Comic book fans know what happened between Batman and Bane in the Knightfall storyline, and The Dark Knight Rises -- the final film in director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy -- explores Batman's fall and rise, along with tying Bane to themes from the earlier movies. Too bad it can be boring far too often...

After a brief recap of the end of The Dark Knight (with Batman taking the blame for Harvey Dent's murders), we jump ahead eight years. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has retired the Batman and become a recluse in Wayne Manor, wandering its halls with a beard and a cane; he also spent his half his fortune on a source of clean energy, only to pull the plug on it when he learned it could be turned into a weapon. Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) has almost rid Gotham City of crime, largely due to "Dent's Law." Alfred (Michael Caine) is still hoping Wayne will find some happiness in life, while Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) keeps coming up with innovative tech for Wayne. There's also a young "hothead" officer named Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who admires Batman (and knows far too easily his secret identity), and a beautiful rich woman named Miranda (Marion Cotillard) who believes in Wayne's clean energy project even when he doesn't.

Enter the villains. An amoral, acrobatic cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) piques Wayne's interest when she steals his late mother's pearls and copies of his fingerprints. The far bigger threat is Bane (Tom Hardy), a giant of a man with a mask always covering his mouth. Bane has large plans for both Batman and Gotham City, and they involve everyone from Wayne's business rival to Catwoman to an old adversary.

It may not be such a thin line between epic and bloated, and The Dark Knight Rises crosses that line quite often. In giving a lot of time to the supporting cast, the movie manages to forget about its main characters for very long stretches of time; the very long time before Batman even appears on the screen doesn't help either. Anne Hathaway is terrific as Catwoman, bringing a combination of self-centered desire and droll snappiness to the role, but Bane isn't that interesting a villain, and Christian Bale doesn't make Bruce Wayne's fall and redemption all that inspiring. And while I hate to compare Marvel and DC superhero movies, the flying "Batmobile" pales next to the special effects in The Avengers.

The Dark Knight Rises does manage to find more of its footing near the end (even if they take the "ticking clock" to a new and ridiculous level), but it's a long journey getting there. I don't know if Nolan will revisit the Batman mythos (the door is left wide open for another moviei in the franchise), but The Dark Knight Rises is a mediocre finale to a trilogy with a weak beginning and outstanding middle.

Overall grade: C+

Reviewed by James Lynch

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