ďThere's a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you're all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.Ē
- Selina Kyle
Hereís what I wrote about this one in my theatrical review:
ďItís been eight years since Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), a.k.a. Batman, took the fall for Harvey Dentís crimes, disappearing into the ether marked as a coward and a murderer. In that time, Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) has become Gotham Police Commissioner, cleaning up the streets enhancing the laws to put potential threats behind bars. There is peace. There is tranquility. And, by and large, all seems, at least on the surface, to be just fine.
But thatís on the surface. Bubbling beneath the calm is a storm, the least threatening of which is the feline feminine wiles of renowned cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). She was hired to break into Wayne Manor and steal something personal to its secluded inhabitant, the reasons why not her concern. Besides, when a masked marauder like Bane (Tom Hardy) asks you to do something you donít decline the invitation, the man a walking-talking beast comparable to the mythological Titans of ancient Greece.
Kyleís visit to Bruceís home has an unexpected side-effect, however, the once upon a time superhero getting a kinetic charge from her appearance reawakening him to the responsibilities he for a variety of personal reasons let fall to the wayside. It soon comes to his attention that Wayne Industries is on the verge of bankruptcy, and with the urging of both trusted butler Alfred (Michael Caine) and company CEO (and chief scientist) Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) he turns control of the firm over to wealthy environmental philanthropist Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard).
Yet it is the presence of Bane that is cause for the most concern. This man, this monster, there is something beyond dangerous about him, something that even Batman might not be able to stop. But stop him he must, and even if the city is one the verge of tearing itself to pieces, maybe not even worth saving in the first place, it is up to Bruce to do just that, even if doing so means his own life in the process.
As long and as rambling as that synopsis is, it only skirts the surface as to what is actually going on at the heart of director Christopher Nolanís sprawling, highly ambitious culmination of his Batman trilogy The Dark Knight Rises. There are more characters and more subplots than you can shake a Bat-rang at, everything showcased on a grandly operatic scale akin to The Godfather or Gone with the Wind than it is your average superhero adventure.
This isnít a happy endeavor, it revels in the dirty underbelly of the cynical here and now, and it goes without saying the filmmaker has pulled out all the stops in bringing his vision of Bob Kaneís iconic character to life. Parallels to Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party and other current political and social realities abound, and while there is light at the end of the tunnel itís not exactly shining brightly by the time the final price is paid and the last checks are cashed.
All of which is great, and it goes without saying that Nolan, once again crafting the story and script with brother Jonathan and frequent collaborator David S. Goyer, stages sights of chaos, action and dramaturge unlike anything else were are likely to see this year. With over an hour of IMAX footage, this nearly three-hour opus is eye-popping, a continual visual marvel shot once again to perfection by Wally Pfister and magnificently scored by Hans Zimmer. There are moments that defy description, scenes of such intensity I was propelled right to the edge of my seat, the whole thing a superlatively constructed thrill ride engineered to excite the mind every bit as much as it does the senses.
This makes it all the more distressing, then, to have to admit I was slightly disappointed by this final aria in Nolanís trilogy. The opening hour is filled with narrative shorthand, sequences playing like brief vignettes that sadly do not tie one into the other with much success. It feels a bit clunky, almost unfinished, and I kept waiting for the filmmaker to hit the same dynamic cinematic strides that were on vigorous display in previous efforts like The Prestige, Inception and, of course, The Dark Knight.
Worse than this, however, is the fact Bane just isnít as magnetic or as scary as a villain as he needs to be. His motives are murky at best, nondescript and rather pointless at worst, and when his true designs are revealed there is a perfunctory simplicity to it all that makes the grand histrionics a bit silly. More, as physically impressive Hardy is in the role (and, trust me, impressive is an understatement) the simple truth is that his sadomasochistic face mask becomes a problem, dramatically undermining each word, each expression and each nuance as the film progresses.
Still, The Dark Knight Rises isnít anything close to a disaster. Far from it. Caine is extraordinary, bringing a depth of feeling to Alfred thatís surprisingly unsettling. Hathaway, somewhat shockingly, comes close to stealing her portions of the film, and while she doesnít erase the memory of Michelle Pfeiffer she does manage to make Selina Kyle every inch her own. Best of all is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as newbie Gotham detective John Blake, and with so much of the movie focusing upon him and his journey the actor proves himself up to the task of embodying Nolanís Ďeverymaní mantle.
Additionally, the final hour is a kinetic whirlwind of Shakespearian tragedy or Puccini opera. While the surprises arenít exactly shocking, the way Nolan unveils them is, everything leading to a denouement thatís hardly heartwarming. He elevates proceedings to a war-torn revolution of body, mind and soul, forcing the viewer to ask questions about themselves and their neighbors that are hardly comforting. Itís majestic and ethereal, carnal and savage, building to a rampage of violence and sacrifice no other comic book feature has attempted let alone pondered.
Nolan has said in interviews part of his inspiration for The Dark Knight Rises was Charles Dickensí A Tale of Two Cities, and the comparisons are obvious. While Iím disappointed in numerous facets of this last chapter, while I canít say I felt like all of it worked quite as well as I hoped it would, the movie does make for a brave, undeniably gutsy finale. While on its own it will never be regarded in the same stratospheric heights as Dickens timeless literary opus, as a cinematic trilogy itís hard not to think Nolan has managed a feat many will be debating, discussing and dissecting for numerous decades to come.Ē
Whatís odd here is how little, if anything, I have to add. Iíve watched the Blu-ray twice. Iíve seen the movie a pair of times in the theatre. Iíve examined it from just about every angle and, by and large, my opinion has not changed one single solitary little bit. The last hour of The Dark Knight Rises is extraordinary, well worthy of the purchase price for this impressive disc all on its own. But the first hour or so, while handsome, while beautifully acted (especially by Caine Ė whoís Oscar-worthy, Hathaway and Gordon-Levitt), is still more than a bit clunky and contrived, and I get say Nolan and company get near as much right during this stretch as I feel like they needed to.
Still, The Dark Knight Rises is a fine film and a fitting culmination of Nolanís Batman trilogy. By all means watch it, just donít expect your life to be changed after doing so.
The Dark Knight Rises is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.40:1 and 1.78:1 1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack as well as French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and features optional English SDH, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here include:
∑ Second Screen Experience (Disc 1) Ė An app that can be downloaded to your portable device giving the viewer access to exclusive content.
∑ Production (Disc 2) Ė Just over an hour of material focused on the filmís creation, from inception to final release. The section is split into 12 different featurettes, all of which are worthy of a look.
∑ Reflections (Disc 2) Ė Two more featurettes, the first ďShadows & Light in Large FormatĒ looking at Wally Pfisterís extraordinary cinematography and the decision to shoot in IMAX on both this film and on The Dark Knight. The second, ďThe End of a Legend,Ē is mostly focused on Christopher Nolan and revolves around his thoughts seeing his journey with Batman come to an end.
∑ The Batmobile (Disc 2) Ė LOVE this! A look at the iconic car throughout its many incarnations. Watch it and be amazed.
∑ Trailer Archive (Disc 2)
Technically, Warnerís Blu-ray presentation of The Dark Knight Rises is immaculate, close to perfection. As for the movie, Nolanís film isnít without its flaws but still manages to be an immensely entertaining and thought-provoking superhero thriller bringing to close the best cinematic comic book trilogy ever to see the light of day with spectacular brio and confidence. See it.