Last night I went to the Dark Knight marathon that many movie theaters were running. Eight-and-a-half glorious hours of Christopher Nolan's Batman vision. It was pretty awesome. Though I had seen the first two films several times, it was really great to watch them right before Dark Knight Rises as I was more clearly able to see the themes of despair and redemption that Nolan weaved throughout all three films.
Based on the strength of Heath Ledger's Joker, and the madness inherent in that character, I still think The Dark Knight is the strongest of the three films. But Dark Knight Rises, though a flawed film, still has a lot going for it. And by the end, it is a worthy wrap-up to a three-film vision of Batman as the Dark Knight.
Warning - SPOILERS AHEAD. If you haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises, you may want to stop reading here until you have done so.
Issues I had with the film
I'll go over the negative things about the film first, so I can leave you with the positives at the end.
Length: Gosh, it is a long film. A really, truly long film. Some judicious editing could have made the first half of the film drag less. There were some sections that truly stumped along.
Bane's Voice: What? What did he say? I didn't quite catch that... again. The distortion on Bane's voice is so bad it's very difficult to understand what he is saying, especially when he is talking a lot rather than brief clipped statements. The mask on his face increases the difficulty in understanding him, since there are no lips to read to aid in comprehension.
The Prison-Pit: From the previews, and from the comics themselves, Pena Dura prison is supposed to be a hell-hole. A place really to be feared. From all the talk about it in the movie, I expected something more like The Slam from the Riddick series of movies. It really wasn't all that frightening, nor were the inmates the vicious soulless beings we'd been led to believe are imprisoned there.
Did We Really Have To Kill These Characters?: I realize this is the final film in a trilogy that Nolan had envisioned. But, as with the killing of Two-Face from the previous film, I felt that the deaths of Talia al Ghul and Bane were unnecessary. And kind of a let down, in that they didn't happen in particuarly spectacular ways.
Bane Never Hulks Out: The more that I think about this one, the more it really, really bothers me. I had thought that the promoters of the film were actually doing something neat by keeping all the shots of a hulked-out Bane out of the previews. But no... they apparently thought that Venom-addicted and Venom-enhanced Bane was too... what? Awesome? Intimidating? Would cost too much in terms of CGI? Regardless, this omission was a serious let down and left Bane to be an unintelligible, barely interesting instrument of physical punishment for Batman.
Things I really liked about the film
The Tone: It's grim. Really, seriously grim. It's grim both for Batman personally and for Gotham in general as well. The sense of despair and hopelessness builds and builds which makes the uplifting ending work nicely. I'm not sure it would have worked as well had the audience not been brought so low to begin with.
Christian Bale: He's really splendid. Moreso than in the other films I think, because they give him a lot more to do as Bruce Wayne. He's not just running around as Batman speaking gruffly and being all tough. He grows as a character in this film.
Anne Hathaway: When I heard they cast her as Selina Kyle, I had major reservations. Reservations, I am happy to report, that were completely unfounded. She was absolutely great. Her morally drifting character was spot-on, as was her joy of stealing from the upper classes. I was delighted by her in this film.
Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman: Yes, please. Can these two men do anything wrong in the acting arena? They were absolutely splendid and it was really enjoyable to watch them in these roles once again. And I'm glad they both got a decent amount of screen time to do something with their characters.
Great Cameos: The appearance of Ra's Al Ghul in a flashback, and Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow) as the judge over the kangaroo court are both excellent.
John Blake: One of the big reveals at the end of the film is that John Blake's (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) full name is Robin John Blake. And, true to form, at the end of the film he has discovered the Batcave and we are left to ponder the possibilities. Thank heaven this is the last film... nothing good ever comes of the introduction of Robin. But it was a neat surprise nonetheless.
Action Sequences: Anyone who has seen the first two films will testify to the fact that Nolan SUCKS at direction action sequences. Which is such a shame because there are so many moments in the first two films that would have stood out with better direction. He appears to have learned something in time for this film, however, as most of the fight sequences take place at a distances so that the viewer can actually tell what is going on.
I have to say, though... having played the Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City games on the XBox360, Batman really needed to learn how to fight Bane better. You don't just stand there and let him beat on you like a punching bag. Those fight sequences made me want to yell better strategies at the screen.
And those are my thoughts about the film.