The Dark Knight Rises at home, but collapses upon revistation
The Dark Knight Rises was easily one of, if not the most, anticipated films of 2012. Now, just in time for Christmas, Christopher Nolan’s Bat-finale comes home on Blu-ray, DVD and digital. As a popcorn blockbuster, seen on the biggest of screens, The Dark Knight Rises delivered ambitious spectacle from the kinds of larger-than-life characters fans hoped for. The question now is, how well does that translate to the home formats and, most importantly, does The Dark Knight Rises hold up to repeated viewings?
The best of Nolan’s films become more rewarding on repeated viewings. Memento is a film that demands the viewer return to it and the plot and structure hold up well to close scrutiny. The always gripping Inception, with its confounding internal logic, proves to be surprisingly solid given how mind bending the journey Nolan takes his audience on is. As for his efforts in the DC universe, Batman Begins has begun to take shape as the best of the trilogy, with the character study of Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne remaining as riveting as ever, even when compared to the antics of Heath Ledger’s viciously clever Joker. Sadly, after several viewings of The Dark Knight Rises, the cracks and flaws masked by the excitement and unawareness of the initial watch, become more obvious and more troubling.
Though The Dark Knight Rises does a lot right, such as Anne Hathaway’s stunning Selina Kyle and Joseph Gordon-Levitt single-handedly elevating what could have easily become a throw away character; the more familiar with the plot one becomes, the more the film begins to crumble like Cobb’s sea-side Limbo property in Inception. While Tom Hardy gives his all as Bane, there little to him as the central villain. A muddled back-story and a lack of personal motivation means that all Hardy has left to carry the role with is intensity. He does a great job with that, but it’s simply not a memorably entertaining character and, therefore, not one worth frequently revisiting. Yet, what irritates most about The Dark Knight Rises isn’t the silly voices, disposable characters (Juno Temple is there why, exactly?) or laughable death scenes; it’s how flat out dumb a film it is and the corners it cuts in telling the story.
The abundance of nonsense The Dark Knight Rises utilises in its plot wouldn’t be so offensive if it wasn’t coming from Nolan, who has never left such illogical gaps in his storytelling before. There is still cleverness to be found in the film, but it largely relies on the audiences’ ignorance of how the story will play out to succeed. After a first-viewing, that ignorance dissipates and the cheap tactics become plain to see. When Bane famously utters “Impossible!” in disbelief, the reality is that, given the story and the relationships later revealed, there’s no plausible reason for him to be surprised at that point. This isn’t a case of outsmarting an audience, it’s flat out deception and it’s disappointing to see Nolan resorting to such methods. While the final minutes of The Dark Knight Rises are unforgettably chill-inducing for fans, even this requires a massive leap of faith to buy into.
Yes, The Dark Knight Rises does everything it needs to successfully close-out the trilogy and it does well to draw the viewer into its world. As a blockbuster, it ticks all the necessary boxes, but it fails to meet the standards that Nolan has set for himself. While it smartly ties into themes explored in Batman Begins, the cheap tricks it becomes reliant upon leave The Dark Knight Rises as easily the weakest of Nolan’s trio. It’s also the first Nolan feature that requires all brains be checked at the door; a fact difficult not to be disappointed by.
As for the DVD (no Blu-ray available for this reviewer, sadly), The Dark Knight Rises is still a fun watch, even if its much less impressive on a smaller screen. It probably goes without saying that the picture quality yielded by the DVD forma,t and especially this disc, is not how Nolan intended the film to be watched. Unfortunately, the DVD extras are non-existent, bar an eight and a half-minute featurette entitled “The Journey of Bruce Wayne”, which includes brief interviews with the Nolan brothers, David S Goyer and Hans Zimmer. Compared to the roughly 18 different bonus features of the Blu-ray, the DVD release, with its poor picture quality, is a pretty bad investment. Considering the fact that when The Dark Knight was released on DVD, it came with a second disc of bonus content , there’s every reason to feel underwhelmed by the DVD release of The Dark Knight Rises.