As nuts over comic books and superheroes as I have been over the years, I was never the biggest fan of Batman. The idea of a regular guy who’s smart and stealthy enough to dress up in a costume and fight bad guys is noble, but I always preferred superheroes to be super-powered, outrageous and unrealistic like Spiderman, Fantastic Four, and the Silver Surfer. As a kid, I enjoyed watching the cheesy 1960s Batman show, the 1990s cartoon series, and the two Burton Batman movies. As an adult, I read his critically-acclaimed books such as The Killing Joke, Year One, and The Dark Knight Returns – decent books but I wasn’t blown away. Batman certainly has a huge and memorable rogues gallery, but I’ve always thought of the villains as goofy, which includes the Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Clayface, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, and Two-Face. Even sillier to me is Robin or Nightwing or whatever version he’s called – he’s the only character in the Batman universe I just don’t like in any form – comic book, cartoon, or movies. I don’t really consider myself a Marvel comics fan more than a D.C. comics fan. I certainly love Spiderman and his villains so much more, even though Spiderman’s villains are just as goofy as Batman’s. I always liked Batman but there were too many other superheroes that I loved more. But when Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins popped up in theaters in 2005, I became an instant Batman fan. After watching The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan accomplished rare feats that have never been done with a superhero franchise and a movie trilogy.
Superhero movies rarely capture the complete essence of the comic book character. For every new superhero movie, there are plenty of fans that rightly complain that an element from the comic book was lost in translation. Nolan has created three films that capture the essence of Batman better than any of the comic books, television shows, and previous movies. Batman Begins was probably the first serious, realistic superhero film that didn’t screw up the comic book character. The Dark Knight continued to raise the bar with Heath Ledger’s extraordinary performance as the Joker. As much as fans worship the second film, I think people are mainly mesmerized by it all because of Ledger who literally pulled the focus away from Batman, Two-Face, the story, the action, etc. – a great movie but overall felt like a one-man show. The Dark Knight Rises however is a perfectly balanced film. While people may nitpick and say there are plot holes and it’s not as good as the second film (once again, all because Heath Ledger is not in the third film), I haven’t seen such a perfect action movie with so many characters that are equally entertaining and well-developed since Michael Mann’s Heat. With many upcoming superhero movies that may possibly raise the superhero-movie bar again, The Dark Knight Rises is currently the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen. There are key elements that have made this film so remarkable: the characters, acting by each cast member, music, epicness, action, special effects, story, direction, and cinematography.
Christian Bale’s performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the previous films has been generally positive with some criticism: Many have complained about his mega-gruff Batman voice and others say that no one really cares about Bale’s Batman character (especially being overshadowed by Ledger’s Joker in the last film). In The Dark Knight Rises, Bale’s Batman finally is a complete character with depth. Mimicking Bale’s other movie roles and since finally winning an Oscar for The Fighter, Bale has always been an amazing intense actor, but hasn’t really showed his likable, soulful side on screen. Since winning an Oscar and being perceived as an angry person after his Terminator 4 tirade against a crew member, Bale has calmed down, is less cocky, and seems more appreciative. His serenity extends into the Bruce Wayne/Batman character and we can now finally really connect to him – he’s a real character with soul as he tirelessly wants to protect the city and his loved ones. Just like his Dicky Eklund character from The Fighter, Bruce Wayne/Batman is like a beat-up old dog who makes a comeback. We now really root for him to succeed and be happy.
Continuing Batman Begins’ trend of picking lesser-known villains, Bane was a questionable villain choice until we all saw him impress audiences on the screen. Not every villain can be Heath Ledger’s Joker, so it’s pointless to say “Bane is no Joker.” Tom Hardy’s Bane is a different character than the Joker and his performance is just as extraordinary and memorable. I never thought of comic book/cartoon Bane as being a memorable villain besides being a smart, strong S&M-looking dude who breaks Batman’s back. After watching Tom Hardy’s performance, it’s hard to believe that his Bane is now one of the most memorable superhero villains, right up there with Heath Ledger’s Joker, Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock, Ian McKellen’s Magneto, and Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor. Hardy admits that his performance is based on Irish gypsy boxer Bartley Gorman, but I just see Bane as an intelligent hulk with the voice of Christopher Lee. A truly talented actor brought Bane to life by giving a masked character depth with his eyes, physicality, and his gentlemanly voice. Bane and The Joker are totally different but both had an equal amount of lines of dialogue and tics that made both their performances memorable. In The Dark Knight, one of my favorite Joker lines and delivery is “A little fight in you. I like that.” In The Dark Knight Rises, before Bane blows up a football field, he listens to a singing choir boy and genuinely says, “What a lovely, lovely voice!” This minor line and his delivery just make the movie for me! There are countless moments like this and Bane just rules as the main villain. The second interesting cast choice was Anne Hathaway as Catwoman aka Selina Kyle. What a year for Anne – a huge action movie role and a likely Oscar-nomination for Les Misérables. Hathaway just keeps on getting better and better with each new role. In The Dark Knight Rises, she becomes a memorable Catwoman just like Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Michelle Pfeiffer (sorry Halle). Hathaway is not only a great, sexy actress but she’s a good student and did her research – her performance was based on Hedy Lamarr, the glamorous 1940s film star who was cited as the inspiration for the Catwoman character by Batman creator Bob Kane. Just like Tom Hardy’s Bane, Hathaway’s performance extends into her body movement and line delivery. As dramatically different as they are, both performances by the beast and the beauty are equally graceful and beautiful to watch. Another big role went to Joseph Gordon-Levitt who has surprised filmgoers with his powerful screen presence. Sure, everyone grows up, but it’s still hard to imagine that the kid from 3rd Rock and 10 Things I Hate About You has become such a likeable yet intimidating, scrawny bad-ass in Hollywood. Gordon-Levitt has a lot of screen time here – many times without the leading actors on screen – carrying the weight of the film on his shoulders as if he’s been doing it forever. Playing Bruce Wayne’s butler/godfather Alfred, Michael Caine cranks up the emotions in every scene he’s in and got me tearing up as well. The remaining characters in the smaller roles have their moments as well, each getting as much depth as they can in this 165-minute epic. Morgan Freeman has more to do rather than act as James Bond’s Q, Matthew Modine’s police chief has his own little story, Gary Oldman is incredible as usual playing Commissioner Gordon, Ben Mendelsohn’s Daggett brings weasel to a whole new level, and Marion Cotillard should be the female lead in every movie (even with her one unintentional laughable moment that may be analyzed in acting schools for future actors. She was pregnant during the movie – give her a break!).
Christopher Nolan is not known to be a great action director, but he’s outdone himself with the action here in The Dark Knight Rises. While there isn’t any original-looking “walking-on-the-walls” fight scene as in Inception, The Dark Knight Rises has plenty of intense action scenes which blend effortlessly into the film as a whole. Sometimes those big action movies feel like “talk, action, talk, action.” In this film, everything flows and is perfectly balanced. As I was engrossed with the story, performances, and outstanding score from Hans Zimmer, I sometimes forgot that I was watching a superhero film. And once I reminded myself that this was a superhero film, I thought to myself, “this is the best superhero film ever because it feels like just a regular film.” I compared The Dark Knight Rises to a movie like Michael Mann’s Heat because that film is still probably the most recent action movie with tons of well-written, non-wasted characters. Nolan makes regular action scenes here more special than they are because he’s such a good director. Memorable scenes include the opening James Bond airplane hijacking, the first appearance of Batman on his cycle, the back-alley shootout, the Catwoman & Batman teamup goon fight, the Batman versus Bane fight scenes, the Gordon-Levitt rush-to-the-hospital scene, and more. Special effects also are incredible – any appearance of the Batcycle and the Bat (the flying vehicle) are examples of special effects that look real and don’t look like CGI or special effects.
In light of recent events regarding the Occupy Wall Street movement, The Dark Knight Rises has a pretty interesting story based around the “what if the 99 percent take over?” Everyone likes to complain about the 1 percent having everything and ruling the world. In the film, Bane and co. supposedly represents the 99 percent – he shoots up the Stock Exchange, screws the rich over, and lets the 99 percent have fun. As we watch the chaos unfold and see the disappointed reaction by Hathaway’s Robin Hood, maybe giving all the power to the people and letting anarchy rum amok is not such a bright idea. Whether power is in the hands of the rich or the poor, the extreme scenarios presented by both sides could be a bit scary.
The Dark Knight Rises is one of the best films of the year. I tell people who aren’t fans of superhero films to go see it. While an excellent superhero movie like The Avengers may be more for comic book/fantasy fans, The Dark Knight Rises is just a regular movie with intense action and an interesting story that even your grandparents could enjoy. It just happens to include a few costumed folks running around!
Warner Brothers has released this film onto Blu-ray with 2.40:1 and 1.78:1 aspect ratios that switch back and forth. The 1.78:1 pops up during those grand-looking action scenes. The 1080p presentation is absolutely breathtaking as expected from a recent blockbuster. This Blu-ray by far looks better than the previous Nolan Batman films released on Blu. Image clarity, color saturation and detail are totally satisfying. The images are rich and detailed, even during the plentiful dark scenes. Shadow detail is excellent as well – I didn’t notice any edge enhancment. Overall, the film-like presentation just looks astounding on Blu-ray.
For an epic action movie, you can expect to be pretty pleased with the English DTS-HD 5.1 sound mix. Dialogue is always clear and crisp, while the action and score from Hans Zimmer pumps out throughout all the channels to remind us that every little scene is worth watching. Bane’s voice, sounds of gadgets, chants, and cool vehicles all are capable of giving goosebumps to sound enthusiasts. This expansive mix sounds epic and is reference-quality audio.
French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0, as well as English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese subtitles are also included.
Three hours of extras is pretty generous for this blockbuster. A commentary would have been nice, but there is plenty of juicy info about The Dark Knight Rises offered here.
– Second Screen Experience
– Production (68 minutes)
– Characters (28 minutes)
– Reflections (15 minutes)
– The Batmobile (58 minutes)
– Trailer Archive (9 minutes)
When sequels or other movie trilogies try to connect to their original film, desperation for franchise profits and selling out usually crosses our minds. We have seen what happens when sequels get out of hand as with the Joel Schumacher Batman sequels. Audiences are extremely lucky to have been gifted with three Batman movies directed by Nolan. Chistopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, and David S. Goyer created a miracle with these screenplays. What’s amazing is that all three films do not seem like they were originally written as one long story (as with the The Lord of the Rings trilogy) yet all three films eventually do connect perfectly as one long story to become the greatest movie trilogy of all time.
The Dark Knight Rises is an amazing final chapter to Nolan’s Batman trilogy and I recommend everyone to pick up this Blu-ray that can be watched over and over!