This isn't a review of any one particular movie, but my personal thoughts on the entire trilogy.
About a week ago one of my friends asked me when I "got into" Batman. All of my friends are well aware that Batman is my favorite fictional... anything. The shirts, the batarangs, the text message tones, no hiding it really. I took many trips to the comic book shop with my Dad when I was young, but I the only thing I remember about Batman from those days is him being on the cover of a Superman comic (Superman was in trouble and Batman was leaning against a wall, not helping... cool). The Batman comics at that time were a little too dark and "boring" for me. It was one guy with no powers doing a lot of talking and brooding. The X-Men and The Avengers were whole teams of superheroes with awesome powers and they were colorful, action packed and funny.
The first Batman movie was fun, but then in the early 90's a show came on Fox right after school that solidified Batman as my go to character. "Batman: The Animated Series" It was dark, gritty, serious (mostly) and I loved it. It was a complete departure from most everything else I had seen on TV and I was hooked! I guess being a tween makes brooding more interesting. I got into the Batman comics shortly after, and haven't looked back.
Much like the comics, these movies aren't colorful, funny (mostly), action packed and have no super powers. There is little joy in them and the themes are dark. This character, and specifically these movies rank so highly with me because of the themes within. While I loved The Avengers, it was just a light and fluffy superhero action flick. The characters have very little depth beyond their one "trait" (Tony Stark - Narcissist, Thor and Cap - Fish out of water, Hulk - Smash, etc). Bruce Wayne is a tormented soul who is struggling for identity, purpose and is constantly battling his own demons. He is idealistic, uncompromising, and finds a way to remain so after enduring fierce emotional and physical beatings.
I know that most normal people won't see Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises back to back, even at home. Unfortunately I think that is the best way to experience this story. This is one cohesive story separated into three films. It's a three act film that spreads each act into an entire movie. I attended a Dark Knight Marathon that culminated in the midnight release of The Dark Knight rises and it was truly an experience.
Batman Begins sets up the story with a man who suffers a great loss and decides to turn his pain into something (violently) constructive. The Dark Knight follows up by testing Batman/Bruce Wayne's limits and The Dark Knight Rises is the massive conclusion.
Beyond the basic plot elements all three movies deal with the concepts of identity, purpose, resilience, faith/trust in people, and the most recurring central theme is, of course, "Why do we fall Bruce?" How and why we move on from significant obstacles. Especially right now, all of those themes have a direct impact on me personally. These movies are inspirational, despite, or maybe because of the dark tone. Without all the loss and grief and pain there wouldn't be much for Batman to deal with outside of punching criminals in the face (and without the initial loss, why would he be doing all of this punching?) Despite all the great villains, Batman's greatest foe is himself. He has to overcome his own fear, his grief, his anger and his doubts about himself. He gets knocked down many times and has to find the conviction to get back up and "endure."
As silly as it sounds, when I get in a funk, a "Batman Up!" thought pops into my head and gets me going. If a fictional billionaire vigilante can have his loved ones murdered and still get by, I can probably deal too (with less punching).
The individual films aren't perfect. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises both contain suspension of disbelief straining doomsday devices. The Dark Knight's (amazing) switch to crime drama makes it feel a little out of whack with the bookends of the trilogy. The Dark Knight Rises is stingy with the Batman and has one completely unnecessary, groan inducing line towards the end that someone should have said "NO" to. But despite these and other minor gripes, these movies are essentially about one man versus himself. And in that regard they are an astounding achievement. Anyone who has faced adversity (who hasn't?) can relate and take something away from these films that other "comic book movies" can't come close to.
I typed about 90% of this the day after the movie, but due to the shooting didn't have much motivation to talk about batman. It was terrible and crazy and some nut exploited something I love to go on a killing rampage. For a few days I had an almost 9/11 sort of dazed sick feeling. Especially since I was at a midnight show. We were all in there, cheering for every movie trailer that popped up, in an audience where everyone was hanging onto every word of dialogue and cheering at the big moments. People had batman capes, masks and shirts galore. Excited and happy and safe. I can't imagine what that must have been like and feel for everyone affected. I have however, decided to Batman Up and take my friends to see the movie this week. I knew I would have to see The Dark Knight Rises again about 30 minutes into it. More than that, I think it is important to not be scared away from the things we love at the whims of this madman.
"Bottom line is even if you see 'em coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what, are we helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come, can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are." - Whistler