It’s chilling to think that the same carnival atmosphere I experienced at the midnight showing here in Ohio turned into a bloodbath in Colorado. There is some more poignancy to a light-hearted exchange between Batman and Catwoman/Selina Kyle about the ethics of eschewing guns.
You know the plot from the reviews: Batman has been in self-imposed exile for eight years, paying the price for the canonization of Harvey Dent. Bane arrives in Gotham to complete the cleansing task begun by Ra’s Al Ghul in the first movie of the triology. Batman comes out of retirement, is beaten and humiliated by Bane who engages in assorted terrorism and mock class warfare until Bruce Wayne has recovered enough for the final showdown. This movie links back satisfyingly to Batman Begins in countless ways, large and small, so that we really do see the trilogy as part of a common arc.
After being displaced to the periphery in Dark Knight by Heath Leger’s extraordinary performance as the Joker, Batman appropriately takes center stage here. He battles Bane, certainly, but more importantly the final movie takes Bruce Wayne’s ambivalence about his role as Gotham’s savior as its defining motif. There are a series of exchanges with Alfred which explore what Batman has to do, but at what cost to him. I love Michael Caine in the Alfred role, though he seemed a little too overwrought for my taste in this movie. Still, these exchanges serve as moments of contemplation punctuating the action set-pieces.
Some of the action is wonderfully choreographed, particularly the early scene of Bane’s escape from a plane, and then one of explosions around Manhattan that seal it off from the outside. The final action sequence, involving a chase with a ticking nuclear bomb, seemed oddly mundane, not quite up to the enormity that the movie had built to. And while Tom Hardy gives Bane a gravity in the first half of the movie, he disappointingly morphs into little more than a common street thug by the end.
But that should not distract from the sheer pleasure afforded the viewer by this final part of the trilogy. It is less dark than Dark Knight, less portentous. Ann Hathaway’s Catwoman gives the movie it lighter touch and moments of humor. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is wonderful as an idealistic young cop. It is hard for me to think of another movie series that has so successfully managed to maintain a story arc and a common set of themes across all the parts; it is that rare fully-formed pop classic.
We can argue about the ending. Intellectually I think it should have been more ambiguous, but after watching the previous two movies in the last two days and then the third part last night, I was ready for the ending that Nolan gave us.