Before we get into this, Comic-Con update; I'm having some problems with the photos, and I don't want to write it all up until I have some pictures. It's coming.
I am going to be brief and to the point here. I do this because if I begin talking in specifics about the film, I will be prone to spoilers. I will say this: if you haven't seen this film, do yourself a favor and don't read anything about it. Go in unspoiled, and enjoy the twisty ride Christopher and Johnathan Nolan have crafted for you (not forgetting David Goyer's story credit). This is a film filled with secrets and surprises, and I happily only had one major one spoiled for me before the film rolled.
I am so happy about that.
So, I'll stay in broad strokes. The cast is uniformly great. I've heard some rumblings about Tom Hardy's Bane not matching Heath Ledger's Joker, but that's just silly. It moves from this idea that comic-book villains are uniform and one-note. The Joker was an agent of chaos, Bane is an engine of destruction. I think Christian Bale does his best work of the series, as does Michael Caine. Anne Hathaway is probably the best Selina Kyle ever put on screen (even if she's never called Catwoman). Gary Oldman is still letter-perfect as Commissioner Gordon.
However, I think the MVP is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake. There are large swaths of the film where Bruce Wayne and Batman are out of the picture, and Blake gives us a very human hero to root for. Gordon-Levitt handles the action with aplomb, and I really feel like you're watching a true superstar on the rise in this film.
Again in broad strokes, Nolan has done what few have done before. He's taken this trilogy to it's completion as a unified statement. He's used a pulp/comic book/serialized fiction character in ways that we've only really seen before in actual comic books. He understood that these characters can, and should be, used as a reflection of the times in which they are told. That they adapt and endure because great creators have defined and redefined them for their times. What Nolan has done is in that grand tradition.
He's crafted a super-hero movie that's about where the world sits right now, in this post-9/11, internet age. He's done it without smirking or looking down on the material. He knows the power of the toys he's been given to play with, and he's used it for the right, and best reasons. This is a summer blockbuster art film.
I loved The Avengers, unreservedly. However, what The Dark Knight Rises shows is how much more you can get out of these stories if you're willing to look deeper, and embrace the thematic elements. The Avengers, and the entire Marvel Productions film output, so far, have been artfully rendered commerce. Nolan's Batman trilogy is highly commercial art. That's why these three movies will live on for decades to come, not just as huge blockbusters, but as examples of great filmmaking.
Bring on whatever you want to do next, Mr. Nolan. I can't wait.