WHAT I LIKED: The final chapter of Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is widely accepted as a miss-step by most, but quite frankly I'm of the opinion that it's the best of the three as it combines the touching character stuff of 'Begins,' and the ideas-heavy intelligence of 'The Dark Knight,' in a spectacular blockbuster of biblical scale with real soul and heart.
Firstly, the film serves to strip Bruce Wayne and Batman away from his conceptual representation in the previous movie to reconnect us with the man behind the ideals, and that means we're more invested in his story. He really feels like a man who's given everything for the people of his city and is carrying huge responsibility on his shoulders along with the weight of his personal traumas, and because we get so much time with all of that before he dons the cape again we can connect with him as a person rather than a symbol.
But the film doesn't just leave it there, as he's then sent on an exceedingly personal struggle throughout the film as The League of Shadows return threatening to not only destroy Gotham, but also to make the city tare itself apart as Wayne watches helplessly. As such, when he finally returns to save a Gotham on its knees to expose the truth behind the lie of the previous film, it makes for a perfect and uplifting end to an incredible trilogy.
But whilst its story does offer a far more emotionally-grueling and satisfying watch, that's equally not to say that 'The Dark Knight Rises,' isn't a film dripping with social commentary at the same time. After the events of the last movie, society has begun to prosper, but a look beneath the surface (literally) reveals it's all been built on a lie.
In the city's tunnels lies Bane - a villain who successfully proves what The Joker never did by trapping the city and revealing the lie that upheld the order before - that without its structures and rules, society would be a selfish mess of anarchy and chaos. But crucially this time what makes it all hit home and transcend far more effectively is that we firstly get to see a more grounded deconstruction of the injustices within the supposedly civilised society in the first place such that we understand the motives and appeal of Bane's anarchists, and then we get to see the flaws and unnatural nature of a lawless system when it's finally realised. That anarchy and violence that ensues does suggest the film has little faith in society working on its own - especially as the film ends with a literal fight to restore order in which a bunch of Police officers break out in a huge brawl on the streets - but in reality most ordinary people are pushed into their homes by the select few, and all it's advocating for is a society with some form of order.
Also, in the end, it's ultimately concluded that truth is more important to a functioning society than symbols, and in many ways the major thread that runs through the film is one of truth. Lies and deception are tossed away at every avenue, and just as Alfred reveals the secrets that kept Bruce Wayne locked up for all those years, Batman himself is able to embody the true hero he is and become the symbol to Gotham's society that he always was.
So all in all it is an intensely character-driven movie and an equallty ideas-driven one, but on top of that it's also by far the most spectacular of the trilogy, as Nolan delivers his most visually stunning piece of work yet and Zimmer brings everything to life with a thunderous and touching soundtrack that represents the best of his work on these films. All of that amounts in a perfect final act that ties the themes and character arcs off perfectly, and in the end what you've got here is a truly incredible end to an incredible trilogy that - as far as I'm concerned - is the very best of its bunch.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: It does fall into a similar trap to its predecessor in some sense, as it treats Gotham's society as one entity whose options are either anarchy or control. Having seen a few more ordinary people locked up in their homes when Gotham's anarchy ensues could have brought home the want of ordinary people and the fact that most just want safety and happiness for themselves and their loved ones - a truth that often feels detached from the heavy ideology of these films.
VERDICT: The most spectacular film of its trilogy that's crucially driven by its characters as well as its themes, 'The Dark Knight Rises,' is an underrated and epic blockbuster of biblical proportions with real soul and heart.