The Christopher Nolan “Dark Knight” trilogy is officially over. While there has been conflicting reports about how good, or not, 'The Dark Knight Rises' is, the thing to remember is that this was meant as the book end and final chapter to this series, and in that respect, this movie is an amazing piece or work.

Taking place exactly eight years after the conclusion of “The Dark Knight”, Gotham is experiencing its longest stretch of peace in a long time. Since the conclusion of the previous film, Batman has taken the blame for the killings done by Harvey Dent as well as Dent’s own death and hasn’t been seen since, while the city passed the Harvey Dent Act, allowing Gordon and the GCPD to lock up violent criminals without parole. During a party at Wayne Manor for the annual “Harvey Dent Day”, Commissioner Gordon contemplates revealing the truth about Harvey Dent during his speech, but decides the time isn’t right. Bruce Wayne, still suffering injuries from his days as Batman, has become a recluse in his own house, not being seen in public for a long time, and relying on the use of a cane.  During the party, Selina Kyle, dressed as maid, breaks into a safe to steal Martha Wayne’s pearls, only to be confronted by an amused Wayne. In tracking down Selina Kyle, Wayne uncovers a plot by a rival corporation to take over Wayne Enterprises, and Selina’s connection to the terrorist known as Bane. With the help of Lucius Fox and Wayne Enterprises Board Member Miranda Tate, Wayne takes steps to secure the future of Wayne Enterprises, while trying to get back into the game as Batman. After finally confronting Bane, who is well aware of Batman’s true identity, Wayne is broken in mind and body, left to rot in a place Bane calls “home”.

Just like “The Dark Knight”, Christopher Nolan was able to put together an amazing cast for this film, quite possibly the best cast from all three films. While no one will be able to match the charisma and impact of Heath Ledger’s “Joker”, Tom Hardy as “Bane” is an extremely impressive villain for Batman. For those who don’t know, Bane debuted in the comics in the 90s, a man born and raised in a prison and constantly juiced up with a drug called “Venom” that increases his size and strength. Bane achieved notoriety by breaking Batman’s back in the “Nightfall” series, paralyzing him. The last time we saw Bane on the big screen was in the abomination called “Batman and Robin”. Where the character of Bane was the man who actually beat Batman in the comics, in this movie he was a mindless oaf who followed Poison Ivy like a lap dog. Tom Hardy is terrific in his performance of Bane, being intellectually equal and physically superior to Batman. For the first time in the trilogy we get the feeling that Batman will not make it out of the fight. Christopher Nolan recently praised Anne Hathaway’s performance as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, saying she truly understood the character. Nolan was not wrong. Hathaway was the stand out performance of the cast, making what could be a ridiculous character totally believable, including her proclivity to switch sides depending on her situation. While Hathaway has never been viewed as an action star, she fit very well as the physical Catwoman, not only in her agility as a thief, but also her ability to fight next to Batman against a group of thugs.  Hathaway’s attitude was also spot on, showing Catwoman not as woman scorned like “Batman Returns”, but the cunning cat burglar that does what she must to survive.  Marion Cotillard, mainly known to audiences for her role in Nolan’s film“Inception”, seems very genuine as Miranda Tate, a Wayne Enterprises board member and love interest for Bruce. She comes off as regular character in the early parts of the film, but by the end she is one of the most complex and pleasing performances. Do yourself a favor, DO NOT LOOK HER UP ON IMDB. If you do, a key point to her character will be spoiled. Rounding out the new major characters in the movie is Officer John Blake played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, a beat cop who impresses Gordon with his desire for truth and is made a detective who answers directly to Commissioner Gordon. Due to circumstances with characters like Gordon and Batman, John Blake ends up being one of the key figures in the fight against Bane’s army. Levitt carries a lot of the weight of this film, playing a character that is smart enough to figure out who Batman really is. With the quality of his performance, I never once doubted that this character had the intelligence or drive to discover Batman’s secret and fight by his side.

It is obvious that Nolan knew he had a big challenge before him, creating a worthy follow-up to “The Dark Knight”. Audiences would automatically compare the two films, so Nolan made this movie feel more like a follow up in style and tone to “Batman Begins”. When you compare this movie to “The Dark Knight”, you might feel disappointed, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a terrific film. “The Dark Knight” was a shock to many people with how impressive it was, but that novelty is over. No matter how good “The Dark Knight Rises”is, “The Dark Knight” did it first and to many people that makes it better. For me, I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to this franchise. Like any great trilogy, the third film goes back to the first two movies and gives you information that reshapes your view and the characters’ view of previous events. By the time this film is over, you understand that this is the end. That is not a spoiler, just a statement that the story we’ve been given has been completed. The story here is a compelling story even if you’re not a comic book fan. They never resort to “fan service” like Harry Potter or Twilight (parts of the movie you will only understand if you are intimately familiar with the source material), but there are still parts to the movie that are blatant nods and references to the comic books and will leave fans smiling ear-to-ear.

Now, for the million dollar question… how does this compare to “The Avengers”? Answer: You can’t compare the two. That doesn’t mean that one was better than the other, just that it was a different type of movie and cannot be compared. “The Avengers” was an amazing movie, this was an amazing film. Yes, there is a difference. “The Avengers” will go down as the greatest summer blockbuster of all time. Like most summer movies, “The Avengers” focused on action and humor, while “The Dark Knight Rises” is more of an artistic film, focusing on story and character development. That’s not to say this movie doesn’t have its fair share of great action.  The action scenes in this series have always been impressive, and this movie continues with the action tone left in “The Dark Knight”.  The original Tumbler from the first movie comes back, we are introduced to “The Bat”, a helicopter designed specifically for use in a city like Gotham, and Batman’s bike, the Bat Pod, not only comes back, but it far more impressive than the previous film.  Overall, this is the kind of movie you normally see come out in the fall or winter for Oscar consideration. I’m not certain if the movie or any of the actors will be nominated come Oscar season, but if this film doesn’t get a “Best Picture” nomination, no comic book movie ever will.

For those who greatly enjoyed the previous two movies, “The Dark Knight Rises” is going to be a final chapter that takes you on an emotional roller coaster. I admit it; I walked out of the theater wiping tears off my face. Even for just casual fans of Batman movies, this film is full of emotion, especially the last twenty minutes. I personally believe this is the best Batman film ever made, but I won’t argue with anyone who feels “The Dark Knight” is superior. I’m hard pressed to figure out how Warner Bros. is going to be able to reboot this franchise and make it just as good as what Christopher Nolan has put together. And pay no attention to the internet rumors. This is the final film of this franchise. Warner Bros. has already announced plans to reboot Batman, placing the new series in the same universe as the upcoming Superman film “The Man of Steel”, setting up the eventual “Justice League” movie. This is definitely a movie you need to see on the big screen, especially if you have access to an IMAX theatre. I’ve seen a handful of IMAX movies over the past few months, and this was by far the most impressive use of IMAX I have seen.