The Dark Knight Rises brings Christopher Nolan’s series of Batman films to a satisfying conclusion with the signature blend of elaborately staged visual/aural spectacle and twisty but easy to follow plotting viewers have come to expect from the director. It is presented on Blu-ray disc with outstanding video and audio, particularly during the IMAX-shot action set-pieces. Extras consist primarily of an informative and interesting series of featurettes that lack only a “Play All” option, a nicely comprehensive collection of trailers, and a “Second Screen” feature that works with certain phones and tablets that was not usable at the time this review was written.
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman, and Matthew Modine
Studio: Warner Bros.
Film Length: 165 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1 (35mm sequences) / 16:9 (IMAX Sequences)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Release Date: December 4, 2012
The Film ****
The Dark Knight Rises picks up the story of Bruce Wayne (Bale) eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. A plan agreed to between Wayne as Batman and Police Commissioner Gordon (Oldman) has successfully galvanized Gotham City against its criminal element while leaving the Batman a wanted fugitive falsely accused of the murder of the city’s former District Attorney. Gotham has been experiencing an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity while Bruce Wayne, crippled by a leg injury, has been living as a recluse rarely seen by anyone except for his faithful butler Alfred (Caine). For his part, Commissioner Gordon has become increasingly racked by guilt about the lie at the foundation of his successful war on crime. The peace comes to a sudden end when a burglar named Selina Kyle (Hathaway) steals some jewelry from Wayne Manor that proves to be a pretext for an identity theft putting Bruce’s control of his vast business empire in jeopardy. Bruce manages to save his company from an increasingly hostile board by ceding control to a wealthy and sympathetic investor named Miranda Tate (Cotillard). His investigation uncovers a much more elaborate plan to undermine the safety and security of Gotham which is centered around a masked terrorist leader named Bane. He is compelled to re-don the cape and cowl of Batman, which puts him in the crosshairs of not just Bane, but also the entire city’s police force save for Gordon and a savvy young officer named John Blake (Gordon-Levitt).
For fans of both of the previous films in the series, The Dark Knight Rises proves a fitting and satisfying conclusion. The emphasis in the previous sentence should be on the word “both”, as this film is designed to bring the events from its predecessors full circle. If a viewer did not like the pre-Batman focus on Bruce Wayne’s interaction with Ras Al Ghul’s “League of Shadows” from Batman Begins or had trouble buying the logic behind the decision Batman makes and with which Commissioner Gordon concurs at the end of The Dark Knight, then he or she may have a problem with The Dark Knight Rises. Both elements figure prominently in this concluding segment of the film series.
As with previous films in the series, the plot is designed as a crucible used to test the limits of what makes Bruce Wayne tick. Director Christopher Nolan’s signature love for elaborate plotting and action spectacle are in full flower here as they were in his previous film, Inception. The movie’s pacing and dramatic tension are amped up steadily throughout its two and three quarter hour running time, with things moving so fast through the final acts that viewers are given little time to ponder the elaborate implausibilities at the heart of a number of the film’s key revelations.
The key technical contributors to the previous films in the series, inclusive of cinematographer Wally Pfister, Sound Designer Richard King, Stunt Coordinator Tom Struthers, and Special Effects Supervisor John Corbould all return for this final installment and they are all at the top of their large format spectacle game. The film is a visual and aural marvel with action set pieces that seem simultaneously over the top and yet still grounded in some approximation of physical reality.
The returning cast consisting of Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman deliver as they have in the previous films, and are all given useful things to do, which can sometimes be an issue with multi-installment franchises. Newcomers to this film including Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Marion Cotillard mesh nicely into the proceedings and, where applicable, prove to be appropriate spins on their comic book antecedents within the context of Nolan’s cinematic “Dark Knight” universe. Hardy in particularly manages to impress as he performs the entire film with a mask over his mouth. This proves consistent with the film series’ predilection for large-scale symbolism as he visually appears to be an inversion of the cowl-wearing Batman. Bane’s muffled and oddly-accented voice also serves as something of an amusing poke in the ear to fans who were critical of Bale’s gruff “Batman voice” in the preceding films.
The Video ****½
This 1080p AVC-encoding approximates the multi-aspect ratio IMAX presentation of the film by letterboxing the image to a 2.4:1 scope aspect ratio during the 35 mm segments and filling the full 16:9 frame for the IMAX segments (about a third of the running time). The darker scenes, particularly in the 35mm sequences occasionally get a bit murky, but this does not appear to be a video encoding artifact, and viewed with a properly calibrated system under appropriate lighting conditions, appears to be within the range of cinematic intent. I noticed no specific video artifacts or other obvious shortcomings.
The Audio *****
The film's sound mix is provided courtesy of a DTS-HD MA lossless 24 bit 48 kHz 5.1 encoding. The sound is every bit as impressive as the video presentation with an immersive mix that exploits the entire surround field rendered with outstanding fidelity throughout the whisper to scream dynamic range. The inclusion of a separate English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo tracks allows for a 5.1 surround track that is uncompromised for downmixing, and to my ears, this definitely appeared to be the case. Alternate language Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
The Extras ***½
The only special feature on the first disc which contains the movie is a Second Screen option that allows viewers watching on connected BD-Live enabled Blu-ray players to sync with the movie via an app called “The Dark Knight Rises FX”. It appears that this app will work with Apple devices capable of running iOS 5 or later and a very limited number of Android Devices. At the time of this review, the second screen sync functionality was not available through the app. The print materials promise functionality inclusive of context specific featurettes, scene explorer interaction, character profiles, photo & video “Opps”, and “Flick to Screen” content which will be added as an app update concurrent with the disc’s street date.
The bulk of the special features are included on disc two, and are presented with the following subtitle options: English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. All extras are presented in 16:9 AVC encoded high definition video with Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio unless otherwise indicated below:
The Batmobile (58:18): Is a documentary focusing on the various comic book, television, and cinematic incarnations of the most famous vehicle in superherodom. it concludes with a display of all of the TV and film Batmobiles at Bob's Drive-in, and a visit by a "Tumbler" Batmoibile to a Children's Hospital in Vancouver. Lots of historical footage from the various media incarnations of the Batmobile accompany the standard talking head interviews. On-camera commenters include Dark Knight Trilogy Director-Writer-Producer Christopher Nolan, Batman & Philosophy Editor Mark D. White, Batman Forever/Batman & Robin Director Joel Schumacher, Executive Producer Michael Uslan, The Essential Batman Encyclopedia Author Robert Greenberger, DC Comics Editor Dan Didio, former DC Comics Writer/Editor Dennis O'Neil, 1966 Batmobile Customizer George Barris, Actor Adam West, Batman/Batman Returns Director Tim Burton, Batman Forever Vehicle Designer Tim Flattery, Barris Kustoms Car Wrangler Tony Wood, Batman Production Designer Anton Furst (archival interview), Dark Knight Trilogy Production Designer Nathan Crowley, Batman Art Director Terry Ackland-Snow, Batman Special Effects Technician Andy Smith, DC Animation Producer Glen Murakami, Batman Forever/Batman & Robin Production Designer Barbara Ling, Batman Forever/Batman & Robin Vehicle Production Supervisor Charley Zurian, Batman & Robin Vehicle designer Harald Belker, Warner Bros. Studios Automotive Tech Craig Dillin, Dark Knight Trilogy Special Effects Supervisor Chris Corbould, Dark Knight Trilogy Tumbler Builder Andy Smith,Dark Knight Trilogy Stunt Driver George Cottle, Christian Bale (Dark Knight Trilogy "Bruce Wayne/Batman"), DC Comics President (2003-2009) Paul Levitz, Warner Bros. Studios Asst. Director of Transportation Cassandra Salapata-Metz, and Comedian (and current owner of the 1989 movie Batmobile) Jeff Dunham
Ending the Knight is a collection of featurettes on the film and its production that are grouped into three broad categories, none of which include a “Play All” feature that would have been a welcome addition:
The Prologue: High-Altitude Hijacking (7:51) looks at the technically challenging opening scene introducing Bane. Comments come from Christopher Nolan, Stunt Coordinator Tom Struthers, Production Designer Kevin Kavanaugh, Visual Effects Supervisor Paul Franklin, Executive Producer Kevin De La Noy, Tom Hardy ("Bane"), Special Effects Supervisor Chris Courbold, Fight Arranger Buster Reeves, Director of Photography Wally Pfister, and First Assistant Director Nilo Otero
Return to the Batcave (3:37) looks at the design of the rebuilt Batcave. comments come from Nolan, Crowley, Producer Emma Thomas, Kavanaugh, Construction Manager Rob Garlow, and Pfister
Beneath Gotham (2:33) looks at the design of Bane's under-Gotham lair. Comments come from Nolan, Crowley, and Kavanaugh
The Bat (11:08) looks at the design and effects behind Batman's new flying vehicle created for the film. Comments come from Christopher Nolan, Crowley, Thomas, Corbould, Franklin, Co-Producer Jordan Goldberg, Special Effects Coordinator Scott Fisher, Pfister, Editor Lee Smith, Sound Designer/Supervising Sound Editor Richard King, Additional Sound Designer Ken J. Johnson, and Bale.
Batman vs Bane (6:07) looks at the design and staging of the "Lair Fight" between Batman and Bane. Comments come from Nolan, Writer David S. Goyer, Writer Jonathan Nolan, Bale, Goldberg, Smith Struthers, Reeves, Pfister, and Goldberg.
Armory Accepted (3:19) looks at how the ceiling collapse in Bane's underground lair was achieved and how it was matched to the Wayne Enterprises Applied Sciences lab above it. Comments come from Franklin and Nolan,.
Gameday (6:44) looks at how the football stadium scene was achieved on film with a combination of Heinz Field, Special Effects, Visual Effects, and a whole lot of extras. Comments come from Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, Goldberg, Thomas, Franklin, Costume Supervisor Dan Grace, Nestor Carbonell ("Mayor"), Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and NFL Player Hines Ward.
Demolishing a City Street (4:15) looks at another elaborate effects sequence where a Gotham city block explodes and collapses. Comments come from Courbold, Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Blake"), Otero, Fisher, Stunt Coordinator Tom Struthers, and Cottle.
The Pit (3:04) looks at the prison/pit set inspiration, design and cinematic realization. Comments come from Crowley, Nolan, and Pfister.
The Chant (5:19) discusses how the chant associated with escape attempts from the prison pit was incorporated into the film's score and themes associated with Bane by composer Hans Zimmer. Comments come from Zimmer and Christopher Nolan.
The War on Wall Street (6:40) looks at how the fight in the Financial District of Gotham City was realized in the old-fashioned style of actually using over a thousand real people as extras rather than digitally rendered crowds. Comments come from Christopher Nolan, Otero, Thomas, De La Noy, Grace, Struthers, Reeves, Pfister, and Courbold.
Race to the Reactor (7:53) looks at the film's climactic chase sequence. Comments come from Christopher Nolan, Franklin, Struthers, Cottle, Thomas, Crowley, Corbould, Stunt Performer Jolene Van Vugt, and Anne Hathaway ("Selina/Catwoman")
The Journey of Bruce Wayne (8:54) Focuses on the protagonist of the three Dark Knight Trilogy films and how he evolved through the film series. Comments come from Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, Goyer, Bale, Zimmer, and Goldberg.
Gotham’s Reckoning (10:06) Covers the character of Bane as played by Tom Hardy in the film. Comments come from Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, Goyer, Hardy, Struthers, Bale, Producer Charles Roven, Costume Designer Lindy Hemming, Costume FX Supervisor Graham Churchyard, Thomas, and Goldberg
A Girls Gotta Eat (9:27) Covers the character of Selina Kyle/Catwoman as played by Anne Hathaway. Comments come from Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, Bale, Hathaway, Hemming, Churchyard, Roven, Thomas, Struthers, Reeves, and Zimmer
Shadows & Light in Large Format (5:37) Looks at the scale of the film and how the IMAX format was used to convey it. Comments come from Pfister, Christopher Nolan, Smith, Hemming, Otero, and Associate Editor John Lee.
The End of a Legend (9:05) allows several key creative contributors to reflect on Dark Knight Trilogy films, the years spent together making them, and their legacy. Comments come from Thomas, Roven, Crowley, De La Noy, Hemming, Kavanaugh, Franklin, Otero, King, Corbould, Struthers, Morgan Freeman ("Lucius Fox"), Michael Caine ("Alfred"), Gary Oldman ("Commissioner Gordon"), Hathaway, Hardy, Zimmer, Pfister, Smith, Goyer, Jonathan Nolan, and Bale. The last minute of this featurette consists of the credit roll for all of the featurettes under the Ending the Knight heading.
Trailer Archive (Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio - 8:36 w/"Play All)
Trailer 1 (1:37) (The theatrical “teaser”)
Trailer 2 (2:13)
Trailer 3 (2:24)
Trailer 4 (2:22)
Print Campaign Art Galleries includes 31 pieces of promotional poster art which the viewer can peruse via their remote control.
Ultraviolet Digital Copy The disc also comes packaged with an access code for an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film. This allows users with a Flixster account to access a streaming version of the film on computers and certain tablets and mobile devices. It also allows viewers with Flixster desktop software to download a copy to their computer's hard drive. Additional viewing options are available from online services such as Vudu which allow linking to Ultraviolet accounts.
SD DVD The three-disc combo pack also comes bundled with a copy of the film on SD DVD. The SD DVD presents the film in 16:9 enhanced SD video letterboxed to a constant 2.4:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English, French, and Spanish as well as an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. It includes the following promos, presented in 4:3 standard definition video with Dolby Digital 2.0 Audio, when the disc is first played:
Ultraviolet Digital Copy Promo (1:20)
Injustice: Gods Among Us Video Game Trailer (1:53)
The only special feature on the SD DVD is the same The Journey of Bruce Wayne featurette that appears on the Blu-ray Disc Two.
The two Blu-ray discs and one standard definition DVD are enclosed in a standard-sized Blu-ray disc case with two spindles/hubs on either side of a hinged tray and a third spindle/hub on the inside back cover. Two paper inserts to the case provide information on the Dark Knight Rises FX app needed for the Second Screen features that sync with the film on Disc One and the code for redeeming your Ultraviolet Digital Copy of the film. The hard case is in turn enclosed in a slipcover that features a lenticular 3D rendering of the front cover art.