While it’s tempting to fault a director of Chirstopher Nolan’s caliber for devoting so much of his career to superhero movies, he doesn’t sink to the level of the blockbuster, he raises the blockbuster to his level. The paradox Hollywood filmmakers now confront is that they must either make commercial films or films that can be taken seriously, as one tends to temper the other. Nolan attempts to do both and, while many will overlook the achievements of his last (and best) Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises is as impressive as any film released this year. The film’s new additions alone—Tom Hardy’s Bane, Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake—are worthy of their own film, but here they supplement the world that Nolan has already created, making this his most engrossing film to date.
Mounted on a genuinely mammoth scale, the film juggles numerous protagonists, without sacrificing any of its urgency, imaginative spectacle, or clarity of intent. Nolan gives the film a sense of vivid reality, never pandering for cheap laughs or indulging in the temptation to offer spectacle for its own sake. A film like The Dark Knight Rises makes it clear how hollow so many special effects films really are, as Nolan achieves the rare feat of conveying a genuine sense of consequence in his film’s most explosive moments.
Nolan and his co-screenwriter brother Jonathan raise the stakes in every way, putting Batman and Gotham in greater jeopardy than ever before, punctuating this with some of the most masterful and genuinely unsettling set pieces in movie history. (The opening is especially remarkable, as is the football stadium meltdown and the film’s various chase sequences.) While some may take issue with Nolan’s weighty approach, it’s nice to know that, even as Hollywood increasingly turns its back on dramas, Nolan can sneak one in—on a massive scale.
The Dark Knight Rises Blu-ray is a fairly typical Nolan release. Featuring a stunning transfer on the first disc—the film’s IMAX sequences (which are evident because they fill the 16x9 frame) are especially sharp—this 3-disc set also includes a DVD of the film (with no extras) and a bonus Blu-ray with over 2 hours of bonus features. The most substantial extra is The Batmobile, a mildly interesting hour-long documentary that should thrill fans of the title vehicle, as its evolution is charted, going all the way back to the ’60s TV series. More worthwhile and TDKR-specific is a series of 16 featurettes, each running anywhere from 2 to 11 minutes. These shed light on Nolan’s filmmaking process, the film’s special effects, and the thinking behind the film’s memorable new characters. Overall, it’s a worthy look back at one of the year’s most exceptional films.