Here's the spoiler-free version. I'll go full spoiler after the jump.
The Dark Knight Rises is outstanding. Yes, it's imperfect - particularly with the passage of time in the latter half of the film - but imperfect doesn't matter when a series as outstanding as this wraps up. What does matter is that the film works as a fitting climax to a story that Christopher Nolan has been telling over the span of three movies. Every actor here turns in a great performance - especially Tom Hardy who is forced to emote with a terrifying mask over his face, leaving him to perform in pure physicality. The finale of the film, clearly the finale of the trilogy is emotional and satisfying in spite of the hand-waving deus ex machina and a last moment character revelation.
The film does not, however, stand alone, and I doubt it would be nearly as enjoyable for someone who hasn't seen the first two movies. This is the climax of a journey, and it's a journey that needs to be taken in full.
Let's look a little deeper, shall we?
Thoughts on various aspects...
- Anne Hathaway worked as Catwoman/Selina Kyle. She pulled off the stunts. She pulled off the occasionally groan-worthy lines. Most importantly she pulled off being physical, moral, and intellectual enough to be worth Bruce Wayne's choice to leave crime fighting behind to be with her in the end.
- Speaking of Bruce Wayne's choice, I'm thinking the ending is slightly open to interpretation. We know that Alfred has finally seen Bruce with a woman in some Italian city. We know that John 'Robin' Blake has been invited to the Batcave. I assume that Bruce and Selina have left their lives behind having used some version of the 'clean slate' after which Selina has been hunting for years. I also assume that 'Robin' is taking over rather than becoming a side kick.
- Does 'Robin' become the new Batman? Does he become his own hero?
- Would Bruce Wayne live as 'Bruce Wayne' or take on a new identity with Selina?
- How the heck does a city ever recover from the destruction that was enacted upon it in this film?
- Is Alfred just entirely nuts and seeing what he wished to see? (I don't really think this, but it's a possibility, I guess.)
- Good lord I am so happy that I don't live in a world that really has terrorists/heroes like this one. I can't even imagine what taxes would be like if we as a nation had to help fund the recovery of a city like Gotham would need. Their entire infrastructure has been entirely destroyed. Holy crap...
- The fallout from even a smallish nuclear explosion would be nasty but would lead to some fascinating scientific opportunities for marine biologists.
- I cried at the end. I'll admit it. Not huge, weeping tears but certainly water leaking from my eyes. I don't remember if I started crying when Batman 'died' or when we found out that he didn't. Either way, I'm impressed that a comic book movie could move me that much.
- The Avengers was more fun, but this didn't feel like it was going for fun. This was Nolan telling a small, personal story of the redemption and freeing of a man from weights that he has been carrying since his parents were killed in an alley decades ago.
- The whole healing of the back via rope and punch didn't bother me much. Yeah, I get that it's scientifically impossible and all, but so is pretty much everything that Batman/Bruce does in all the movies. He's virtually indestructible anyway, so let him heal because he needs to for the plot. Yeah, his knee should be messed up because he doesn't appear to be wearing his brace in the prison, so he couldn't have ever made that jump, but he made it because the plot needs him to make it. (Remember that in the comics, Bruce Wayne's back was healed via telekenetic tug-of-war which causes he therapist/love interest to revert to the mind of a five-year-old.)
- The Talia thing had me totally fooled. I'd read in advance that Cotillard was playing Talia, but Nolan held off on the revelation long enough that I'd given that up entirely. Admittedly her death was too quick, but Nolan reeled me right in there. Nicely done, man.
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt is outstanding here. He carries the film, and was the second most important character in the film to me. He's a hell of an actor - something I already knew - and impressed the heck out of me here.
- Bane was terrifying. I greatly prefer this character to the one that the comic character has become - one who often is shown as being ridiculously 'roided (I know it's venom, shuddup) out and about the size of a Sherman tank. When Bane was first introduced in the Knightfall storyline, his effectiveness was because he was Batman's intellectual equal not because he was Batman's physical equal. He plotted behind the scenes and ran Batman ragged before revealing his physical prowess, and only then did he physically defeat Batman. The movie character seemed far closer to this villain than the one that that we have seen in the comics since then. Movie Bane is terrifying because he is a plotter who is always in control. Only when he has to does he become physically involved in the fight. The whole jacket grab thing that he keeps doing, the backhand stroking of Daggit's face, the verbal dismissals of Batman's initial fight - all brilliant and frightening.
- So many Batman storylines went into this. I'm impressed with how well Nolan synthesized them into one cohesive whole: Knightfall, No Man's Land, Year One, Bane of Batman. Check out more if you want to.
- There are major plot holes that appear on deeper exploration - Batman healed awfully quickly, he got back to Gotham a bit too easily, the timing of nuclear decay isn't that precise - but none of them bothered me during the movie itself.
- The Superman trailer sucked. I had no interest in seeing Man of Steel before the trailer, and I don't have any interest in seeing it now.
- It impresses the heck out of me that Nolan's Batman films have tackled such high concepts - reviewers draw parallels to the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Patriot Act, modern fears of terrorism, society's lack of a safety net for orphans. Yes, The Avengers was more fun, but it was pure popcorn, punching and quipping and flying and blowing schtuff up. This is a serious film being told in leather and tights. The Avengers could fit in just about anywhere in modern times. The Batman trilogy is a reflection of our current distrust in the government and fears in the world. This is a work of art that is of a time.
- The best reviews that I've read have come from the Comics Alliance staff and Chris Sims in particular. I especially appreciate and agree with Sims when he wrote...
Nolan has a luxury that the creators working in the Batman comics don't. He's not bound by having to have Batman show up five times next month in a self-perpetuating comic book story machine, so he can show us how his version of Batman ends, and that ending is a victory. ... By the end of Rises, that symbol has truly grown to encompass more than one man ever could, to the point where the man at the core of it is no longer necessary. It's a complete and total victory: Gotham City is no longer a place that needs Batman to survive. The climate that led to his parents' murder -- revealed in Begins to have been a social construct created by the League of Shadows -- has been changed into something better. The extraordinary grip that crime held on the city has been broken, and with it, the need for Batman. He finally gets the happy life that he deserves, but he's also secure in the knowledge that if the need for Batman arises, there will always be someone there to help that won't have to resort to running around in hockey pads.
- We just got a Batman movie that is surprisingly light on Batman content. Yeah, we have the comeback street scene and the two fights with Bane, but that's about it. Much of this movie takes place with the police force underground and Bruce Wayne healing or absent. That's a bold choice, man.
- I think The Dark Knight is a better film than Rises, but I want to see Rises again before I say for certain. As awesome as Bane is, he's no Joker/Ledger.
- Super villains need to learn to just kill people. Don't beat them then let them heal so they can be truly broken; shoot them in the head. Don't defeat a city and hold it hostage to break its spirit; blow it the frick' up. Don't tell them they have your permission to die later; grant your permission right that moment. In fact, don't say the line until after there's a bullet in their brain.
- I'm happy they further modified Bane's voice from the initial examples we got from the first trailers. He wasn't easy to understand, but he was understandable.
- So many call-outs to comic fans - the back breaking scene, Holly Robinson, Talia, blowing up the bridges. Thanks, Nolan.
- I'm gonna miss Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon. I can't remember a more perfect translation of a character to film - right down to the fact that he has no idea who Batman is in spite of everybody working with him seemingly knowing.
- The Bale/Batman voice has just about run its course. During a lot of the Bale/Batman scenes, the CollegeHumor Batman voice kept running through my head.
- If DC is ever hoping to have a Justice League movie with Superman and Batman - something that I understand is probably a loooong way off, they had to finish off Nolan's Batman. This is not a character that can exist in a flying, tights kinda superhero world.