After watching for the second time last night and previously viewed both Begins today and The Dark Knight a few days before to freshen my memory before I saw Rises, I can honestly say that without a doubt that Rises has surpass The Dark Knight. OK, on with my review.
When you think of the word "epic", what's the first thing that comes to mind? Well, if you're like me, you'll probably say Avengers or even Titanic. But in those terms, it only used loosely. But when you watch The Dark Knight Rises, it's truly fits the mold of the term "epic" in every way possible from exhilarating prologue of Bane's escape from the airplane, overall tone, the parallels with Begins, Bruce Wayne battling the inner turmoil of pain of losing Rachel along with the physical and psychological damage from being Batman over the years and not living life, the quieter moments between Wayne and Alfred, the climatic showdown at the end, and the first encounter between Batman and Bane, and the ending.
For me, the film wasn't really about Batman per say although he was the main character. In my eyes, it was the conclusion of Bruce Wayne journey that began in Begins to his fall in The Dark Knight to ultimately his rising up in Rises. In the beginning, he's the former half shell of the man whom he once was before plunging himself into the darkness persona that is Batman and never allowed himself to move past the pain of losing Rachel, the woman whom was going to wait for him when the day came that Gotham City no longer needed Batman. As Alfred once mentioned, he gave up the cape and cowl, but simply didn't live the life that he should be living. So, he kept holding onto that pain until things in Gotham became worse again. Christian Bale gives one of the best performances in the trilogy from feeling completely hopelessness and defenseless while watching his beloved city collapse under Bane's control and dealing with everything that he has endure over the last years from losing Rachel to having to go on the run as Batman from the police. It took a tremendous toll on him, not only physically, but psychologically as well.
I was very touched and moved by Michael Cain as Alfred. To me, he's the heart and soul of these films besides Oldman as Gordon. The pain that he conveys with his eyes and his dialogue with Bruce about Rachel choosing Dent to trying to make him understand that there's more to life besides being Batman. I wanted to cry when he delivered the emotional parts of the film because you as the viewer truly do feel for him trying to bring Bruce away from the bleakness of being consumed with Batman to embracing life in the lightness. Gary Oldman perfectly expresses the guilt and the huge weight of living a lie and it shows in Oldman's performance. The world in pretty much on his shoulders of having to not only live this terrible lie, but it also came at a personal cost as well.
I now see a bit of a younger Gordon in Joseph-Gordon Levitt performance as John Blake, it's reminds of Begins in a sense that Gordon started out as a idealist good cop in a corrupted city with a bit of Wayne in him due to being a orphan at a young age much like Bruce was at the beginning of Begins. As far as Blake's character arc was concerned, I think his the most important one in the film besides Bruce. I really like how Foley started out a man whom clearly distrusted Batman, but by the end of the film, he unwillingly gives his life as a real hero. Hathaway was absolutely spellbinding as Selina Kyle with the right amount of slyness and sexiness the iconic character thought she completely makes it her own.
With Tom Hardy as Bane, he was such an great villain. Not only was he was incredibly smart with his plans for Gotham, but he was also a fierce brute of a force to be reckoned with. The fight scene between him and Batman in the sewers was brutal, but also mesmerizing at the same time. Of all the villains (Joker aside, of course), Bane is the most toughest foe that Batman has ever faced. He basically outmatches Batman in terms of strength and intelligence. I loved how he was trained by the League of Shadows especially the line where he tells Bruce that he used darkness as his ally and how the shadows belong to him. On the first viewing, I thought his death scene was pretty weak considering that he beats the living daylights out of Batman in their first encounter. But on the second viewing, it makes sense for him to die at the hands of Catwoman because if a canon shot from the batpod is needed to take him out, then it really shows how much of a beast Bane really was with his plan on liberating Gotham through violence much like Ra Al Gaul tried to accomplish in Begins even though Batman defended him by that point in the film. A lot of Hardy's performance as Bane was really conveyed through his eyes and mannerisms from the way he held the collar of his coat to his walk. It was frightening, yet scary at the same time along with the humanity in his connection with Talia.
Cotillard (Talia aka Miranda Tate) didn't really impressed me too much on the first viewing. However, my opinion of her has changed on the second outing. I thought that it was interesting how she infiltrated Wayne Enterprises to develop the project and getting closer to Bruce, only to betray him near the end. It really mirrors Liam Nesson's. The cinematography was brilliantly done. The score from Hans Zimmer had a few themes merging from Begins and TDK, but also complete reinvented it into a new direction. I think Rises is probably one of the best tracks from the soundtrack. The editing flow seamlessly from one scene to another, but never felt not out of place. It just went along nicely. Not only The Dark Knight Rises is a amazing film, it also connects to our world that we live in today with terrorism and the thin line between the wealthy and the middle classes of society. When you view each film in this remarkable trilogy, it's one concise storyline with a beginning, a middle, and a end. Even though each film is different from each other (except from The Dark Knight, which is more of a standalone chapter), they're all interconnected in some ways, but it doesn't get too bogged down with endless plot threads or missing pieces that seem to plague most film trilogies. I plan on watching this a good 3 more times since it's one of the best films I had seen this year. To Nolan, I want to say thank you for beginning the remarkable story of Bruce Wayne/Batman to a fitting end. Sure, the task was hard, but you pulled it off effortlessly with such grace. 10/10 for me.