It's an excellent film, high drama, interesting, intelligent, and with very clever uses of character. There are some surprising weaknesses that come out of Bruce Wayne, and Tom Hardy is outstanding as Bane. He is a genuinely frightening, original menace. I was surprised at how Selena Kyle's character was used and progressed as Catwoman/not-Catwoman. She doesn't start as the obsequious secretary in Tim Burton's franchise. I was also very impressed by Joseph Gordon Levitt's performance; his acting has grown so very much and he gave his character some incredible depth that otherwise could have been a bit too predictable in terms of who he ends up "becoming."
The bulk of my thoughts on this film involve spoiling the hell out of this movie, so if you have not seen it yet, read no further, and only know that I think you HAVE TO see this film if you're ever going to continue calling yourself a film lover. :)
For those of you who have seen it, read on, as I'm dying to share my thoughts about why certain people don't die in this film, and why others become who they do.
I *loved* the backhanded surprise that the nested villain in the film is Marion Cotillard, yet I was not surprised by her death. For some time, I have suspected that one of the writers has been dealing with the ghost of a woman from his past, who is represented by these incredibly strong, dynamic, non-traditional female characters in Nolan's films that keep getting killed off. Many people have pegged Nolan as a misogynist but I think it's quite the contrary. Whichever of the three of them it is, I think part of them has been in mourning over this woman.
When I saw the end of Inception I thought that maybe the issue with this woman from the past had been resolved, buried, figuratively and literally resigned to the deep wilderness of the unconscious to die. But at the same time, maybe that's why she keeps coming up: she's still there. I think she came back as Talia, and I think she will come back again in the next Nolan/Goyer film, Superman.
Glenn Beck touched on the politics in The Dark Knight Rises, and that if anything, Batman championed the remainder of the elite establishment after Gotham sank into marshal law. I didn't see this film as a conservative one in the slightest. In all three of Nolan's Batman films, Bruce Wayne/Batman says that "Batman" can be anyone. Anyone willing to fight for what's right. It makes perfect sense to me that John Blake eventually becomes Batman/Robin, because the battle that he's alluded to inheriting against Gotham's criminals is not foreign territory. He too is an orphan, knows the imbalance, injustice, loneliness and anger of the world first hand, which Bruce Wayne could never have known because of his status. Regardless of his also being an orphan.
Criminals often seem to enjoy reminding Batman/Bruce that he grew up in a world of privilege, and is someone who -- if he wanted to -- could buy an island somewhere and never see another thug or dirty sidewalk for the rest of his days. It's the fact that Batman/Bruce rejects that option that's the point, the fact that he knows there is work to be done and battles to be fought in this world, that is the reminder that the power for change is always in one's own hands. It has nothing to do with establishment, government, or other social and political expectations. We always, always have agency in our lives. For better or worse, we have control.
It's not Batman's duty to upset the establishment, big money or the general status quo. It's ours, because by vote or aspiration, we as a society put in power the people who have power.