Breathing life into the death of Batman, Christian Bale might just turn out to be the best movie Bruce Wayne ever didn’t get to play. The Dark Knight Rises is the epic culmination of two decades of movies about the Caped Crusader. It marks the final showdown between Batman and his evil nemesis, Bane (played with chilling determination by Tom Hardy).

The Dark Knight Rises opens with an all-star lineup of cameos representing Wayne’s world: The Dark Knight’s (and just plain ol’ Batman’s) trusted allies from the Nolanverse troop once more in this epic conclusion. There are also a host of other recognizable faces from across the cinematic landscape, from Betty White to Mr. T. As expected, the cameos are a hoot and provide some much-needed levity in an otherwise grave plot. Plus, it’s always nice when famous people help out, right?

This film doesn’t pull any punches. The violence is stomach-churning and the level of carnage is unprecedented. The opening scene alone is enough to make a less-than-hardened viewer ill. The first fifteen minutes or so are incredibly gruesome, which is appropriate, considering how far things have gone by this point. There are a lot of bullets being fired and people getting killed, all part of the grand scheme to bring down Gotham City’s most notorious criminal organization, the Joker’s (and by extension, Bruce Wayne’s) gangsters.

Bane is determined to prove that he is the ultimate antagonist and that Gotham City deserves to suffer for all the corruption and injustice it has perpetrated. So it’s fair to say that Bane’s plan doesn’t involve macking on little old ladies or kids: He wants to destroy Gotham, and he’s willing to hurt a lot of people to do it. It’s clear that he considers The Joker his primary mentor, and the influence is evident throughout.

Bane’s reign of terror is horrifying. He causes mass panic and destruction with seemingly no remorse or empathy. Even his victims look ready to shake him by the hand and invite him over for tea. (For the record, tea is just a pretext. They’re really going to kill him.) Naturally, Batman is forced to take up arms against him, which is exactly what we’ve been waiting for all along. The Dark Knight is finally put into action, and it shows.

There are countless action scenes in The Dark Knight Rises. The pacing is fantastic and never feels rushed or uneven. For those who love action sequences, this movie will satisfy your craving. There are also some incredibly suspenseful and nerve-racking scenes that involve little more than a camera watching Batman interrogate potential witnesses or hide from thugs and assassins.

The Dark Knight Rises is a movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s tense, captivating, and absolutely unforgettable. It’s a fitting climax to the trilogy — and a fitting swan song for Christian Bale’s Batman, too.

When you consider how long it’s been since we’ve seen one of these huge blockbuster superhero movies, it’s a real treat to have one last hurrah with the Caped Crusader. It even feels like the perfect send-off for Christian Bale, who has been the definitive Batman for the better part of two decades. We’re glad to have him back as Bruce Wayne, and we’re looking forward to what he has in store for us next. Who knows — maybe he’ll even don the cape and cowl one last time before he hangs up the tights for good.