updated 07/18/2012 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 07/19/2012 AT 4:25 PM ET
“You’re not Batman anymore,” Alfred (Michael Caine) tells his boss. By the looks of hobbled recluse Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) bent over his cane, it’s a shock that he ever was.
These are the darkest days in Christopher Nolan’s epic trilogy, a morality play that all but restages the French Revolution in its final chapter, as a new villain topples the city. It’s an engrossing story with a real sense of peril – as long as you ignore the dangerously gaping plot holes and long running time.
So what makes Batman dig his cape out of mothballs after eight years?
A human brick named Bane (the gloriously menacing Tom Hardy), bent on destroying Gotham, for some reason. While Bane gets assists from Anne Hathaway’s sly, sticky-fingered Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman), Batman has John Blake in his corner, a savvy cop played by the ferociously talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
The cast, including Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon and Marion Cotillard as entrepreneur Miranda Tate, is flawless, but what they’re supposed to be fighting about is murky at best, even after nearly three hours.
The saving grace is that Dark Knight’s last scenes are so rich and satisfying, it’s easy to forgive the rest of the film its sins.