(Not kidding! You don't want to read ahead if you haven't seen the movie yet!)
(I warned you!!!)
(Okay - on your own head be it)
This was a great cap to the whole trilogy. It really felt like the entire story coming full circle, which I really didn't expect after seeing The Dark Knight. Actually, I had no idea how they would pull Bruce Wayne out of his absolute freefall at the end of TDK. I knew he'd have to come out of it somehow - how do you have a Batman movie without Batman? Would they pull Robin out of the audience? Maybe get Alfred to suit up or something?
(Before anyone starts going all Nasally Pretentious Nerd on me - I called that whole Blake-is-Robin thing with the first trailer he showed up in. I'll get to that in a second).
I want to talk about Gotham City for a bit. This is a city that, at the beginning of Batman Begins, was awash with crime and corruption. Bruce Wayne created Batman as a way to fight against what the police and rule of law almost couldn't handle. Then, in The Dark Knight, the Joker surfaces as a representation of what happens when you have an opponent so evil and psychotic that Batman's usual tactics just don't work and he has to resort to things he'd rather not do (this ends badly for all involved). At this point, Bruce has every right and reason to give up on Gotham City and just let everything go to hell. Which, he pretty much does. We're told at the start of The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce has been holed up in Wayne Manor and hasn't been seen by a soul in eight years. By extension, neither has Batman. Crime has been drastically reduced to almost nothing. Gotham's police force has pretty much nothing to do except go after overdue library books (which garnered a chuckle from me. We wouldn't send in police for something like that. That's a job for SWAT).
Except - the League of Shadows is back (remember those guys? Headed up by Liam Neeson?) And there's still the teensiest bit of corruption that's gone unnoticed because, hey, that's how the League of Shadows operates. And there's a super-cool lady cat burglar of dubious moral conscience. And Bruce Wayne starts thinking (ever so slowly, but he catches up - thank you Alfred) that maybe Gotham City is worth saving in spite of all its problems.
That right there is where this trilogy works. It would be so easy for Bruce to give up and retire to Guam or wherever and say to hell with this stupid city that can't even stay saved from one cocktail party to another. Even when Bane has him locked up in that pit in wherever-the-crap-that-was, he could have gotten out and high-tailed it somewhere nice and sunny. But he goes straight back to Gotham City, hooks up with Selina Kyle and Commissioner Gordon and proceeds to save everyone. All because he thought Gotham City - for all its faults and problems - was worth saving.
There was a TON of story to get through and I wasn't sure how they were going to pull it off without giving the short shrift to any key plot points. But there was a nice balance between Selina's backstory, Bane's backstory, what Bruce has been up to since The Dark Knight (pretty much nothing), how Commissioner Gordon and the police department has been faring, the setup for Bane's Diabolical Plot, and so on. Partway through, I wasn't sure what Miranda Tate was supposed to be doing - was she just a vague shadowy replacement for Rachel? But then came the Big Reveal that she was really Ra's al-Ghul's daughter and the actual mastermind behind the whole Occupy Gotham thing (I knew there was a reason I didn't like her). Anyway - the story was well-balanced and everything blended well together. It felt like all the key elements had just enough time to flourish that the audience could work with and accept what we got. By the end of the movie, I was quite satisfied with how everything unfolded and all credit goes to the editing department. Bravo, guys! (if I had a clapping Joker gif to put here, I'd do it)
Can I talk about Blake for a second? He was flat-out awesome. From the first part where comes to the boys' home to confronting Bruce Wayne AT FREAKING WAYNE MANOR to helping Commissioner Gordon (and ignoring that one officer - old what's-his-face that wanted to arrest Batman) to getting the boys out of Gotham City - facing down the bomb squad that was going to blow up the bridge if he came anywhere close. And then - you find out what his real name is?? Damn - I want a whole movie of Blake being amazing. Which, you know, is slightly plausible now that Bruce left the Batcave to him (plausible, but unlikely). Gave a whole Batman Beyond vibe to the ending, which I quite enjoyed.
I've always liked Catwoman. You never quite know if she's really a villain or just a creature of opportunity. And there's something to be said for the classy cat burglar tropes as well. I quite like that, in this movie, Selina Kyle's just a regular person whose make mistakes and it trying to get her life back together even though she has to resort to stealing and petty thievery - culminating in being forced to help Bane in his conquest of Gotham. But then she has her own Heel Face Turn and pretty much saves the day after that Miranda chick turned out to be the real villain of the story. Not much else to say except it takes a real woman to kick ass in high heels.
Since the first time I saw The Dark Knight, I haven't been able to watch that movie very much just because of the absolute downer note it ends on. But I think I can stand to watch the entire trilogy from start to finish knowing how this ends. Batman saves the day - but Bruce Wayne gets his life back. Gotham is safe (and watched over, if Blake has anything to say about it). Compared to the pure despair this trilogy has been soaked in, I'm glad that it ends on a high note (seriously - you didn't think Batman was dead for dead when that bomb went off, did you?)
The Bottom Line - Fantastic movie, fantastic trilogy. I almost wish there was more to come, but I'm okay with this being the end. I have this little policy - better to end while you're still on top than overstay your welcome and have people wish you were gone. Christopher Nolan and company have done an excellent job with one of the most beloved comic book heroes (one that sorely needed revamping). There's a great underlying message in these films - one that I hope people pick up on and not let the darkness of reality get in the way of a great story.