I saw it for my second time last night, and overall I have to say that I really liked it quite a bit. It's probably the weakest of the three Nolan films, but it's not a drop off in quality along the lines of Spider-Man 3 or something like that. It has a few problems here and there - mostly plot-wise - but overall I think it's a successful film. Personally, I think that the plot problems come into play because the story runs the risk of being overly ambitious. After all, it combines elements from several important Batman stories: Knightfall, No Man's Land, and The Dark Knight Returns among a few others. Also, it introduces several new characters (last chance to warn you about SPOILERS) including Talia al Ghul, Bane, Robin, and Catwoman. Plus, you've got all the other supporting characters still playing a vital role in the story including: Commissioner Gordon, Lucius Fox, and Alfred Pennyworth.
Let me say a few things about the new characters and what I thought about them:
Bane - We've seen Bane before in the crapfest known as Batman and Robin. That version had two things going for him that was closer to the comics than Tom Hardy's version: the way he looked and the fact that he derived his strength from a compound called Venom. So what though? This Bane ACTED more like the Bane from the comics. He wasn't just super-strong, he was super-smart as well. His ambition was greater than just trying to steal some money and/or defeat Batman. Also, he was menacing, and the voice that Tom Hardy used was perfect. And while he didn't have the whole Venom thing going on (which in the comics, he eventually ditched anyway) he did have a weakness that was part of his outfit, although less ridiculously obvious than the actual Bane's. Plus, what comic book fan didn't love it when he "broke the bat"?
Catwoman - Yeah, they never call her that, but we all know who she is. I'm glad that they didn't bother with an origin, as it wasn't needed. It's such an iconic character, and while I don't think that Anne Hathaway changed the way we saw the character in the same way that Heath Ledger did with The Joker, she did an admirable job, and she was believable in the role.
Talia al Ghul - Curse me for a moron for not seeing this surprise reveal. Bad enough that I fell for the al Ghul reveal in Batman Begins, I had to miss something as obvious as this? Oh well, I guess it's a testament to the script, which had me thinking that this character was going to play a completely different sort of a role. Was she like she is in the comics? Considering that she gets it on with Batman, I'd say yes.
Robin - This was hardly a surprise, and I don't know why they didn't bother calling him Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, or Tim Drake as he was obviously a mix of all three Robins. It was pretty clear from his first conversation with Bruce that he was going to fulfill the sidekick role. I don't have a problem with them doing it the way they did, as the idea of a teen sidekick really doesn't work in the world that they created for these movies. Plus, I wonder what's next for him? I'd honestly rather see Joseph Gordon Levitt in a Nightwing movie than have him play Batman in a new series of films.
I think that where the film really succeeded was once again in its emotional impact. It was tough watching Batman getting his ass handed to him, and it was inspiring to see him "rise". While this one probably had as little screentime for the character as possible, it was obvious that the story was still revolving around him.
As for what's next? I'd like to see them let it rest for a while and then instead of trying to build on what Nolan did, just take it all in a completely different direction. There are a lot of great stories that would make for a great movie, including "Heart of Hush" and "The Court of Owls". Plus, as I've said before, I'd like to see the character have a return to his sci-fi/fantasy elements so long as it's done correctly.
And as for my other Batman film thoughts:
Batman and Robin
The Dark Knight & part 2