I've gotten lazy, and have more or less been living at work, but before we go away, I've got some catching up to do.
The Dark Knight Rises is not The Dark Knight. Tom Hardy's Bane is not as iconic a villain as Heath Ledger's Joker, and the film's darker tone can cause the movie to meander in parts. That being said, The Godfather and The Godfather II are different, but that doesn't mean they aren't both great.
Bane, while not on the level of Joker, is an intriguing and menacing villain. While he doesn't remain perfectly true to the comic - he's not addicted to the super-steroid Venom, but does have a robotic spider attached to his face - his guile, intelligence, violence and singular purpose make him a force to be reckoned with.
The other additions to the cast - Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John (Robin) Blake, Anne Hathaway's Catwoman, and Marion Cotillard's Miranda Tate/Talia - all proved to be inspired choices. Each of them downplayed their roles just enough to let the main story unfold around them, rather than having them unfurl the story themselves. Couple that with the return performances of Christian Bale, Michael Caine and a bit part from Cillian Murphy - who certainly turned a small-time character from the comic into a tidy little role for himself - and you have an epic conclusion to an epic series.
Yes, it is quite dark in places, with a genuine sense of dread and despair permeating the empty streets of siege-ridden Gotham1, but no more than the sense of chaos and anarchy that bled from the screen in The Dark Knight. Frankly, the bleak sets and cinematography highlights the fact that, even with the protagonist's victory, there is still work to be done and nothing immediately goes back to normal.
To think, what started seven years ago with the rather modest Batman Begins (and thank God they shook Katie Holmes away in favour of Maggie Gyllenhaal) has turned into the zeitgeist of the IMAX (and not 3D) era. Now...to just go see it in IMAX.
1 - Which is apparently a state, judging by the license plate in the picture of Gordon-Levitt