The Dark Knight Rises – Blu-ray Review

Here it is folks one of the OTHER most highly anticipated movie this year is finally comes home on Blu-ray. While I personally really disliked this movie, I can’t help but appreciate and be thankful for what Christopher Nolan has done in progressing superhero movies into something more than just “kids movies” (David Cronenberg I’m looking at you). Maybe I was hard on it because of the “Mount Everest” bar that was set with The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight was engaging and suspenseful, while I felt that The Dark Knight Rises dragged on with the pacing of the movie as bad as it was. I’ve never felt this way about a Christopher Nolan movie before which is why I think I didn’t enjoy The Dark Knight Rises as much as everyone else.

I think Christopher Nolan is a way better writer and director than what he came up with. Whatever you thought about Nolan’s Batman, his famed trilogy finally comes to an end with The Dark Knight Rises, and although it did fall flat on its face it’s still not as bad as Prometheus. That being said, on to the review!

Video

The high definition 1080p video is presented in a 2.4:1 aspect ratio. Those that watched The Dark Knight Rises on IMAX screens know that the movie switches from widescreen to full IMAX size during key scenes. That same thing happens with here as the video switches from the standard 2.4:1 aspect ratio (black bars in the top and bottom) to a 1.78:1 aspect ratio (full screen) during the IMAX sequences. The same approach was used for Tron: Legacy and while I have no problem with the switching it might be distracting to others. Considering Christopher Nolan’s insistence on using IMAX footage, there are about an hour’s worth of full screen action filling your screen. The biggest problems I have with this video transfer are the blacks. The blacks are very crushed in this transfer, and it’s not because of my TV. I experimented with different settings to try and get some sort of details in the black and I never found any setting to get it right. It’s a big problem as Batman’s suit is black, and a lot of the scenes are set during the night (Director of Photography Wally Pfister loves to play with shadows).

I also noticed that the footage is relatively different between the widescreen sequences and the IMAX ones. I don’t know whether or not this is because it was filmed with different films or if the video transfer was off. I saw that the colors are relatively muted and darker during the standard widescreen sequences while the IMAX sequences were brighter and had some pop to the colors. With the IMAX sequences totaling in at an hour, it takes up about forty percent of the movie, so you won’t be noticing it as much. Other than the video flaws, the video is very clear and the details that are visible are defined. It’s just too bad that the blacks are crushed in this transfer.

Video Grade: C+

Audio

The Dark Knight Rises is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio format. If I were to describe the audio in only one word I would describe it as loud. I love a loud, booming audio mix as much as the next audiophile, but this comes with some big drawbacks. I found myself multiple times hearing the battle scenes drown out some of the sound effects coming from the center channel, especially during the final battle scenes. As Batman and Bane were fighting, their grunts became drowned out with all the gunfire and musical score coming from the other speakers.

Now although all of your speakers will be getting a lot of use, it’ll be your subwoofer that will be getting the most use from this audio mix. From its subtle use from Bane’s voice to Hans Zimmer’s epic score, the bass coming from your subwoofer can shake the walls and the floor. Be wary of your neighbors below if you live in an apartment building. With the massive bass come some drawbacks too, as it added to the overall drowning out of the center channel. If you were having the same problem I would lower the bass level on your subwoofer slightly, that way you still get the full loud mix and at the same time you’re not drowning the voices. This seemed to be a lot of hassle to fix my audio system for just one movie, and not a good one at that.

Other than this issue the rest of the 5.1 audio mix is very good. The sound is nice and clear (clear when I can actually hear the voices), and Hans Zimmer’s score sounds so good coming from the speakers. The mix also makes great use of the surround sound speakers, and the panning from speaker to speaker. Something that always gets a good grade from my book, but the fact that I had to trouble myself with messing from my audio settings kept me from giving this mix an A.

Note: To those wondering about Bane’s voice, you can hear every word that Bane says in the movie. There’s no way of drowning out his voice when the voice is spread across the three front channels (left, center, and right).

Audio Grade: B

Special Features

The Batmobile

This hour-long documentary showcases the entire history of the Batmobile. In the documentary different directors, vehicle designers, and production designers recall first-person accounts on their experiences in the building of the different variants of the Batmobiles. The thing that I love about this documentary is that it covers not only the cinematic Batmobiles but they also cover the animated and comic versions as well. This documentary is very insightful and very informative. I always find it fascinating, as a graphic designer, to see the creative inspiration and thinking going into the designs of these vehicles. I found it very interesting that H.R. Giger inspired the Batman Forever Batmobile. Even Schumacher himself hired Giger to do designs for the Batmobile (spoiler alert: it looks WEIRD).

The best part about this documentary is near the end when you see all five of the Batmobiles together for the first time, and you see different people, including Christopher Nolan, admiring and geeking out over the different cars. At the heart of every designer and director of each film is the heart of a kid, who wanted to go and become Batman and drive the Batmobile. That is why I feel as if this documentary was made, and why all five of the Batmobiles are currently in LA Live right now for the Dark Knight Legends exhibit (see our coverage here). The Batmobile has become as iconic as the Dark Knight himself. This to me is the definitive documentary on the Batmobile, and anyone interested in the history should definitely watch this.

Ending the Knight

Ending the Knight is your complete behind-the-scenes featurettes. I say complete because Ending the Knight features almost every single aspect of the movie covered for your viewing pleasure. The thing is there is no “Play All” feature for all these featurettes and I feel as if that’s because there is so many different aspects that are covered here. You’d be sitting there for a bit of time, watching all of these in-depth featurettes all in one sitting. So Warner Bros is giving you a chance to choose what aspect you want to watch. If you want to watch the making of the “Deshi Basara” chant, but not the featurette on the reactor, you can do that.Just like the Batmobile documentary, all of these featurettes are very in-depth and very informative.

To round out the rest of the special features are the trailer archive and print campaign art gallery. Standard special features stuff. The combination all the in-depth featurettes and documentaries that come with the special features disc I can’t help but be impressed by the amount of effort that went into the making of these special features.

Extras Grade: A

Despite this being the final movie in a big trilogy, there were a lot of problems I found with this involving the A/V. While not everyone’s system is the same, and the video will vary from TV to TV, I feel that it shouldn’t come to that. Especially with a big release such as this. The in-depth documentaries and featurettes make up for it though, and this will be a must-have for any Batman fan. It’s also the ending to one of the greatest superhero trilogies of all-time, so why shouldn’t you get this to finish off your collection?

The Dark Knight Rises is available on Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and for download this Tuesday December 4th!

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Mark Pacis
Mark Pacis 1487 posts

Self-proclaimed "Human IMDb" and comic book geek. Biggest Iron Man fan you'll probably ever meet.