LIKE AN ONION
First off, I feel like there were layers that I missed because there was so much history from the other two films. I caught the obvious nods, but the film was too rich for me to catch everything in one viewing (a fact which I love). I did a mental *facepalm* when Miranda turned out to be Talia. How could I have missed that? Srsly. I watched the cartoons. I knew this. It's just so different seeing flesh and blood characters that I guess I didn't connect the dots.
SIDE-KICKS AND SEQUELS?
Robin was a bit more obvious, though not at first. When Blake revealed that he knew who Batman was and started explaining how he knew, then I knew. It was just a cherry on top to hear it confirmed at the end. Loved Joseph Gordon Levitt, by the way. I mean, I liked him back in 10 Things I Hate About You and 3rd Rock From the Sun, but ever since Inception, I just can't get enough of him. Blake's courage and strong sense of justice was alluring, and his intelligence really shined through, so it was a pleasure when Gordon promoted him to Detective. His journey from cop to heroic vigilante-to-be was played out skillfully, if not very subtly. I can't wait to see Robin in action!
A PART OF THE WHOLE
I think the key to the film was how each of the characters fed Bruce Wayne little bits of their own strength and cared for him so that he was bolstered up on every side, which quite frankly was the only way to save him from himself. It rendered all the main protagonists that much more likeable, and improved Bruce Wayne (and Batman) to a condition where he was fit to return to his former pedestal. The dark knight rises, indeed.
Now that the trilogy is complete, it's fascinating to see the connection and flow between the three films. The first film is a great origin story with a victorious ending, and the second is a pain-fest with a suspenseful hit-rock-bottom ending, rather reminiscent of the original Star Wars trilogy, come to think of it. The final installment takes all of the characters on a journey of overcoming those trials and returning to glory. Because it's not just Bruce who needs to work through his past. Blake, Selina, Gordon, even Bane and Talia are striving to overcome the past.
I found it striking how many people figured out, or were told, or were shown Batman's true identity. Each time, the story felt heightened, the stakes felt higher, and Bruce felt more human. His guard was taken down, he began letting people in, stepping one foot closer to being willing to let go. Maintaining his secret, solitary double-life was no longer the be all and end all of his relationships.
THE EVIL REBOUND
Speaking of relationships, I wasn't opposed to Miranda and Bruce. She seemed kind, charitable, intelligent, a little saucy. I liked her. She didn't feel like the perfect person for him, but I thought that the story would weave them together in a way that would bring them to that point by the end. When Miranda was taken hostage by Bane, I thought, "Gosh, not another Rachel. Wait. This is the final film, they're not going to kill off this love interest, too. That would be repetitious anyway." I don't know why, but I kind of liked that she turned out to be bad. For one thing, it suited her. She was a smooth, seductive kind of evil. Secondly, she gave him the push he needed to move on from Rachel. Thirdly, she gave him an excuse to find someone better suited for him. I wasn't super pleased that they slept together, but it gave Talia's character some extra venom when I found out she was evilcakes. She was so bent on revenge that she was willing to sleep with the man who murdered her father in order to help her plan succeed and twist the knife a little deeper (to use her metaphor). It was a morbid sort of poetry that she actually did twist a knife in his gut.
WHEN I'M SIXTY-FOUR
It occurred to me several times throughout the film that Bruce Wayne is getting old, and a 40-something man can't fly about and take bullets and stab wounds and still beat up ten guys at a time the way a 20-something can, much to the chagrin of over-the-hill men. The Bat has to hang up his cape at some point. Or die, as Alfred tearfully pointed out. It's been eight years since the Joker incident, and at least awhile before that when he began. It's no wonder it was a big theme in the movie - from Bruce using a cane at the beginning to his doctor appointment to Bane telling him that he fights like a younger man. Shockingly, a hero walking away from crime fighting was exciting.
TO CATCH A THIEF
It was very Bruce the way he just disappeared at the end. And really sweet the way he left breadcrumbs for everyone who knew and cared about him. I was happy that Selina ended up with him, which surprised me at first. Then I realized that they're both damaged and looking for a clean slate. They understand one another because of their pasts, and both of them proved how much they care about people in the moment of crisis. I can't think of any other kind of woman who would fit him better. It didn't hurt that they had already made a connection. Their first encounter proved that they're a match for each other, even as enemies (though they were never really enemies. Frienemies? No, not really even that *shrug*). Bruce can see through her innocent act, but she was able to swipe his keys and his fingerprints - from the arrow, even though he was careful about the safe - and she even pulled his own disappearing act on him. "So that's what that feels like."
I wasn't super stoked about Catwoman, but she was a much softer, more life-like character than the previews led me to believe. Their choice of dialogue made sense - 'you don't know what kind of hell is coming, blah, blah, blah' - but those were Selina's shallowest, most over-the-top sexy-voice moments. So, I went into the movie expecting a sub-par performance by Hathaway and ended up liking her a lot more than I thought I would. I didn't connect with her like I did with the others, but she grew on me.
THE MASS-MURDERING TEDDYBEAR
*jawdrop* I had no idea Bane was Tom Hardy! Inception reunited, lol. Wow. *gasp* And he's Twombly?! (Black Hawk Down) He looks totally different! I never would have guessed that's him. Okay. Sorry. Having a little fan freakout moment here. Inception awesomeness strikes again. I fell in love with Hardy then, too.
For most of the film I just saw Bane as a classic villain. He didn't have the venom-steroids that the cartoon depicted, and I didn't quite get his motivation, even when the League of Shadows connection was introduced. It didn't start making sense until Talia came into the picture. Then I understood his loyalty, which was oddly sweet for such a brutal man. Even his shock that Bruce made it out of the prison made me appreciate him more. I suppose it's actually pretty impressive that Hardy was able to convey so much emotion with half his face covered for the entire film. Very impressive now that I think on it. As for the character of Bane, IDK. He was what he was, I don't feel particularly strongly about him in any direction.
Sorry if this post was a little rambly. I guess that's kind of what this movie does to me. The plot is all jumbled around in my head. It's those layers, I tell you. I won't be able to think straight until I see it again. ;)