Thursday, December 28, 2017

THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY (2005-2012) (4K UHD/BD/Digital Review)

THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY (2005-2012)
4K UHD/BD/DIGITAL
BATMAN BEGINS (2005)

Label: Warner Bros. 
Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 140 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 4K 2160p Widescreen (2.40:1), 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)  
Director: Christopher Nolan 
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Gary Oldman

Synopsis: In Batman Begins, acclaimed director Christopher Nolan explores the origins of the legendary Dark Knight. In the wake of his parents' murders, disillusioned heir Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels the world seeking the means to fight injustice and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful. With the help of his trusted butler Alfred (Michael Caine), Detective Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and his ally Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Wayne returns to Gotham City and unleashes his alter ego: Batman, a masked crusader who uses strength, intellect and an array of high-tech weaponry to fight the sinister forces that threaten the city.


Christopher Nolan re-telling of the story of Batman didn't blow me when I saw it at the cinema in 2005, but I still like it quite a bit and it continues grows on me with each watch. As a fan of the Gothic '89 Tim Burton film I found his hyper-realization take on the film a bit cold, Nolan tends to be a bit Kubrick-ian when it comes to human emotions but he gave us something special here, an origin story that felt like it could actually happen, the story of a young Bruce Wayne who after seeing his parents murdered in cold blood set out on a path for revenge, which turns into something more, with the millionaire setting out for parts of Asia to learn how to fight the criminal element, eventually meeting up with Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson, Darkman) who brings him into the a guild of assassins known as the League of Shadows, led by Ra's al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). Ducard trains Wayne in both body and mind, honing his skills as a ninja and purging his mind of the deep-seated fears which hold him back. After an ideological difference ends with Ra's al Ghul seeming death Wayne (Christiam Bale, American Psycho) returns to Gotham and adopts the identity of Batman, creating his iconic suit and arsenal with the help of tech-guy Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) at Wayne Enterprises. 

Batman's villain this time around is the mind-altering Scarecrow, played by Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later) who also happens to be a corrupt administrator at Arkham Asylum. He is aided by good cop Sgt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman, Sid and Nancy) and Gotham's assistant district attorney Rachael Dawes (Katie Holmes, Saved). Eventually Ra's al Ghul re-emerges and descends on Gotham in an attempt to destroy the city using the Scarecrow's fear-hallucinogen and there you have the major plot points.

It's been a few good years since I last revisited the first part of Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, and I've definitely warmed up to it, it's certainly a movie that in some ways is made better by the following films, with The Dark Knight being one of my favorite movies of all-time. This one suffers a bit with the cold emotions and some stilted fight sequence, Nolan's quick cut action sequences are sometimes hard to follow, but it's fun to see how Batman gets all his toys/weaponry, the bat-tumbler was a particularly sweet addition to his armory. Scarecrow makes a fine villain, though slightly under utilized, I loved the scene when the scarecrow has been dosed with his own fear gas and Batman becomes a hideous leather-skinned monster.

Batman Begins succeeds in setting up a more reality-based Batman franchise, losing the Gothic touched we saw from Tim Burton, the sequel blows this entry out out of the water, and in my mind sort of makes this a better movie for it, but as it is this stands on it's own. 

Special Features: 
- The Dark Knight IMAX Prologue (7 min) HD 
- Tankman Begins (5 min)
- The Journey Begins (14 min)
- Shaping Mind and Body (13 min)
- Gotham City Rises (13 min) 
- Cape and Cowl (8 min) 
- Batman-The Tumbler (14 min)
- Path To Discovery (14 min)
- Saving Gotham City (13 min)
- Genesis of the Bat (15 min)
- Additional Footage
- Reflections on Writing (2 min)
- Digital Batman (1 min)
- Batman Begins Stunts (3 min)
- Theatrical Trailer (1 min) HD 

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

Label: Warner Bros. 

Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 153 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 4K 2160p Widescreen (2.40:1), (1.78:1), 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1), (1.78:1) 
Director: Christopher Nolan 
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart 

Synopsis: The follow-up to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in his continuing war on crime. With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The trio proves effective. But soon the three find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker (Heath Ledger), who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces Batman closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante.


The Dark Knight (2008) takes what Nolan created with Batman Begins and takes it to the next level, opening with a stunning IMAX-lensed bank-robbery scene with a group of criminals in clown masks, the visuals are grand and impressive, the daylight robbery loaded with intrigue, betrayal and weirdness, expertly executed and establishing the late Heath Ledgers's Joker character in the opening minutes as someone who is not to be trifled with. Comic book movies do not get much better than this entry right here, from these opening scenes the film continues to mesmerize right on through till the end credit. The Joker proves to be one of Batman's most villainous foes, a man, who as Alfred (Michael Cains) points out, just wants to watch the world burn, he has no obvious plan other than to make Batman break his one cardinal rule.  

Gary Oldman is back as Gordon in a larger role this time around, forming an alliance with Batman and Gotham's new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) to put the mob put of business, a move that sets in motion the unleashing of the Joker on Gotham, which puts everyone through the wringer. Aside from the stunning opening bank robbery there are numerous setipieces here that are expertly realized, a scene of Batman arriving in Hong Kong to nab a corrupt accountant working for the mob from a high-security high-rise through an aerial evacuation is another breathless scenes, as is Batman's pursuit of the Joker through the streets of Gotham, the Joker on the back of a semi-truck with a rocket launcher and the Batman in his tumbler, which when damaged turns into a bat-cycle, which is bad-ass! 

This is a sequel that amps up the action, I had problems with some of the staging of the action in Batman Begins, but this is a huge improvement all around, it's an intense nail-biter of a watch. Of course I cannot review this and not spotlight the phenomenal performance from Heath Ledger who in a bit of Crow-type tragedy died shortly before the film went to the cinema, but that's not to say his performance has been inflated by the tragedy, his turn as the Joker is hands-down my favorite incarnation of the character on film, from his bizarre, smeared grease-paint visage to his  creepy delivery, this is the definitive Joker for me, it would be hard to imagine anyone even coming close to this. This is one of my favorite comic movies, it's up there with Tim Burton's Batman and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2, a classic superhero film. 

Special Features: 

- Gotham Uncovered: Creation of a Scene (64 min) HD
- Batman Tech (46 min) HD
- Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight (46 min) HD)
- Gotham Tonight (46 min)HD
- TV Spots (9 min) HD 
- Trailers (6 min) HD
- Gallery: Joker Cards (74 images) HD 
- Gallery: Concept Art (59 images) HD 
- Gallery: Poster Art: (13 images) HD 
- Gallery: Production Stills (90 images) HD  

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)

Label: Warner Bros. 

Region Code: A
Rating: PG-13
Duration: 165 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 4K 2160p Widescreen (2.40:1), (1.78:1), 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1), (1.78:1) 
Director: Christopher Nolan 
Cast:  Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy

Synopsis: Eight years ago, after assuming the blame for D.A. Harvey Den's death, a disgraced Batman (Christian Bale) mysteriously vanished. But everything changes with the appearance of a cunning cat burglar (Anne Hathaway) and the arrival of Bane (Tom Hardy), a ruthless madman. Bane's reign of terror forces Bruce out of his self-imposed exile and into the ultimate battle for Gotham City's survival.and his own. 


The Dark Knight Rises (2012) is the capper to the Nolan Batman trilogy, picking up eight years after the end of The Dark Knight (2008) we have a decrepit Wayne being reclusive in his manor, spurred back into bat-action by the arrival of a cat-burglar named Selena Kyle (Anne Hathaway) who steals a string of pearls and a Bruce's fingerprints from a safe at Wayne Manor. This leads to the discovery of a terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy, Inception) who is leading the remnants of Ra's al Ghuls League of Shadows, to once again destroy Gotham.

Bane as played by Hardy (with a peculiar vocal affectation) proves to be Batman's most formidable foe, mentally and physically breaking the bat, discovering his true identity, breaking his spine and throwing him in an inescapable underground prison while the terrorist holds a atomic-weapon over the city, causing anarchy in the streets. 

The stand-out scene here is the aerial takeover and destruction of a smaller C.I.A. plane by another larger cargo plane in mid-air over the South America jungles, a dizzying Bond-type scenario that was a keeper, which stands among the trilogies most iconic scenes. However, I found this one a bit long in the tooth, some of it is downright absurd, including a reality-stretching death-defying finale, but thanks to the presence of Hardy as Bane and Hathaway as the not-mentioned-by-name catwoman, it kept me entertained, but it is my least favorite entry in the series, but as with Batman Begins perhaps it will too with time, not awful but my least favorite in the trilogy.   

Special Features: 
- Second Screen
- The Batmobile (58 min) HD
- Production – The Prologue: High Altitude Hijacking (8 min) HD
- Return To The Batcave (4 min) HD
-  Beneath Gotham (3 min) HD)
- The Bat (11 min) HD
- Batman Vs. Bane (6 min) HD
- Armory Accepted (3 min) HD
- Gameday Destruction (7 min) HD 
- Demolishing A City Street (4 min) HD 
- The Pit (3 min) HD
- The Chant (5 min) HD 
- The War On Wall Street (7 min) HD 
- Race To The Reactor (8 min) HD 
- The Journey Of Bruce Wayne (9 min) HD 
- Gotham’s Reckoning (10 min) HD 
- A Girl’s Gotta Eat (9 min) HD 
- Reflections – Shadows & Light In Large Format (6 min) HD 
- The End Of A Legend (9 min) HD 
- Trailer Archive (9 min) HD 
- Gallery: Print Campaign (31 images) HD 

Warner Bros. gives Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy a wonderful 4K treatment, the images are crisp and oftentimes stunning, particularity those large format IMAX scenes from The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises! Watching these in 4K for the first time in a few years breathed new life into the visuals and imbued my re-watch with more depth, detail and clarity. I loved it, well-worth the upgrade for those 4K enabled. These releases are available separately or as part The Dark Knight Trilogy in 4K UHD/BD/Digital from Warner Bros. 

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