If this next Batman movie by Christopher Nolan were merely a continuation of the series, I think he would have had a lot more freedom. Don't get me wrong...I completely agree with his decision to leave the Batman franchise behind, but this movie feels like it was pandering too much to expectations. Nolan goes big here and attempts to tie up loose ends, which sometimes works but often does not.
As with many trilogy enders (or classic third movies), we have a reference to the past/beginnings of the series. There are some wonderful juxtapositions here -- mainly the image of Bruce Wayne being lifted up from the well by his father when he's a child posed against Wayne in the present, having to climb out of the prison. Also the parallel scenes where Batman is embraced by bats in Batman Begins and you can see him becoming Batman for the first time against the scene where Batman is surrounded by bats again when he makes his climb out of the prison (and "rises" out of his present circumstance in another sort of transformation). Bats serve as a symbolism of this transformation when we see Blake at the end of the movie, "becoming" the next Batman. Stuff like this is poetry.
But Nolan's attempt to bring back Ra's Al Ghul in order to bring a cyclical theme to the trilogy seems forced. Talia Al Ghul's claim that this whole venture is for revenge is not quite believable. Furthermore, the reveal of Talia dilutes the effectiveness of Bane, who is supposed to be a mastermind in the Batman universe...One that Batman himself says is the most difficult opponent he has had. Bane has a fantastic introduction in this movie, but his power is stripped when we find out at the end that he is more of a shadow king than an actual mastermind.
I hate to compare this movie to The Dark Knight, because it can be easy to turn a review of TDKR into how it lacks/is different from TDK. I will say this though -- one of the things I love about TDK is how great of a foil the Joker is to Batman. Furthermore, the more you watch it, the more you realize that everything that was done in reaction to the Joker actually plays right into his hands. I don't get a sense of mastery or cunning from Bane/Talia that leaves me amazed. Most of their plan is easily figured out and I'm sorry to say that the last act of the movie is of your common "race against the clock" stock...which is far less than what I would have expected from Nolan after he claimed he wouldn't release the conclusion to the Batman series until they came up with a script that was equal to or better than The Dark Knight.
1). After Batman returns and he lights up his symbol in the sky, we cut to Bane, who looks on with disbelief and says "Impossible!" Of course, by this time, he has already procured Miranda Tate/Talia, who KNOWS Bruce Wayne is back...so in extension, Bane would already know as well. ...Wouldn't he?
2). Miranda Tate's character doesn't have time to grow on us, or to have much substance. She's suspicious from the beginning to me...sleeping with Bruce Wayne (...why? Nice girls don't do that right away...She reminds me of a Bond Girl in this situation) after little provocation, agreeing to take on his failing company after he refused her, being toted around as "lovely" by everyone else. And where did Talia Al Ghul procure a french accent?...And why did it take her close to a decade to exact revenge on Batman? That's a very...very slow knife.
3). Bruce Wayne/Batman KNOWS that the Auto-Pilot works. So in effect he's lying to everyone when he totes himself as a hero at the end. I'm sure he did it just to steal Selina Kyle's kiss (which seems inappropriate when there's a minute and a half ticking down on a time bomb).
4). I like how Batman says: "A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a little boy's shoulders to let him know that the world hadn't ended." And somehow Commissioner Gordon knows it's Bruce Wayne right away. But really...in a city like Gotham, how many times has he had to do something like that -- comfort a young child in some way? It could just as easily have been "Tommy Green" that he did that for. Which would lead to all sorts of misunderstandings in the end.
However, the question now is: why is this movie rated 4 out of 5 if she has so many problems with it?
Despite its flaws, there's no denying how good this movie makes me feel. It's difficult to say the least to complete a trilogy with much satisfaction...not to mention following up something that set the standard so high.
I have always loved Batman because he is flawed. Superman never held many nuances for me, but Batman has always struggled with morality -- how far and what lines do you draw when you're a vigilante? How do you become a symbol while struggling with your own fears and limitations?
Nolan's Batman is great because he wrestles with these questions. In the first Batman, he has to overcome his fears (something that is exemplified by the Scarecrow and Ra's Al Ghul's hallucinatory drugs).
In the second, he has to contend with how far he can/should go with the Joker. It's against his moral code to take it into his own hands and kill him, because he knows it's a slippery slope to take life/death into his own hands. He fights chaos and has to believe in the goodness of Gotham's people.
In the third movie, Nolan plays on the thematic idea of hope and we see a Bruce Wayne that welcomes death, craves the cape, all while we as an audience understand that he can't continue this. He's reached his prime (physically) eight years before and now that he thinks he has nothing to live for (ie Rachel), it affects how he acts, thinks, and fights.
In many ways, this movie is about accepting change and moving on from it.
Tom Hardy is also phenomenal, in my opinion. Unfortunately, the amplified voice tends to mask (ha ha) a lot of his words. But what amazes me is what he is able to convey through the (actual) mask on his face.
Bale gives a great one as a haunted and worn Batman. We thankfully don't have any tiring monologues about the unfairness of his treatment/about how he took the fall for Dent. It's nice to see him back in the game, but also refreshing to see his limitations acknowledged...as well as his moving on and handing the cape over at the end of the movie without too sentiment.