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Old 09-03-2012, 03:53 PM
At long last, my review...

Concluding a trilogy has been, for whatever reason, an excrutiatingly difficult task almost since the concept first came about. Out of the myriad live-action third installments to have come out over the years, only four or five are well-regarded: Return of the King, Prisoner of Azkhaban, the Bourne Ultimatum, the Last Crusade, and possibly Return of the Jedi. Note also that four of those are either based on pre-existing books or (in the case of ROTJ) were planned from the beginning. Here, though, we have something different, a third installment that wasn't preplanned but succeeds beautifully.

As with previous installments, Nolan has cast this film to the hilt. Besides the returning cast, we have three impressive new-comers. First off is Tom Hardy as Bane. This will be sacreligious to some, but I actually liked his portrayal slightly more than Ledger's of the Joker. Hardy brings an animal-like ferocity to the role and elevates what could have been a B-level villain and makes him compelling. Even though his mouth is covered, his expressive face shines through, especially in one scene where you can see a single tear drip down his face and one almost sympathizes with him in that moment. Elsewhere, Ann Hathaway silenced whatever minor doubts I had with her portrayal of Selina Kyle. As if in answer to critics of his portrayal of female characters, Nolan creates what could be his best female character yet (although I also liked Mal from Inception), and Hathaway makes a nearly complete break from anything else she's done and shows that she can do darker material. Last, but not least, is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Much has already been said about what he brings to the role but let me just add that with the work he has coming out this year (TDKR, Lincoln, and Looper), JGL has cemented himself as one of the best actors of his age group.

Established cast members, regardless of screen time, acquit themselves well. Christian Bale shows himself to be the best all-around actor to have donned the cape and cowl. While their screentime is considerably limited, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman still give enough to make you care about their characters (Caine especially). In keeping with his other films, Nolan populates his cast with recognizable faces and gives more than a few of them a moment to shine, the most notable being Aiden Gillen (Littlefinger!) and Christopher Judge (Teal'c!). Plus, bonus points abound for including my favorite sports team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, as the Gotham Rogues (though I'm miffed that they did not show Troy Polamalu, my favorite player). My only casting disappointment was with Marion Cotillard. Although the scene where she does reveal who she is was well done, i would have personally had her reveal herself at the beginning and develop her relationship with Bane (to mirror that between Bruce and Selina).

One problem I had with previous installments of the Dark Knight trilogy is that the films climaxed too early, weakening the third act. Here, the third act is easily the best of the trilogy, and while the supposed multiple endings bothered some, I felt they were entirely appropriate. As for the other plot holes, I honestly don't really care. I felt the film as is flowed just fine, but I would like to see what had been cut as I felt there was more than what was shown (much like the extended edition of The Two Towers, which I think is the best extended version of that trilogy). In addition to being a great conclusion overall, TDKR also puts an exclamation mark on what, I think, will be one of the best-regarded trilogies, alongside the likes of LOTR and the original Star Wars trilogy. Like LOTR, the Dark Knight trilogy will, I think, be regarded as one of the high points--if not THE high point--of its respective genre.

Lastly, a more personal note. As everyone knows, key parts of TDKR were filmed in Pittsburgh. For me, this created a more personal stake in the fate of Gotham because I recognized so much of it, from Heinz Field to One Oxford Plaza, to parts of the waterfront and possibly one of the bridges (which I think is the one that connected downtown to the Station Square area, a bridge I have traversed many times in my life). Although Cleveland was technically closer to my hometown, Pittsburgh was the big city I enjoyed visiting the most (still do, in fact). So, in some ways, a part of me made it into the film, allowing TDKR to draw me in more than its predecessors.

In short, well done Chris and Christian (and everyone else). You took what had been one of the sillier film genres and gave it a gravitas that, in my opinion, won't be matched any time soon.

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