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THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman
Director: Christopher Nolan
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.4:1 and 1.78:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 165 Minutes
Release Date: December 4, 2012

ďYou donít owe these people any more. Youíve given them everything.Ē

ďNot everything. Not yet.Ē

Film ****

When Christopher Nolan was first slated to direct the newest Batman movie installments, he gave the series a true rebirth. He took the character away from the campy fun of the past and into the dark, obsessive world of the more recent graphic novels. For many true fans, Batman was finally the Batman we always imagined he could be.

But all good things end, and with The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan closed the book on one of the best comic book hero trilogies ever imaginedÖand it probably will remain that for a long time to come.

The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting and legitimate conclusion to the series, so let me be clear: if you havenít seen the first two movies, you will be lost. In fact, I canít set this movie up without revealing some possible spoilers from the prior films, so be warned, and skip ahead if you arenít ready.

When we last saw Batman/Bruce Wayne (Bale), he was on the run, having taken the blame for District Attorney Harvey Dentís murderous final run. Dent, as you remember, was once a shining hero and symbol for good, but the loss of his (and Bruceís) beloved Rachel left him as the bitter and scarred Two-Face. Rather than take away Gotham Cityís one hero who operated in the light, Batman took it upon himself to be the villain.

This movie opens 8 years later. There has been no sighting of Batman, and very little of Bruce, who now walks with a cane and lives as a recluse in Wayne Manor. A doctorís visit brings us up to speed: Bruce has done a lot of damage to himself as a result of his crime fighting escapades. In the outside world, the people still hate Batman and still love Harvey Dent, as a new law in his name is helping to clean up the cityís crime problem like never before.

But a dark new force is about to descend: a hulking villain with a frightening mask called Bane (Hardy). Bane was a one-time member of Bruceís former foe the League of Shadows. Now, he has come to finish the job they once began on Gotham City. Ruthless, well-funded, and ready to strike unimaginable terror into Bruceís town, it may be just what the reclusive billionaire needs to find his inner bat once again.

Also along for the ride are Commission Gordon (Oldman), who is the only other person who knows the truth about Harvey Dent, Lucius Fox (Freeman), who still runs Wayne Enterprises for Bruce but hasnít been called upon much for new weaponry for Batman, and the ever-stalwart Alfred (Caine), who has one of the movieís most emotional scenes as he pleads with his master and friend not to return to the path that is destroying him both mentally and physically.

There are also some newcomers: Blake (Gordon-Levitt) is a good young cop who still believes Batman is a hero, and who will be pushed to the limit when Bane unleashes his hell on Gotham. Miranda (Cotillard) is a potential business partner interested in Bruceís new fusion reactor that could supply a city with unlimited free and clean energy, which Bruce has kept hidden away for fear that in the wrong hands it could be used as a devastating weapon of mass destruction.

And finally, there is the skilled cat burglar Selina Kyle (Hathaway)Öa deadly woman who knows how to look out for herself, and who could either be Batmanís most needed ally or his worst enemy. Yes, this is Catwoman, but she is never referred to as that in the film.

The previous movie The Dark Knight ventured into some very dark personal waters for the characters. This film ups the darkness and the stakes, but on such a grand scale as to remove some of the personal tragedy from it all. The Joker just wanted to watch the world burn. Bane has a more diabolical plan, and often speaks in pompous, self-serving rhetoric that should conclude with ďIím Bane, and I approved this message.Ē

He wears the mask of a revolutionary, turning the cityís poor against its producers, wreaking havoc on the stock exchange and bringing mock trials for the rich. But that is only the beginning. As Batmanís most dangerous foe yet, he even brings the caped crusader into a new world of suffering, and if Bruce is to save the day, heíll have to not only overcome Bane, but the city heís trying to rescue as well.

Nothing could really top the unequivocal excellence of The Dark Knight, owing in no small part to Heath Ledgerís Oscar-winning performance as the Joker. Had the actor not tragically died, he might have been on hand to really bring the fireworks to the finale (other stars of earlier films have cameos, but Iíll not name names). Still, Nolan and his cast and crew delivered as promised, which is to bring the series to an unforgettable conclusion.

Nolanís genius has served the franchise well, by keeping the camp out in favor of exploring darker themes and stories. In fact, I was a little worried about the presence of Catwoman, a character who always seems to venture into camp, but my fears were soothed. She doesnít even have the goofy cat ears in her costume; instead, she wears a mask with night vision goggles, and itís when she flips the goggles onto her head that she has the illusion of cat ears. Brilliant.

Nolan has used the Batman movies to springboard some of his own more personal projects, including the excellent The Prestige and Inception. All combined, he has a body of work that is just about unequalled by any filmmaker who started around the same time as him. I will definitely miss what he has brought to Batman; he gave the series life and depth, and most of all, seriousness. The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting and epic conclusion.

Video ***1/2

Nolan once again uses IMAX cameras in many sequences in the movie for more depth and definition (hence the fluctuation of screen ratio from scope to standard), and this Blu-ray delivers the goods. As the movie has a darker feel, the color schemes arenít quite as vivid or striking as in previous movies, but the detail and crispness are still first rate. Nolan has probably been the most leading opponent of 3D technology, but he proves you can still deliver top notch visuals without any extra technical gimmicks.

Audio ****

The DTS HD soundtrack is DYNAMIC as it gets. In fact, some of the bigger sequences actually sent such a strong signal through my subwoofer as to vibrate my living room and everything in it. This is a loud, explosive audio offering that balances the largeness against the quiet, more intimate scenes, and is overall a near-perfect listening experience.

Features ***

All the extras are on the second disc. They include ďEnding the KnightĒ, which is a long, multi-chapter documentary that takes a close look at the making of the film, including the actors and characters, special effects, and everyoneís thoughts on the season finale. My take: Christopher Nolan is definitely done, but I donít think he closed the door on someone else continuing the series.

There is also a look at the five different Batmobiles, a trailer gallery, and a DVD of the movie.

Summary:

Christopher Nolan has resurrected and rescued the Batman franchise beyond what any fan could ever hope for. With The Dark Knight Rises, he closes the book on his efforts. These three movies will probably stand forever as the benchmark that all comic book films will strive for, but few will ever achieve.

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