At long last, Christopher Nolan's third Batman movie has finally hit theaters. Set eight years after the gritty events that play out in the end of "The Dark Knight," "The Dark Knight Rises" is said to be the final chapter in Nolan's telling of Batman's saga, and if all the Internet buzzing is to be believed, it is the most anticipated movie of the year.
The only fan-related element surrounding the film that was not anticipated, however, were the headlines generated earlier this week when Batman fans took several film critics to task for posting less-than-stellar reviews of the film on Rotten Tomatoes.
Slightly lukewarm reviews or no, the critical masses agree that Nolan has another record-breaking hit on his hands and that "The Dark Knight Rises" is a fitting end to the game-changing franchise. Minor spoilers ahead as we fly through the "Dark Knight Rises" reviews:
"After seven years and two films that have pushed Batman ever deeper into the dark, the director Christopher Nolan has completed his postmodern, post-Sept. 11 epic of ambivalent good versus multidimensional evil with a burst of light. As the title promises, day breaks in 'The Dark Knight Rises,' the grave and satisfying finish to Mr. Nolan's operatic bat-trilogy. His timing couldn't be better. As the country enters its latest electoral brawl off screen, Batman (Christian Bale) hurtles into a parallel battle that booms with puppet-master anarchy, anti-government rhetoric and soundtrack drums of doom. ... Times change; superheroes and villains too. The enemy is now elusive and the home front as divided as the face of Harvey Dent, a vanquished Batman foe. The politics of partisanship rule and grass-roots movements have sprung up on the right and the left to occupy streets and legislative seats. It can look ugly, but as they like to say -- and as Dent says in 'The Dark Knight,' the second part of the trilogy -- the night is darkest before the dawn." -- Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
The Scale and Spectacle
" 'The Dark Knight Rises' (TDKR), Christopher Nolan's mesmerizing climax to his trilogy reboot of the DC Comics character, is a show, all right. But not in the way of the standard summer action fantasy. Although his movie contains elaborate fights, stunts, chases and war toys, and though the director dresses half his characters in outfits suitable for a Comic-Con revel, Nolan is a dead-serious artist with a worldview many shades darker than the knight of the title. 'The Avengers' is kid stuff compared with this meditation on mortal loss and heroic frailty. 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." -- Richard Corliss, Time
"Bane (Tom Hardy) is hampered by an elaborate black mask that covers most of his face, with a mouthpiece that recalls Hannibal Lecter's muzzle. This apparatus makes it nearly impossible for Hardy to give a full-scale performance, and his Darth Vader-breathy dialogue is occasionally unclear. Bale remains superb as the tortured hero, and the trajectory of his story comes to a poignant conclusion. The most moving scenes involve Wayne and his loyal butler/confidant, Alfred (Michael Caine). A buoyant chemistry flares between Bale and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Hathaway offers a charmingly fresh take on her character -- less feline (no purring, thankfully) and more acrobatic, playful and assertive than previous incarnations. Less impressive is the rather bland Marion Cotillard as environmental conservationist Miranda Tate, positioned as Wayne's love interest though they lack chemistry. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is affably noble as dedicated police detective John Blake, a role that could figure into a potential spinoff." -- Claudia Puig, USA Today
The End of an Era
"[Nolan] leaves future Batman filmmakers in an impossible position. They'll simply have to try something different, because for grandeur and pretension and evil genius and pure thrills -- for delivering exactly what the multiplex audience wants, in tremendous style, and undercutting it at the same time -- there's no way to top 'The Dark Knight Rises.' " -- Andrew O'Hehir Salon.com
The Final Word
" 'The Dark Knight Rises' is something of an ordeal to sit through. But Nolan provides moments of jaw-dropping spectacle: that football-game set piece, for example, or a somber scene in which we see Gotham from far above as dozens of Bane's randomly planted bombs explode throughout the city. Too much of this film takes place in dimly lit, cramped spaces where sweaty men threaten each other in whispers: the Gotham sewer, the underground prison to which Bruce Wayne is exiled for a long and dreary stretch in the second half. As Nolan proved in those crazy street-folding scenes in Inception, he's a whiz at staging visually inventive action on a grand, topographic scale. Now that the 'Dark Knight' series is over (and the character no doubt being readied for a steampunk-themed reboot), I hope Nolan's next project will lift his imagination out of the bat-cave and into the world." -- Dana Stevens, Slate
Check out everything we've got on "The Dark Knight Rises."