It might not need an introduction, but here it is. The Dark Knight Rises is the conclusion to the Batman trilogy by director Christopher Nolan. What started as a reboot of a beloved character has turned into a re-imagination of how comic-book characters can be portrayed on the big screen. After an eight-year absence, Batman (Christian Bale) is forced out of retirement when a masked mercenary named Bane (Tom Hardy) threatens to destroy Gotham City. Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) is featured, as well as love interest Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and newcomer Detective Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman all return in their respective roles. After the jump, The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray review.
The Dark Knight Rises – Movie: 4/5
I have an obsession, and its name is Batman. I’m sure bits and pieces of my unhealthy love for this fictitious character will seep into just about anything I write. But I shall refrain from boring any readers to tears. I’ll stick to the point of this review (as best as possible). It is to specifically size up the recently released Blu-ray of the final entry in director Christopher Nolan’s massively successful Dark Knight trilogy. I was ready for it from the moment I stepped out of the theater after seeing the previous film in the series, The Dark Knight. The four-year wait was nearly painful at times, but thankfully there was no shortage of Batman related films and comics for me to continuously wet my appetite. I greatly anticipated its release as each new photo or trailer hit the internet. I even got to see the IMAX prologue a full seven months prior to the film’s release at a special one-night only screening across the country, with all of us hardcore fans getting special commemorative t-shirts. I was at a fever pitch for the need to see the completed film.
The days dragged on endlessly until the hot Summer of July finally came around. I made sure to hit up the first midnight screening I could. Halfway through, some joker (tee-hee) felt the need to pull the fire alarm, effectively ruining what was perhaps the most anticipated release for me in my adult life. We were compensated with free passes, but needless to say, I was furious. But then early that morning, I learned of the Aurora shooting, and any wind left in my sail was immediately sucked out. My girlfriend and I ventured back to the first screening at the same theater the next day, with a strange sense of disillusionment. I didn’t know how to feel or react. My desire to watch fiction play out in front of me knowing a number of regular fans such as myself had their lives taken only hours earlier was naturally clouded. I wasn’t sure how I’d react to film with this in mind. What scenes we had watched the night earlier were quite intense.
But as we journeyed once again into Nolan’s epic universe, I was reminded quickly of what I love so much about the Batman character and his world. It never fails to reiterate one of the most important life lessons, which is to seek out the light in the dark, no matter how small it may be. This film was filled with awe-inspiring moments of perseverance in the face of the bleakest scenarios imaginable, with the true strength of the human spirit constantly being tested and pushed to its limits. Grand scale battles are waged while Nolan sneaks in some themes and thoughts for us to take away from the film, as all of his work does.
This isn’t to say it’s a flawless work, though. There are some minor gripes and a handful of things that perhaps ultimately don’t work in the finished film, but simply put, it succeeds far more than it doesn’t. I felt the same way for some time after viewing both of the prior films in the franchise. It was the years of dwelling on and rewatching them that allowed for an immensely deeper emotional and perhaps even philosophical bond to develop. Maybe in a few years’ time, I’ll feel even stronger for it and claim it as the best Batman film ever made, but for now I place it as the weakest entry of the trilogy (but FAR from being anything close to resembling a “poor” film).
The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray:
Packaging: There are a myriad of releases for this, from the Best Buy steelbook exclusive (containing an additional 37 min. documentary “The Dark Knight Reborn”), to the Target exclusive digibooks, to the limited edition (30,000 units) Cowl Packaging and even a trilogy box-set. I myself picked up the standard release, which comes with a lenticular slipcover, three discs (one feature film BD, one special feature BD, one feature film DVD) as well as a UV digital copy code.
The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray – Video: 5/5
The Dark Knight Rises is presented in 1080p HD with an AVC-encoded transfer, switching between 35mm sequences in 2.4:1 and IMAX shot footage cropped to 1.78:1. Some have complained that the 35mm footage appears soft in the transfer, while others have stated this is likely due to Nolan’s preference of developing the film photochemically as opposed to the typical standard of transferring everything for digital intermediate. The general consensus is that the IMAX footage is flawless. I agree with this, and have no qualms with the scope scenes, either. It’s a beautiful looking transfer, top to bottom.
The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray – Audio: 5/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 should sufficiently blow your mind. While quite scenes offer crisp and clear audio, it’s easily the films grand action sequences which bring the 5.1 speakers to life. This film is loud and powerful, a perfect candidate for surround sound that properly uses the front and rear channels to put you in middle of the action. There’s not much else to elaborate on. It simply rocks.
The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray – Special Features: 3.5/5
The highlight of the second disc is an excellent nearly hour long documentary on the Batmobile. Bat-fans from all eras should get a kick out of seeing all five vehicles (the 1966 George Barris Batman TV series version, the 1989 Anton Furst Batman/Batman Returns version, the 1995 Giger-esque Batman Forever version, the 1997 Batman and Robin version, and the Tumbler from the Nolan trilogy) side by side, with lots of footage from the creators, directors, actors etc. sharing loads of technical specs and anecdotes about their experiences.
If you’re as big of a Batman fan as myself, there’s even a teary-eyed ending that is truly touching. In addition, there’s a production-centered documentary cut up into vignettes called “Ending the Knight”. Some interesting tidbits here and there, but for the most part, it has that rather standard EPK feeling to a lot of it. The disc is rounded out with the usual image galleries and collection of trailers for the film. Sadly, as with most of Nolan’s work, a running commentary and deleted scenes section is sorely missing. This is, of course, his personal preference, which I respect. But for this film specifically, the fans are very aware of a fair amount of footage cut from the initial assembly line version. Not just the usual trims and such, but we’re talking the supposed existence of entire sequences, including a more thorough origin for Bane and the evolution of his mask. Needless to say, I’d love to see this. But alas, they chose not to include any of it.
The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray – Last words: 4.5/5
The Dark Knight Rises is a strong film. Despite some logic holes that will leave you scratching your head like ‘when did Batman have time to go gather gasoline to light up the Bat symbol on the bridge and how did Bruce Wayne make it back into the city with no money and resources’, it’s a satisfying experience. Batman fans will absolutely want to own this. Nolan fans will want to own this. Fans of epic cinema will want to own this. Even in its length, it’s very watchable. Between the theater and home, I think I’ve watched it six times, which is unusual for a film that’s been out less than five months. The Blu-ray release is as strong as it gets for an explosive home-viewing experience. I consider this a highly recommendable Christmas gift, by the way.
DKR had the monumental task of following what will likely go down as the greatest Batman film ever made. It also had to close out an entire iteration of this universe and these characters. It had a lot riding against it, and while in my personal opinion it may not have been the perfect conclusion, it was certainly a strong one. Then again, what ending is ever truly satisfying? It’s all about the journey, of course. The seven year trek from Batman Begins to Dark Knight Rises has been nothing short of amazing to witness as a lifelong Batman fan…but it hasn’t stopped me from salivating over the potential of where to take it next. I guess we’ll find out together!
The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray:
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