Christopher Nolan and cast return with several newcomers and a few familiar cameos to the final installment of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. It’s been eight years since the ending of the previous film. Batman is believed to be a killer of one of Gotham’s shining citizens. Bruce Wayne is an ailing recluse. A new villain, Bane, has come out of the woodwork and he’s got it out for all of Gotham, stirring Wayne out of a reluctant retirement.
This isn’t a movie about Bane or Batman, Gotham or anything else it might set out to seem at first. This is a movie about Bruce, about the toll his crusade has taken on him, what he’s really after, the lasting effects of his actions and how it might all end. This storyline is (perhaps a bit heavy-handedly) vocalized through his most trusted friend and caretaker, Alfred Pennyworth, and proves to be some of the most emotional themes and scenes in the film. This is a character we’ve seen give his all throughout the previous films without wanting much in return, and you feel invested in hoping the goal of it all will be a happy one.
After the unforgettable performance of The Joker that Heath Ledger gave us in the previous film, it was hard to imagine a villain that would even come close to being as formidable or memorable for this final act. Surprisingly, Tom Hardy delivers. A unique take on the character of Bane, Hardy takes on the character fully with an impressive presence, physically, vocally, even just through some eye gestures. Most found his Eastern European gypsy accent to be distracting or silly, but I was enthralled. Bane proves to be just the one to be able to go toe-to-toe with Batman both through brute strength and devious but savage schemes.
If anything, the film suffers from yielding to the common expectation that these kinds of installments must always be bigger, grander, both in scale and stakes. The climax of the film might feel a bit overblown as a result, and re-examining the multitude of plot-threads might leave you questioning, but it’s a case of the pros outweighing the cons and the cons don’t distract much from an overall exciting and fun movie.
All the action sequences are great, in particular the stunning opening sequence and a Wall Street sequence that results in a chase and great re-entrance of The Batman. The actors are all great, including all the new entrants. Of particular note is also Hans Zimmer’s musical score, which is very much one of the largest driving forces of the movie, and hardly ever lets up, with excellent effect.
Anyone who has enjoyed the previous films of the series will undoubtedly find much to enjoy here, and hopefully like me, will find it to be an extremely appropriate and moving end to one of the most enjoyable modern day film trilogies.
Christopher Nolan’s films have been hard to talk about visually. Nolan and his director of photography Wally Pfister partner are die-hard film buffs. And I don’t mean film as in movie, I mean film as in the long strips of plastic that movies are (used to be?) shot on. They both loathe the advent of digital cameras, and have stuck with good ole film stock, even preferring to venture into higher resolution film formats such as 65mm and IMAX, instead of the new trend of stereoscopic 3D. I’m with them 100% so far on this.
However, Pfister also prefers to bypass the digital intermediate stage of post-production entirely, choosing to “treat” the film stock old-school, chemically, instead of scanning it into a computer to manipulate the image after filming it.
Unfortunately this latter technique has the side effect of making the final transfer of the film, specifically the 35mm scenes, looking a lot softer than most 35mm films that are generally digitally scanned in at 2K or even 4K resolution. All that digital information is then downscaled for Blu-ray, and downscaling a large amount of information can have a stunning effect, even at 1080p, as seen with the much higher resolution IMAX scenes. This side effect is apparent in his other films’ transfers on Blu-ray such as Inception, and The Dark Knight, however the latter suffered slightly with additional EE and DNR.
I’ve never known how to grade against this problem. So what’s up with the 4.5 Video rating up there, you ask, if I take such issue with the 35mm scenes? However I might feel about the technical effect this has on Blu-ray transfers and whether I question the negative effects of bypass a DI, I will concede to the fact that Pfister probably knows what he is doing, and admit that artistically the resulting image is still a beautiful sight, with a filmic quality that is rarely matched these days. The cinematography, lighting, contrast, and colors are always wonderful despite the clarity problems.
The other reason: IMAX. Oh the IMAX scenes. Nolan and Pfister experimented with introducing a few major scenes shot in the extremely high-resolution IMAX film stock on The Dark Knight. That film had about 30 minutes out of the total 153 (20%). This film has 72 minutes of IMAX footage out of the total 165 (45%). That’s a lot of IMAX. In addition to the awe-inspiring resolution and clarity, the qualities I mentioned earlier about the cinematography: lighting, contrast, colors, depth of field, somehow all feel heightened and even more visually appealing than the 35mm scenes. It almost feels like a different film sometime, in a good way, and adds to the striking impact of these scenes. A perfect example of this is the Wall Street scene and the cop chase that follows and ends the sequence.
Thankfully, unlike the previous film, no artificial manipulation of the transfer such as EE or DNR was identified. As with the content of the movie itself, the pros manage to far outweigh the cons.
What can I say? It’s obvious. An award-winning sound team and an award winning composer rejoin to bring the final bombastic installment of a high budget superhero film. It’s a winning combination and a perfect audio track. As I mentioned before, Hans Zimmer’s score drives this film and is probably the star of the audio. Often times it feels like it overtakes the sound effects and dialogue in volume and power, but it does it in an appropriately overbearing manner in support of the feelings evoked in the movie.
From the opening prologue sequence, you know you’re in for a treat when the score pounds straight at you in conjunction with the disorienting and harrowing plane highjack. All channels come alive with an excellent surround imaging and an enveloping room presence. Pounding bass is present as always in a Nolan/Zimmer film, but it chooses its moments for optimal impact. Dialogue is generally intelligible, Bane sometimes is not, and due to this his dialogue volume was raised higher in levels than most others in the same scene, sometimes proving a bit unrealistic, but more generally unsettling.
It’s another bombastic summer blockbuster with a loud soundtrack, but I was able to able to appreciate nuanced dynamics that took its time to to breathe a little between its more loud moments.
Special Features/Bonus Content
- Ending the Knight: A comprehensive look into how Director Christopher Nolan and his production team made “The Dark Knight Rises” the epic conclusion to the Dark Knight legend.
- The Prologue: High-Altitude Hijacking
- Return to the Batcave
- Beneath Gotham
- The Bat
- Batman vs Bane
- Armory Accepted
- Gameday Destruction
- Demolishing a City Street
- The Pit
- The Chant
- The War on Wall Street
- Race to the Reactor
- The Journey of Bruce Wayne
- Gotham’s Reckoning
- A Girls Gotta Eat
- Shadows & Light in Large Format
- The End of A Legend
- The Batmobile Documentary: Witness all five Batmobiles together for the first time in history. Dive deep into every aspect of the most awe-inspiring weapon in Batman’s arsenal as you journey through the birth and evolution of this technological marvel and cultural icon.
- Art Galleries
- UltraViolet Digital Copy: Instantly stream and download films to compatible devices.
Even though Rises doesn’t excel more as a film than The Dark Knight, I enjoyed watching Rises far more than the other two. Despite some of the subject matter, it’s a fun film to watch, and is also a perfect ending to The Dark Knight trilogy. The audiovisuals are as expected very good, when not great. The IMAX scenes are unparalleled in visual quality, and though the 35mm scenes still suffer slightly, they would never be mistaken for ugly. It’s a trilogy that will surely go down in history as some of the best superhero, or otherwise, movies ever made, and an excellent addition to your Blu-ray collection.