After watching Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, I was wowed. I left the theater wanting to discuss the movies and constantly thinking about scenes and story elements. Batman Begins introduced Batman in a way that showed you exactly who Batman/Bruce Wayne was and what drove him. That opening scene in TDK introduced the Joker in exactly the right way to show who he was, what he was about, and how cold, calculating, and insane he was. The rest of the movie simply built on that.
TDKR is a different animal. The opening scene presents Bane, but doesn't really show you what he is all about. In contrast, although it is very poorly edited, the intro of Catwoman was excellent at showing you the character and what she was all about, reminiscent of the Joker scene from the previous movie. You know all you need to from her scenes, and understand her, without a lot of dialog getting in the way. Her actions and reactions show you.
The entire first hour of TDKR is mostly people talking about what has happened, what's going on, and what will happen, rather than showing the audience. It has some editing and a lot of sound issues, which I found unusual for a Nolan production. After watching it, as my wife and I discussed it afterward, I immediately came up with a way to show the same things and take about 20-25 minutes instead of an hour to do so. I'm sure most viewers can do so.
Once you get beyond that first hour or so, the movie starts picking up. The second act starts bringing together all of the disparate aspects of the story, as John Blake becomes a detective and works with Gordon, you see Catwoman working with both Batman and the bad guys trying to get information, and you watch as Bane's plans start to bear fruit. This section, combined with the long opening first act, really emphasizes that more story is being told than is needed:
- The entire Daggett subplot is not needed. He was only used to bring Bane to Gotham and then is killed off by Bane when he tries to exert pressure on the villain. Bane is smart enough and brazen enough that a better opening could have been written to bring him to Gotham without Daggett. This would have saved 10 or 15 minutes of film time.
- With the slow opening, Bruce deciding to suit up and go after Bane seems a bit too sudden. He doesn't listen to the advice of Alfred, who has never steered him wrong, and leads to a break with his manservant (which is out of character for Alfred). When Bane defeats him, it is anticlimactic because you know it is too soon in the story. Again, rewriting and redoing the opening Act would allow you to get to this sooner, and with more tension, and would allow you to break the Bat in a more organic way for his re-dedication to being Batman. The flow would be better in the film.
The second half of the second act and all of the third act are where the action and the tension reside. It is well done, taut, and action-packed. Batman actually goes after Bane with some smarts and detective work, rather than blindly rushing ahead. During this section, you finally learn that Miranda is really Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ras (from the first film), and is controlling Bane. And this isn't needed at all. Bane is a strong enough, interesting enough, and intelligent enough character that he could have planned and executed the entire plot without this needed "reveal" and extra villain. Even though Marion Cotillard does an excellent job with her role, she could have been written out (saving a good 30 minutes of film time) and the film would be better, tighter, and more exciting.
With so many people knowing who Batman was, it was inevitable that they had to "kill off" Batman. It is not the end of Bruce Wayne, or Batman, as revealed in the final scenes before the credits. How they do it feels alright and fairly organic to the story.
The breakout star for the movie is Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. She hits all the right notes, is excellent and believable in the role, and shows many facets and aspects to the character. She does such a good job that she makes Cotillard's Miranda unneeded as a love interest (and eventual twist reveal villain).
Things any viewer should be aware of going into the movie are:
- The bad edits throughout, but in particular in the first act of the film. During Selena Kyle's intro, there are some really bad edits between her scenes and other scenes. There is a scene with Bane at the stock exchange where they enter in daylight, start a program that needs to run for 8 minutes, and when they leave it is night time. Oops.
- There are bad sound issues. Most of the voice soundtrack is so low in comparison to the music and effects track that it is hard to hear people. Bane's mask also obfuscates Tom Hardy's role (both his ability to act and his voice) which, when combined with the sound issues, makes him very hard to understand.
- You just have to get through the first hour. You may find yourself looking at your watch during this time, but you need to pay attention so you understand all of the characters and the stories so that, when they start drawing together, you aren't lost.
- Similar to the "it is not what you say, but what you do that matters" in the first film, this movie sort of beats the audience over the head with the "anyone could be Batman" theme. Take a few of those out and let the audience come to it more organically.
Overall, I was entertained. The story is a good one, there is just more in it than is needed. The 2:44 run-time simply isn't needed; Nolan should have cut Miranda and Daggett from the movie, revised Bane to be the one and only villain, and put more Catwoman in it. This would have achieved a closer to 2 hour film that would be tighter. Blake was a good addition to become the moral center of the film, since Gordon cannot be that in this film. Alfred should not have left, and Michael Caine hits a home run with his scenes.
All in all, this is a good ending to the trilogy. It is about as good as Begins, but nowhere near as good as TDK. The payoff at the end is worth the first hour. I'd give it a solid B (compared to an A- for Begins and a solid A (or even A+) for TDK).