I love Christopher Nolan films. I think that Memento and The Prestige are his best, but even his weaker movies like Following and Insomnia are really good. I'm a big fan of his first two Batman films, and was very excited to see how this master filmmaker concluded the series. While The Dark Knight Rises isn't a bad film, it does have the unfortunate distinction of being the first of Nolan's movies that isn't good.
It's been nearly a decade since the events of The Dark Knight took place, when Batman took the blame for killing Harvey Dent and instantly went from hero to public enemy number one. It was a good time for Batman to disappear, as politicians were able to ride the people's wave of emotion to pass some harsh laws against organized crime, and the police have used them to all but snuff it out of Gotham. Conveniently, when Batman went into hiding, so did Bruce Wayne (once again played by Christian Bale). He's been holed up in his mansion for years, distraught over the death of his almost-fiancee Rachel Dawes, while Wayne Enterprises lost a bundle of money by investing in a fusion reactor project that had to be shut down because some smart guy figured out how to turn it into a nuclear weapon.
Bruce probably would have stayed in hiding indefinitely if it hadn't been for Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). While posing as a maid, she managed to sneak into his bedroom, break into his safe, and steal his dead mother's pearl necklace. He wasn't happy about that, but he was even more curious about why she would have lifted his fingerprints. It turns out that she'd been hired to nab the prints by the head of Wayne Enterprises' biggest competitor, who was in league with a very mysterious masked villain known only as Bane (Tom Hardy). Bane somehow knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman, and he's got a plan that will bankrupt Wayne, kill Batman, and destroy Gotham, all in one fell swoop.
After Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, audiences have every reason to expect the third installment to be an action film, but that's simply not the case. It's a full hour into the film before Batman makes an appearance, with the time leading up to that littered with Wayne's moping, Alfred's complaining, and lots of laying groundwork for later in the film, frequently through sloppy exposition. Batman has less than an hour of screentime in this 164-minute film, and Wayne doesn't play a major role in much of the remaining content. We get a good amount of Kyle (who usually masquerades as Catwoman when she's breaking the law), a decent amount of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) and newly-introduced Detective Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), not nearly enough Alfred or Fox (Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman), and way too much Bane.
There are many problems with this movie, but the biggest is that its lack of action makes all of its problems more apparent, and seeing the film a second time only further highlights them. The first time I watched the movie, I loved the first real action scene (which involves Batman on a bike), but realized on the second viewing that it was more the relief of finally getting some excitement after an hour of nothing than the actual content of that scene. Other action scenes suffered similar degradation upon a subsequent viewing, and inconsistencies start popping up all over the place.
It's difficult to further critique the movie without getting too far into plot details. Bane's voice is annoying, at best sounding like a mix between Sean Connery and Jeff Bridges, and at worst completely indecipherable. Most of the events in the end were relatively obvious because they were meticulously set up earlier in the film. Batman has a couple of new toys, but nothing really spectacular. It's really just a big disappointment across the board, just like virtually every other big studio release so far this year.