The Dark Knight Rises' opening scene reminded me a lot of the opening scene of Dark Knight and put a bad taste in my mouth, as if this movie would end up being just a bigger version of Dark Knight and that Bane would feel too much like the Joker.
Fortunately, the movie ended up going in a different direction. Dark Knight was all about the Joker setting up his master plan, but never being able to follow it through (since he never fully breaks the spirit of Gotham's citizens, and Two Face gets covered up by Gordon). This movie, instead, focuses on the villain's master plan actually working! In essence, this movie follows up on Dark Knight by essentially establishing the version of Gotham City that Joker was striving for. Bane succeeds where the Joker failed. Bane throws Gotham into total isolated anarchy and breaks the spirit of its people the way that Joker just couldn't do. Rises offers apocalyptic spectacle that actually works! So many movies try to make the villain's plot too grandiose, and make the threat so immense, that the movie sort of falls apart and gets silly. In this case, however, the apocalyptic vision of Gotham works exceptionally well.
Bane doesn't try to one-up the Joker in terms of screen presence. The Dark Knight focused very heavily on Heath Ledger's Joker (he was the centerpiece of the movie). This movie pulls things back a bit and looks at a bigger picture, focusing much more on secondary characters and their individual plights and arcs. Bane himself ends up being an intimidating villain in that he offers odd contrast of brutish strength as well as considerable intellect and self-control.
Batman himself actually has a much more significant and compelling arc. He starts the movie as a broken down, reclusive shut-in. Like Howard Hughes if Howard Hughes had been a retired super hero. He has to pull himself back up, gets broken down again, and then has to rise up one final time to save the day.
The movie starts off kind of slow and introduces a lot of new characters, names, and faces that are a bit confusing and difficult to follow at first. But everything seems necessary, and once the movie is set-up, it moves along quite well. Hollywood has really gotten good at giving these long, epic movies an appropriate pace.
All the important characters are interesting to watch and develop quite nicely. Anne Hathaway's Catwoman works exceptionally well in this movie. Her character is handled with a great deal of respect and maturity. Nolan has her wearing a skin-tight black catsuit for large chunks of the movie, but I never got the sense that Nolan was trying to exploit her sexuality (even though she was damned hot!). She feels like a real character that the audience is supposed to relate to and care about, rather than just eye candy like Scarlett Johansen's Black Widow in Avengers.
There's a few elements of the movie's plot that may be considered "holes", but none of them really breaks the movie.
Some of these nitpicky complaints (SPOILERS):
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- There are some annoying coincidences that contribute to the movie's plot and the villains' plan. Everything seems to go Talia's way. She gets everything she needs in order to fulfill her plans, except that she falls for the age-old James Bond villain mistake of needing to gloat her victory over the hero and waits just long enough for her whole plan to fall apart.
- How does nobody find the Bat vehicle just parked under a desert-camo tarp on skyscraper helicopter pad during the months that Gotham is under martial law? Furthermore, Bane and Talia are so meticulous in the details of their plan, but they don't bother to track down all of Wayne's supply depots just in case he manages to escape prison and get back to Gotham? Why do movie villains always forget or neglect to do their due diligence? Dot your i's and cross your t's!
Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb.
- Case in point: Wayne manages to heal his back, put himself through physical therapy of pushups and pull-ups, escape prison, and somehow manage to travel across the world (with no resources or outside help) and make it back to the locked-down Gotham just in time to save the day by a matter of literally 10 seconds.
- Lucius Fox manage to fish the Bat vehicle out of the ocean and determines that the autopilot was working. Even though the vehicle had been at ground zero of a neutron bomb explosion.
- Why does the mayor of Gotham wear so much makeup and such thick eye liner? He looks like a friggin clown-whore!
My real name is "Robin". Because you're a moron and can't figure out who I'm supposed to be on your own.
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character ends up turning into "Robin" in a manner that may be offensive to Batman fans, and which once again proves that Hollywood thinks movie-goers are complete tards. Apparently, he's using a false name throughout the entire movie, and at the end, reveals his "given name", which is "Robin". It's not "Dick Grayson" or any of the other Robin alter egos. His given name is "Robin". The only way that I can see this as being reasonable, is if the intent is to start a Nightwing spin-off in which "Robin" uses Wayne's old Batman equipment to become Nightwing. Since he was never truly Batman's sidekick, he would skip over being "Robin" and go straight to being "Nightwing". But doing so would fundamentally change the Nightwing origin, that it's really not appropriate to consider him "Nightwing".
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None of these issues are deal-breakers though. Not even close. None of them really qualifies as "broken" elements of the plot. They are just elements that the movie simple doesn't address. So the plot doesn't contradict itself (i.e. Star Wars prequels), nor does it neglect to develop the characters and their relationships (i.e. Gwen and Peter in The Amazing Spider-Man). All the important and necessary parts of the movie are there, and they all fit together, even if they are a little fantastical.
I'm sorry, I can't understand a word you're saying through that silly mask.
My biggest criticism, though, is that a lot of dialogue seems to get unnecessarily muffled in this movie. Sometimes it's hard to just hear and understand what the characters are saying. It's a fairly consistent problem with Bane. He's wearing a mouthpiece thing that gives him a cool sort of Darth Vader like syntheticness to his voice, but it gets muffled a lot so that you really need to focus to understand what he's saying at times. This problem also extended to a few other characters. Commissioner Gordon has a few scenes in which it's hard to understand what he's saying. Particularly when he is in the hospital, his voice is so weak and he's kind of gasping for air. I was kind of frustrated because I couldn't hear all of what he was saying. Maybe there should have been subtitles...
Dark Knight Rises is an excellent film and a more-than-satisfactory conclusion to Nolan's Batman trilogy that does an excellent job of tying the series up with a nice bow. As a stand-alone movie, it's probably not quite up to the quality of Dark Knight or this summer's earlier Avenger movie, but it is at least on par with both of those, and I highly recommend it.