Although the film has problems and some plot issues, The Dark Knight Rises is a solid conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise.
The film matches the epic scope of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight while keeping the story somewhat grounded in the realism that Nolan and company created for the Batman character.
Loaded with hours of behind-the-scenes bonus material that take fans deep into the making of the film and covers almost every aspect that went into concluding the story, the Dark Knight Rises arrives from Blu-ray looking and sounding spectacular.
Like The Dark Knight, the film is perfect for the high-def format (with a crystal clear picture bringing out tons of details in costuming and set design), but also helps the audience enjoy some of the more subtle character moments done in the film.
Directed by Nolan (from a screenplay he wrote with Jonathan Nolan and story with David S. Goyer), the film sees Bale and Hardy joined by an incredible ensemble cast including Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Matthew Modine, and Nestor Carbonell. There are also short appearances from Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy.
I will try and keep the plot review as spoiler free as possible. Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the film opens in true Nolan style with a huge action sequence that not only gives the audience a taste for what’s to come but shows just how evil and formidable an opponent that Bane will be for Batman.
With Bane established as a clear threat, the film shift back to Gotham City - which is now virtually crime free thanks to the powers granted to the police and courts through the Dent Act. The law was passed in honor of the city's hero Harvey Dent (a lie Commissioner Gordon (Oldman) has choked on for eight years) and it has created a Gotham that seems perfect to the upper class, but is anything but fair to others.
Batman is no longer needed and Bruce Wayne now lives a Howard Hughes-like lifestyle hiding in one of the wings of Wayne Manor. He is broken both physically and mentally from the events of The Dark Knight, but the detective in him comes back to life after a run-in with Selina Kyle (Hathaway) - who was there to steal his fingerprints but also helped herself to his mother's pearl necklace. Bruce also discovers the need for Batman to return following an attack on Gordon and a meeting with Gotham cop John Blake (Gordon-Levitt).
As Bruce tries to become Batman once more, Alfred (Caine, who deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance in the film) argues that Bruce has given enough to Gotham and that Bruce’s body is too far gone to stop someone like Bane – which is a bigger physical threat than Batman. Bruce also pays a visit to Lucius Fox (Freeman) for some new toys for Batman to play with and discovers that Wayne Enterprises isn't in the best shape.
It appears Bruce invested a lot of money into a clean energy plan, but scrapped it at a huge cost to the company after discovering the machine could be weaponized if it fell into the wrong hands. His actions force him to sell his controlling interest of Wayne Enterprises to Miranda Tate (Cotillard) - who promises to run it just as he would and also becomes a love interest for Wayne.
With all the characters established, the movie picks up speed leading to a truly brutal showdown between Bane and Batman that proves once again Alfred was right. Nolan shoots the sequence with very little music and the violence right up close that seems to make each punch more powerful and the scene truly epic.
Following the showdown, Bane launches his plans to take over Gotham using Wayne Enterprises’ clean energy machine (which he turns into a weapon) and its secret weapons arsenal (from the company’s military contract days) that Fox kept hidden. The city is thrown into anarchy as prisoners are released, and most of the police force is trapped underground.
Broken, Bruce Wayne finds himself trapped in an underground prison (that helped create Bane) and forced to watch Gotham’s destruction on a television set. Once again, Bruce has to find the inner strength to rise so that he can become Batman and save Gotham.
The film wraps up nicely (if a little bit sloppy plot wise) with an epic showdown between Bane and his army and Batman and his – which is made up of the Gotham police force and a certain female friend who happens to like cats.
The Dark Knight Rises has some problems (mostly towards the end), and fails to be quite as good as Batman Begins or The Dark Knight – which happens to be my favorite of the three thanks to the incredible performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker.
Tom Hardy (goofy voice and all) is incredible as Bane, and I really enjoyed his performance more on Blu-ray where I could see more of the subtle things he did with the character simply through his body language or the expressions in his eyes. His Bane (who was also trained by the League of Shadows) is every bit as brilliant as Batman, but seems more dangerous and physically imposing.
On Blu-ray, I also noticed just how great Bale was as Bruce Wayne. This isn’t the same determined man from the first two films and almost seems a brand new character that Bale has created. He is broken and defeated even before he decides to become Batman and take on Bane.
Being Batman has robbed him of his life, but he is still compelled to become the character – even if it means his own life or the loss of Alfred, the only real family he has left. Bale’s performance early in the film makes Bruce’s rise in the third act that much more epic.
Love or hate the film, there is no question that Nolan has created the best screen version of the Batman character. He may not be close to the original Bob Kane creation or the Batman of the DC Comics, but he is an incredible and flawed hero on the screen.
With The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan and company see their story come to a solid conclusion and story elements created Batman Begins (such as Batman being a symbol more than a man) still have meaning in the final film.
On Blu-ray the film looks and sounds great and comes loaded with hours of bonus material that includes a look at the Batmobile from all the Batman films (not just the Nolan take on Batman’s famous ride), and character profiles on Batman, Bane and Catwoman.
There is an in-depth making of the film which covers everything from the design work that went into making the Batcave or the prison to work involved in shooting the first fight between Batman and Bane. It is a lot of material that fans of Nolan’s films will love. There is also a Second Screen app that is available to use with the film, but I didn’t have the ability to see what it had to offer.
While The Dark Knight Rises may be the weakest of the three Batman films made by Nolan (and even that is up for debate by many fans of the franchise), it matches the epic scope and grounded reality the director established with Batman Begins and does an excellent job of bringing this story to a rightful conclusion.
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