What a lovely voice.
"Gotham! Take control of your city! We are not conquerors. We are liberators. I have no authority here. Those who'll join us, step forward. Witness the next era of Western civilization. I am Gotham's reckoning."--Bane
Cults are dangerous. I can't reiterate that enough. But Nolan and company channeled that energy better than anyone could've anticipated. I knew I'd be finding some type of philosophical message here as Nolan has presented us in the previous two films, but never in my wildest dreams did I think he'd channel the second coming of the messiah. And no, I'm not talking about Batman. So once again, the title of the film is ambiguous, this time referring to five different characters. And the concept of 'RISE' is felt like an earthquake throughout the film. From Batman's first reemergence in eight years to Bruce Wayne's climb from the Lazarus Pit to his duel in the rotunda of Gotham City Hall. Even when Bane strides out of City Hall commandingly between the greek styled columns. Symbolism runs rampant in this film.
Christian Bale gives his best dual performance in the trilogy as Bruce Wayne/Batman. He's a broken man mentally and physically after his self exile and his journey through the film is a tough one. Especially when you consider the fact that he only dons the cape and cowl three times in a 164 minute film; the first two times being very brief. Point being this is Bruce Wayne's story of redemption. And not just from the circ*mstances of his self exile. Batman on the other hand exists more as a symbol from Gothamites speaking of him, and chalk symbols appearing all around the city during the long occupation. So as mentioned in the original film, Batman is truly a symbol, and his minimal screen time, though constant symbolic presence represents that better than ever before in the films or television series. As such, Batman is synonymous with many of the equally symbolic greek heroes of legend, who square off against their godly competitors for what is good and right rather than what's obedient or submissive. But the ultimate triumph is that unlike in most superhero films where you're just amped for the climax, in this film you find yourself truly cheering for Batman more than you've ever routed for such a character to RISE before.
Tom Hardy exceeds the role of a 'classic movie monster' as Nolan put it, for they typically aren't as intellectual as Bane. Hardy isn't as memorable as Ledger's Joker, but he shouldn't be aiming to be more memorable anyway. He's a completely different character who can't be compared to previous villains. Ledger's Joker was a cerebral villain, whereas Hardy's Bane is a physical one who shares Joker's intellect. For while Bane really packs a punch and delivers the best fisticuffs fights in cinema history, he really takes it to a whole new level psychologically as the fallen angel. A devil and tragic villain; far more so than Harvey Dent could ever hope to be perceived. He represents the second coming of the messiah. Ra's Al Ghul's dream of a new eden rising from the ashes of tyranny as many biblical story lines have done repeatedly. Like Noah or Jesus for example. Bane is just another one of these vessels. A dangerous mind yes. Insane cultist, maybe. However, his backstory showcases to the best extent life on the other side of the fence. Just as Carmine Falcone cautioned Bruce in "Batman Begins" (2005), there is always a darker side to life. And it's typically more tragic. Bane is the best representation of this. He's a biblical figure, and a messiah in his own right, seeking to bring about a new eden for all, and like Noah, Jesus, Muhammed, and any number of other cult figures, he welcomes anyone to join him on his quest. Granted there are a few explosive secrets he keeps to himself, but the willingness of the masses to join the cause and follow his philosophy renders that point moot, for if the masses join you in the revolution, then it doesn't matter what becomes of them physically, for you've already won them psychologically. Their souls are yours to keep. Hence, Bane is a messiah from these religions, who like them had to RISE from his own darkness to attain his glory, and just like them, represents a delusional darkness and brings with him a new breed of vicious tyranny that he's blind to in his dedication to his cause. And where the cultists fail psychologically, it will be the sane good man who will RISE and restore the peace and order.
Beat cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) are just such sane good men. While Blake seeks to keep the peace to uphold justice, Gordon seeks to keep the peace for the betterment of humanity through this dark secret he's kept for eight years. A secret which has now come back to haunt him in the worst ways possible. And like Bruce Wayne and Bane, these two cops will RISE from their own dark pasts for redemption on Gordon's part, and sheer dedication to what's good and right on Blake's part.
Lastly, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) is the master jewel thief who preys on the privileged not out of greed, but necessity. She too recognizes the concept of life on the other side of the fence having lived it herself. And her journey begins as a pathway to a new beginning, and ironically she seeks to attain it through aiding a massive project which seeks to bring about a 'new beginning' of a different caliber--which I took issue with given her great resourcefulness and ability to thrive well enough already. But through the film, this sassy self serving cat burglar will change course by taking the pathway to redemption in an attempt to RISE above her past demons. And like all other classic characters of the Batman universe, she's been Nolanized.
The visual splendor and sheer scale of the film are worth it alone, even if you've never seen the previous films, nor cared much about the world of Batman. Everything that could be done for real was, and the stunt work and extensive planning which had to go into this is really showcased even more so than in "The Dark Knight" (2008) which topped the action set by its predecessor. Going into any more detail than that would serve no purpose. You just have to see this film. It's yet another achievement in the action genre. The digital effects that were in the film were subtle, and the editing and sound design was magnificent.
However, the film is not without its drawbacks, such as including certain twists just for the sake of having one as the character(s) involved are almost too new for us to care and serve only to downgrade the independence of the other giants in this film. Not to mention making the final point of contention a McGuffin rather than character drama. Nolan usually isn't one for cheese, but he tapped some here. Also with the sheer amount of conveniences for the villains, and a few lapses in story logic which needed to be addressed. However at the same time, these cheesy elements don't drawback from the overall symbolism of the film as a whole. But they do strike at the absolute wrong times.
In the end, Nolan set out to reinvent the Batman Mythos, and he's done a remarkable job at it. The realism and symbolism has set the bar incredibly high. Marvel hit a home run in this department with "Iron Man" (2008), but hasn't come close on any other endeavor, and probably won't anytime soon. So for now, be glad you were around to follow the journey of the caped crusader through the darkness and into the light. For who knows if we'll ever see a saga as wholly impressive ever again.