Release Date(s)2012 (December 17, 2017)
Studio(s)Legendary Pictures/Syncopy (Warner Bros.)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B
Eight years have passed since the fateful events of The Dark Knight. With the streets of Gotham now largely free of criminals, the Batman has disappeared, leaving the city in the care of its new Police Commissioner, Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman). Instead of rejoining society however, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has closed himself off from the world to lick his wounds, both physical and emotional, a stranger to all but his butler Alfred (Michael Caine). But now a new threat rises from beneath Gotham’s streets... a monster known as Bane (Tom Hardy), who brings the city to its knees through one act of terrorism after another... and so the Batman must return. This time, the Dark Knight and Jim Gordon do not stand alone against Evil; they have help from a pair of unlikely allies that includes an idealistic young GCPD officer named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who grew up an orphan like Wayne, and a stealthy cat-burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) who, also like Wayne, is in desperate need of a fresh start.
After Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, it appears that director Christopher Nolan realized the best way to build upon the series’ success wasn’t to try and top Heath Ledger’s terrific villain, but instead to go more grand with the threat by adding the potential of large-scale destruction into the mix. This more epic scale is also achieved by the increased use of IMAX footage in this film. Yet, as before, the story continues to be strongly character-driven, as we begin to see the full extent of the toll that fighting Gotham’s criminal element has taken on both Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon. And Nolan once again finds interesting ways to add more familiar characters from the Batman mythos into his big-screen trilogy, this time with Hathaway and Levitt, each of whom gives a terrific performance, as the most grounded and believable incarnations of Catwoman and Robin we’ve seen yet.
Like The Dark Knight before it, The Dark Knight Rises was shot largely on 35 mm film using Panavision cameras with anamorphic lenses. But a significant portion (approximately 72 minutes on the film’s 165 minute runtime) was shot on 65 mm film using IMAX and VistaVision cameras. It was also finished on film, with VFX rendered in both 2K and 5.6K. For its release on Ultra HD, the 35 mm footage was scanned from the interpositive in native 4K (rather than the original camera negative, at Nolan’s direction), combined with the material scanned from 65 mm, and graded for HDR10. The result is a variable aspect ratio presentation that shifts from 2.39:1 to 1.78:1 (for the IMAX sequences) and back. Scanning from the 35 mm interpositive results in a modest reduction in fine detail (which has led some to suggest that DNR was applied), but it also softens the grain structure (to better match the clarity of large format footage) while retaining overall texturing. Naturally, the 65 mm footage packs a tremendous amount of detail and there’s simply much more of it to see. Such footage is mostly used for bold scenic shots that establish the reality of Gotham and other locations, giving the film an even larger sense of scope. The HDR grade deepens the shadows, while allowing the highlights to gleam brightly, and enhances the colors with greater accuracy, nuance, and naturalism. Again, even with the modest loss of detail in the 35 mm material, the result is a lovely image that’s very close to perfect and exactly as Nolan wants it to be. And again, the improvement upon the previous Blu-ray image is significant.
Primary audio on the 4K disc is included in the same English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix found on the previous Blu-ray edition. It offers a big, full soundstage, with excellent dialogue clarity, robust bass, smooth and natural panning, and strong atmospherics. The LFE is firm and muscular, enhancing the film’s ominous and drivingly-percussive Hans Zimmer score. Additional audio options include English Descriptive Audio, French and German 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and 5.1 Dolby Digital in Quebec French, Italian, Castilian Spanish, Latin Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Czech, Hungarian, Russian, Polish Voice-Over, Thai, and Turkish, with optional subtitles available in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, German, German (for the Hearing Impaired), Italian (for the Hard of Hearing), Castilian Spanish, Dutch, three different forms of Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Arabic, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish.
There are no extras on the 4K disc itself, but the package also includes the previous 2-disc Blu-ray edition. This starts with a movie disc offering the film in 1080p HD with the following extras (in HD):
- Explore Gotham: Second Screen Experience
This Second Screen Experience requires a mobile device and The Dark Knight Rises FX app, which syncs with your BD or 4K player and allows you to view enhanced content on a tablet or phone while watching the film on your main display.
There’s also bonus disc of additional features that adds the following (in HD):
- The Batmobile (58:17)
- Theatrical Trailers (4 trailers – 8:35 in all)
- Print Campaign Art Gallery
It also adds the Ending the Knight feature-length documentary which includes (in HD):
- Production: The Prologue: High-Altitude Hijacking (7:52)
- Production: Return to the Batcave (3:37)
- Production: Beneath Gotham (2:34)
- Production: The Bat (11:08)
- Production: Batman vs. Bane (6:07)
- Production: Armory Accepted (3:19)
- Production: Gameday Destruction (6:44)
- Production: Demolishing a City Street (4:15)
- Production: The Pit (3:04)
- Production: The Chant (5:19)
- Production: The War on Wall Street (6:40)
- Production: Race to the Reactor (7:52)
- Characters: The Journey of Bruce Wayne (8:53)
- Characters: Gotham’s Reckoning (10:05)
- Characters: A Girl’s Gotta Eat (9:26)
- Reflections: Shadows & Light in Large Format (5:37)
- Reflections: The End of a Legend (9:04)
Though the menus are awkwardly laid out, this is actually quite a nice batch of extras. The Batmobile is an hour-long documentary on the history of Batman’s iconic vehicle, going all the way back to the early comics and the Adam West TV show. It’s easily the highlight of this material. The rest of the featurettes are a nice look behind the scenes at the making of the film. On the other hand, the Second Screen feature is interesting once, but we’re not fans multi-screen experiences here at The Bits. Movies are meant to be watched, not distracted from. A Picture-in-Picture window works just as well and still lets you appreciate both the film and the enhanced content in the same field of view. Plus, you never know how long the app and mobile content is going to live on after the disc is released. Note also that if you purchase the 4K edition by itself (but not in the Nolan 4K Collection) you also get a Digital Copy code on a paper insert.
The Dark Knight Rises isn’t a near-masterpiece like the film that precedes it, as its central villain simply doesn’t compare, but it’s still a fitting conclusion to Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and a film that’s grown in appreciation with time. It leaves its central characters in a satisfying place while opening the door to the future. It’s just a shame that Warner and DC opted to walk through a different door instead. This new 4K Ultra HD release delivers the film in best-ever picture and sound quality that’s close to reference grade and is well worth owning, whether you purchase it in the Christopher Nolan 4K Collection or by itself. Recommended.
- Bill Hunt