Just to make things easy, here is the least spoiler-filled review I can write while still reviewing it at all. After a few days, I’ll write a more “spoilery” article with some actual analysis of the plot and themes.
The Dark Knight Rises was a good movie, if more predictable and straightforward in some ways than its predecessors. The only weak performance was Matthew Modine’s Deputy Commissioner Foley, who seemed a bit caricaturish and flat. Gary Oldman kicks a lot of ass (finally!) and he ain’t the only one. Given the numerous twists the movie throws at you, try to prevent yourself from learning anything about the plot. At the end of the movie, it felt like a satisfying conclusion, not at all disappointing.
As for the acting of the primary characters, Tom Hardy was a superb villain, physically imposing with a dark sense of humor that isn’t in the movie enough. It’s not Heath Ledger levels of awesome, but that was the best supervillian performance of all time. Marion Cotillard (another of several Christopher Nolan repeats) is suitably alluring and intriguing, if not a completely fleshed out character. Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings action and energy to his role, and remains one of the coolest performers of his age.
I know many people pre-hated the casting of Anne Hathaway (see my hilarious article about it), and some of those people will still not like the performance here. As for me though, I thought she did a pretty good job, if not as great as some of the other ones. But there are some pretty impressive actors here, like Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, putting actual effort into it, shockingly enough. The thematic structure of the movie followed in ways that made sense from the rest of the Batman movies, and the character arcs worked well. One of the biggest problems going into the movie is that the trailers give away too much — I won’t specify, but avoid all videos if you want the maximum effect.
Is it the bestest movie ever? No. Best superhero movie this year? Maybe. The Avengers was a lot of fun and very tonally different, but in some ways I liked this one better. Avengers didn’t really say anything, it was a fun, shiny time. TDKR says a lot, but that means it can get muddled and jumbled at times. I still enjoyed it, though.