(Warning: This post contains spoilers for "The Dark Knight Rises")
Unfortunately, I was disappointed by "The Dark Knight Rises." Christopher Nolan hit a high point with "The Dark Knight" and sadly, "Dark Knight Rises" failed to live up to the hype.
The greatest departure from the former Batman movies lay in the lack of critical character development. In contrast to "The Dark Knight," which engages in moral and ethical dilemmas that face the people of Gotham, Batman, Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent, this film contains lots of action sequences. And more action sequences. You could rename DKR as 'The Nolans Blow Things Up.'
In addition, many odd things happen. Alfred decides that Bruce Wayne is suicidal and therefore decides to abandon him. He hies off to who knows where while everything goes down in Gotham city. Bane, a man who is wearing a less-audible version of the Darth Vader mask, is certainly intimidating, but he seems far less able to play mind games than the Joker was. (And it's really quite annoying that you cannot understand every third word that comes out of his mouth due to the shoddy manufacturing of his raspy breathing device).
The plot meanders. Rather than the rising action you got with the second movie, where you are always wondering how the Joker is going to raise the stakes next, here, you get thirty different narratives punched into one film. A pretty lady with an accent has commissioned Wayne Industries to build a nuclear fission sustainable energy pump, which they do. However, the pump then gets coopted by Bane and turned into a nuclear bomb. Bane decides to give the city back to the people by blowing stuff up and promoting anarchy. It's clearly a scene based on the Hurricane Katrina New Orleans looting and violence- and it resonates. Things that don't make sense here include that some random guy with glasses (it is eerily like a Kafkaesque trial, except with a cartoon character flinging around the gavel) is sentencing people to death by exile onto ice patches where they fall through and drown or to death by rifle. Why would the people follow this random glasses guy?
Bruce Wayne meets Selina Kyle/ Catwoman and is interested in her, but instead decides to sleep with the pretty lady with the accent. We're not sure why, but it will serve as a plot-point for later in the movie. Anyway, long story short, Bane sticks Bruce Wayne down a pit (a la Joseph or Moshe, take your pick) and forces him to watch live feeds of everything that Bane is doing to destroy Gotham. Ra's al Ghul, who had formerly founded the League of Shadows, shows up in a hallucination to inform Bruce Wayne that Gotham deserves to be demolished for its decadence, which seems to echo Sodom and Gomorrah from the Bible. In this Old Testament remake, Batman plays Abraham, with a little bit of God thrown in for good measure.
Bruce hears a tale of one child who escaped from this pit, and he assumes this child is Bane. Eventually, he too is able to escape from the pit and make his way back to Gotham, where he faces off with Bane and tells Joseph Gordon Levitt to save the children (this is the Moshe scene with the typical 'Let my people go' except that bureaucracy and 'I was only following orders' gets in the way), only to discover that in fact the pretty lady with the accent is the child that escaped and his arch-nemesis. She stabs him and explains that Bane was the man who saved her back in the day and that is why she loves him. Her father (Ra's al Ghul) excommunicates Bane because he cannot bear to be reminded of what happened to his wife and daughter because of his actions. That's when Bane and Ra's' daughter meet up and become the dynamic duo. We in the audience don't really understand why the man who would risk his life to save a child's life (aka pretty woman with accent) in the name of innocence would then decide to blow up an entire city, but this is left unexplained.
Enter a convoluted scene in which several people try to stop the nuclear bomb from detonating, but in the end of the day, Batman flies his Bat airplane, picks up the bomb and drops it in the middle of the ocean. Never mind the logic that says that everyone would still be sick due to radiation poisoning- according to the cheers and hurrahs, he saved the city. And that there's a major plot point missing here- WHY THE HELL DIDN'T HE DO THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE? If all he needed to do is take the Bat airplane, pick up the bomb and throw it in the sea, couldn't he have done that before all the craziness with Commissioner Gordon/ Bane/ Pretty Woman with Accent went down? Why didn't he do that the second he got back from pit-in-the-middle-of-the-desert?
In a scene that echoes that of the season finale of "House," but with less finesse, we discover that Batman has faked his own death and actually he is living happily with Catwoman. Authors need to learn to be crueler. Harry Potter should have died when he walked into Voldemort's arms and Batman should have died in the fallout of a massive nuclear explosion. This ending just feels fake where the ending of the second movie (with Batman nobly taking the blame for Harvey's actions) was heroic.
In short: watch this movie, then be sad that the clarity, intensity and brilliance of the second movie is utterly lacking.