After wallowing for almost two decades in movie limbo thanks to the horrific failure of “Batman & Robin,” it took Warner Bros. hiring of independent filmmaker Christopher Nolan to finall bring Batman out of the whimsy of the nineties and transform him in to a relevant cinematic hero once more. Christopher Nolan, always a man intent on bringing his own ideas to the forefront and never crushing under pressure, decided to basically play the trilogy of Batman movies on his own terms and delivered three of the most quintessential Batman movies ever made. Christopner Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy presents the quintessential cinematic Batman that would come to influence a slew of comic book based films that strived for realism and an adult attitude toward the source material.
A cross between Bob Kane’s dark avenger, Sherlock Holmes, and some Tom Clancy, director Christopher Nolan completely revamped the image of Batman on film, and made the world of the Dark Knight a world that seems logical, probable, and often times grim. Nolan didn’t just tell us the story of Batman. Instead used the platform to explore themes of terrorism, and explore undertones of government corruption, terrorist organizations, and the price of freedom in three films teeming with post-911 subtext, making them infinitely more relevant and volatile than any Batman film before Nolan’s.
Now that Christopher Nolan has completed his vision for The Dark Knight, the trilogy is available in a limited edition boxed set featuring all three of Nolan’s Dark Knight films, a slew of extras, and a truncated 64 page version of the book “The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy.” 2005’s “Batman Begins” is my favorite installment in the context of the trilogy and narrative. Nolan based the entire first film around the exploits of Bruce Wayne, and summarized much of what Bruce learned, reconciling much of Bruce’s own back story with that of his rogue gallery, giving us not only a thread of villainy that would carry in to “The Dark Knight Rises,” but also find ways to link the entire world of Wayne that would boil down to the creation of Batman. Bruce, after seeing his mother and father murdered, lives most of his life bent on revenge. After nearly being murdered by the mobster that fueled the murder.
Bruce retreats to re-discover himself, and ends up becoming an agent of the League of Shadows, where’s mentored as a warrior and soldier, trained to deceive, and infiltrate. After betraying the organization who uses murder to instill law, Bruce flees back to Gotham and uses his skills to become the Batman and inflict his own form of justice that doesn’t involve execution. But when a new menace arrives in the form of a psychologist who uses a special gas to inflict fear in to his victims, Batman realizes that his seemingly isolated bouts of torture on his patients lead deeper and much more darker than he knows. Filled with excellent performances, and a wonderful debut from Christian Bale as Bruce Wayen and Batman, “Batman Begins” is a gritty and exciting reboot, and one that never fails to excite or compel.
On the Blu-Ray special features for “Batman Begins” we’re given “In-Movie Experience,” a picture in picture look at the backstory of the Batman and how “Batman Begins” was made as you watch the actual film. There’s the Dark Knight IMAX prologue in High Definition, “Tankman Begins” a spoof of the film. There’s “Batman: The Journey Begins,” the look at the conceptual design of Batman, and the process of casting Batman himself. “Shaping Mind and Body” explores how Christian Bale transformed himself physically in to Bruce Wayne and The Dark Knight, “Gotham City Rises” a more technical look at the creations of the Batcave, Wayne Manor and many of the set pieces of the city. There’s “Cape and Cowl,” a look at how they developed the new Batsuit for a new era, “Batman The Tumbler,” the look at the brand new Batmobile that we saw in the best action sequence of the film. “Path to Discovery” is a look at filming in Iceland, “Saving Gotham City,” a look at the CGI and miniatures that made up Gotham City, “Genesis of the Bat” the look at the new incarnation of the Dark Knight and the influences on the film’s tone, “Reflection on Writing Batman Begins,” an interview with David S. Goyer who penned the film. There’s “Digital Batman” about the effects for the film you missed, “Batman Begins Stunts” a peek at facts and points not in the film, and finally a stills gallery.
Disc Two of the boxed set features arguably the best installment of the trilogy, “The Dark Knight.” The 2008 box office smash features the introduction of the Joker, the iconic comic book villain that is crucial to the Batman mythology. Christopher Nolan opted not to introduce the Joker immediately in “Batman Begins” offering instead the Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul as more glorified terrorists, and teased the Joker in one of the more memorable final scenes in a film. “The Dark Knight” grounds the Joker in to a more reality based terrain, where all of the more whimsical devices of the character have been stripped in favor of a cold, calculating, and merciless madman who not only revels in his own insanity, but enjoys inflicting absolute pain on everyone he comes across. The late Heath Ledger gives the perofrmance of his career as the enigmatic villain Joker, a man of equal misery from the Batman who wears his personal scar on the outside for all to see, and covers them in a messy often disgusting make up job on his face that slowly faded over the course of the film revealing the more disturbing aspects of the Joker’s facial scars.
With a clear resolve and utter intent to reveal mans ugliness, the joker seizes the underworld from the gang bosses, and begins to corrupt the crime world his breed of insane foot soldier, as Batman scrambles to protect Commissioner Gordon and DA Harvey Dent from assassination attempts. “The Dark Knight” is an incredible crime thriller and one that could have easily been an equally incredible film if the comic book devices were lifted and creatively replaced. Christopher Nolan once again grounds the Batman world in reality as much as humanly possible, giving Batman a new costume based around real world tech, providing the Batman with many real world obstacles, and giving the Joker a lunatic bend that makes him a much more charismatic and powerful version of Charles Manson with a megalomaniacal goal at hand. Co-star Ledger is an amazing presence and force of nature as the modern variation of the Joker. Sadly, he tragically died before he could reap the rewards of his powerful and truly iconic performance.
Disc Three of boxed set garners special features about the making of “The Dark Knight.” There’s the Picture in Picture experience where you can learn about the production and the film’s history while watching the film, as well as BD Live, a gateway to more interesting content exclusive to Blu-Ray users. There’s “Gotham Uncovered” which explores the production of the film and the technical aspects including the IMAX experience, stuntwork, and the making of the brand new bat suit and his popular bat pod featured mid-way. There’s “Batman Tech” a segment about the Batman technology and gadgets featured in the movie, as well as “Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight” a look at the psychology of Batman and his complex psyche. There are six mock episodes of “Gotham Tonight” the Gotham news show, and galleries including Joker Cards, Concept Art, Poster Art, and so much more.
Disc Four of the set features “The Dark Knight Rises,” the 2012 controversial end to the iconic Dark Knight Trilogy, where Christopher Nolan exceeded fan expectations by bringing audiences a small cadre of villains that fans really didn’t expect. This time Nolan re-imagines the Bat Rogues Catwoman and Bane, and integrates them in to the final film of the trilogy that connects directly to “Batman Begins.” Bruce Wayne’s defiance and destruction of the League of Shadows had immense consequences. Much more than he could have ever realized since the organization of so much more widespread than he ever could comprehend. Now torn and hidden in his mansion thanks to the soul crushing defeat by the Joker, Bruce is a recluse who has to come out of retirement to stop the madman known as Bane. Bane is a cold collected behemoth of a man who leads a group of terrorists to infiltrate Gotham’s financial infrastructure, along with the help of the enigmatic Catwoman.
Batman meets his match once again when he discovers that Bane is not only a skilled madman, but one who has also trained in the League of Shadows, and Bane bests Batman in combat breaking his back and imprisoning him in the lazarus pit alongside other lost souls struggling to ascend from the depths of Bane’s prison. As Bruce lies broken and watching, Bane seizes Gotham and rules over it, and now Bruce must heal and get back to his city that needs him, especially as a heroic officer named Blake struggles to fight the tyranny and uphold the beliefs of Batman. “The Dark Knight Rises” is an immense closer to the Dark Knight Trilogy and it’s one teeming with subtext, and wonderful performances from folks like Bale, and Morgan Freeman, as well as Tom Hardy who gives an incredible turn as the menacing Bane, while Anne Hathaway provides a truly fantastic spin on the anti-hero Catwoman.
Disc five garners a slew of “The Dark Knight Rises” bells and whistles including the long awaited “The Batmobile” Documentary, the hour long look at the history of the batmobile in pop culture and cinema. The documentary is for Bat buff who want to explore every fact, gadget and weapon included in Batman’s iconic custom vehicle that helps him fight crime and wreak justice on Gotham’s underworld. There’s “Ending the Knight” a very comprehensive seventeen chapter long exploration in to how Christopher Nolan and his team developed and created “The Dark Knight Rises” and what it means to his version of the Legend. There are, of course, trailers to the film, and an extensive art gallery for fans. This is the quintessential set for the quintessential Batman films.