Christopher Nolan saved the best for last, concluding the epic thrill-ogy that started with "Batman Begins" (2005) and continued with "The Dark Knight" (2008), re-imagining the comic-book hero played by Christian Bale and making it relevant today.

Opening with a spectacular mid-flight skyjacking of a CIA plane, the storyline picks up eight years after The Dark Knight was blamed for the death of popular District Attorney Harvey Dent and banished from Gotham City. Retreating in isolation to his mansion, Bruce Wayne has become a lonely recluse. "You're not living; you're just waiting," chides his faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine).

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But when he discovers an intrepid cat burglar, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), rifling through his safe, Wayne's curiosity is piqued, particularly when she cautions, "There's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne." At the same time, a terrorist/thug named Bane (Tom Hardy) surfaces, wearing a mysterious, militaristic mask not to conceal his identity but to anesthetize himself against agonizing pain, resulting from injuries he suffered in prison. When compromised Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is hospitalized, he begs Batman to return, placing his trust in an idealistic, young protege, Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). And wealthy philanthropist Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) becomes an influential ally when Wayne Enterprises, helmed by CEO/inventor Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), is the target of a hostile takeover. That's all you need to know -- and all you should know -- because there are delicious surprises that no one should reveal.

Scripted by David S. Goyer, Jonathan Nolan and director Christopher Nolan, it's edge-of-the-seat exciting, ambiguously intriguing and emotionally involving -- photographed by Wally Pfister and scored by Hans Zimmer. Added to the Batcave arsenal, which includes the Batsuit, the Batmobile (a.k.a.The Tumbler) and the maneuverable, two-wheeled Bat-Pod, is a new airborne vehicle -- part Apache attack helicopter/part Osprey prop jet/part Harrier jump jet -- aptly named The Bat.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Dark Knight Rises" is a triumphant 10. Tense and terrific -- it's the best action-adventure of the summer!