The story takes place eight years following the death of Harvey Dent, posthumously celebrated as Gotham's white knight hero. Amidst a time of relative peace and unity a new villain takes Gotham by storm: Bane (The name is only fitting as the very definition of it is a person or thing that ruins or spoils). Bane is bent on revolution, or so he insinuates with rhetoric involving mantras of "liberation" and the plight of the people. Without second guessing, the audience knows none of this to be true and that he intends to serve up the nuclear annihilation of Gotham. Except none of these are really his intentions, but those of Miranda Tate (played by Marion Cotillard), a philanthropist who turns out to be Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Ra's al Ghul (Liam Neeson), the driving evil in Batman Begins.
Then there is the mysterious John Blake, with the name Robin entered into the mix. Joseph Gordon Levitt as Blake had the strongest performance delivering depth were at times there seemed to be none. For example, in an exchange between Blake and Bruce Wayne, Blake reveals his knowing that Wayne is Batman. The reasoning given that Blake could somehow sense Batman within him. The idea is weak, but the exchange on screen did not come across as absurd. Yet, just as Blake in The Dark Knight Rises was disgusted with Commissioner Gordon's manipulation of Harvey Dent's death, thus basing Gotham's peace on a lie, many found the connection between Wayne and Blake (Batman and Robin) to be held up on weak footing.
Casting Tom Hardy as Bane was a great selection. Hardy has depicted pure unrestrained brutality in Bronson and Warrior, a clever sleek touch in Inception, and subtlety in a supporting role in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. All of that, and more, could've been illustrated via the character of Bane. Yet, depicting Bane as a mere stooge of Talia reduced the power and intrigue of the role.
Much of the problem lies within the placement of the character of Talia in the final film. Returning to the villainy of the League of Shadows allowed for no growth beyond what was already established in the first two films of the series. Christopher Nolan has gone the route of implicating multiple villains throughout his Batman series. This could've been extended with Catwoman as the duplicitous female character rather than Talia. Talia al Ghul and her connection to Ra's al Ghul bore similarities to the Die Hard series with its own blood-related pair of villains in Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) and Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons). Although this provides for instantaneous entertainment, there is nothing beyond that which can be said to lie here. Not adding the character of Talia would've allowed for the rest of the cast to put their talents on a fulfilling display.
Associating Bane with the League of Shadows was not an outright mistake, but inserting the character of Talia came off more as a sly gimmick than any substantive twist. Talia's insertion came at the expense of Bane. Putting more of an emphasis on the revolutionary aspect of Bane's character would've taken the series and the entire film genre to a region not ventured into before. Inevitably though, this would lead to a firm political statement on the part of the Nolan brothers. In light of Christopher Nolan's latest comments on a possible connection between the film and current events, it would seem he'd never consider such a course.
Nevertheless, growth in the character and plot development of Nolan's Batman series would've been seen. Throughout, Nolan looked to be at philosophic crossroads in the direction of the characters and the plot. The eerie connection between Bane and Batman would've carried more weight and make for a battle that would be evermore colossal and simultaneously more profound in the statement that would be made on the part of the film itself and the series as a whole. Story-wise The Dark Knight Rises rounded out the trilogy in admirable shape, but its intellectual intrigue in the series plateaued in its predecessor.