Early reviews: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and Bane get high marks

The early reviews on "The Dark Knight Rises" are in, and they are overwhelmingly positive. (Rotten Tomatoes measures critics reviews in at 96% positive, so far. )

Perhaps most notably, new villain Bane, played by Tom Hardy, is said to measure up to the late Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning Joker in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy grand finale.

Nolan himself has said he sought out "someone completely different from the Joker - that he be a brute force" (via Flicks and Bits). And Hardy has further pointed out key differences: "The Joker didn't care. He just wanted to see the world burn, and he was a master of chaos and destruction, unscrupulous and crazy. Bane is not that guy. There is a very meticulous and calculated way about Bane. There is a huge orchestration of organization to his ambition. He is also a physical threat to Batman. There is nothing vague about Bane. No jokes. He's a very clean, clear villain" (via Entertainment Weekly).

Here are some of things critics are saying about "TDKR" and it's brand new villain Bane:

[Related: Nolan delayed 'Dark Knight Rises' for Cotillard]

Perhaps inevitably, one also feels the absence of a villain as indelible as Heath Ledger's Joker, although Hardy does make Bane a creature of distinct malevolence with his baroque speech patterns and rumbling bass tones, provoking a sort of lower-register duet when pitted against Batman's own voice-distorted growl (the sound mix rendered their dialogue mostly if not entirely intelligible at the screening attended). -- Justin Chang, Variety

Chang wasn't the only reviewer to note Ledger's noticeable absence. In The Hollywood Reporter review, Todd McCarthy's opening thoughts included: "Entirely enveloping and at times unnerving in a relevant way one would never have imagined, as a cohesive whole this ranks as the best of Nolan's trio, even if it lacks -- how could it not? -- an element as unique as Heath Ledger's immortal turn in The Dark Knight. It's a blockbuster by any standard." And while Ledger was missed, it didn't stop him from approving of Bane's presence:

And the fact that Gotham City has, for the first time, realistically used New York City for most of its urban locations merely adds to the topical resonance of Bane's brilliantly engineered plot, in which he eventually takes the entire population of Manhattan hostage. Nolan has always been a very serious, even remorseless filmmaker, and never more so than he is here. -- Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

Many reviews noted Bane's brute physical dominance and a methodical evil -- different from the Joker's unpredictable lunacy:

Bane's plan to bring Gotham to its knees is elaborate and, once revealed, somewhat horrifying. He is not simply a rehash of the Joker, who was more of a force of chaos than anything. Bane is evil. He is unrelenting, unquestioning, destructive evil. He has no goal other than pain and horror and death, and he represents the first truly irresistible force that Batman has encountered. -- Drew McWeeny, HitFix

[Photos: 'Dark Knight Rises' trilogy posters]

On the other hand, after being marketed as heir to the Joker in "The Dark Knight," Tom Hardy's Bane is a different sort of villain — a focused and more ideologically-developed version of Heath Ledger's anarchist — but one with equally ruthless charm. -- Todd Gilchrist, Indiewire

A grandiose theatrical display filled to the brim with a barrage of visual, sound and plot explosions could have easily misfired, says Guardian reviewer Xan Brooks:

[Christopher Nolan] takes these cod-heroic, costumed elements and whisks them into a tale of heavy-metal fury, full of pain and toil, surging uphill, across the flyovers, in search of a climax. "I'm still a believer in the Batman," murmurs Joseph Gordon-Levitt's rookie cop at one point. Arm-twisted, senses reeling, I am forced to concede that I am too. --Xan Brooks, The Guardian

There was at least one dissenting voice:

Now comes The Dark Knight Rises, bringing in the Bane character (played, with my condolences, by Tom Hardy) and Catwoman (Anne Hathaway, one of the movie's few highlights). Nolan gets so caught up in creating an epic adventure that he hammers the "epic" and neglects a crucial component: the adventure. --Marshall Fine, Huffington Post

Watch 'The Dark Knight Rises' Behind The Scenes:

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