While not as deep as the previous movie, The Dark Knight Rises manages to be an immensely satisfying conclusion to this gritty trilogy. From the impressive opening scenes until the end, I was riveted, with director Christopher Nolan skillfully baiting me along not with plot points, but with interesting characters brought to life by an all-star cast that I actually felt invested in, and curious to know more about. This film seemed to be less about the Batman and more about Bruce Wayne (Bale) and how he tries to cope with his inner turmoil, aging body, and where this legacy he has created will go once he is gone. That last point eats away at him--being gone--and Alfred (Michael Caine) is keen to notice his focus. He worries about Bruce, worries that he is on a self-destructive path towards inevitable death. He doesn't want to bury another Wayne, but he is increasingly hopeless. That theme of hopelessness is a primary undercurrent throughout the movie, as things go from bad to worse when Bane arrives in Gotham.
"I will build you and Gotham up with hope and then destroy you. Hope is really the key to torture. Gotham will build to a point of joy and then be wiped from the map."
Tom Hardy plays the supervillain this time around, fulfilling the unenviable role of following Heath Ledger's notable turn as the Joker, and manages to put his own brand onto the legendary back-breaker, Bane. While the mask he wears looks awesome, it does block most of his face and distorts his voice. However, I liked the strangeness of his accent and delivery, and Bane's intensity comes through when the camera looks into his eyes. At times I thought the editing was a little abrupt and confusing--I honestly thought that they could have added about 15 more minutes to the run-time and let scenes play out a little slower. Minor quibbles aside, the final sequence is so fulfilling that I was almost brought to tears. This is not a stand-alone movie--it almost requires that you've seen the previous two movies for you to fully understand every moving part. So, if you were a fan of the previous two films, do not miss this final installment.