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The Dark Knight Rises(2012)
Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the terrorist leader Bane arrives in Gotham City, pushing it and its police force to their limits, forcing its former hero Batman to resurface after taking the fall for Harvey Dent's crimes.
For more about The Dark Knight Rises and the The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray release, see the The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on November 20, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman
Director: Christopher Nolan
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The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray Review
"Oh boy, you are in for a show tonight, son!"
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, November 20, 2012
It's hard to imagine a time when a Christopher Nolan-helmed Batman film wasn't a sure thing. And yet seven short years ago Batman Begins was a risk, and not just in the eyes of short-sighted box office analysts. Warner Brothers and DC Comics executives, Hollywood insiders, journalists, critics, audiences, even the filmmakers themselves... few were willing to go on record with any certainty as to how Batman Begins would resonate or perform. But here we are, seven years later. Seven years of appreciation, seven years of hindsight. In 2005, Batman Begins was a critical, creative and financial success. It remains a thrilling introduction to Nolan's brave new Gotham. In 2008, The Dark Knight arrived to thunderous applause, smashed records, earned more than a billion at the box office, and mounted an equally impressive run on home video. It still stands as one of the best comicbook movies of all time; a near-perfect culmination of everything the genre has fought so long to achieve. Then came this past summer and the release of The Dark Knight Rises. Could it escape the dreaded trilogy capper curse? Could it surpass The Dark Knight? Would it deliver a satisfying conclusion to Nolan's Batman saga?
It's been eight years since Harvey Dent plummeted to his death. Eight years since Batman took the real fall and disappeared from the public eye. Eight years since Gotham City police commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) agreed to allow the city to mourn a villain and forsake its hero. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is a recluse, his butler and friend Alfred (Michael Caine) is his only contact with the outside world, and his father's company is safely in the hands of trusted ally in arms, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). But when a new evil comes to Gotham with plans to level the city -- a terrorist mastermind and former member of the League of Shadows known only as Bane (Tom Hardy) -- Wayne decides it's time for Batman to return. To stop Bane, Batman first elicits the help of cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), beat cop-turned-detective John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). Ultimately, though, Wayne has to face his greatest fears if he hopes to pry Gotham from Bane's steel grip.
Even though The Dark Knight Rises was more divisive than many anticipated -- it is, after all, a vastly different film than mass audiences were expecting -- those who returned to the theater more than once hopefully discovered a more masterfully crafted tale than they may have caught the first time around. Nolan and younger brother/co-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan skip the sort of traditional three-act structure that might lighten their load and divide the film into three grand Acts, each of epic proportion. It's almost as if the filmmakers' third Batman outing is a self-contained trilogy of its own. (Beware. Mild spoilers lurk ahead.) Act I: Bane emerges, Batman is broken and Gotham is left unprotected. Act II: Bruce is locked away, Bane makes his move and Gotham is held hostage. Act III: the Dark Knight returns, Bane tightens his grip and Gotham hangs in the balance. Months pass. Seasons change. Power shifts hands. Forces collide. And the game changes forever. It's almost too much for one movie to encompass. And yet there's just enough time to pull it off. No scene is wasted, no shot is squandered, no moment is tangential. Every piece moves at Nolan's command, nothing slips by the director's watchful eye and every theme, arc and obstacle established in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight is brought full circle.
My first viewing was thrilling but bewildering. The initially jarring breaks from one act -- ahem, Act -- to the next knocked me off balance, and the script's sudden lurch into "No Man's Land" territory only exacerbated matters. Wayne's early sluggishness, woundedness and ineffectiveness gave me pause as well, Alfred's exile from much of the story baffled me, Bane's handler smacked of it'z a tweest! contrivance, and the film seemed to lack the strong but steady momentum and ragged-edge inventiveness of its predecessors. It was still an incredible experience, made even more incredible in IMAX, but it seemed to lack the dexterity of Begins and the will, fortitude and raw power of The Dark Knight. But oh what a difference a second viewing can make. Once-jarring breaks allowed previously unforeseen heroes to fill the void left in Batman's absence. The seeds of the filmmakers' loose "No Man's Land" adaptation are apparent from the beginning. Wayne's resignation and fall only enrich everything that follows. Alfred's absence strips the Dark Knight of his greatest ally and leaves him vulnerable to the betrayals to come. The film's ultimate reveal traces back through all three films and unites them more than any other element. And the momentum and inventiveness I craved were out in full force, albeit so radical in comicbook nature that I nearly failed to notice the intricacies of Nolan's master plan.
Over-analyze and you'll surely uncover plot holes. Resist investing and you'll see little more than a cumbersome actioner. But lean forward, dig in and open yourself to the delights of Nolan's trilogy prestige and you'll come away with few complaints. The action is bigger, bolder and more electrifying than before, the superheroics are grounded but gripping, those wonderful toys are more wonderful than ever, the scope and scale of the story is breathtaking, and the performances are some of the series' most rewarding. Bale drags Bruce and Batman to hell and back, Cotillard is a sly enigma, Caine's work is heartwrenching, Oldman walks a fine line between guardian and charlatan, and Freeman gives it his all. It's Hathaway, Hardy and Gordon-Levitt that steal the show, though, and The Dark Knight Rises is all the more absorbing for it. Hathaway manages to summon every iconic Catwoman from page and screen and create an alluring antihero all her own. Hardy is a presence to be reckoned with, a frighteningly charismatic terrorist and something far more intimidating and intriguing than the brainless bruiser his Bane could have been. And Gordon-Levitt strides confidently into the fray -- the vigilant heart and soul of the third film -- cooly crafting a very human hero struggling to survive a larger than life clash of the titans.
The Dark Knight Rises isn't a perfect film, nor does it leave as significant mark on the genre as The Dark Knight. But it comes close, and makes up the difference in ambition, nerve and sheer scale. What will the next Batman project look like? What will the next Dark Knight entail? It's impossible to tell. It's safe to say, though, that whatever it is will have an exceedingly difficult time standing shoulder to shoulder with Nolan's trilogy.
The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray, Video Quality
When The Dark Knight stormed Blu-ray, its arguably striking transfer earned top marks. However, some weren't so impressed. Contrast had been raised to detail-quashing extremes, color had been boosted, severe edge halos littered the image, and a variety of other eyesores left a small but vocal group of videophiles grumbling. Preservation and restoration expert Torsten Kaiser had this to say in a 2011 Blu-ray.com interview: "By far the biggest error its producers committed was the complete change of the film's original color timing. The Dark Knight was not copied with an optical printer. The original material – I held it in my hands – it was gorgeous. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was… I fell flat off my chair. The colors are so different compared to those that appear in the Blu-ray transfer. I've seen the Blu-ray once, and I've never looked at it again." Harsh words, perhaps. But it was a sentiment shared by many, myself included. Thankfully, The Dark Knight Rises doesn't suffer the same fate. Contrast is still a tad overbearing (more on that in a moment), but every other aspect of Warner's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer -- which seamlessly shifts between traditionally filmed sequences presented at 2.40:1 and 70mm IMAX scenes presented at 1.78:1 -- is terrific.
Cinematographer Wally Pfister's wind-swept Gotham palette is rich, satisfying and, to borrow a word from Kaiser, gorgeous. Warm hues adorn the decadent homes of the city's elite, dusty desert colors blanket Bruce's stint in prison, and crisp white snow falls on a captive Gotham. Skintones are lovely too (barring a few slightly orange faces), as are primaries, which are positively radiant at times. Black levels are incredibly deep as well. Too deep, mind you -- crush is prevalent, delineation is a bit unforgiving, and viewers whose contrast setting is already cranked up will wonder why the film's shadows resemble an oil spill -- but not so deep that it proves to be much of a distraction. And while those who saw Rises multiple times in theaters will be more likely to note the slight loss of shadow detail in dark shots, the vast majority of filmfans will simply be too awestruck by the rest of the picture to notice or care. Otherwise, detail is nothing short of extraordinary. Edges are sharp and natural (with only a hint of intermittent ringing) and fine textures are well resolved and revealing (particularly during the film's IMAX sequences). There also aren't any significant instances of macroblocking, banding, aliasing, errant noise or any other distracting anomaly. In the end, the overwhelming majority of viewers will award the presentation a perfect 5.0 while the most stringent videophiles and film purists will hover around a 4.0. Me? I would have liked a deeper peek into the shadows but it didn't spoil much of anything as far as I'm concerned. I'll split the difference and go with a 4.5.
The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The real showpiece of The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray, though, is its sternum-splitting, rib-cracking, ground-pounding DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. While it obviously isn't as thunderous or jaw-dropping as its IMAX counterpart, it still boasts remarkable power, prowess and presence. LFE output is downright ferocious, throwing its full weight behind every devastating explosion, firing cannon, throaty Tumbler engine, booming Bat thruster, collapsing tunnel, crashing truck and musclebound madman. The opening hijack scene is worth the cost of admission alone. The rear speakers join the fight early and often too, immersing the listener in the chaos erupting across Gotham. Pinpoint directionality delivers time and time again, cross-channel pans are exceptionally transparent, and Hans Zimmer's score is as enveloping and invigorating as it should be. Dialogue is clear, neatly grounded in the hustle and bustle of the city, and masterfully prioritized, even if the last few lines of dialogue are nearly overwhelmed by the ever-crescendoing music. There's also an argument to be made that Bane's voice occasionally hovers above the rest of the soundscape -- particularly during the opening hijack sequence, when his voice is piped into the front speakers to ensure it isn't drowned out by the roar of the plane that's being dismantled around him -- but it's an intentional decision that traces back to the film's original sound design, not the technical quality of the studio's lossless mix. Simply put, The Dark Knight Rises' DTS-HD MA track doesn't disappoint in the slightest.
The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Dark Knight Rises begs repeat viewings. The film so thwarts expectation that limiting yourself to a single viewing is to risk dismissing an amazing story and experience that only gets better upon each return. Nolan has accomplished something truly extraordinary with his Batman trilogy, and The Dark Knight Rises brings nothing but gratifying closure to three of the greatest comicbook movies of all time. Warner's 2-disc Blu-ray edition doesn't disappoint either thanks to an excellent video transfer, an exceptional DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track and a reasonably extensive collection of high definition special features. It isn't a perfect film or a perfect release, but it doesn't get much better than this. As trilogy endgames go, The Dark Knight Rises delivers on all fronts.
The Dark Knight Rises: Other Editions
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