Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, and Harvey Dent is being paraded as the saviour of Gotham with Batman being exiled to a distant memory. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a recluse, but is roused by the appearance of Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a master thief.
Wayne learns of an attack on the stock exchange by terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy) that leaves him penniless, and he finds his world crumbling down around him. As he finds that Gotham needs Batman once more, he must find the mental strength to rise up and join the fight.
It is not often that you go into the cinema with such high expectations that you can only dream they'll be shattered. The Dark Knight Rises is one of those times, what with the daunting success of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight hanging over the first two parts of Christopher Nolan's trilogy.
The expectation spilled over into the packed cinema - I only went to a small town cinema but two of the four screens were showing the film simultaneously (the fourth showing of the day) and the announcement was made 15 minutes before the film that it was already sold out (lucky I'd pre-booked a month ago, then). It is also the first time I have experienced an audible gasp as the BBFC certificate arrived on screen, marking the beginning of the film.
So, where to begin? No doubt by now you'll already know that The Dark Knight Rises is not The Dark Knight. It is not as dark, the villain is not the impeccable Heath Ledger and anarchy is not rife. Neither is it Batman Begins. It is not a comic book film dipping its toes in the water where previous interpretations had failed.
But less about what the film isn't.
It does have Gary Oldman, performing his heroics against all odds. It does have Morgan Freeman, aiding Batman to be fully equipped for the battle. It does have Michael Caine, waiting on Bruce Wayne's beck and call as he has done to the family for generations. It does have Christian Bale, bassy, irritating voice in tact but deeply personal as the Batman. It adds the talent of Anne Hathaway to - heaven forbid - make the Batman series end sexy, Tom Hardy as the villain who makes you genuinely worried that Batman is as fragile as a twig, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the cop who just won't back down.
Hans Zimmer returns to keep the masterful tones echoing in the background, killing the music just before you jump through the ceiling and destroying cinematic subwoofers worldwide as Batman makes his epic appearance. Nathan Crowley and Kevin Kavanaugh return with a truly wondrous fresh mode of transport to keep Gotham safe.
Finally, Christopher Nolan is still in charge of piecing together the whole spectacle. He oversees the destruction - and creation - of a mostly unique CGI city landscape, eradicates an entire American football pitch, ruins countless vehicles and sees the majority of his cast involved in a fight at some point during the film. Sounds like immense fun, but, despite Rises being noticeably more amusing than its predecessors, Nolan manages to focus the attention of what we all want to see - Batman. Rising.
So, it's not as dark as The Dark Knight. It's not the beginning of Batman Begins. Christian Bale claimed on the red carpet that it was a combination of both. He was wrong; it is neither. The Dark Knight Rises is as new and fresh as both its predecessors, it has its dark moments but adds a new, sparse humour and a new, sexy feel. The Dark Knight Rises is like the culmination of the trilogy, rising easily out of the expectation and destroying the few doubters with the strength of Bane.
The Dark Knight Rises is the fitting finale for how to destroy the tainted memory of a comic book hero. Thank you, Christopher Nolan.