“Blu-ray Review: The Dark Knight Rises”

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Our friends out at Warner Brothers sent a great prize in the form of “The Dark Knight Rises”–coming out December 4–and specifically for us to review for you. While there will be some doubt as to this one’s place in the pantheon, its overall quality will be quite evident.

“The Dark Knight Rises” once again takes us back to crime-ridden, gritty, dark Gotham City. Though these days, it’s not as gritty and crime-ridden as it once was thanks to the efforts of Harvey Dent. But there’s still quite a bit going on under the surface that no one’s quite willing to consider, at least, not those who actually know the true story of Harvey Dent.

But unknown corruption gives rise to Bane, a mercenary with a very specific yet very twisted mission, and the sheer number of familiar names and faces working with him–as well as some new faces–is going to be downright dizzying indeed. Our familiar hero Batman has faded away, somewhat, seemingly unneeded, but with a new threat on the rise, he may well have the fight of his life on his hands.

First a note here about Anne Hathaway, who is good in pretty much anything, but in this case makes previous installments of Catwoman–including even Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt–look like sick old women. She may well be the high point of this movie. But even as good as she is, there’s a whole lot more that’s worth watching in here. Morgan Freeman is still sharp, Michael Caine is still a terrifically doting Alfred. Granted I could have done without Christian Bale doing the “Batman Voice”–most of us likely could have–but there’s no denying that it’s a terrific movie. But only in isolation.

The problem with “The Dark Knight Rises“ is that it’s the third in a trilogy, but it’s not the best in the lot. As a villain, Tom Hardy is certainly a potent figure as Bane, but he just can’t match the sheer terrifying splendor of Heath Ledger. He just can’t. Bane is a pompous, grandiose figure, sure enough, filled with the kind of cold malice that one would never want to see arrayed against one. But he just can’t match up to the kind of matter-of-fact psychopathy that the Joker could generate. Bane should have been the second figure in this trilogy, not the Joker. It was a fundamental flaw in the series to play the lesser card at the end. That and I’m having a disturbingly hard time buying the kid from “Third Rock From The Sun” as an action hero.

Still, there are some truly spectacular moments here, and it’s impossible to deny the overall skill and impressiveness with which The Dark Knight Rises was put into play. Calling “The Dark Knight Rises” ”the lesser card” is admittedly subjective and is still saying a lot. It may not have been the best in the trilogy but this is really like trying to determine which pearl is more valuable, and attempting to do so with some really impressive pearls. Perhaps the biggest problem–the sole problem–with “The Dark Knight Rises” is simply its order in the set. This is still a bang-up title and a serious piece of work. The typically multifaceted nature of pretty much anything Christopher Nolan does will be plain right here, and used to great effect to put up several interesting scene, though nothing quite as outright jaw-dropping as the now-infamous Pencil Trick.

Special features in this one, not surprisingly, should impress just about anyone. Not only will there be a digital copy available for those who’d rather watch on the road–frankly, I don’t recommend it; this practically begs for the most powerful in home theater gear–there will also be a wide array of featurettes from cinematography and an overall retrospective to an entire feature on the Batmobile, which is some extreme material in its own right. There’s also a collection of trailers and an art gallery, though all of this will be only on the Blu-ray. The DVD, for those who get the combo pack, will only have a “journey of Bruce Wayne” featurette, so for those who want all the bells and whistles, the Blu-ray is the way to go.

“The Dark Knight Rises” may not have been the best in the series, but it was still terrific work overall, and for most anyone who likes action and comic fare, it will prove ultimately every bit worthy of inclusion in the series. It may not have been the best ending in the series, but it was still nicely done.

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