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STUDIO Warner Bros. Pictures
RUNNING TIME 165 minutes
• The Batmobile (Documentary)
• Ending The Knight – Featurettes
• Art Gallery
Batman attempts to climb out of a large plot hole.
Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Christopher Nolan
Eight years after the death of Harvey Dent, Batman is in exile. Gotham is a much safer place due to the Dent Act, but this peace is predicated on a lie: that Harvey Dent died a hero. Jim Gordon knows the truth, however, and it weighs heavily upon him. But Gordon is unaware that Gotham will soon need Batman more than ever when a ruthless mercenary known only as Bane comes to town.
All right, I’m coming out swinging. TDKR is one of the biggest cinematic disappointments of 2012. Sure, it’s a thrilling action film that definitely ties up the trilogy, but it isn’t the film Bat-fans deserved. I think Chris and Jonathan Nolan knew they wouldn’t be able to top The Dark Knight. Instead, The Nolans delivered a clumsy threequel that completely ignores the best thing about the previous entry (the Joker, obviously). The word “Joker” isn’t even uttered in TDKR, and for good reason. No Heath Ledger, no Joker.
The film opens surprisingly strong, with an aerial sequence that ranks as one of the best action scenes in the whole trilogy. The rest of the first act is dedicated to getting Bruce back into the batsuit, as Bane sets up shop in the strangely cavernous Gotham sewers.
Speaking of Bane, let’s establish that he is, undoubtedly, the film’s biggest issue. He had tremendous potential as a villain in this film, but it’s ultimately pissed away. Tom Hardy is physically terrifying as the masked mercenary, but the voice is mostly laughable. For a character who has no visible mouth or nose, the vocal performance has to tell us a huge amount about the character. But he sounds fuckin’ silly. I know Tom Hardy is capable of providing a great performance, but I think the character was poorly conceived from the start.
The film spends the vast majority of it’s running time establishing Bane as a terrorist revolutionary, capable of organizing mass mayhem. But the film’s ultimate reveal completely neuters Bane. All the fear that the film attempted to build is drained away in an instant. It’s a terrible waste of potential.
In addition to a weak villain, TDKR has plot holes so big you could drive the Batmobile through ’em. The script makes some huge leaps in logic. Are we to believe that a magic knee brace can instantly fix Wayne’s completely blown-out knee? Will we buy that he can miraculously recover from a busted spine in a world where miracles don’t exist? How does Bruce get back to Gotham? After making such a valiant effort to ground the series in reality, Nolan now expects the audience to believe some incredibly dubious plot points.
The climax of the film relies on the most hackneyed of clichés: a comically large bomb. Need an ending to your comic book movie? Threaten to destroy a city with a huge-ass bomb. It’s sure to bring an end to your film whether it goes off or not. Can we lay off the bombs for a while, cinema?
Okay, enough of the bad. Let’s talk about what the TDKR does right. Casting Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle was a truly inspired choice. She struts around and chews the scenery just enough to have fun. Joseph Gordon-Levitt also does a great job here, playing the most earnest cop in Gotham. Michael Caine also deserves a nod for his heartbreaking line deliveries.
Wally Pfister’s cinematography is still great, showing off the gorgeous sets in all their glory. The Batcave, in particular, looks cool as hell. Batman’s new flying vehicle, The Bat, is so badass we don’t even need a Batmobile. Much like the stunning opening sequence, the rest of the vehicular action is brilliantly shot and choreographed.
Some of the issues that other viewers have brought up don’t irk me as much. You see, Nolan doesn’t have to play by the rules. He’s been cleverly breaking them all along, but die-hard fans didn’t seem to notice until TDKR came out. Bruce Wayne’s seemingly endless supply of cash can run dry. Batman can be crippled. He can retire. And he is definitely mortal. Alfred doesn’t always have to stand by, watching Bruce destroy his own life.
From a production standpoint, it’s hard to argue that TDKR isn’t a well-made film. The lighting, cinematography, editing, music, and direction are all superb. It’s not very well written, but that was the weakest aspect of the previous two films in the trilogy. I can appreciate Nolan wanting to have a sense of finality with this film, and it certainly delivers a final punch. Too bad that punch that is watered down by several trite scenes in the coda. As long as you can accept the many shortcomings of The Dark Knight Rises, I think you can have a fairly good time with the spectacle of it all. It is, however, the weakest member of Nolan’s trilogy.
It might be the weakest film in the trilogy, but I’m happy to report it has the best Blu-ray package of all three. The past two releases have been a bit lacking in terms of extras, but this set is fuckin’ loaded. There’s a large library of revealing featurettes that comprehensively detail every stage of the film’s production. There’s also a great, hour-long documentary about the Batmobile, which covers most of its incarnations. It’s a surprisingly emotional piece, especially when the Tumbler shows up at a children’s hospital.
In terms of audio and video quality, this Blu-Ray delivers pretty well. The aggressive 5.1 DTS-HD mix tends to favor Hans Zimmer’s bombastic score a little too much, but otherwise it’s a solid mix. A 7.1 mix would’ve been nice, though. Video quality is sharp with gritty black shadows, frosty blues, and fiery oranges. I would’ve loved to hear a commentary from someone, but no such luck. The amount of featurettes helps make up for that, though.