It's not just the action that looks great on the big format, but Nolan can also do what many directors fail at these days, and inspire real awe in the audience. For instance, his final attempt at escaping the well prison is a terrific sequence and his emergence out in the light is a real punch-the-air moment of triumph. It's an instantly iconic moment (aided by Hans Zimmer's score), and clambering out into a desert landscape, complete with fortress town behind him, is an indelible scene. And he marks his return to Gotham City in an equally memorable way. While we question the logistics a little (see below...), there's no better way for him to announce his arrival back to Gotham, and instill fear even in a man who's beaten him once already than by torching a giant Bat-symbol into one of the broken bridges over Gotham. It's a powerful, awe-inspiring moment, and one that feels all the more potent by being lit by Jim Gordon; the first sign that if Bruce is going to take back the city, he's going to need the help of friends old and new to do so.
By the accounts of many who've worked with him, Christopher Nolan is much funnier than his reputation suggests (Anne Hathaway told in interviews of how he would quote "MacGruber" on set -- somewhat appropriate for a film with a ticking nuclear bomb...), but there's always been a vein of humor in his films. And as bleak as "The Dark Knight Rises" can be, it's also arguably the most effectively comic of the trilogy. There's a deceptively light touch to the opening scenes (Hathaway's break in at Wayne Manor could almost be out of 1960s caper flick), many of the supporting characters get some nice little lines, and perhaps best of all are Bane's asides; he's got a disarming sense of humor for such a menacing guy, and while things like commenting on the “lovely voice” of the boy at the football stadium aren't quite laugh-out-loud funny, they help to truly make the film memorable. It's not "The Avengers" or anything in terms of gags, but a little lightness helps to modulate the tone nicely.
For the first time ever Hans Zimmer, Nolan’s go-to manufacturer of oversized musical dread, worked solo on a Batman movie (on the previous two he was assisted by James Newton Howard) and the results couldn’t have been more amazing. From the Bane theme stuff, introduced in that aerial prologue, which combine funereal organs, thunderous drum lines, and a kind of cultish chant, you can tell that this will be a much different beast – away from the more straightforward superhero theatrics of “Batman Begins” or the electronic dissonance of “The Dark Knight.” Everything about “The Dark Knight Rises” ' score glitters and surprises – from the slinky Catwoman theme that made us want to watch an entire “Thomas Crown Affair”-esque romantic spy movie with her as the main character, to the more subtle, mournful electronic stuff (with accompanying strings) that helps define the mood of a wintery Gotham City cut off from the rest of the world -- it’s all gold. And of course when it comes to percussive action pieces, meant to get your blood pumping and make the sequences on screen become even more unbearably tense, Zimmer knocks it out of the park. It never quite reaches the baroque majesty of his score to “Inception,” but as the culmination and elaboration of three movies worth of villainous plots and heroic deeds, it borders on outright perfection – emotionally resonant, unobtrusive, and totally gorgeous.