Over the weekend, I saw it twice. It is quite tough to answer this question, because a lot has changed since Batman Begins in 2005. That film, had the fire of a man rising to a superhero status, complete with a fantastic performance from Liam Neeson as Ra's al Ghul and the setting of a story that would spiral across 7 years to find its closure.
Let's begin from the beginning. An orphan billionaire, dissuaded by the loss of his parents, finds himself an unusual escape route--into the city's darkest realms of crime, and depravity. He is found languishing in a prison by Neeson, who then, mentors him into becoming an extraordinarily skilled fighter. What follows next is Bruce Wayne trying to clean up Gotham city, ridding it of criminals, and corporate sharks alike. The next film, The Dark Knight gave us the evil Joker, who captured the imagination of millions. Joker, of course, played by Heath Ledger, posed a big crisis for Batman, the superhero, before successfully finishing a thriller sequel.
Batman chooses to live long enough to be the villain, even as the city deifies its fallen hero, Harvey Dent. He lives in isolation, a billionaire recluse.
Nolan tries hard to make the knight fight the twin battles of his broken sense of self, as well as put an end to a new menace.
Tough task this, as the vigilante strives to let the people believe in the system, rather than a caped crusader delivering justice. With absolutely no superhero power vested in him (unless you count the training by the League of Shadows), Wayne tries to retire, leaving the city to bask in a memory of a dead hero, Harvey Dent. As the third part begins, you see a lingering shadow of Wayne, who has peacefully retired to the East wing of the Wayne mansion, for eight long years. He has made peace with his shadowy existence sans the mask and the cape.
Having lived on two lies all these years, of believing Rachael loved him, and letting the city believe in Harvey Dent, Wayne/Batman reluctantly seeks a release.
But, another masked man is swiftly making his moves on Gotham city, and not only is he clunky and excessively animated, he lacks the sinister element that Heath Ledger so effortlessly lent to the Joker. And, the Joker belonged to no one in particular. Here, in this movie, a bombastic, over-the-top Bane, fails to produce that impact.
The fight sequences are messy, symbolisms lost, as a mumbling villain charges on to the city and on to its people.
But, the sinister is present. It is present in an ancient part of the world, in the pit. The pit reflects poignant symbolism, and only here, one sees Bane delivering the only good dialogue he had in the entire movie--"And, it is here, I learnt the truth about despair. There cannot be true despair, without hope."
But, a contrived escape (though I feel Batman is resourceful enough) makes the 'rise' look a lot flawed. And, like any other Hollywood flick, where a nuclear explosion is set to happen, the Batman charges away with the reactor, which hangs out of the Batwing.
The jumps are awkward in many of the sequences, but there are memorable moments. Michael Caine as the trusting Alfred, has some beautiful lines. Along the way, his character claims stronger ties to the series, as the wise friend of a reluctant superhero, who is saved from true despair more than once.