(Warning: I will have both a spoiler-free and spoiler-filled section in this review. But I will give bolded warning before I shift into spoiler territory at the end of the review.)
I'll let you know from the start that I wasn't going out of my mind in anticipation for this like most other people. I mean, I was excited to see it. I enjoyed the other two. But this wasn't my most anticipated of the year or anything. To give you perspective, let me share some quick thoughts on the first two films. Begins is a good origin story, if not somewhat disjointed feeling. Dark Knight is much more entertaining to me, mostly due to Ledger's performance. But it's a long film, and it feels like a long film. It gets to a point, especially whenever Ledger isn't on screen, where I'm wondering if it's going to end anytime soon. So both are entertaining, but neither are films I revisit terribly often. Which brings us to the final chapter.
Eight years have passed since the events of the last film, and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has hung up the cape and cowl since the death of Harvey Dent has pushed Gotham to clean up its act. Unfortunately, much to the dismay of his butler Alfred (Michael Caine), he's basically given up on his personal life as well, having become a recluse. But after a cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Anna Hathaway) robs him, Bruce starts to get his interest back into investigation. This eventually leads him to a deadly mercenary named Bane (Tom Hardy) who has come to Gotham to be its reckoning. Meanwhile, a cop named Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works with an out-of-commission Gordon (Gary Oldman) to figure out what's going on with Bane, while Bruce also works with Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) to keep a bankrupting Wayne Enterprises afloat.
Yeah, there's a lot going on in this movie, which--of course--accounts for its nearly 3-hour runtime. One would assume due to the film's length that I'd feel similarly as I do with Dark Knight, if not even moreso due to the lack of Ledger. But surprisingly, this film flew by for me. The only times I ever checked my watch were because I was making mental notes at what was happening at how long into the film. I think a lot of this has to do with a couple of the characters.
First and foremost, this movie belongs to Anne Hathaway. She stole every scene she was in, and much like Ledger in the previous, the film suffered some when she wasn't in it. She was a fantastic Catwoman, and her casting just continues to back-up the "In Nolan We Trust" sentiment. Also, I really dug Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character in this movie. I really cared whether he would live or die and what was going on with him, so if there were any scenes that didn't have Anne Hathaway, but they had JoGo, I was more than likely OK with that (and considering he just about shares the same amount of screen time as Christian Bale, you get quite a bit of him). If there was one other person that stole this movie, it was Michael Caine. He's been great as Alfred in the past, but damn did he bring it this time. There was so much emotion and heart with his character in this film that he damn near made me cry at one point. And I'm not saying that the other characters were bad. They just weren't as interesting.
Let's look at our primary villain this time around. Bane as a concept is pretty cool. He's a powerhouse of the likes Batman doesn't typically deal with. He's stronger. He's faster. He's deadlier. But as a screen presence... he's not that interesting. His backstory that you get bit-by-bit throughout the film is really interesting. But when you watch the character on screen... not so much. Unless he's fighting Batman, then he's great. My biggest issue with him, though, was his voice. And no, I'm not talking about the "you can barely understand him" thing. Because I could understand him just fine. In fact, my problem was the tone of his voice. I don't know what Tom Hardy was going for, but it sounded like he was trying to be Sean Connery. Seriously. Anytime the dude talked, all I heard was Connery. It was just weird.
And I think that's why I had a problem with the first hour or so of the movie. Not Bane specifically, but the film basically opens with his introduction, and I was set off balance with his voice. I couldn't get over it. And then it moves into all the other stories and Batman is not really even a presence (though that's a plot point). Hell, Bruce Wayne is hardly a presence for a while. And a lot of it is just setup. There's good stuff mixed in, particularly with Anne Hathaway as previously stated. But it definitely took me a while to get adjusted to the tone of everything. But once I did, I was in. Because of that, I feel the film is pretty back-loaded. Most of the best parts are in the second half.
Now, I've also heard a lot of these or other issues or rough feelings toward the film are not necessarily resolved, but made better on a second watch. I've read that in a few different places now. Something just clicks better, I guess, once you know how things turn out. And I can see that... however, on a similar note, I do think the film is incredibly predictable. Not everything, but there are a lot of twists and turns to this movie, and a lot of them I saw coming a mile away. I'll discuss that further in the spoilers section, though. But for now, I'll just say some of the big reveals actually made me like the film even more.
But on the whole, I say it's a fine ending to the trilogy. Would I like to see another? Sure. Do I think this is an absolute, definitive ending to Nolan's universe? No, because there are at least a couple directions they could go in. I know it won't happen. I'm just saying there's always possible areas to take a story. But I honestly think I need to see it again. I felt that way as soon as I left the theater. The action was great. The acting--particularly from Hathaway, JoGo, and Caine--was superb. None of it got to Ledger levels of greatness, and the overall film might not be overall better thematically than Dark Knight, but something tells me I actually might revisit this one more often in the future.
A Keanu 'Whoa'
(P.S. I was tempted to go higher, but I think I need another watch to really get there. As for now, I just really liked the majority and loved the ending. And speaking of spoilers...)
-----DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU DO NOT WANT MAJOR SPOILERS-----
-Rumors were abound even before the film came out stating that Miranda Tate was actually Talia Al Ghul, which I believe even bounced back and forth from Marion Cotillard herself whether or not it was true. Well, it was, and I did suspect it. Where the film tripped me up with the twist was that I still believed Bane was Ra's Al Ghul's son and that they would be siblings. I appreciate the way the film handled everything with this twist, and it made me like the film more. The motivations for characters became clearer, and the fact that it was all an extensive revenge plot--as well as a continuation of League of Shadows business from the first film--and Bane was just a protector helped make sense of the story.
-As stated previously, JoGo plays a cop-turned-detective named John Blake. Again, prior to the film, there were tons of rumors abound hinting that he was going to become Batman at the end of the film. And by God, there were a lot of hints and clues leading to that very twist throughout the movie. But as it turns out, he wasn't going to be the next Batman... he's Robin. Nolan has stated in the past, I believe, that he was never going to include Robin in his films, but he handled it in a very realistic and creative way. You never see him in costume, but this film was nothing less than his origin story. I bounced back and forth throughout the entire film trying to figure out if he really would become Batman or if he was gonna end up Robin. I couldn't quite figure it out, but I knew it had to be one of the two. And I was happy with what we got.
-The movie has been touted as being a definite ending to Nolan's Batman story, implying something terrible--like his death--would occur. And they surely build towards that throughout the film. But I knew that wouldn't happen, as there's a moment early on where Alfred basically telegraphs the ending by telling a story about seeing a thought-dead Bruce with a wife in a foreign country. This was the lesser of the twists, mostly because it was the most obvious. Still, I can't hate a happy ending for Batman.
Anything else I didn't cover? Hit me up in the comments!