In a few short days, Batman fans will finally be able to watch The Dark Knight Rises, the obsessively anticipated final installment of director Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. The reviews of the film, which opens Friday, aren't even supposed to be published until Wednesday, but several movie critics have jumped the gun and released their takes on the nearly three-hour movie. Most of the notices are positive, though a few critics are underwhelmed. The AP's Christy Lemire, for example, gave it just two stars, in part because the movie feels like an "epic letdown" from Nolan's first two visionary, revolutionary Batman installments. Lemire's review earned her death threats, as did another less-than-stellar review from critic Marshall Fine. Can The Dark Knight Rises possibly live up to the high hopes of critics and fans?

Nolan buried a good film in grandiosity: The Dark Knight Rises is the trilogy's weakest film, says Marshall Fine at Hollywood and Fine. The "lumpish, tedious," and pretentious film really "disappoints, thanks to Nolan's decision to go big, bigger, biggest." Sadly, "somewhere within the mashed-potato mounds of Nolan's 2:40 behemoth exists a lean, compelling, and distinctly dramatic tale of redemption and sacrifice," told in a hauntingly personal fashion. Too bad it's obscured by unnecessary grandiosity.
"The Dark Knight Rises: Grandiose, not grand"

Huh? This movie is an epic in the best sense: The Dark Knight Rises is not "the standard summer action fantasy" blockbuster, but Nolan's frantically anticipated, "mesmerizing climax to his trilogy" was well worth waiting for, says Richard Corliss at TIME. It's a dark, complex cinematic masterpiece of "grand ambitions and epic achievements," and while this dark film may not earn as much money as The Avengers, "it is a far, far better thing — maybe the best, most troubling, assured, and enthralling of all the superhero movies."
"TIME's review of The Dark Knight Rises: To the depths, to the heights"

Batman's worst enemy may be the endless buzz: "Maybe it will be a masterpiece," and maybe not, says Sean O'Connell at Cinema Blend, but "there's no way The Dark Knight Rises can live up to the pre-release hype." The "deafening" buzz might be good for the movie's box-office draw, but fans have already taken the previews and rumors and built up their version of the movie in their heads, and Nolan's version may very well not be "as cool as you imagined it."
"How can The Dark Knight Rises possibly live up to the hype?"

Consensus: The Dark Knight Rises is moody, ambitious, visually stunning, and full of impressive performances — but whether it satisfies an army of demanding Batman fans remains to be seen.