Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman
Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan (and story), David S. Goyer (story), Bob Kane (characters)
A Fire Will Rise.
It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act. But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.
$160.887 million on 4404 screens.
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1/1.78:1 (Varying)
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 165 min.
Release Date: 12/4/2012
• “The Batmobile” Documentary
• “Ending the Knight” Featurettes
• Trailer Archive
• Print Campaign Art Gallery
• DVD Copy
PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
The Dark Knight Rises [Blu-Ray] (2012)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 3, 2012)
When did I last look forward to a movie as eagerly as I anticipated 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises? “Never” may be the answer. Like many others, I couldn’t wait to see 1999’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but its many negative advance reviews affected how I felt when I finally viewed it. I still saw it on opening day, but some of the excitement waned due to the warnings of the critics.
No such concerns affected Rises, and not just because it earned largely positive appraisals. I went out of my way to avoid any information about Rises before I saw it opening night, and that meant I remained unaware of its advance word. Entering the theater, I knew a couple of elements – like what villains would appear – but I came pretty close to blank slate territory.
I also felt strongly that it would be next to impossible for Rises to equal or better its predecessor, 2008’s Dark Knight. That one remains my favorite comic book film of all-time, so while I really wanted to see Rises, it seemed unimaginable that I’d like it more than the 2008 hit.
And I was right: Rises doesn’t live up to the heights achieved by Dark Knight. However, it comes closer than I might’ve expected and offers an excellent conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Trilogy”.
Set eight years after Dark Knight, Rises finds a Gotham free from organized crime, as the death of Harvey Dent was used to put into place severe punishments that leaves the city devoid of major underworld elements. Batman (Christian Bale) went into retirement, and alter ego Bruce Wayne became a virtual recluse.
A few events draw Bruce out of hiding. He meets an intriguing cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway); while she always seems to cause trouble, sparks fly and he tries to bring out the best in her.
In addition, a muscle-bound super-villain named Bane (Tom Hardy) sets up the potential destruction of Gotham. A former member of the anarchist League of Shadows, Bane wants to bring down Gotham from within. While he threatens the detonation of a nuclear device, Bane doesn’t simply want to blow up the town; he also wants to show the depths to which humanity will sink. Batman continues to believe in his hometown, so he works through a mix of complications/challenges to thwart Bane’s plans.
As I watched Rises on opening night, I found myself unable to avoid comparisons to Dark Knight - and these were almost always in favor of the earlier film. I wanted to turn off the “which is better?” part of my brain but couldn’t; my love for Dark Knight is just so ingrained that I couldn’t avoid it.
Subsequent viewings left me more open-minded. I’ve now watched Rises four times – three on the IMAX screen, one at home on Blu-ray – and find that it remains strong even after all those screenings. Indeed, the movie actually seems to gain power with additional examination.
It probably makes more sense to compare Rises to 2005’s Batman Begins, as they seem more similar than Dark Knight/Rises. The most obvious commonalities relate to plot and characters, as Rises hearkens back to Begins in an active manner. Indeed, it connects enough to the 2005 film’s plot that some have referred to Rises as the Return of the Jedi of the Batman series – and they don’t mean that as a compliment.
Though I can’t blame them, as I experienced similar thoughts. Both Jedi and Rises occasionally feel like semi-remakes of the original films in their respective trilogies, just done up bigger. To some degree, this disappoints me in terms of Rises, as I might’ve liked something that didn’t seem like a bit of a rehash of the first flick’s plot.
That said, Rises lacks the softness and lack of seriousness that marred Jedi. After the popcorn fun of the original Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back offered substantial growth in terms of character and thematic complexity – which Jedi then almost totally negated. Don’t get me wrong – I think Jedi is a good film and a decent finish for the trilogy. Nonetheless, it still feels like a bit of a letdown, as I wish George Lucas had managed to try harder to balance the excitement of Star Wars with the complexity of Empire.
I don’t find similar flaws with Rises. While it does link back to Begins, it never threatens to become a true semi-remake, and it develops its own themes and issues well. It certainly maintains the series’ overall level of darkness, as this remains a cruel, difficult world in which Batman operates.
Though occasionally one might view Rises as the Batman film that forgot Batman. Sure, we don’t see the character until well into the running time of Begins, but it’s an origin story, so that’s expected and acceptable. Granted, I was never wild about the “how he came to be” parts of Begins, but I understood their necessity.
And I get why Rises spends so much time without Batman as well, but I must admit this choice can frustrate. I really did start to wonder if anyone told Nolan that Rises was supposed to be a Batman movie. While we get a lot of the character in the third act, he’s largely absent from the first two, and with a flick as long as this one, that’s a lot of Bat-free real estate. Of course, this also means that when we do see Batman, we’re even more excited – especially given the difficulties he needed to overcome to get back into action.
All of this ensures that the film’s third act works better than the first two – or at least it did during my initial viewing of Rises. The opening acts fared better upon additional screenings, mostly because I could concentrate on the story/character development without obsessing over where it’ll all go. When I knew what Batman would – or wouldn’t – do, it became easier to drop expectations and immerse in the material.
But that third act remains the king here, as it delivers a resounding emotional finish to the series. Even after four viewings, I still get a lump in my throat when the finish comes. Some of that comes from my overall love of the series – I enjoy the Nolan flicks so much that I feel depressed they’re done – but it’s mainly because Rises manages to end things with a real punch.
The third act also gives us most of the film’s action. While a smattering of set pieces occur during the first two acts, the fecal matter really hits the fan during act three. It becomes a nearly constant action assault and delivers tremendous power.
Not that those more character-based/expository first two acts slouch. Bale remains a nearly perfect choice for Wayne and Batman. He doesn’t get to show as much of Wayne’s fake frivolity here as in the first two movies, but he adds a great deal of heart to the character, and he’s still tough and memorable as Batman.
Among our new lead actors, both do well. Hathaway gets the more dynamic role, and she completely delivers. Apparently fans frowned on her casting as Catwoman, but I don’t know why. She has the acting chops to handle the part, and she’s more than sexy enough to accomplish that side of the situation. Fans will always debate who played the best Catwoman, but I definitely think Hathaway deserves consideration. She delivers an excellent mix of coldness, menace, sexiness, toughness and slipperiness; she takes control of the screen every time we see her.
As Bane, Hardy finds himself with the more dominant character – he gets more screentime than Hathaway – but also more thankless part. With a mask over much of his face, Hardy can’t rely on expressions for his performance. Nonetheless, Hardy manages to do more with the part than he probably should. I suspect Bane should just be a muscle-bound lunk but Hardy turns him into a tough, challenging personality who we accept as a threat to Batman. He’s not as much fun as Hathaway, but he gives the movie’s main villain bite.
In terms of production values, Rises seems excellent. I appreciate Nolan’s desire to embrace practical effects as much as possible. Sure, the film uses CG, but Nolan keeps those elements to a minimum, and this brings a sense of verisimilitude that too many CG-fests lack. There’s a basic reality we feel that goes absent too often these days, and that allows the film to seem more impactful.
By the way, I want to defend Nolan against one criticism he often receives: a lack of humor. Some detractors accuse the “Dark Knight Trilogy” films of too much self-seriousness/grimness and an utter lack of lightness. While no one will confuse these movies with laughfests, they’re not nearly as morose as some claim. Nolan builds plenty of humor into Rises; these moments remain subtle, but they’re there.
And I think that’s appropriate, as I have no desire to see a comedic Batman movie. The 1960s TV series and the mid-1990s Joel Schumacher went the light ‘n’ campy path, and it didn’t work. No one says that Batman has to be utterly devoid of humor, but the series should remain pretty grim and serious. I think Nolan gets this side of things right; there’s just enough humor to leaven the proceedings but not enough to mar the gravity.
Make no mistake: I love the sense of scope and depth Nolan brings to the series. Rises and its predecessors don’t feel like “comic book movies”. Instead, they’re rich, powerful explorations of characters and themes that just happen to have some excellent action along the way. They bring a truly epic feel that no other series of this sort even vaguely threatens to achieve.
Ultimately, I feel at least 95 percent satisfied with The Dark Knight Rises. That’s a drop from the 99 percent I got with Dark Knight, but it’s a much higher rate than anyone could’ve expected. It acts as a strong, compelling finish to arguably the greatest film trilogy ever created.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A/ Bonus B
The Dark Knight Rises appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc – most of the time. - usually. The filmmakers shot about 43 percent of the movie with IMAX cameras, and that used a ratio around 1.43:1. For those scenes, the Blu-ray expands to 1.78:1; it’s not the full IMAX image, but it’s closer than 2.40:1.
The varying aspect ratios meant varying picture quality. The IMAX footage excelled and appeared breathtaking. These shots delivered stunning clarity and definition; if the entire movie had been IMAX, it would’ve gotten an “A+” for visuals.
Inevitably, the lower resolution 35mm 2.40:1 shots couldn’t match these, though they looked fine on their own. In the 2.40:1 scenes, sharpness was usually very good. A few shots looked a bit soft, but those instances weren’t significant – and they echoed what I saw during my three IMAX screenings of the film. When compared with the IMAX footage, the 35mm stuff simply couldn’t compete, so some relative softness became inevitable, I think.
Not that one should anticipate problems from those shots; as I mentioned, they looked good overall. I saw no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent. No print flaws marred the presentation.
While I wouldn’t call this a stylized palette – at least not compared to some of the radical color choices used in many modern movies – the tones of Rises often tended toward amber or blue. Neither tint became heavy, though; although this wasn’t a truly natural palette, it seemed closer to that than most of its peers. The colors came across as full and dynamic.
Blacks were intense and deep, while shadows could be thick. This seemed fairly consistent with my IMAX theatrical screenings; after all, this was intended to be a dark movie, so some mildly impenetrable low-light shots didn’t come as a surprise. That said, on my TV, I thought a few of these appeared a little more opaque than I recalled from the big screen. Those weren’t a concern, though – just a minor quibble. Even with some small complaints about the 35mm aspects of the film, this was still a strong enough presentation for an “A-“.
Few criticisms greeted the film’s astonishing DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack. From start to finish, this mix offered an aggressive, immersive affair that made excellent use of the various speakers. Of course, the action scenes benefited most of all, especially when the story took to the air; shots with the Bat gave us an intense, involving sense of movement and place. The entire thing meshed together in a clean, smooth manner that seemed precise.
Surround usage blended in an above-average manner. After nearly 14 years of reviewing – and almost 5000 DVDs/BDs under my belt – it’s become more and more difficult for a surround mix to impress me, but Rises did that. It combined the various channels in such an active and engaging but still realistic manner that it blew me away. The accuracy and delineation were terrific, and the whole package combined in a sweeping manner.
Audio quality was also top-notch. Some feel speech could be buried a bit, and that was true – it could make it tough to understand some of the dialogue. That was the case during my IMAX screenings as well, and it’s the sole reason I didn’t give the audio an “A+” rating. It didn’t help that Bane’s electronically processed lines and Batman’s growl harmed intelligibility even more.
But those were cinematic choices, not issues with the audio’s reproduction here. I will note that across my four screenings, the sound of Bane’s voice seemed different each time. I saw the film on three different IMAX screens, and combined with my own home theater, minor variations occurred. He actually probably sounded clearest on Blu-ray, though I will admit my increasing acquaintance with the film likely affected my understanding of his speech; after four viewings, I obviously know the lines pretty well.
Music came across as bold and dynamic, with great oomph given to Hans Zimmer’s score. And effects came across as vivid and aggressive. They showed excellent clarity and accuracy with intense low-end response. The bass shook my room but never threatened to clip or overwhelm. I loved this soundtrack.
All of the set’s extras show up on Disc Two. A documentary called The Batmobile runs 58 minutes, 17 seconds and offers comments from filmmakers Christopher Nolan, Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher, executive producer Michael Uslan, Batman and Philosophy editor Mark D. White, The Essential Batman Encyclopedia author Robert Greenberger, DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio, former DC Comics writer/editor Dennis O’Neil, 1966 Batmobile customizer George Barris, Batman Forever vehicle designer Tim Flattery, car wrangler Tony Wood, Batman (1989) production designer Anton Furst, “Dark Knight Trilogy” production designer Nathan Crowley, Batman art director Terry Ackland-Snow, Batman special effects tech/”Trilogy” tumbler builder Andy Smith, “Beware the Batman” producer Glen Murakami, Batman Forever/Batman & Robin production designer Barbara Ling, vehicle production supervisor Charley Zurian, B&R vehicle designer Harald Belker, “Trilogy” special effects supervisor Chris Corbould, driver George Cottle, former DC Comics president Paul Levitz, WB Assistant Director of Transportation Cassandra Salapatas-Metz, comedian/car fan Jeff Dunham, and actors Adam West and Christian Bale.
Here we get a broad history of the Batmobile. We learn of its origins in the comics but mainly focus on its depiction through various TV and movie incarnations. The program emphasizes the Nolan films’ “tumbler”, but it still gives us plenty of info about the other vehicles. We find a nice overview and learn a fair amount about the design and creation of the different Batmobiles.
Under Ending the Knight, we find a whopping 17 featurettes. These come under three subheadings: “Production” (12 segments), “Characters” (3) and “Reflections” (2). The programs last between two minutes, 34 seconds and 11 minutes, eight seconds for a total of one hour, 51 minutes, 36 seconds of material. (Unfortunately, the Blu-ray omits a “Play All” option.)
Across these featurettes, we hear from Nolan, Corbould, Crowley, Bale, stunt coordinator Tom Struthers, production designer Kevin Kavanaugh, visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin, executive producer Kevin De La Noy, fight arranger Buster Reeves, director of photography Wally Pfister, first AD Nilo Otero, producers Charles Roven and Emma Thomas, construction manager Rob Garlow, co-producer Jordan Goldberg, special effects coordinator Scott Fisher, editor Lee Smith, sound designer/supervising sound editor Richard King, story co-writer David S. Goyer, co-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, costume designers Lindy Hemming and Dan Grace, composer Hans Zimmer, stunt person Jolene Van Vugt, costume FX supervisor Graham Churchyard, associate editor John Lee, and actors Tom Hardy, Nestor Carbonell, Luke Ravenstahl, Hines Ward, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine. These cover stunts and action, production/vehicle design, various effects, photography and shooting IMAX, sets and locations, sound design and music, story/character areas, cast and performances, and some general thoughts about the series.
Despite the aforementioned lack of a “Play All” option, the “Ending” featurettes add up to a fairly comprehensive take on Rises. These tend toward the technical side of the street, but we still get a nice mix of subjects. Expect to learn a lot across these informative segments.
In the Trailer Archive, we get an eight-minute, 35-second collection with all four of the Rises ads. We also locate a Print Campaign Art Gallery with 31 still frames that show us a mix of promos created for the film.
A third disc provides a DVD Copy of Rises. This includes one extra: the “Journey of Bruce Wayne” featurette. (Note that the DVD rendition of the film goes entirely 2.40:1 and lacks the 1.78:1 elements for the IMAX footage.)
While it’s too soon to objectively judge, right now I lean toward the belief that Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy” stands as the greatest film trilogy of all-time. The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t quite match the heights of its immediate predecessor, but it comes much closer than expected and brings the series to a rousing finish. If Dark Knight was a 10, Rises is a 9.5. The Blu-ray offers excellent picture and audio along with a pretty good set of supplements. Rises finishes a stunning trilogy on a high note and deserves my highest recommendation.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3191 Stars|| Number of Votes: 47|