The Dark Knight Rises was a great movie in a series of awesome movies, meaning, for me it didn't quite, ahem, rise to the same level as the previous entry in Nolan's Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight.
The pieces were in place for Rises to match or even overcome Dark Knight. Nolan has done a superb job of tapping into the Batman mythos and pulling out the right elements to craft a believable world that is still truly Batman's. The character motivations make sense and the story ties back into previous movies in a clever way that I can't reveal because it would ruin one of the best twists involving the Batman mythology that Nolan has ever pulled off.
Additionally, the ending was a satisfying conclusion for the arc started in Batman Begins. As I don't want to spoil it, let me just say this, even if you've heard some of the spoilers out there, as I had, you will still end up being surprised and pleased at how Nolan wrapped things up.
Rises has all of the above, as well as amazing action, pathos, and humor, so why didn't it match The Dark Knight? The answer is simple; it felt too damn long.
Sandwiched between all those awesome moments are some tedious bits that could have easily been condensed or even eliminated without losing much if anything at all. Rises is by no means a bloated waste, but it definitely is carrying around a little bit more time than it needs. By the end of watching it I could feel the time I'd invested, as opposed to when I saw The Avengers earlier this year and let the theater wondering where the time had gone. I ended up going and seeing The Avengers a second time. I enjoyed Rises but have no overwhelming desire to see it again in the near future.
Despite the flaws I've noted above this is still a film that should be seen in theaters so that you get the full scope of its grandeur and glory.