The conclusion of the Dark Knight trilogy sets our hero against Bane, a relentlessly evil creature who, as a child, emerged out of a deep, dark pit. The film, though, is taking an opposite course. This is a knight so dark I am not sure I can see the point anymore.

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The year’s most anticipated movie is not the film anyone anticipated and possibly not the one most people wanted. For a start, many would be expecting some kind of superhero movie, but this really isn’t. Lavish and spectacular yet ponderous and solemn, it’s more like a biblical epic.

The end of The Dark Knight had left everything in tatters. The expectation was that this film would gradually build it all back up again – but it never does. It opens with Wayne (Christian Bale) as a recluse wandering in a big, empty mansion and that’s the status of everybody else in the film.

All those wonderful characters from the previous two movies – Michael Caine’s Alfred, Gary Oldman’s Gordon and Morgan Freeman’s Fox – who came together so fantastically, now all seem disconnected.

Director Christopher Nolan’s great talent is making long, talky, ideas films that somehow have the velocity of a summer blockbuster.

The Dark Knight grabbed you with that opening bank heist and kept hurtling through its two and half hours. Rises starts at an amble and never really breaks sweat. Then, just at the midpoint, as it seems to be hitting its stride and coming together, the plot pulls apart and it’s as if we’re starting all over again.

The slack pacing exposes some writing flaws. The inherent problem with a “realistic” superhero movie is that it emphasises every plot hole and in-the-nick-of-time narrative contrivance. Though this is the darkest of the three films, it is also the silliest.

The lack of The Joker is a problem. Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman helps a bit but she seems part of a different

film, while Bane is a very poor substitute with Tom Hardy’s considerable talent lost behind that mask. It doesn’t help that, after complaints that nobody could hear what he was saying in the first trailers, he now sounds like Ian McKellen playing Darth Vader. Even now, much of the film’s dialogue is inaudible.

Twenty-three summers ago, I remember squeezing into a cinema on a wet Friday afternoon for the first screening of Batman. It wasn’t the film the hype had promised, it was awkward and halting in places but it was always bold, fresh and Gothic and it changed everything. It showed us there was fun to be had in the dark. Now perhaps it’s time for the black curtain to lift. Sometimes darkness is just empty space.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (12A)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Michael Caine

Length: 165 mins

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