Well, it's over. I just watched my most anticipated film of 2012: the third and final part of the Dark Knight trilogy. And as high as my expectations were, it did not disappoint.
Of course I won't say anything about the plot. I knew nothing about it going in and that's the way I recommend it for you. That is, if you can possibly avoid the trailers, posters, articles, reviews, spoilers, interviews, and overall marketing and media blitz. (Somehow I managed to.) But I will say that Christopher Nolan, the director, continues to be among the best filmmakers in the history of film. The guy just knows how to make a great movie. If there is a secret, he knows it. And yet you really don't hear him bragging about it. He's certainly the most under-the-radar great director. Most people don't even know him by name. A smart investor should just give him $300M for his next project, whatever that is, and walk away and let him do what he obviously knows how to do.
As far as this particular franchise goes, to me these are the gold standard for movies based on comic books. In fact, the genius of them is they don't even seem like comic book films. They're really well made, surprisingly realistic, epic crime films with a few costumed characters sans super powers thrown in to punch them up. In fact, Batman is probably only on screen for under 30 minutes out of 2 hours and 45! (That's an estimate. Don't hold me to it.) (And I should also mention that despite the hefty running time this movie amazingly does not feel a bit long.) My point is, a lesser made film would feel the need to have him on screen every frame. But by holding back it gives it that much more punch when the Dark Knight actually does 'rise'. These are comic book films for grown-ups. And, unlike that ultra-boring reboot featuring your friendly neighborhood web-slinger, you have absolutely no idea where these films are going.
And of course the cast continues to be top notch. A quality actor like Christian Bale is refreshing at a time when Hollywood is casting models rather than actors as leading men. (I'm referring, of course, to 'Thor' and 'John Carter', and I'm more than a little concerned about the upcoming 'Man of Steel'.) Bale is the real deal. I'm glad to see he got recognized by the Academy for 'The Fighter', but at this point he deserves a lifetime achievement award. And speaking of lifetime achievements, brilliant character actors Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman are all at the top of their games here. Pound for pound this is among the best casting I've seen.
And I must also point out how great the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard is. When two of the best film score composers collaborate on such a huge film franchise, it's not surprising it turned out so well. It sets the tone perfectly and consistently runs in the background creating just the right tension but not drawing attention to itself. I listen to it all the time and it makes me feel like going out and fighting crime. (I rarely do, though).
Now, keeping it real as I always do, is this the best of the three? No. There are a few things I won't discuss here that I would have changed. But it's still spectacular and I loved every minute. It's just virtually impossible to top the perfectly told origin story and Heath Ledger's classic portrayal of the Joker. And if those aren't perfectly clear in your mind, I highly recommend revisiting them before you see this final part. Otherwise you won't get the full impact. Sure, it's a combined running time of 7.5 hours for the trilogy, but like other epic series, including 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Harry Potter', I firmly believe you get out of them what you put into them. (Those who tell me they don't like these series generally say something like, 'I saw the last 30 minutes of the second one and didn't like it. Well, duh. You need to start from the beginning and commit to the end. You can't dabble.)
But now it's over and I have to move on with my life. And, like with 'Potter' and 'Rings', I'm thrilled to have experienced it, but overwhelmingly sad that it's now over. It's hard to say goodbye to something you love. I can only hope we aren't subjected to a Batman reboot anytime soon. You can't improve upon perfection. An attempt to do so would just be based on corporate greed. And yet, sadly, I expect one within a decade. Let's all agree now to a boycott.
Grade: A+ (for the trilogy as a whole)