Boy, was I in for a show last night.
Some spoilers to follow...
It might have taken a little while but I finally got to see Dark Knight Rises and it was a fantastic end to this stark, thrilling trilogy of Batman movies. I would even say that I found it was better than the previous two films - yep, even the Dark Knight. But then, I always found The Dark Knight to only be a good film, not a great one.
This film has a lot more heart, more soul and less plot holes than TDK. Yes, credibility is still stretched to the extreme and you still have to hand-wave some thing away. But in general it works.
It was even slightly better than the Avengers movie earlier this year - although the two films are as different as superhero movies can be; Dark Knight Rises was not the colourful, superpowered action flick that the Avengers excelled at.
Like the character in the earlier Burton films, for a hero who is so against guns movie, Batman seems to have a lot of them strapped to all his vehicles - including the new hovering "Bat" (essentially a more militaristic version of the Batwing). And he shows no compunction at firing them at people he's chasing (as long as they're inside vehicles, of course). At one point, he avoids some annoying heat-seeking missiles in his "Bat" plane by dodging and allowing them to blast into buildings (no doubt injuring or killing folk inside) and, eventually, into an armoured vehicle driven by his enemy. This Batman seems to rely more on his armoured vehicles and high-tech devices than the comic book version ever does.
I would argue Batman isn't just an ordinary guy with fancy toys though - he must also have a superpowered healing ability given the amount of damage he recovers from. Early in the film, 8 years after hanging up his cape, Bruce's knees are so damaged that he has to walk with a cane. He invents some sort of bionic leg brace to help him walk but then later, after he's thrown into a underground prison, he manages leap and bound his way out without that bionic brace. It's amazing how those little problems manage to disappear when the plot no longer needs them. Perhaps it was sheer force of will?
A significant amount of this film actually concentrates more on new character, John Blake (well played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He seems to be shoehorned in - and actually does more detective work than the Dark Knight Detective himself - although you find out why by the end. Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox are back again and as good as ever, whilst Michael Caine's loveable Alfred brings forth the tears and does a lot to ground the movie. The beautiful Anne Hathaway is fantastic as cat burglar Selina Kyle (I don't think she's ever called Catwoman and, to be honest, never really does the cat motif) and, character-wise, is probably the highlight of the movie. The dig at wearing high-heels was a nice touch. Tom Hardy's Bane looks impressive but I'm not sure about that voice. It could be clearly heard most of the time, so that wasn't the problem, it was just that it sounded too electronically high-pitched for such a bulk of a man. Amusing when it should have been menacing. Also, his Bane really isn't much like the comic book version - there's no venom to make him superstrong, for instance.
The story does do a great job of tying together the first and second films and especially expands on the former with a little twist near the end. And, indeed, it is the last half hour where the tension is turned up to 11 and everything (and everybody) comes together to produce a wonderful finale. The very end works perfectly for this silver screen version of the Batman, as the cowl is passed, Bruce learns to fear death and, in doing so, embraces life. I left the cinema with a big smile on my face knowing that it was the perfect way to end the franchise.
Though I still wonder how Bruce Wayne managed to travel from the foreign prison back to Gotham given that he had no money to his name, no passport, and Gotham was locked down. Well, other than the fact that he's the goddamned Batman! ;)