Holy inconvenient screening time! Inexplicably, the biggest movie of the year played for critics at 10 am on WW's press day. We went to the screening anyway, of course, and hastily pecked out an immediate, unvarnished reaction. Look for a full review here at wweek.com soon.

Let's keep this simple: The Dark Knight Rises is the best entry in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. It's tighter and better paced than its hyperbolically praised predecessor. It uses its actors better, including Christian Bale, who got shunted into the background of his own movie last time around. And it's got one hell of a villain. Sorry, Heath Ledger doesn't appear via hologram. But as Bane—a walking slab of concrete with Darth Vader's voice box and the diction of Peter O'Toole—what Tom Hardy lacks in maniacal, tongue-smacking glee he makes up for in sheer, hulking physicality. He's frightening just standing there. Oh, and despite the ongoing themes of pain and loss and a zeitgeist-y plot involving the 1 percent's heavily armed chickens coming home to roost, this is the most fun of the three films. Really, what this relentlessly grim series needed was deputized orphans and a couple of Catwoman puns. Are you bummed to hear that Nolan's Batman is, despite appearances, still a comic book franchise? In the words of somebody we used to know: Why so serious? PG-13. 

Critic's Grade: A

SEE IT: The Dark Knight Rises opens Friday at Lloyd Center, 99 West Drive-In, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, CineMagic, Cornelius, Lake Twin, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Stadium 11, Bridgeport, City Center, Division, Evergreen Parkway, Hilltop, Lloyd Mall, Movies On TV, Sherwood, Tigard, Wilsonville, Roseway, St. Johns.