What appears to be sold as the climactic closer to the trilogy felt like it needed so much exposition from the characters that rather than building, it was waiting. Waiting for something to happen--even the nature of the story is about waiting. [SPOILER ALERT, stop reading now if you don't want to know.] Waiting for the bomb to detonate. And all that waiting is filled up with characters revealing who they really are in extraordinarily long monologues punctuated by flashbacks to scenes in the earlier films.
It felt like the movie wanted to be IMPORTANT, (but come on, it's based on a comic book!) and so it had to fill itself out with importantisms. At close to 3 hours, I think it was at least an hour too long and nothing dramatic or important would have been lost other than the actors' expositional monologues.
As great an actor as Tom Hardy is--and how does he beef up his head (!) and body for parts like this one and his astonishing turn in Bronson--the shadow of Heath Ledger's Joker fell over the film both in terms of story--Hardy's Bane has to up the ante in dastardliness--and in performance. Ledger's Joker transcended the makeup he wore, whereas Hardy's Bane literally hides behind the mask he wears. I was almost moved when Ledger bit it whereas Bane's demise almost happens off-screen and since he was unable to affect me--I blame the mask because he really is an amazing actor--I was neither moved or elated.
The underlying politics of the film is troubling. I realize they were going for a post-9/11, post-Occupy movement dialectic and there are moments that are literally evoking those horrifying images we saw on 9/11. But I just didn't get it. Other than Bane continuing to exhort the "people" to take back their city and the quasi-French revolution looting and kangaroo court, the "people" didn't seem interested anyway. Perhaps that's the point, but it didn't feel that way to me. It felt like an overlay of politics on a comic book that consequently crashes down under the weight of its own pretentiousness.
They found the balance perfectly in The Dark Knight, and then believed their own reviews when coming up with The Dark Knight Rises.
But the IMAX sequences are spectacular.