I really enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) last night, even with a large group of obnoxious teenagers talking, laughing, shouting, and throwing glo-sticks from the previews to the last half hour, when the guy in front of me yelled, "Shut up!" for the third time and they finally did.
Nolan managed to get the majority of Inception's cast into TDKR, and all of them were splendid. I figured out Marion Cotillard was Talia al Ghul early on. I always suspected Nolan would include R'as al Ghul's daughter at some capacity after Batman Begins. Miranda's accent, social status, interest and knowledge in Wayne Enterprises were huge indicators, especially being new to the cast. When Miranda took control of the company, my suspicions were confirmed, so a major plot twist meant to be shocking didn't do much for me.
Bane was outstanding. Granted, I thought his voice in the mask could have used a little bit of tweeking, but it didn't ruin the film. He was portrayed brilliantly by Tom Hardy; every time Bane was on the screen I got a sense of menace and danger. I even worried for the Bat when Catwoman locked him into Bane's lair, wondering how closely Nolan would follow the comics--Bane broke the Bat...sort of. Regardless, the scene when Bane lifted Batman over his head and slammed him over his knee was my favorite in the movie.
I didn't think Anne Hathaway would be good as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. In fact, it almost turned me off to seeing TDKR. I was wrong. Her delivery was smooth, clever, and even firing rockets from the back of the motorcycle came off as sexy. She did bad things, even betrayed Batman by leading him into Bane's trap, but like her character in the comics, the good in her won out. I don't know if it was Hathaway or a stunt double doing the cartwheels and acrobatics but they were fun to watch.
Nolan included subtle things to entertain us comic book geeks as well. For instance, Blake said, "When Gordon told Foley about the sewers, he asked if he saw a crocodile too," and I couldn't help laughing and thinking of Killer Croc, another villain in the Batman universe. It was also nice to see Jonathon Crane a.k.a. the Scarecrow again, though I did complain in the parking lot that he did not don his mask.
The action was great. I've read a lot of online reviews by moviegoers claiming there wasn't enough, but they also said that of Avengers. I found both movies had adequate fighting and explosions that blended nice with the stories. Even Die Hard had downtime between the action, and at least in TDKR and Avengers we received deep characters expressing emotion, not a bunch of frantic screaming and bad jokes like Transformers or G.I. Joe.
Yes, Nolan altered the stories and characters from the comics to fit the big screen: Bane did not use venom, Robin's name was wrong just to be a surprise at the end (I thought Nolan said he'd never have Robin in his Batman?), Talia al Ghul was a villain rather than an anitheroine known for loving Bruce Wayne, often saving him, Catwoman didn't use a whip or gadget of her own, and we're told it's R'as that rejects Bane, not Talia. This is an abbreviated list of changes; most of the them didn't sink in for me until a couple hours after the movie. I doubt anyone but a Batman fanatic would be distracted by them.
We saw too much Bruce Wayne and not enough Batman. Yeah, they're the same person, and the movie centers around Wayne getting back to where he was mentally and physically when he went against the Joker, but as we learned in Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne is the real mask, not Batman. For TDKR to center around wearing masks, it was odd Bruce didn't wear his as often as the previous films.
That said, the greatest flaw in The Dark Knight Rises was the ending. I didn't care for it. While it left room for a Nightwing movie, albeit by changing Dick Grayson to a fellow named Blake/Robin, the ending put a nail in Bruce Wayne's fake coffin. He lives, but Nolan left Bruce Wayne bankrupt and physically damaged from fighting crime, having dropped his identity to multiple people, and donated Wayne Manor to orphans. It fits the trilogy, not the franchise, and the only way Hollywood is going to return to Batman is by regaling us with another meaningless origin story. I refuse to see the Amazing Spider-Man in the theater, because I'm sick of origin stories, and I doubt, even though they finally wised up and stepped away from Lex Luther for the first time, I will see the Man of Steel in the theater either.
One last idea I want to throw out there, unrelated to TDKR, is I want to see an adequate Mr. Freeze. I had hoped Nolan would use him. He's my favorite Batman villain, and Arnold Swarzenegger, surprise, surprise, did not portray the genius and cunning of Mr. Freeze in the terrible Schumacher installments. When I envision Mr. Freeze, I see Patrick Stewart.
It's a long way off, but I hope whoever helms the next installment of Batman gives us something new, a villain or story we haven't seen before or a fix to the characters Schumacher almost destroyed. Nolan certainly redeemed the steroid, grumbling wrestler Schumacher made Bane into, and offered us a much better, disturbing Two-Face, so I believe it can be done for other characters: the Riddler (Jim Carrey was over-the-top), Mr. Freeze, and Poison Ivy.
Unlike Schumacher, Nolan understood we want Batman to be taken serious. We don't want nipples on Batman's suit or neon lighting. While Tim Burton's Batman movies were more lighthearted than Nolan's they were still good...and dark. It's safe to say a director's vision is critical, and my hat is off to Christopher Nolan. All in all, this trilogy is one to be remembered.