on comedy, and the cast have really good chemistry together. Oh, and Tom Hiddleston and Mark Ruffalo were amazing.
And the Avengers’ greatest strength was that it was able to give roughly equal screen time to each of the heroes and give them all a chance to shine, not really putting any one of them above the others, a pretty remarkable feat given their wildly different skill-sets and the relative fame levels of both the actors and their characters. Whedon just got it. TDKR, like its predecessor, gave more prevalence to the villain than the protagonist, with Batman arguably being the 3rd or even 4th most important and interesting character behind Bane, Blake and Catwoman.
Bane seems to be the best received thing about TDKR besides Nolan’s nearly unmatched ability to create a believable Gotham, but can you honestly say Loki wasn’t every bit his equal due to his charisma? If you use Tumblr regularly you’ll probably be sick of the sight of Hiddleston by now, but there’s a reason his image his been blogged and reblogged millions of times.
A final caveat here is that Nolan didn’t really want to make TDKR and it’s the third part of a trilogy, whereas the Avengers is technically the first entry in a series (the individual films all have different directors and writers and are only peripherally related), so it’s a blank canvas versus already frequently trodden ground.
But when all is said and done, both films were really good, but for me the Avengers was just a better executed exercise in filmmaking.