It's been a long time coming for Christopher Nolan's third and final installment of the Batman series. Whether or not it has been worth the four year wait (though in the film, it has been eight years that have lapsed) depends, I guess, on if you're impressed by the epic runtime of the movie (two hours and forty-four minutes). Well, that or Christian Bale's ability to talk in a voice that Patrick Bateman should have. This isn't to say that The Dark Knight Rises is, by any stretch of the imagination, an inadequate film; it just had far too much perfection to live up to after The Dark Knight.
Beginning on Harvey Dent Day, we find the city of Gotham in a state of peace, which it has remained in for eight years--ever since the night Harvey Dent/Two-Face (the lovely Aaron Eckhart, who appears frequently in the movie in photographic form) was killed. Because Gotham's population still assumes it was Batman (or "the Batman" as they like to call him) who was responsible for murdering Dent, no one has missed him during his eight year absence.
Simultaneously, of course, Bruce Wayne has been a virtual recluse until the night of a fundraiser at which Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman (Anne Hathaway, who puts Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman to shame) poses as one of the waitresses and inadvertently gets caught by Bruce after breaking into his safe and stealing his mother's pearl necklace. Before he can stop her, Selina is out the window in one gymnastic-like flourish.
As Commissioner James Gordon (the elusively attractive Gary Oldman) continues to hide the truth about Dent's alter ego and associated crimes, he can feel an impending sense of doom looming over Gotham. Foley (the always irritating Matthew Modine), another high level police force official, doesn't have the same high quality instincts as Gordon and ends up vilifying Batman after he comes out of his metaphorical coma to take on Bane (Tom Hardy, whose face is very unfortunately uncovered for the entire film), a former member of the League of Shadows and a firm believer in Ra's al Ghul's (Liam Neeson, who makes a brief cameo as a ghost) philosophies.
The only other police officer Gordon can really count on is John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a man who can innately sense Batman's true identity--perhaps because they both share the orphan connection. In fact, he makes a personal appearance at Wayne Manor to exhort Bruce to come out of hiding and reintroduce Gotham to Batman. Alfred (Michael Caine), on the other hand, insists that Bruce's time as Batman is over, urging him to use his resources to help the police catch Bane instead. But Batman wouldn't be Batman if he took advice from old British men.
In the meantime, Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard, who, yes, rounds out a cast that could just as easily be in a sequel to Inception as opposed to a Batman trilogy) has agreed to take over Bruce's place on the board of directors for Wayne Enterprises after Bane took control of the stock exchange to bankrupt Bruce (and that's only the beginning of the depth of his elaborate terrorism). Miranda concedes to coming to Bruce's rescue largely because of her affection for him, being so bold as to go to his mansion (the only asset he is left with) and seduce him.
Selina, dealing with problems of her own, leads Batman to Bane after he threatens her--though of course Bruce isn't aware she is selling him out until it's too late. Subsequently, Bruce gets the shit kicked out of him, but isn't given the easy out of death, instead being put in a prison that's located in a pit--the place that Bane was presumably born in. Bane then explains that he's going to make Bruce watch from afar as he single-handedly destroys Gotham using Miranda's clean energy device as a nuclear weapon.
But, obviously, Batman, being Batman, manages to become the only other person ever to escape the prison, allowing him to track down Selina again--much to her surprise and delight--to ask for her assistance. Reluctantly, Selina acquiesces, in spite of her jealousy over Batman's involvement with Miranda.
Although The Dark Knight Rises persists in emphasizing themes of anarchy, terrorism, disillusionment and class discrepancy (or what is referred to as everyday existence as a non-famous human), it does not bear the same elegantly understated, yet overstated (yes, it's possible for both to coexist) mannerisms and characters that overwhelmingly drive home these points in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Perhaps that's why James Holmes felt the need to take it to a more extreme level on yet another extremist shooting rampage in Colorado.