January 27, 2013

the dark knight rises

After a tongue-in-cheek tacky movie, a clever casting twist with Michael Keaton, and a slow, nipple-suited downfall further plagued by the crack of Catwoman’s whip, Christopher Nolan reinvigorated Batman.  Fantastical absurdity was replaced with practical reality and the comic edges were smoothed until a bat hero almost seemed like a real-world possibility.  Now the final installation of the trilogy has hit shelves, and you can check out a review of The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray after the jump.

It’s rare that the camera honors the stories of our beloved superheroes. Franchises rise, studio coffers fill, and creativity leaks away until sequels struggle and reboots come knocking. With Batman, however, Nolan was able to foster a full arc for his Knight. In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne’s need to avenge his parents’ murder allowed him to become a beacon of masked light in a corrupt city. In The Dark Knight, Batman’s reputation was sacrificed to give Gotham a human hero (whose human face is, ironically, a mask covering the villain Harvey Dent became). And now in The Dark Knight Rises, Batman shares the fight with the people, the city’s fate resting in the heroism of much more than one masked man.

christian-bale-the-dark-knight-rises-imageA number of years after his city was terrorized by The Joker, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) suffers as his city thrives. The metropolis once dominated by organized crime is now lead by lawmakers who – in the name of Dent – have cleaned up the streets so thoroughly that even the talents of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) are rendered unnecessary. Bruce, meanwhile, is damaged from his battles, from the loss of Rachel, and from professional woes that have seen Wayne Enterprises become little more than a shell of its former self – until a stiletto breaks through Wayne’s isolation. Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) offers him his first outside contact in years, her moves and wit waking him from his slumber and leading him back to life just in time to face his match – Bane (Tom Hardy) – who plans to rip apart and destroy Wayne’s beloved city.

dark-knight-rises-bane-tom-hardy-speechNolan, once again, thrives at placing Bale’s dynamic Batman within a strong and surprising mix of supporting players. Much like The Avengers wiped away Hulk malcontent, and Nolan himself shocked us with Heath Ledger’s Joker, TDKR’s supporting cast shines, easily nullifying the worst incarnations that plague our public consciousness. Bane is no longer Poison Ivy’s lapdog, and Catwoman eviscerates the discontent that has plagued the character since Halle Berry’s film. Our only reminder of past tackiness comes during one of the film’s death scenes, when any emotional resonance is wiped away by one laughable dying breath.

Good and bad are ripped apart under an IMAX microscope, which looks down-right delicious on Blu-ray. Filming a third of the film in the extra-large format, using CG only sparingly, Nolan brings the fight to us – free of overt, computer-generated flair and blurry, 3-D distraction. Pushing reality over fantasy is a welcome change, resulting in a more visceral and immersive experience that perfectly suits the film’s thematic arc. The audience is practically placed in Gotham, forced to see why Wayne has fought so hard to protect it.

dark-knight-rises-catwoman-anne-hathawayThe discs in this release offer up just as much to chew on as the film itself. Many releases boasting hours of special content suffer the bloat of filler, but this one offers a nice mix of the latest film’s minutia, how it fits into Nolan’s trilogy, and how it all fits into the greater world of Batman.

The longest feature, “The Batmobile,” is an hour-long look the evolution of Batman’s flashy car, from its life in the cells of comics, to its first real-world incarnation in the television series, the first series of films, and now Nolan’s spin. This is matched with a slew of featurettes that are grouped into “Ending the Night.” The feature covers every angle of the film, detailing how Nolan shot each main location and key scenes (the airplane hijacking, bat cave, Gothan tunnels, the Bat, the pit, the football game, the armory, the fight between Batman and Bane, the battle on Wall Street, and the reactor), how Hans Zimmer then translated the film into a chanting musical score, and how Nolan tackled the three leading players in the story – Batman, Bane, and Catwoman.

In addition to the meaty features, there is a short blip about how Nolan shot so much of the film on IMAX, some trailer and poster galleries, and thankfully just one congratulatory feature, “The End of a Legend,” where the cast and crew talk about how great the experience was. There are no commentaries, but it’s no loss to the viewer since everything is covered in the featurettes.

Between the beauty of Nolan’s filmmaking in high definition, a disc full of behind-the-scenes goodies new and old, and a bonus DVD for good measure, The Dark Knight Rises is a great buy for any Batman fans eager to disappear into Gotham and the history of Bruce Wayne.


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