The much-anticipated conclusion to the Dark Knight trilogy faces some perhaps unrealistically high expectations, but director Christopher Nolan doesn't seem as concerned with topping "The Dark Knight" as he does with creating a great film. Nolan is best known for the recent Batman movies, but other films like Memento, The Prestige, and Inception are great in their own right, garnering him praise with fans and critics alike (what I'm saying is, as a director, the man knows how to tell a great tale). If his films have one thing in common, it's their unique blend of serious drama and off-the-wall fantasy. Nolan picks up where a director like Terry Gilliam leaves off: he injects a bizarre piece of science fiction into a plausible (at least in movie terms) setting and uses logic to determine the course of the story. I'm not saying a billionaire who dresses like a bat is necessarily logical in the real world, but in the confines of the big screen, it fits the logic of it's own universe. It's a different kind of fantasy that is wholly unique to Christopher Nolan movies.
It's been eight years since the events of "The Dark Knight" took place, and thanks to the "Dent act" (named for the late Harvey Dent), most of Gotham's crime has been eliminated. Well, most but not all. It seems there is a cat burglar making her way up through Gotham's upper class. She even steals Bruce Wayne's mother's pearls. Wayne (who we all know is actually Batman) takes offense at this theft and decides to come out of the self-imposed exile he's been living in since the death of Rachel Dawes, the love of his life. Meanwhile, a new villain by the name of Bane is stirring beneath the streets of Gotham, building an army and targeting Wayne enterprises in the process. While Bruce Wayne wants to continue hiding from his past, it seems his past won't let him, and he must once again don the bat suit in order to defeat those who would conspire against him and the city he protects.
There are no over-the-top villains like Heath Ledger's Joker this time, but much of The Dark Knight Rises is over-the-top in it's own way. Bane commits acts the Joker could only dream of, and the way the story lays itself out is quite well executed. Unlike previous superhero movies, Batman's problems aren't laid out all neat with simple cause and effect. There is a lot of darkness floating behind Bruce Wayne's eyes, he's a man who's emotionally crippled, and makes decisions based upon his emotional disfunctions. His nemesis Bane might be even more stunted, he's a man who was literally born in a pit of darkness and claims he didn't see the light of day until he was well into adulthood. It's a case of two dark souls battling to see whose will is stronger, and whose psychosis will rule the day. As the final installment of Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, it's a sincere farewell to the world of the Batman.