The Dark Knight Rises (Blu-ray/DVD Combo+UltraViolet Digital Copy) (2012)

Actors: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy
Director: Christopher Nolan
Format: NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: English
Subtitles: Spanish, French, English, Portuguese
Dubbed: Spanish, French, Portuguese
Region: A/1
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
Number of discs: 3
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
DVD Release Date: December 4, 2012
Run Time: 165 minutes




And now that it’s all said and done, we ponder the question of The Dark Knight Rises. It arrived with the kind of hype normally reserved for religious messiahs, followed by anguish at the inevitable letdown, followed by gradual acceptance that – while it couldn’t quite match its two predecessors – it definitely belongs on the podium with them. Such is the nature of the Hollywood promotional machine, where what a film could be often eclipses what it is. We rarely figure it all out until the dust has settled (and the studio has collected all our shiny, shiny nickels).

In this case, director Christopher Nolan set the bar so high that The Dark Knight Rises needed to solve world hunger to meet it. It can’t. It’s not even the best superhero movie of 2012, since The Avengers went and stole everyone’s thunder. Even so, it provides an honorable closure to Nolan’s unique vision for the Batman: true to its predecessors and admirably recapturing their postmillennial themes.

It’s been eight years since Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) last donned the cape and cowl. Batman took responsibility for Harvey Dent’s crimes, a lie that allowed Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) to clean up the streets of Gotham for good. Wayne now lives alone in his dilapidated mansion, nursing his wounds and eager to end things in spectacular fashion. He gets a golden opportunity when Bane (Tom Hardy) comes to town, armed with intimate knowledge of the Caped Crusader and a plan to reduce his beloved city to ashes.

Nolan took his cues from A Tale of Two Cities with an eye on our current financial disparity. Bane soon cuts the city off from the rest of the country and imposes his own notions on redistribution of wealth. Crowds roam the streets, kangaroo courts issue summary executions, and the clock ticks inevitably down towards a looming apocalypse. Batman isn’t brought back into the light; instead, Gotham crawls into the shadows with him, and it will take everything he has to reverse that path. He finds another denizen of the darkness who seems to share a connection with him – one Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) – but whether she will aid or hinder him has yet to be seen.

As with its predecessors, The Dark Knight Rises invites us to draw our own conclusions about the thematic subtext. Does the film lionize the howling mob? Is it a righteous backlash against the bankers and financiers who brought the economy to its knees? Left wing? Right wing? It’s all in the eye of the beholder . . . and as such feeds intelligent discussion rather than silencing it. There are Oscar winners that can’t accomplish what it does seemingly without effort: using one of pop culture’s most beloved icons to boot.

The director’s vision necessitates certain compromises for the characters, notably their adherence to plausibility and the belief that even a man as driven Bruce Wayne aspires to find peace. The trilogy requires a beginning, a middle, and an end, and the soul of its main character needs human closure (unlike the comics, where he can keep going indefinitely.) And yet despite that, The Dark Knight Rises never wavers from the core essence of the characters. We knew Bale could meet that challenge, but Hardy’s Bane – morphed here into a grimy Bond villain – still feels just right, while Hathaway comes closer to the Catwoman of the comics than any previous incarnations.

The film’s problems arise within its overstuffed framework: a few too many plot twists and a discouraging use of deus ex machina to repair them. I’m pleased to report, however, that the Blu-ray fixes the movie’s other big issue: Bane’s dialogue can actually be heard here, clarifying Hardy’s great performance and keeping the various plot threads clear.

And The Dark Knight Rises certainly does justice to its forbearers. The ending attains proper closure, leaving all three films as a set unit, and while speculation has run rampant about further sequels, they would be a huge mistake. Nolan has said what he wanted to say with the character. It all fits together beautifully and while the last chapter takes a step down, it remains a small step at worst. To continue past this stage would undo everything, and the “open ended” final shot actually demands to be left alone, not expounded upon to the ruin of all. We certainly haven’t seen the last of the Caped Crusader on the big screen, but good luck following this act: The Dark Knight Rises leaves some very big boots to fill.

THE DISC: The Blu-ray arrives in several forms: a stand-alone purchase, a boxed trilogy set and a “Limited Edition” copy with a model of Batman’s broken cowl. The Dark Knight Rises is the same in all editions (as are the first two films, so double-dipping is not recommended).

The movie itself was assembled with every attention to quality, and maintains the IMAX aspect ratio that expands the screen size in certain scenes. (Don’t freak out when the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen disappear; they’ll be back.)

The extra features encompass three basic sections: a 60-minute documentary on the evolving look of the Batmobile, a collection of trailers and poster stills, and an informative series of mini documentaries covering the production and its legacy. That last bit carries the meat: running just under two hours with nary a wasted minute in the lot. (Unfortunately, it’s broken up into small chunks without any elegant means of navigation; a “Play All” feature would have been very much appreciated.)

The Batmobile doc is fun but a little broader than Nolan purists may appreciate (the specter of Joel Schumacher appears here and there), and the trailers go with the territory.

WORTH IT? By all means. Calling it the 2nd best superhero film of 2012 still places it in elite company, and it earns its status as the cornerstone to one of the most extraordinary franchises ever conceived. The only question is whether you want to pick up the stand-alone Blu-ray or wait until the one with the cowl comes out. (If you haven’t picked up Batman Begins or The Dark Knight yet, the trilogy set is a great way to catch up quickly and cheaply.)

RECOMMENDATION: Forgive the film its minor shortcomings and appreciate all the good things it brings to the table. It rewards multiple viewings, and Blu-ray is inarguably the format to do it with.

- Rob Vaux



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