Billed as the final installment of the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises was both a critical and financial success, becoming the highest-grossing film of 2012 and the 11th highest-grossing of all time. Since its theatrical premiere, the film’s popularity has only continued, leading to numerous imitators (most notably, The Lego Batman Movie) and revitalizing the now 66-year-old Batman franchise.
But not everything about The Dark Knight Rises was met with universal acclaim. While critics may have praised its ambition and scale, many fans were dissatisfied with what they perceived as a betrayal of the source material, which they had held in the highest regard ever since the premiere of Tim Burton’s 1966 original The Batman.
Perhaps owing to its immense popularity, The Dark Knight Rises has spawned a long list of imitators and parodies. Here are some of the best, from the uncanny to the sublime. (Note: Most of these videos are racist and/or homophobic. Viewer discretion is advised.)
The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
The Lego Batman Movie is, like most in this list, a parody or reimagining of a movie that came before it. This time, however, the homage is done with Lego bricks, creating a colorful collage of famous Hollywood films and comic-book characters, mashed together as one giant superhero movie.
The film’s plot is, at its core, a comic-book-style reimagining of The Dark Knight, complete with a young boy who idolizes Batman and a grown-up version of the character (played by Michael Keaton) who helps train him. Inevitably, the Joker (Gary Oldman) forces Batman’s hand by releasing toxic substances into the city’s water supply. While some elements of the Batman mythos are preserved (the utility belt and the car), the bulk of the material is reimagined as a colorful celebration of superheroes and comic books, with the occasional pop-culture referential moment, like when Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) steals the movie’s infamous line ‘Let’s party!’ after being inspired by Lady Gaga’s performance in a meme-worthy scene from Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Shazam! is a 2019 superhero comedy film, the third in the DC Comics-based cinematic universe. The first two films in the franchise, Black Panther and Solo, were both box-office successes and received favorable reviews. So, it was only a matter of time before director David F. Sandberg and screenwriter Jon Tewkesbury turned their attention to Captain Marvel (Shazam), the hero who has the power to ‘shazam’ one word into an awesome power. Shazam! premiered to generally positive reviews from critics and currently has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film follows Billy Batson (Asher Angel), a young boy who lives in a quiet, ordinary neighborhood until his father (played by Zachary Levi) starts acting strangely and gives him a magic box. When he opens it, a wizard (Zachary Levi) pops out and tells him he’s the only one who can talk to him. Just like that, Billy is transformed into a grown-up Captain Marvel (Shazam), living in the modern day with an extraordinary strength and stamina. His catchphrase, “Shazam!” is now the mantra of choice for superhero fans who want to emulate his seemingly effortless feats.
Whether through clever wordplay or a simple gesture, Shazam! is filled with enough one-liners and humorous asides to keep even the most discerning comedy fan entertained. The colorful and fast-paced storyline, which also features the superheroes Black Adam and Thunderball, is a definite stand-out, as are Angel’s perfectly matched (albeit digital) facial expressions. While the cast is filled with talent—both established and up-and-coming, including Mark Hamill, Don Cheadle, and Eric Andre—the real MVP has to be Shazam himself, who, for a six-year-old, has surprisingly mature dialogues and delivers them with panache. The film’s final moments are particularly moving, as the little fellow, who has always wanted to be a hero, finds himself in the middle of a battle against an enemy he’s never met before. He might not get any older, but at least he’s finally learned how to act his age.
Deadpool 2 (2019)
Deadpool 2 is the sequel to the 2016 film Deadpool, which was the most commercially successful film of all time. The critically acclaimed movie became an instant sensation, and since its premiere, fans of the Merc with a Mouth have been waiting impatiently for more adventures. However, the sequel does not live up to their expectations. While there are certainly some funny moments, they are relatively few and far between, and the laughs aren’t as plentiful as in the first film.
The plot follows Deadpool, who is serving a life sentence in a maximum-security prison. After his release, he returns for revenge against those who put him away. Along the way, he teams up with Domino (Zazie Beetz), another badass with an unfaltering sense of humor, who helps him seek out and destroy his arch nemesis, Wilson (Bill Murray).
Deadpool 2 is a step back from the first film in many ways. Gone is the witty repartee, replaced by extended scenes of bloody mayhem, gratuitous nudity, and even a fair share of snarky one-liners. The violence is, for the most part, well-done, with a few truly gruesome fight scenes. The action is, for the most part, well-staged, and the special effects are, for the most part, excellent. The production values are higher too, with many scenes taking place in lavish movie sets (a reflection, perhaps, of the massive success of the first film).
There are, however, some noticeable problems with the film. For one thing, the characters don’t feel as fleshed out as they could be, and the story, while somewhat original (inspired by the Marvel Comics character Lady Death), is, for the most part, unoriginal. The biggest problem, though, is that even the most ardent Deadpool fan might have a hard time finding something to laugh at. The film tries to have its cake and eat it too, mixing absurd humor with pathos, which doesn’t always come off as seamless as one might hope. It’s hard to find a nice balance when you’re making a comedy-drama hybrid.
Hollywood Ending (2019)
Hollywood Ending is, at its core, a love story between a man (Mark Duplass) and a woman (Holly Hunter), set against the backdrop of the 2022 elections. Like many of the films on this list, Hollywood Ending is a parody of American culture and the media, this time specifically regarding filmmaking and the influence of money on media coverage. While many of the movies on this list poke fun at various elements of American culture, Hollywood Ending is, in many ways, a celebration of American ingenuity and an ode to the power of filmmaking to affect change. (Even if, in this case, that change is largely imagined.)
The film focuses on Micah (Mark Duplass), a screenwriter who is adapting an upcoming Hollywood movie, The White House Wives, into a television series. While pitching the show to a network executive (Hunter), Micah makes a number of references to well-known films, most notably The Wolf of Wall Street and Black Panther, which he describes as “the most exciting thing to happen to black culture since Jesus was a little white dude.”
The moment is, in fact, a parody of sorts, as The Wolf of Wall Street received extremely positive reviews and was a box-office success, while Black Panther was met with unprecedented backlash, particularly from white audiences, who accused the movie of whitewashing and cultural appropriation. In response, the film’s star, Chadwick Boseman, said, “It just so happens that the people that are working with me on this movie are black because I am black… If you don’t like it, too bad.”