Yeah, it's amazing to me how some people have already seen this two or three times and some of them were people who didn't even like it in the first place. One guy I know absolutely shredded Prometheus with a venom I've rarely seen went back for second helpings a week later while one viewing was enough for me, even though I was about 1000% more fond of it than they were.
Anyway, The Dark Knight Rises then. Here there be spoilers, etc.
'A hot mess', that just about sums it up. A beautiful, messy, sprawling, ambitious and ultimately glorious bit of film making that serves as both a compelling story in its own right and as part of a greater whole.
It's being assaulted on several fronts - a number of hardcore nerds seem disgusted at the mere notion of Bruce Wayne ever hanging up the cowl, or of Alfred attempting to do something about the way he's been enabling Bruce's obsessions all these years; while some chin-stroking, middle-class, wannabe revolutionaries have expressed horror at what they see as a savage attack on the Occupy movement. Personally, I welcome the former. The film gave these characters something the perpetually on-going narrative of the comics never really can, true character development and a definitive ending. As for the latter, while it's certainly a valid interpretation, I saw something else in its depiction of a supposedly 'liberating' army equipped with WMDs deposing an existing government and civil structure in the name of 'freedom' - an army comprised of callous thugs and mercenaries patrolling the streets in military vehicles in desert camouflage, waging war against a desperate native insurgency and caring not a jot for the citizens caught up in the middle of it all? Nope, that doesn't sound familiar at all, oh no guv.
Taken together as a whole, the films seem equally spilt on the effect Batman has. Yes, he saves lives, he's instrumental in bringing down organised crime and the various other threats to the city yet it can also be argued that he's responsible for the increasingly dangerous responses to his crusade and the threats that Gotham faces. In this film especially, Batman is more effective as a symbol than an individual. Bruce cuts a largely pathetic figure for much of the film - Bane breaks him easily, Selina (for the most part) and Talia* screw him over every chance they get , Alfred deserts him over his death wish and inability to move on with his life, etc. But to Gordon, to Blake, to the children of Gotham, even the GCPD eventually, he is the catalyst that can save Gotham, regardless of his personal failings. Both through his own efforts and the inspiration he gives others to do what is right, the Batman finally becomes what he hoped to be. With the truth about Dent revealed, his final sacrifice ensures that all at last see him as both the hero they needed...and the hero they deserved.
* As brutal as twisting the knife in him was, the line about murdering her father was surely more painful for Bruce - at that moment, he realises the injustice he had brought on another was the same as had been committed against him as a child, a cycle of violence that will just go on and on if he does not change. And the manner of her betrayal was a nice call back to Begins, where her father had explained that if someone stands in the way of justice, you simply walk up behind them and stab them in the heart.
Regarding the performances, all were great, though Gary Oldman and Michael Caine could have done with being given more to do (they do great when they are around, however, especially Caine, who absolutely kills it in his final scenes with Bruce - the grave scene in particularly was utterly devastating). Bale as the tortured centre of the film, one that could easily be re-titled 'The Passion of The Batman', brings a deft touch where needed and portrays a fragile and haunting desperation in the first half of the film, before switching and displaying a rousing, inspiring determination in the final act. The way Bruce's lack of fear was shown to be a hindrance was especially interesting and cut through to the a real problem with the character as a human being. Just living isn't enough, there has to be something to live for and it is only then that Bruce Wayne is able to overcome the issues that have dogged him all his life.
As Bane, Tom Hardy does brilliantly expressing so much through just his eyes and as a character, Bane was fascinating. Brutal and terrifying yet endearingly polite and well spoken, shown to be capable of both evil and, on occasion, decency. While I appreciate where some may feel he was cheapened by the manner of his death, by that point, the damage had already been done, he had been broken and defeated. First by the reveal of the burning bat symbol, then by Batman's victory. Once he was revealed to be a mere henchman, he was disposed of in a somewhat appropriate manner so no complaints here.
Anne Hathaway was superb, embarrassing all those dopes who complained about her casting in the first place (at this point, if Chris Nolan decides on casting someone in a leading role, just shut up and wait for the film, even if it's bloody Shia LaBeouff). Turning on a dime from meek maid to ruthless opportunist to whatever the situation called for, 'adaptable' was an understatement.
Finally, kudos to Joseph Gordon-Levitt for coming in with a role that essentially becomes the glue holding everything together. I was truly surprised to see a new character be introduced and play such an important part in things but it really works and is a fine and playful spin on the idea of Batman having a sidekick. The final reveal shouldn't come as a surprise yet did - he had Dick Grayson's heart and idealism, the impulsiveness of Jason Todd, and the detective skills of Tim Drake - and his fate here sticks to the source material's general belief that Robin is the only one worthy of replacing Bruce Wayne as Batman.
And so that ending. An ending I can't recall any previous Batman story daring to portray - a *happy* ending for Bruce Wayne. I totally admit, even with the Alfred scene in the first act, they totally had me going there. It was obvious Blake was being groomed to take up the mantle and ensure that symbolically at least, Batman will survive but as far as Bruce Wayne goes, I figured that was it. The graveside scene was crushing, the fate of the mansion heartening, the passing of the torch to Blake fitting. It was a good death...
...but not good enough. Because he is the goddamned Batman.
The complaints about Batman retiring being out of character are misplaced - the comic book character can never do it because the status quo can never be changed, he can never truly grow but these films give us the most human Bruce Wayne of all. One who's not unbeatable, one who doesn't ludicrously have a plan for anything to the point where he can defeat gods and monsters, one who isn't shackled to a treadmill of violence, angst and despair forevermore for the sake of keeping a franchise going. One who earns and deserves the happy ending he ultimately gets.
Given the choice between Bruce going off to enjoy a new life with Selina, or being a bitter, joyless old bastard constantly waging war until the day he dies, I know which I'd want for him, or anyone.
So yeah, I found it all to be a good end. Good enough.