The Dark Knight is probably the best superhero movie of all time, so The Dark Knight Rises had very little chance of being better. It isn’t, but it’s still great, despite some flaws. It’s now out on Blu-ray and fans should buy it.
Third movies in a series are a dicey proposition. Think about Spider-Man 3, Pirates 3, Shrek 3, and others. Those movies all have one thing in common. They suck. The Dark Knight Rises assuredly does not suck; in fact, it’s pretty great. It doesn’t quite “rise” past The Dark Knight (see what I did there), but it’s an excellent superhero movie and a good final chapter to director, writer, and producer Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.
Nolan benefits from his regular group of Batman actors, including Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader, as well as Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman-- who are all inherently involved pretty much in the same way they’ve contributed in all three films. The addition of Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, Tom Hardy’s seemingly indestructible villain Bane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Blake, and Marion Cotillard’s millionaire do-gooder (and Bruce Wayne squeeze) Miranda Tate, are all good choices, but there are a few too many plots and subplots running around. The first part of the movie seems to have some unrelated and unneeded scenes and discussions, with only the opening plane hijack sequence showing up as a real pulse pounder.
Things get better as we go along, though. Plot holes are frequent, but it’s all at the service of a dark, thrilling, unique story that takes action films and character studies to the very limit, without annoying 3-D crap. There are big fights and big explosions, with Bale holding things together as he tries to make sure the theme that Batman is more than a man, more than a crime fighter, and more than a symbol is pounded into our willing heads.
Nolan does try to cram a bit too much into the film. It’s almost as though he realized, “Crap, this is the last one, how can I get Matthew Modine in here somewhow?” Still, it is meant to be an epic and the scope is massive, with the whole terrorism and Occupy stuff thrown in to make the flick seem relevant, even though a woman dressed like a cat and a guy with a carburetor on his face are roaming the streets. Hathaway’s Selina Kyle is awesome, much better than expected and about as perfect a representation of Catwoman that we could hope for. Hardy does his best with Bane, but he’s not the ultimate villain that Nolan had hoped. Heath Ledger’s Joker seems even more amazing in retrospect.
Nolan does himself proud in the end. If we watch all three movies in a row, we see the themes are pushed hard but not so hard that audiences don’t get the humor, action, and geeky toys that fans want from Batman. It’s a darker Dark Knight that rises then I would necessarily hope for, but it’s damn good just the same.
There is very little not to like about this Blu-ray release. The Dark Knight Rises is a very good movie and fans will be happy with the amount of the picture, sound, and quality and quantity of extra material. Set bat-ray to excited! Wait, is that the right action series?
The Blu-ray comes with just the movie on one disc and all the extras on a second disc. You can download an app to your tablet that will sync with the movie and give you a bunch of …uh…extra extras. But if you are like me and you are only a few years past a cell phone with a retractable antenna and don’t have a tablet, you still get about three hours worth of extra material on the disc. That’s pretty good and it almost makes up for the lack of a commentary from Christopher Nolan.
The making of, behind-the-scenes featurette lasts two full hours, but is broken up into 17 segments, each running from four to ten minutes. There is no play all feature, which is annoying, and the each segment uses way, way, way too many production stills rather than behind-the-scenes video, but they are, in total, comprehensive and interesting. There are segments on each of the big action pieces, like the plane hijack, the football stadium, the bat plane, the big Wall Street battle, and the rest. These are very detailed, despite most being under ten minutes, and have input from the film participants from Nolan on down. They emphasize heavily how much Nolan prefers “real” stunts to CGI, but don’t shy away from showing the CGI components.
In addition to the action segments, there are character studies on Batman, Bane, and Catwoman. These are less exciting but do cover things like the development of the character, the actor, the costume, and other key areas. This is where the production stills come the most heavily into play. After covering the characters, the cinematography is discussed, but primarily in the vein of “IMAX is the best!” It’s almost a commercial. Finally, there is a summing up of the Batman movies and everyone says goodbye to the trilogy after thanking it for making them millions and millions of dollars.
The other featurette is a one-hour love letter to the various Batmobiles. Starting with the comics and the early serials right through to the Nolan movies, all the Batmobiles are discussed and dissected. This a must-watch for the Batman freak mixed with the car freak in all of us. It’s great to see the Batman of early comics and serials driving around in a regular old sedan. They also show the design and making of the TV show Batmobile, the Batmobiles from the Burton films, the Batmobiles from the animated series, and the Joel Schumacher movies. The Schumacher Batmobiles are just like the movies--cheesy. Still, it’s fun to look back on them all and see the iconic car evolve along with the character to fit the need of the creator’s vision.
There is also an art gallery and some trailers. The set comes with a Blu-ray, DVD, and electronic version. Altogether it’s something that will suit and please a Batman fan of any age or interest level in the film.