There was never any guarantee that Christopher Nolan would make a third Batman movie. After The Dark Knight, Nolan would have probably been satisfied with two films about the Caped Crusader if he wasn't able to crack a third story. Obviously, he was, however, as The Dark Knight Rises exists. And it shouldn't have been too big of a surprise to Nolan that he liked the story for The Dark Knight Rises, considering he made a very similar movie in 2005: Batman Begins
(Your spoiler alert system should be set to full throttle from this point on. And, yes, I'm doing my best to just write about the movie, which isn't easy after the tragic events of Friday.)
First, I really liked The Dark Knight Rises, so this isn't a criticism of the film, but more of an observation that it follows a lot of the same key plot points as Batman Begins. (Not surprisingly, I also very much enjoyed Batman Begins.) But it does feel like there's a little bit of Return of the Jedi syndrome going on here. You know, "I dunno, how about we just do the Death Star again? People liked that the first time we did it, right?"
Waiting for The Batman.
Just like in Batman Begins, we wait an awfully long time before we actually see Bruce Wayne in the Batman costume. In Begins, Bruce went through a series of life challenges and intense training before he became Batman. In Rises, Bruce has rejected his Batman persona but, eventually, when circumstances change, has to train because his body is so wrecked.
Visiting Gordon with a Ski Mask.
In Begins, Bruce's first visit with Jim Gordon as a masked vigilante is done while Bruce is wearing a ski mask over his face. In Rises, the first meeting between these two in eight years is done in a hospital while, yes, Bruce is wearing a ski mask over his face. (Only this time accompanied by a nice suit.)
Mass terror threat against Gotham.
In Batman Begins, Dr. Jonathan Crane (a.k.a. The Scarecrow) threatens Gotham with the use of fear-inducing toxin that he puts into the city's water supply. In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane brings Gotham to its knees after he puts explosives in the city's cement (to cripple the infrastructure), and then threatens Gotham with a neutron bomb.
Release the prisoners.
In Rises, Bane releases all of the prisoners from the local jails, which results in mass hysteria on the streets of Gotham. In Batman Begins, all of the prisoners of Arkham Asylum are released, resulting in mass hysteria on the streets of Gotham.
Who's the real villain?
For most of Batman Begins, we are led to believe that the criminal mastermind behind the terror plot seizing Gotham is Dr. Crane. (Jonathan, not Frazier.) Later, we find out that Crane is just the point man in this operation and the true mastermind is revealed. In Rises, Bane seems to be the man in charge, but we later learn that he's nothing more than a lackey for someone else who has been running the show from behind the scenes.
There's an Al Ghul secretly in charge.
And, yes, in Batman Begins it's revealed that Ra's al Ghul has been secretly behind the threat to destroy Gotham all along. Unfortunately, Al Ghul died in Batman Begins so that trope couldn't be exactly duplicated for The Dark Knight Rises. So this time it's Ra's al Ghul's daughter, Talia al Ghul, who has been secretly in charge of the threat to destroy Gotham. And Talia, just like her father, is killed by an object that acts as a mode of transportation -- only this time it's a large truck instead of a train.
Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. You can contact him directly on Twitter.