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The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: Variable 2.40:1 and 1.78:1 (IMAX Sequences)
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit), English Dolby Digital 2.0, French, Portuguese & Spanish (Latino) Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish (Latino)
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Run Time: 165 Mins.
  • Discs: 3 (2 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Digital Copies: UltraViolet
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • Blu-ray Release Date: December 4, 2012
  • List Price: $35.99

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4.5/5]

It has been almost a quarter-century since Tim Burton first rebooted Batman with the dark and brooding self-titled film about the Dark Knight starring Michael Keaton behind the mask and Jack Nicholson as The Joker and its follow-up Batman Returns starring Danny DeVito (The Lorax; Hoffa) as Penguin. For many who didn’t live through that experience (and perhaps some who did) it has been all but forgotten how influential and steeped in psychosis those two initial films were. Along came Joel Schumacher’s candy-colored, neon-lit, almost comedic vision of Batman in the next two films, and Batman was right back to being campy fun just for kids. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ice cold performance as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin certainly didn’t help matters. What a difference a couple of decades makes. Along came Christopher Nolan who, picking up where Tim Burton left off, once again went back to the roots of the Batman character as a deeply disturbed vigilante with issues from seeing his parents murdered in front of him, et voila, the bad memories of the Schumacher era were all but erased. Through his three films, Nolan has managed to return a semblance of seriousness to the franchise, making Batman more crime drama with emotional depth that can also dazzle with its fantastic action sequences rather than a series based around the visual, broadly defined villains, and what an eight-year-old boy might enjoy. The Dark Knight Returns is the culmination of this journey. The finalization of this Nolan trilogy that first began with the Batman origin story, Batman Begins, carried on through The Dark Knight, now dives into the darkest recesses of this troubled vigilante.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman (played by the returning Christian Bale; The Fighter; The Flowers of War; Velvet Goldmine; Pocahontas) has been “away” from Gotham after the death of his beloved Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal; Hysteria; The Dark Knight; Secretary; Donnie Darko) in the previous film. Having taken the blame for the killing of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), he has left the city without its hero and many wondering if, in fact, he is good, or evil. But, the city is, nevertheless, without crime. Likewise, Bruce Wayne, the billionaire playboy, has become a recluse, shutting himself off from the world. Things are about to change when a madman known as Bane (Tom Hardy; Lawless; This Means War; Warrior; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) takes over Gotham, robs the stock exchange and, with the help of a sexy new cat burglar, Selina (Anne Hathaway; Rio; Love and Other Drugs; Alice in Wonderland; Ella Enchanted), manages to access all of Wayne’s accounts and send him bankrupt. The worst comes when Bane gains access to a secret project Wayne Enterprises has been working on to produce clean energy and converts it into a nuclear weapon, then takes all of Gotham hostage. Batman reemerges and must stop the seemingly unstoppable Bane, before he lays waste to the entire city. But does Batman, or, really, Bruce Wayne, have the will inside himself to fight anymore?

Tom Hardy as Bane may not be the most charismatic villain in a Batman film, but he is certainly the most compelling one yet. The character offers up the biggest challenge to the hero, is the most frightening not only to Batman, but to the everyday people and society in a realistic sense, in that he offers anarchy and revolution to people who feel oppressed. Anne Hathaway was far better in her role as the “cat burglar” aka Catwoman, than I thought she would be. She’s sexy, she’s sassy, and she’s tough, a perfect foil and partner for Batman.

Visually, Nolan and cinematographer Wally Pfister have again done wonders here, not only combining two formats (35mm and IMAX), but in creating Gotham out of multiple locations — Manhattan, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh – and making it all believably cohesive and gritty, with just the right amount of comic book fantasy, but maintaining a sense of realism throughout.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Continuing his method from The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan captured The Dark Knight Rises variably on 35mm and IMAX (65mm) film sources. Therefore, for this AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement both aspect ratio and picture quality vary throughout. For many, it will be the aspect ratio that will be most noticeable as it shifts from 2.40:1 to 1.78:1, blown up from the 1.44:1 IMAX ratio to the “widescreen” home format. This can result in some unwanted softening of the image if not done properly, but thankfully, that isn’t too much of an issue here, although some slight softness can be seen in the blown up IMAX frames in comparison to the 2.40:1 shots. Color differences have been dealt with in the color grading, so those aren’t an issue at all. Overall, this transfer is top grade, with fine grain structures for all sequences, terrific dark levels, and textured imagery.

Audio Quality

[Rating:5/5]

An aggressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) soundtrack is included that has massive, rumbling low frequencies that really make all the explosions pound with authority. Furthermore, bullets zip by at every angle, engines rumble, punches and kicks have weighty “thwacks” beneath them, and thankfully those high frequencies aren’t tweaked, so ear fatigue isn’t an issue at all. Dialogue is clean and balanced nicely into the fray, as is the score.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4/5]

There are hours of bonus materials all packed onto a separate Blu-ray in this release. For gearheads and Batman geeks, the hour-long documentary about the evolution of the Batmobile in comics, film, and animation will be a must to sit through. The detailed “making-of” on Christopher Nolan’s final entry in his Dark Knight trilogy is also quite interesting viewing.

The supplements:

  • The Batmobile (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 58:17)
    • Ending the Knight (1.78:1; 1080p/24):
      • Production:
        • 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
      • Characters:
        • Journey of Bruce Wayne
        • Gotham’s Reckoning
        • A Girl’s Gotta Eat
        • Reflections
        • Shadow’s & Light in Large Format
        • The End of a Legend
  • Trailer Archive (1080p/24):
    • Trailer 1
    • Trailer 2
    • Trailer 3
    • Trailer 4
  • Print Campaign Art Gallery (1080p/24)
  • DVD – Standard DVD of the feature film.
  • UltraViolet – UltraViolet digital copy is included.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

The Dark Knight Rises is the best Batman movie yet. It combines amazing action sequences with superb acting performances and a moving story for a dark, gritty crime drama that takes the Dark Knight back to his vigilante roots. The casting of Hathaway as Catwoman is perfect and Bane is the most menacing villain yet.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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