If you haven't seen the movie, stop now, half this thing is covered in spoiler blocks for a reason.
Lets not take this the wrong way. I liked the movie. The first time I saw it I was on the edge of my seat following each character’s agenda, and the underlying themes. The second time it was a good action movie. Both times though, I left the theatre thinking “were I not a fan, and familiar with the mythology, how would I take this movie?"
For such a long movie, it felt like many things were rushed, and I think what stands out most explicitly was the size of the cast In addition to Batman and Bane, our primary protagonist and antagonists, we have a returning Alfred, Lucius Fox, James Gordon, and newcomers John Blake, Selina Kyle, and Talia Al Guhl. Alfred says his piece and exits, Gordon and Fox are interwoven with the plot, which leaves three major characters who need to be fully developed by the end of the film. My contention, is that since our two ladies already exist in the comics, and each have over 40 years of publishing behind them, the writers and Nolan decided they could cut corners, and leave the fans to fill in the blanks.
Selina’s entire narrative feels rushed, and her motivations never really explored. We establish her as a burglar of some skill in the beginning, imply that she runs with and may be or have been a prostitute. Then we spend the rest of the film moving her from unsure in her self-serving survivalist ways and her feelings for Batman to happily ever after. We never get the real foundation of what got her where she is, how, if not why she wants the blank slate, and how her interactions with Batman and the events of Bane’s martial law turn her towards altruism. It’s not that her change isn’t appropriate, it’s just not justified within the film itself. She doesn’t have enough screen time (or perhaps, the screen time she is given is not used with enough economy) to make such moves. Still, it’s what we want to see, and it’s what we are given. I’m contending that Selina deserves better than that. As Fan service, it was great. As filmmaking? It was cheap corner cutting.
Talia got even less screen time than Selina, certainly once she outed herself. For such a major character, her motives get narrowed down to being daddy’s girl, as if we are supposed to just cut and paste the monologues from the first film into her mouth. True, I don’t want to sit through something redundant in a three hour movie, but both she and Bane deserve more autonomy than this. This is the Mother of Batman’s son we’re talking about here, who is one of the world’s most deadly assassins, and all she manages to do for herself in the film is sleep with Bruce (which is not thoroughly motivated in film- she already had what she wanted, what was she just trying to get further in his head? Deepen his trust? Again, we accept this scene because as fans we want them together, but within the film, there isn’t much reason for it. She doesn’t want to marry him. She just wants to destroy him), order a truck around, and then die poorly in a car crash.
We accept these shortcuts because we know and love these characters, but not everyone does. What the hell was the average moviegoer supposed to make of Talia? If anything, our love for these characters should demand a more realized roll for them in this film. I had one discussion on the matter that suggested a film focusing on the Bat-Cat relationship had more potential to reach the philosophical, psychological and ethical heights and grays seen in the other two films. Of course it has less explosion potential, and I can’t blame Nolan for wanting to go out with a bang. Still, you’ve got to wonder.