I was probably more excited for this film than any other I've ever seen (with the possible exception of its predecessor, the Dark Knight), and it did not disappoint. TDKR was a more-than-fitting conclusion to what is, in my opinion, one of the greatest film trilogies of all time.
Performances were stellar across the board:
- Christian Bale's portrayal of a grief-ridden/nigh-broken, yet genuinely heroic Bruce Wayne only further solidifies my view of him as the best Batman to ever grace the big screen. Those who take issue with his heavily gruff "Batman voice" will find no comfort in Rises (no surprise), but, as someone who embraces that aspect of Bale's spin on the character and appreciates his understanding of what Batman is ultimately about, I'm more than pleased with the Caped Crusader.
- Tom Hardy was a brilliant Bane. Nolan did well not to follow the comics too closely with this character (TDKR's Bane is close enough to his comic book version to maintain adequate familiarity, but not ridiculously so). Furthermore, while I can understand the complaints about Bane's mask sometimes muffling his voice, I was highly, highly fascinated and entertained nearly every time he spoke. In that regard, I believe that Hardy made the character his own - turning in a performance that reflected enough of both our world AND the spirit of the comics to please a wide array of audiences. One thing I love to sense about a film's villain is a great presence, and that's something I felt each time Bane made an appearance. It's not the easiest thing to explain, but all of the villians in this trilogy had it. There was little-to-no wasted screen time with Scarecrow, Ra's Al Ghul, or the Joker in previous installments, and Bane is no exception here.
- I was probably in the minority with Anne Hathaway; I expected her to do well. Even so, I was surprised by just how well she did. She captures Catwoman's ethical ambiguity and strong personality beautifully. Never does she seem overmatched or out of place in scenes alongside Bruce Wayne or Batman, and, like Hardy, she fits rather seamlessly into Nolan's film-world overall. Though the internal conflict she struggles with isn't something I haven't seen before with characters of her type, she expresses it in such a way to make it worth caring about. Great stuff.
- Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt also leave their marks on the film in a very good way, albeit in smaller roles (or so it would seem). Gordon-Levitt especially shines as police officer John Blake, who's genuine desire to serve and protect is much like Commissioner Gordon's. Also like Gordon, Blake is a largely unheralded, yet courageously dedicated combatant in the raging battle between good and evil on Gotham's streets. Don't confuse goodness with cheesiness here though; the air of innocence surrounding Blake is as engaging as the corruption for which Gotham's finest is mostly known. Marion Cotillard (or Miranda Tate, as she's known in the movie) probably had the least to work with of any major player as it pertains to character development. Still, she was more than interesting enough to keep me wondering about her true role in the plot. Great twist involving her character.
- Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman are all brilliant as usual. No more need be said about them.
The performances above also contribute to some of the movie's best scenes. One in particular - Batman's first meeting with Bane and the developments which ensued - might be my favorite of the entire trilogy. Hardy was brilliant here at capturing that combination of genius and cold, calculating physicality which makes Bane one of Batman's deadliest enemies. Gordon-Levitt, Hathaway, Oldman and Caine also come to mind when I think of the movie's best moments. No need to narrow it down though; the Dark Knight Rises itself is a masterpiece.
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