This is the story of how a decent movie ends a great trilogy run. The Dark Knight Rises is clunky at times, but works when it needs to. This is a very subjective movie, whether you like it for what it is or are disappointed by it not living up to the preceding films. Lets start by what I found that is missing. It is admittedly cheap to say that any Batman movie isn't the same without The Joker as a villain, yet it is just so hard to escape this fact when you watch any Batman sequel following one with Joker involved. Bane works as a villain sometimes though... but other times the voice of "Darth Lecter" feels pretty hokey after the realistic freakshow we got with Ledger's Joker. Bane does seem menacing at times but maybe not as brooding as he is supposed to be other times. There is also something about that voice that seems unnatural. Maybe the way it never sounds like it is coming from the character but unrealistically seems to surround the audience in its high/low sounding timbre. But this is just one example of Nolan's world seeming to be at odds with itself for the first time. With Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, he has admirably created a realistic world where a superhero like Batman seems more plausible than any ever has before. Ironically, in his final act, he give us plenty of things that just don't seem to jibe with reality anymore, such as a the character Bane, who without explanation, can shatter marble columns with his fists. You have a cat burglar in Selena Kyle/Cat Woman, which works when it does. Still, there are other times when it all seems like it is put on as a show. It is hard to see where she fits in or even why the cat? She gets on the Bat Pod for the first time and with no explanation, seems to be a pro at riding this insane contraption with absolutely no instruction. Just 5 seconds of her failing and then getting it down would have gone a long way. When a 2 3/4 hr movie runs out of time to explain plot points and add proper character development, something is wrong. There are still some plot elements that I have no idea where they came from or what they were there for in the first place.
A brief note about the fight scenes. In Batman Begins, I had a big problem with camera shots being WAY too close to the actors to even be able to tell what was going on. I wanted to see footwork, since they actually looked like they were well choreographed, but you missed so much of the action being so close. The problem in TDKR is almost the complete opposite. Rarely is there any sense of power and fury because the camera is far back and there is always other stuff going on. It is just hard to pay attention to the fighting, which oddly doesn't seem as well choreographed anymore, even though both are trained by the same master.
Still, there is heart in this movie that rings true and there are still plenty of Nolan-esque moments to enjoy. I liked how he and Bale take Bruce Wane to the depths and back. By the end of the movie, you do have feelings for the ultimate fall from grace and you can't help but wonder where it will all go from here, and how will it get there without Christopher Nolan at the helm. Michael Caine is exceptional as usual, and this may be his best in any of these movies. There is just so much put into that character that really helps make Nolan's scope of the Batman franchise great, overall. The tone of the movie is also pretty intense at times.
Overall: 7.5 out of 10