"Epic" is the word to best describe Christopher Nolan's latest -- and last -- Batman installment. Here, there are two films in one, and Nolan and his brother Jonathan (who was inspired by Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities as an underlying plot device; it is even quoted by Commissioner Gordon at the end of the film) tie together all the storylines introduced in the first film. And nearly every major character from the trilogy makes an appearance -- whether via flashback or simple photograph; all that is but Heath Ledger's Joker, who was sorely missed and would have perfectly fit into the chaotic storyline of the second half of the film. However, it is understandable; NO ONE could do what Ledger did with that role so leaving him out completely was probably the best move. I did like the little surprise of Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) and his role in the anarchy introduced to Gotham. Nonetheless, the new characters of this story make mighty impressions and do not disappoint! I admit that I did not like Anne Hathaway's casting as Catwoman/Selina Kyle when I first heard about it; I'm not a big fan of hers at all. But she did pull off the role and I especially liked her introduction in the film -- it was a true homage to the chemistry that she and Batman have in the comics. Some critics are saying that she wasn't used enough in the film but I beg to differ. Most times, when Kyle/Catwoman appears in the Batman comics, she pops up here and there. What is important is that the film perfectly captures Kyle's warring internal conflict of being good or evil; she often wants to do the right thing but her bitterness and anger keeps her in looking out for herself. I did like that the film threw fans a little Easter egg by including the character of Holly Robinson (Juno Temple), Kyle's friend and "sidekick."
Tom Hardy's Bane was the first iteration of a character that was merely created for physically imposing purposes -- plainly said, to "break the bat." My only criticism of the film version is that, opposed to what filmmakers say -- he was difficult to understand half the time. And when he did talk with his devil-may-care, proper British accent, I could not help but think, "They've turned him into a Bond villain!" Don't get me wrong, though, he is a formidable foe and proper villain for the likes of this film. Continuing on the theme of the Nolans throwing in little nods to the fans, it was also cool that he was in the League of Shadows, which is in the comic. Now onto Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake character. I've been a big fan of Gordon-Levitt's for a long time now and he continues not to disappoint as the devoted, honest cop. I knew where the Nolans were going with his character but it -- like the perfect ending -- was a welcomed predictability. Marion Cotillard's Miranda Tate is a pivotal character to the plot, and while I was not surprised with her big reveal, it was a welcome one. Cotillard, like with all of her performances, dazzles to the point that you can't take your eyes off her; it's not just her beauty but she has a certain charisma that is subtle and unspoken and it demands your attention. Gary Oldman (as Commissioner Gordon), Gordon-Levitt, and Michael Caine (as Alfred) all gave amazing performances and helped make this movie the powerhouse that it is!
Bane and Batman perfectly showcase what would happen if an immovable object were confronted with an unstoppable force.
As I said, the ending was a bit predictable but in a good way. I did have one slight problem with the conclusion, but cannot mention it without writing any spoilers. There was a very short lull in the film which took place for me. Even though it was crucial to the plot, the part where Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Bruce Wayne and Miranda Tate are talking about the clean energy project designed to harness fusion power; a bit slow, but like I said, crucial. When the action really takes off in the second half of the film (movie #2), the story slightly follows the same storyline of the Batman comics' "No Man's Land," except instead of an earthquake, it's Bane's sinister army that cripples Gotham. Batman and his stories have never necessarily been all about the wam-bam action -- for that, go see The Avengers (which I also really enjoyed but in a different way); there is not only good suspenseful action but also a good story with heavy philosophical meaning. The underlying themes here are powerful and deep stuff -- rising above physical restraints can be likened to looking beyond our earthly forms and learning not to be afraid of the unknown, of death. Also, what is the true nature of a hero? Is he or she someone who always wins, always rides off into the sunset, is always honest? What does it mean to leave a legacy to simply be a better human being? The fact that such moral questions and philosophical ideas are in a Batman story will be no surprise to the avid Batman comic reader, but to filmgoers who have had to survive Joel Schumacher's horrible two films (1995's Batman Forever and 1997's Batman & Robin), it's an amazing feat that should not go unnoticed nor unrewarded.