The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan, 2012)

What's it about? Eight years have passed since the events of The Dark Knight. The disgraced Batman has not been seen since and Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has been reduced to a reclusive figure hobbling round Wayne Manor on a walking stick. Crime in Gotham City is at an all-time low, but that's all about to change with the arrival of mercenary terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy), who is hell-bent on bringing the city to its knees. Time for The Dark Knight to return....

Is it any good? Good, but not great, and certainly not as good as the first two instalments in the franchise. If you're going to make a comic-book film nearly three hours long, you better make sure it's got enough story to fill it. Sadly, this doesn't. The first hour in particular is really quite ponderous, as it introduces various new characters and story strands with all the steamlined efficiency of a geriatric Adam West. Bane's activities are mostly ignored during this time, in favour of some long-winded machinations within the Gotham police force and Wayne Enterprises board, which do contribute to the plot, but take an age to do so. In small roles, Alfred (Michael Caine) works hard to bring some pathos to proceedings, whilst Morgan Freeman lurks around waiting to provide Bat-gadgets as the fantastic Mr Fox, but we've seen all that before. Meanwhile, Wayne's romantic involvement with business partner Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) is very poorly developed, particularly in light of later events in the film. And then there's Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), who is clearly there for the hairy-handed teenage fanboy audience. To be honest, despite the breast efforts of Hathaway to inject some fun into the film, the film could easily have dispensed with her entirely. If the events of this meandering first hour had been condensed to around 20 minutes, trimming out the superfluous padding, we'd have a much tighter, better film.

I quite liked Bane, though, with the impressively bulked-up Hardy effectively channeling the twin evils of Daniel Plainview's voice and John Motson's sheepskin coat to create a real physical threat to Batman. Once the film decides to get back to him and his villainous plans, it improves, delivering some good action and some epic moments of spectacle, particularly the football stadium set-piece. And surely I'm not the only one to think what he's doing isn't all bad? A pity this moral grey area isn't explored a bit further. As in the first two films, Nolan impressively manages to root an inherently silly concept in reality, creating a credible depiction of a city under siege, even as he throws those spiffy Bat-gadgets into the mix. He also pulls off a rousing climax, which will distract viewers from asking 'How did...?', 'But why didn't...?' or 'And what about....?', at least until they leave the cinema. Perhaps that is the most disappointing aspect. For a director who prides himself on his storytelling, this features a lot of clunky exposition and careless plotting, before resorting to a rather uninspired defuse-a-bomb scenario. It feels like Nolan has tired of the Batman story and just wants to move on to something new (Bond, perhaps?). All is all, it's a bit like Del Boy the time he dressed up as Batman in that episode of Only Fools and Horses - entertaining enough, but hard not to notice the flabby, wobbly bits.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Currently scoring high on Rotten Tomatoes, although most critics have acknowledged it has shortcomings and doesn't quite live up to the previous films in the trilogy. Woe betide those critics who gave it a really bad review though, as the faceless Internet fanboys rose up with a Bane-like fury and unleashed their venom. Rotten Tomatoes actually suspended comments on their website, particularly after the vicious abuse levelled at Christy Levine of the Associated Press, who dared to criticise it. What was Christy's biggest crime in the eyes of the rabid fanboys? BEING A WOMAN!! A FEMALE, OF ALL THINGS!! Who had dared stray from the kitchen sink long enough to watch and then slam the BEST FILM EVA! How dare she! Naturally, the fact that she had actually seen the film, whilst many of those abusing her had not, did not seem to be an issue. Over on IMDB, meanwhile, the same Internet masses have driven it into the Top 10 rated movies of all time by awarding it 10/10 on their voting page. Fair enough, you might say, except that the same individuals have launched a campaign to award the films above it (such as The Godfather) 1/10 in order to reduce their overall score. The word you are looking for is tragic.

Anything else I should know? I actually met Batman once. I was walking home one dark night (heh, heh) and I took a short cut through an alleyway, only to find Batman struggling with a burglar. "Quick, good citizen," he shouted, "grab that teacup and hit this guy on the head. Every time you do so, shout T'PAU!" "T'PAU?," I said, "don't you mean KAPOW!?" "No," he replied, "T'PAU! Because that's China In Your Hand."

What does the Fonz think? The Dark Knight Rises Falls a Bit Short.

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