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Review: The Dark Knight Rises / Cert: 12 / Director: Christopher Nolan / Screenplay: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan / Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Marion Cotillard / Release Date: December 3rd

Just in time for Christmas, the final chapter of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy arrives on DVD and Blu-ray. And now that we've all had a chance to calm down, it's pretty clear that it's no masterpiece. But to be fair, what were the chances? After all, this was a movie that had a helluva lot on its plate. In order to satisfy the weight of public expectation, it had to be big, really big, and it also had to deliver shedloads of closure and worthy themes so as to pacify those critics who were anticipating the Gotterdammerung in spandex. But then again, it would be nice, from a bottom line, box office point of view, if it could hint at new beginnings, paving the way for a possible further Batman cycle and Catwoman spin-off.

No wonder, then, that it's a blockbuster with a bit of an identity crisis, one that seems to pull in half a dozen different directions at once. At the heart of the problem is a rather windy and turbid script by the Nolan brothers. Some scenes and plot strands are skimmed over in an almost lackadaisical manner – confronted by beat cop John Blake (Gordon-Levitt), Bruce Wayne coughs to his secret identity far too easily, and who, exactly, is this Miranda Tate woman who keeps popping up? (“She's smart. And quite lovely.” Oh, okay, that'll do for a backstory.) The middle act is stuffed with endless Occupy Wall Street-inspired political rant (presumably there to make the film seem current and edgy) and cod Eastern wisdom (“the leap to freedom is not about strength”), while the third degenerates into a series of videogame-style ticking-clock missions (“You've got to get the bomb here in ten minutes!”) before reaching a conclusion which is eerily reminiscent of The Iron Giant (now there was a great movie).

As played by Tom Hardy, Bane is certainly formidable (he's so hard he lives in the sewers with his shirt off), but he's not as horrifying as he's supposed to be. This is due in large part to the studio's determination to go for a 12 certificate, as a result of which the camera flinches away squeamishly whenever he twists someone's head 360 degrees. Also, though, like many a villain, he tends to get lost in his own bombast. With Bruce Wayne in his clutches, he threatens him with torture: “Not of your body! Of your soul!” Bruce shudders dutifully, but it's a bit of a let-off.

On the bright side, there are some crowd-pleasing action sequences and plenty of great tech, including fleets of Tumblers and the Bat, a gorgeous new aircraft that whisks along as quietly as a bicycle. And who could forget the heartwarming sight of Selina Kyle straddling the Batpod? In addition, the film's wittier than it's been given credit for, with a sprinkling of memorable zinger lines. (“Sure it was him?” Blake asks a fellow cop who'd hoped to arrest Batman, after the Bat goes sailing over their heads.) Christian Bale, meanwhile, has what is arguably his best outing as Bruce Wayne, taking him from a limping hermit with George Harrison whiskers who can't cope without the cape to a man rediscovering his taste for life in a performance that is varied, approachable and dignified.

The sheer epic sprawl also impresses, never mind the occasional absurdities. (Gotham's police force, trapped underground for days, emerging into the daylight with no more wear and tear than an occasional smudge and some designer stubble. And don't get us started on that prison pit – guys, just chip out a few more handholds and you'll be out of there like a rat up a drainpipe.) Rough round the edges it may be, but this film feels big and important, there's no denying it. And as for closure – it delivers enough of that to fill a Batcave.

Extras: The Journey of Bruce Wayne / UltraViolet – Instantly stream and download films to compatible devices


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