Dark Knight Rises is more Godfather than superhero film
A sinewy crime epic that makes a 'skin-prickling' finale to Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy
What you need to know
The third and final instalment of director Christopher Nolan's Batman movie series is co-written with his brother Jonathan Nolan.
Following on from Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises finds Batman, aka Bruce Wayne, in hiding after taking the blame for a crime he did not commit.
Bane, a masked terrorist, starts a campaign of evil in Gotham designed to drive the superhero out of his self-imposed exile.
The core cast of the earlier Batman films remains. Christian Bale plays enigmatic billionaire Bruce Wayne/Batman, Gary Oldman is Commissioner Gordon, Morgan Freeman is Lucius Fox and Michael Caine returns as the butler, Alfred Pennyworth.
The film introduces the characters of seductress Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and villain Bane played by Tom Hardy (Inception, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy). Marion Cotillard also appears as another of Batman's love interests, Talia al Ghul. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays idealistic Gotham cop John Blake.
What the critics like
The film is novelistic in scope, says Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph. Nolan has crafted a lucid, sinewy crime epic closer to Coppola's second Godfather film than anything Marvel Studios has yet produced. Its sheer audacity means the stakes feel "skin-pricklingly high at all times".
After a breathless, bravura final act, a "nuclear payload of catharsis" brings Nolan's trilogy to "a ferociously satisfying close".
It's a sprawling, epic feast of a movie, stuffed to the gills with side characters, subplots and diversions, says Tom Huddleston in Time Out. Nolan creates "a grand, dirty, engrossing world, and his action sequences just hum". When our heroes swoop off into the sunset, "we realise we've been witness to something truly impressive": an epic, enthralling seven-year movie adventure.
Nolan's conclusion to the Batman trilogy is more than an exceptional superhero movie, says Kenneth Turan in The Los Angeles Times, "it is masterful filmmaking by any standard". It's dark, almost despairing, and offers a rare note of social comment, coolly mocking the pieties of right and left and the hypocrisies at the heart of law and order-obsessed societies. Add to this a great cast, and old-school action, and despite the 2-hour 44-minute length, "as soon as it's over, all you want to do is see it all over again".
What they don't like
The trouble is, Bane is a boring villain, says Chris Tookey in The Daily Mail. Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight was creepily memorable. "Bane is just Darth Vader in a Hannibal Lecter mask, and his words are practically inaudible."
Too much of this film takes place in dimly lit, cramped spaces where sweaty men threaten each other in whispers, says Dana Stevens in Slate. Despite some jaw-dropping spectacle, the film's length and repeated scenes of bone-crunching violence and maddeningly unrelenting percussive score make it "something of an ordeal to sit through".