Early Edition Contributing Writer

As the dog days of summer first dawned, so did a breathlessly anticipated box-office clash years in the making, one of epic—no, hulking—proportions, which would pit D.C. against Marvel, Caped Crusader against Unconventional Band of Bad Asses, and fanboy against fanboy.

The Hollywood gods delivered upon us two crown jewels of the superhero genre this summer, The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises (technically three if you count The Amazing Spiderman, but we, for the purposes of this review as well as in real life, really just are not). Each movie was a blockbuster in its own right, a smash success among audiences, critics, and studio bookkeepers alike. But for all that these two superheroes of the cinema seem to share, each work stands more divided against than united with one another with regard to core qualities; they are less like close cousins and more like relatives several times removed who awkwardly nod across the hall at a family reunion. Any serious comparisons between the two, while always tempting, are fairly pointless—so, let us begin to make ours.

The Avengers stormed theaters with a profound vengeance early this May in a record-shattering, Harry Potter-smashing debut. It has taken no less than five earlier films to assemble these Avengers, and so the fact that this movie even exists at all is really something of a logistical feat.

Our action begins at the defense corp. S.H.I.E.L.D., where the evil Loki (Tom Hiddleston), always a gentleman, wastes no time in warming up to the folks of S.H.I.E.L.D. He announces his plans to enslave the human race, invades the minds of a gifted archer (Jeremy Renner) and a scientific genius (Stellan Skarsgard) and, lest he forget his manners, blows up the entire base. It leaves head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) a tad miffed, and builds to a threat big enough to bring our dream team together.

The thusly assembled Avengers weave their way through scenes of incredible action, relationships strained with tension, themes regarding a healthy distrust of authority and the meaning of heroism, and, naturally, some standard, smirky Stark smugness. Director, writer, and all-around guru Joss Whedon’s labor of love pays off immensely and immediately as this huge machine revs up and takes off. Marvel’s The Avengers is, in short, quite a fun marvel.

But the arrival of August brought with it the arrival of another movie, which, though not necessarily a “fun” summer treat, is equally as spectacular a marvel, in at least one sense of the word.

The third installment in Christopher Nolan’s epic Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, was the conclusion both comic book lovers and average civilian filmgoers were waiting for.

We journey back to Gotham eight years after The Dark Knight. Batman and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) are both in recluse as their city and their company are seamlessly mismanaged. It takes one svelte, safe-cracking cat burglar (Anne Hathaway) to bring Bruce and his “powerful friend” back into action.

While the streets of Gotham are calm on the surface, just below the sidewalk brews a revolution led by Bane (Tom Hardy), a ripped, militant warrior-villain with some apparent sympathies toward the French Revolution. Bane’s painstaking plans to bring down and rebuild Gotham are terrifying in a way the Joker’s free-wheeling ferocity was not, and he provides a waking nightmare for the paranoid, post-9/11 America. The Dark Knight Rises proves to be an incredible conclusion to the beloved saga, gripping, deep, and yes, dark.
As far as any comparisons between the two films, it’s a choice between a piece of pop art and a post-modern portrait, a comic book and a Chuck Palahniuk novel.

It’s apples and oranges, but, as (ironically) Spiderman star Emma Stone once said, “I love all fruit.”

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