I loved the first two films in The Dark Knight trilogy. And that's why it's so disappointing that this final installment doesn't live up to them at all. This is an overly long, bloated disaster of a movie. Seriously, there is no reason for this movie to be almost three hours in length. I was more than ready to leave by the end of it, and unlike similarly lengthed films, such as The Lord of the Rings movies, the quality wasn't there at all to at least make the long ride an enjoyable one. This movie was absolutely draining, and while I've gone back and rewatched the first two movies a countless number of times, I can't ever see myself revisiting the final installment in this series.
The movie takes place eight years after The Dark Knight, in which Batman has gone into retirement. A new villain enters the scene, Tom Hardy's Bane, as he takes his stab at succeeding where the past villains in this series failed in their attempts at bringing Gotham City to ruin. And as Bane's plan comes to fruition, Batman makes his return to Gotham and finds the power within to rise up against this new "necessary evil" running rampant on his city. It's honestly a fairly simple plot, though this movie goes out of its way to try and make things as unnecessarily convoluted and drawn out as it possibly can.
The story also does a hell of a job tying in aspects from the first two movies. However, one thing that really irked me was what they chose to neglect. The Joker is never once referenced in this movie. The Joker, who is supposed to be Batman's greatest adversary, the man who was responsible for Batman's early retirement, is completely ignored. Instead, Ra's al Ghul is given the "greatest adversary" treatment in this series, which really just bugged me. Harvey Dent is referenced. Ra's al Ghul is referenced. Hell, even The Scarecrow makes another appearance in what is likely the highlight of the entire movie. But The Joker? Not even an after thought.
And speaking of such characters, unlike the prior movies, this one has no characters that I found myself caring at all about. Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy did decently enough with what they were given, but they failed to deliver the kind of memorable performances the likes that we got from Aaron Eckhart and Heath Ledger, and the characters of Bane and Selina Kyle themselves were far from interesting. And even the returning characters didn't live up to their prior appearances. Gary Oldman killed it in The Dark Knight, but he seems to just merely exist in this movie. And Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are little more than cameos this time around, despite having their names all over the promotional material. And Christian Bale, well, he's just Christian Bale. If there is a standout performance, I'd honestly have to say it was Joseph Gordon-Levitt, though even then, as I've said, it doesn't even begin to compare to what this series has been able to deliver in the past.
The action scenes, for the most part, are boring and forgettable experiences. Hell, I don't even remember what happened to Bane in the end. But, I mean, at least we could see the action, unlike in Batman Begins, but that was an issue already addressed and corrected in the last film. However, unlike the last film, none of the action is compelling in the least this time around. It's just very uninspired and tiring, and the movie often feels like it's just going through the motions. (And vaguely related, I love how, despite being up against a literal ticking time bomb, Batman still finds the time to rig up a flaming bat symbol on a building.)
One of the things I was hoping from this movie is that it would do something different, similar to how The Dark Knight felt very much like a different movie from Batman Begins. And yeah, this movie definitely does something different, but that something isn't necessarily any good. The movie seems to suffer from identity crisis, and at many times doesn't even feel like a Batman film at all. It's like Christopher Nolan had all of these ideas for so many different movies in so many genres, and he just sort of mashed them all together and tried to make it work. Except, it doesn't work. All it does is leave a great big mess in its wake.
If someone would have told me at the beginning of the year that, of the big three comic book movies this year (The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises), not only would The Amazing Spider-Man be the best, but that The Dark Knight Rises would be, by far, the very, very worst, I would have never believed it. But, alas, that's exactly what has happened. This movie was a monumental disappointment, and a very piss poor conclusion to an otherwise outstanding series. And the ending of the movie may quite possibly be the biggest bullshit cop-out nonsense that I've ever seen. I can't see myself sitting through this again, and while I won't say I don't recommend seeing it, I do recommend lowering your expectations tremendously.