So has Christopher Nolan - who is basically God if you a) follow this analogy through or b) read any movie website forums - pulled off a miracle? Has he justified the ludicrous hype surrounding his creation's return to cinemas? Well, probably not, but then nothing could. Nolan doesn't really give a shit about fanboy satisfaction, though, and that's why The Dark Knight Rises is a complex, exhausting and flawed but quite brilliant film of breathtakingly epic scale and scope while The Amazing Spider-Man is a desperate-to-please pile of crap.
What Christopher Nolan does give a shit about, as he's said before, is escalation. He was testing the water with Batman Begins, and with The Dark Knight he proved that superhero sequels could be bigger, bolder and braver without sinking under the weight of their own effects, ambition or cast (of both actors and characters). His third Batfilm takes things to such an extent that you wonder if you could cope with a fourth without the assistance of mind-expanding drugs. But while The Dark Knight Rises achieves the near-impossible task of telling a sprawling story worthy of an extended comic book run in 164 minutes, it could still do with a further haircut of twenty minutes or so.
The first hour suffers from a lack of focus caused by the introduction of a host of characters whose motives remain unclear for too long: Tom Hardy's muffled, pumped-up weirdo Bane may be carefully laying the foundations of a master plan or simply carrying out orders for a mysterious higher power; Anne Hathaway's Selina Kyle is a cat burglar with vague connections to corrupt businessmen; Marion Cotillard's Miranda Tate is a clean energy-obsessed businesswoman or something; Joseph Gordon-Levitt's idealistic cop John Blake is doing something or other with orphans; Matthew Modine and a Russian scientist are in there somewhere and Pope off of Animal Kingdom is also up to non-specific shenanigans. And that's not to mention the trilogy's regulars, none of whom seem to have any better idea of what's going on than we do.
As first acts go it's a little draining, and it leaves you in a less-than-ideal condition as you head into the rest of the film. Having said that, it does help you identify with some of the characters on screen who are also in no fit state for what's about to happen. Once all this is resolved - lots of it in satisfyingly unpredictable fashion (you genuinely don't know who will survive and what will be left of them) - and Bane's purpose finally comes into focus, The Dark Knight Rises really gets down to business and everyone gets their moment in the sun. And although he doesn't metaphorically jam a pencil in your eyeballs like the Joker did, Bane is very much the physical threat to Batman we've been waiting for.
I think Christopher Nolan is making a point here
The thrust of the story still has at its heart MacGuffins, cool gadgets and yer standard good-vs-evil business, but in Nolan's universe it all seems to matter so much more. Lives are changed, people are hurt and nothing will be the same again, either within the film or in the superhero genre. Nolan hasn't created a template for all future super-powered blockbusters to follow - God knows we still need well-crafted pop like Avengers Assemble - but he has proved once and for all that sprawling, character-led drama and superheroes aren't mutually exclusive.
Perhaps his greatest achievement is crafting a cohesive trilogy which successfully and satisfyingly comes full circle, even though that didn't seem to be the intention when Batman began in 2005. If Christopher Nolan had laid out a three-film arc on day one, it's unlikely he would have expected to be making part three on this scale. Yet here we are, and he's risen to the challenge. He's the hero Gotham deserved, and the one it needed.