The Dark Knight Rises has some flaws as a movie, but as a Batman tale, especially for those of us raised up on the Dark Knight as invented in the 70s and reinvented in the 80s, this like the others, was remarkably satisfying.
Nolan is a cold movie maker - his films rarely involve characters with whom the audience deeply identifies, and TDKR is no different. While the characters are often enjoyably constructed, they are characters, not people. Fair enough - it is superhero land after all, so no one should expect multi-faceted human characters. Here, his coolness results in a slightly off feeling during the first half of the movie. We are plunged into Gotham, where the characters are moving about and speak of having deep feeling over what has happened in the city, but that emotion, even for Bruce Wayne, doesn't really reach the audience.
But it's not much of a problem - rare is the Batman story in any medium that treats with character in any multifaceted way (Gotham Central notwithstanding). Badassedness generally suffices, and does here. Interestingly, this movie tends to turn on femal badassedness - it is Selina Kyle's jump out the window of Wayne Manor that really incites the whole story.
I never cared much for Bane as a villain, and didn't particularly care for him here. He's very one-note. The retired badass being brought back into the game is a fairly cliched storyline, but it suffices surely enough as the plot is carefully set up, and set up, and set up. I wasn't bored, but my engagement was largely intellectual - where will this lead, how does this piece fit in?
Surprising then that the payoffs felt so delightful. Whatever his shortcomings, Nolan gets Batman in this way - at its core Batman is about the will to strive to overcome ones own pain for a greater good. That's a good story and a good hero. I actually felt that element was missing from TDK, so that while it was a good police procedural, it lacked some heart. Here, the set up all works around in wonderful ways - for a Batman fan at least. I truly wonder how this movie plays for someone not steeped in the mythology. I was able to appreciate how the story wove together DKR and No Man's Land and Knightfall, how it reworked Talia as cleverly as BBegins had reworked Ra's (finally a Talia I can get behind, who doesn't slavishly give herself heart and soul to men who devalue her, but is a fiendishly clever villain in her own right!)
Selina Kyle I also appreciated as her own character. Even though there were half-hearted attempts to keep the romantic element between she and Bruce Wayne, it didn't fly, mostly because the chemistry between them was intellectual and moral, not sexual. All in all an excellent interpretation of Catwoman, mostly because it didn't try too hard.
The weaving together of Bruce's rise from the prison with Bane/ Talia's backstory worked very well, though I'll agree with some other posters that the pacing of it within the movie felt a bit off. The climactic battle scenes had great emotional payoff - I see why critics praise the second half of the film.
As for John Blake, he is from start to finish the heart of this story. It is, should they choose to make it so, his origin story - and a damn good one. Names matter little - the filmmakers had to drop that one in a way the broader audience would understand, so calling him Dick Grayson would not have worked (though my heart skipped a beat hoping for it when he said, perhaps its under my birth name...) Gordon-Levitt, one of my favorite actors, was perfectly cast.
As for Bruce Wayne's ending - for a moment I really thought they might kill him off, so kudos for keeping that suspense in the air. His denouement worked - though honestly more for Alfred's sake than for his own. In the grand tradition of Batman, I never felt that Bale's Wayne could or would end up happy - it is simply not that character's fate.
All in all, I couldn't be happier with Nolan's trilogy - but then his vision and my favorite things about Batman have always lined up.