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The final installment of director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is long and loud and chock-full of his great love for plotting and abstraction. Sometimes, it works, but often, it doesn't, and the honest interaction of characters is ground under the wheels of storytelling necessity. See, for example: butler Alfred Pennyworth's (Michael Caine) sudden realization that being Batman (Christian Bale) is a life-threatening business, or good cop John Blake's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) life choices after realizing the moral complexities of his profession.

The film might feel like an elaborate and intricate chess strategem - seemingly scattered movements gradually converging on a final, concentrated masterstroke - except for a few plot points that not even the grandest of masters could predict. See, for example: Police Commissioner Gordon's (Gary Oldman) decision to lead a manhunt through the sewer while carrying a document full of sensitive secrets in his jacket pocket.

The baddie this time is Bane (Tom Hardy), a brutal and brutalized soul - born in prison, exiled from the same League of Shadows that trained Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, but still bent on completing the League's mission to destroy a corrupt Gotham, schoolchildren and orphans included. (The city's current offense: the Dent Act, a tough law that has helped to rid Gotham of crime, but possibly at the expense of justice.) Oh, and Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), a pretty thief who can't seem to outrun her past.

Philosophy abounds: Bane is fond of the soul-body dichotomy, Batman has to learn a few new things about his old friend fear, and there is insightful talk of real despair requiring a modicum of hope. But some of it gets mangled in Bane's mask-hindered speech, and some of it is just mangled to begin with. (After handing Gotham over to "the people," Bane begins giving orders and shedding blood. O HAI FRENCH REVOLUTION.)

All that said, there is plenty of Bat-goodness here. Bane is genuinely scary, Batman's fall (and rise) are convincing, and the whole thing draws from the first and second installments in satisfying ways. Plus, you know: cool weapons/modes of transport. And Batman.

Reader rating: one star.

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