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The reviews are in: What critics say about Dark Knight Rises

Is it an 'epic letdown' or the best superhero movie ever?

Image Credit: AP
This undated film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from the action thriller "The Dark Knight Rises."

For those of us awaiting the final instalment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy with bated breath, Tuesday morning was an exciting one. And then it was a depressing one.

The first story I saw on the wires was the Associated Press review of the film, with the title “Batman series ends as epic letdown”.

“There’s so much going on here, though, with so many new characters who are all meant to function in significant ways that “The Dark Knight Rises” feels overloaded, and sadly lacking the spark that gave 2008’s “The Dark Knight” such vibrancy,” writes AP’s Christy Lemire, who rated it two out of four. Has something gone horribly wrong? A look at other reviews says otehrwise of the film, which releases globally this weekend, and in the UAE on August 16.

AP’s critical voice contrasts with many other reviewers, many of whom say the film is the perfect antidote to the summer’s more lighthearted superhero fare such as Avengers and Spider-Man.

Time, for example, was at the other end of the scale.

“The Avengers is kid stuff compared with this meditation on mortal loss and heroic frailty,” writes Richard Corliss. “For once a melodrama with pulp origins convinces viewers that it can be the modern equivalent to Greek myths or a Jonathan Swift satire. TDKR is that big, that bitter — a film of grand ambitions and epic achievement. The most eagerly anticipated movie of summer 2012 was worth waiting for.”

TOdd McCarthy at the Hollywood Reporter concurs. “Big-time Hollywood filmmaking at its most massively accomplished, this last installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy makes everything in the rival Marvel universe look thoroughly silly and childish.” McCarthy also hails the large cast of goodies and baddies, especially the new evil-doer, Tom Hardy’s Bane.

“There are complex ties leading back to the comic books that link characters and motivations together; with Bruce and Bane, it is with the League of Shadows, which occasions the brief return of Liam Neeson’s Ra’s Al Ghul, last seen in Batman Begins (in 2005). A solid new character, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s resourceful street cop John Blake, is a grateful product of one of the Wayne Foundation’s orphanages.”

Critics had been attending screenings for the last week and were allowed to publish reviews after an embargo was lifted by Warner Bros on Monday night.

The UK’s Mirror says Nolan “ends the series on a high. “Much like the earlier instalments, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, he’s created a dark, downbeat film populated by conflicted characters and with apocalyptic overtones. Think of it as the sulky, brooding brother of the recent Spider-Man flick. In fact Bale doesn’t don his batsuit until we’re 50 minutes in but, when he does, the movie goes into overdrive, providing some of the series’ most spectacular setpieces.

The Guardian’s Xan Brooks hasn’t lost faith either. “ The Dark Knight Rises may be a hammy, portentous affair but Nolan directs it with aplomb. He takes these cod-heroic, costumed elements and whisks them into a tale of heavy-metal fury, full of pain and toil. ‘I’m still a believer in the Batman,’ murmurs Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s rookie cop at one point. Arm-twisted, senses reeling, I am forced to concede that I am too.”

Variety, like AP, felt the loss of Heath Ledger’s Joker, but still hailed the film as “epic”. “Running an exhilarating, exhausting 164 minutes, Nolan’s trilogy-capping epic sends Batman to a literal pit of despair, restoring him to the core of a legend that questions, and powerfully affirms, the need for heroism in a fallen world,” writes Justin Chang. “If it never quite matches the brilliance of 2008’s ‘The Dark Knight’, this hugely ambitious action-drama nonetheless retains the moral urgency and serious-minded pulp instincts that have made the Warners franchise a beacon of integrity in an increasingly comicbook-driven Hollywood universe. Global B.O. domination awaits.”