I will start off by saying that the events in Aurora, Colorado were terrible and my thoughts and prayers go out to those affected, but that's the end of my discussion on that. So, for the review itself: The Dark Knight Rises did not disappoint and is an even tie with the Avengers for my favorite movie this year so far, The Hobbit is still waiting in the wings. By far my favorite of the Batman trilogy, it gives me hope that the upcoming Man of Steel movie won't be as much of a letdown as Superman Returns was. So, read on for more details, with a few spoilers at the end (plenty of warning, don't worry).
My biggest gripe about the movie is the audio balancing; prepare to wonder what different actors are saying throughout the movie due to music or sound effects overwhelming their dialogue. This isn't restrained to Bane but he suffers the most from it as he has some of the more interesting dialogue, the most necessary in order to understand the mind of an anarchist genius. Christian Bale's growling Batman voice, parodied and lampooned frequently, ends up getting swallowed up by different background elements, as well. Christopher Nolan made mention that movie-goers don't /need/ to hear all the dialogue as long as the idea of the dialogue comes across. While I think that's a legitimate point, it's a bit of a snub to screenwriters everywhere and takes a little out of the talent that actors have in delivering emotion through words.
The action on the screen however does not seem nearly as busy as the Avengers did. Some of this is because there are less characters to follow, and none of them are flying around. The new Bat-Wing is absolutely phenomenal without having some of the ridiculousness that the Batmobile had in the first movie. The Batbike makes a return as well and, without spoilers of specific actions, made me want one of my own. The action does drag a bit in the middle of the movie but it (in my mind) is absolutely essential for painting a picture of desperation and a sliver of hope. So, if you haven't seen it yet, expect it and don't worry, the end will easily make up for the start.
SPOILERS BELOW! Here be dragons! Enter at your own risk! Etc. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Speaking of the end, the ending was absolutely perfect. It ties the trilogy of movies up into a nice package, links the first movie to the last with the 'return' of Ra's al Ghul and the less than subtle nod to 'Robin' Blake taking over as Batman, or would it be Nightwing? All the questions are answered but without a sense of permanence that a public death of Batman could cause. If you're a fan of the cartoon series (or, heaven forbid, the Batman and Robin movie) be prepared to see a Bane you might not be expecting. This is the terrifyingly intelligent and physically powerful madman that the comics have portrayed, a man who knows Batman's secret identity as Bruce Wayne. This is the Bane that breaks the Bat. Which is one of my other minor gripes of the movie. While Bane does really mess up Batman's back in the movie, it's nothing compared to the destruction that Bane caused in the comics.
I can understand the need for a smaller spinal injury to go with the timeline that Nolan creates for the movie, it's the utter 'Bane breaks the Bat' damage that then makes Batman's recovery so much more awesome. And, in case you haven't picked up my penchant for redeemed villains: Bane is also one of them, teaming up with Batman after swearing off the use of Venom. I actually enjoyed Nolan's 'realistic' take of the Venom, though it would have been a nice reference that the 'pain-killing mask' also made him extra tough as well.