Reviews

The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition

5

What a lovely, lovely boxset

Christopher Nolan spends money like nobody else in Hollywood. So to speak.
 
If Inception showed his ability to focus the extended machinery of blockbusting on a single, momentous image – hours of dizzying action pinned to a spinning top – then The Dark Knight Trilogy is equally impressive for sustaining a coherent set of themes across the grand landscape of a billion-dollar franchise.
 
Here, huge budgets are lavished not just on action and explosions but on ideas. His Batman films extend and connect to become an arcing, articulate response to the post-9/11, recession-era world from which they emerged. A response, it’s worth restating before we get too pseud-y, built with a man in a cape piloting a range of super-vehicles.
 
Batman Begins (2005) works hard to resolve the inherent conflict of smart movies featuring a dude in a mask, crafting a backstory that lends near-credibility to Bruce Wayne’s campaign (“You must become more than just a man in the mind of your enemy,” to quote Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul).
 
It’s a tone that sets Nolan’s Batman apart from most super contemporaries, even if it’s stretched by the scale of the two sequels. Bat sonar built from intercepted mobile phone signals? If you say so, The Dark Knight (2008)…
 
The knock-on effect for Christian Bale in the lead role is that he arguably convinces more as Batman than as Bruce Wayne. The arc of the trilogy takes our hero from boyish to broken, but the iconography occasionally overpowers the performance. But perhaps that’s apt, given that the idea of who or what Bruce can be is supposed to be more interesting than the man himself.
 
And, more practically, because Bale is surrounded throughout by brilliant support: Michael Caine is a damp-eyed wonder as Alfred; Morgan Freeman is a sparkling co-conspirator as Lucius Fox; and Gary Oldman (as Lieutenant-cum-Commissioner Gordon) earnestly manning the barricades against new waves of lawlessness he can barely comprehend.
 
The devils ride out
 
The trouble, perhaps, is that with superheroes, subtext becomes a walking alter-ego. As such, it can be difficult to stay interesting as the straight guy, even if your parents are dead.
 
But Batman in particular is also defined by his enemies as much as his other identity. Ra’s al Ghul makes sense for Batman Begins as the ideological foil to Bruce’s burgeoning double-fisted philanthropy, but Liam Neeson barely shifts gears between warm mentor (‘Dad’) and secret immortal anarchist (‘disappointed Dad’).
 
The best of the baddies arrives, of course, in The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger’s Joker is a monster of gleeful malice and unpredictability, a genuinely unsettling presence that, even imprisoned and undone, seems beyond Batman’s powers.
 
Bane is an imposing cipher whose presence mocks our hero’s doubts, infirmity and everything else that The Dark Knight Rises contends with. He’s effective but also disconnected - funny voice aside, there’s not much for Tom Hardy to do except be big and work the eyes.
 
After parts one and two, it seemed the series might have an issue balancing this charismatic rogues’ gallery with capable women characters. Swapping Katie Holmes (Begins) for Maggie Gyllenhaal (TDK) gives the unfortunate impression that love interest Rachel Dawes is only a generic character with interchangeable specifics (although Gyllenhaal’s own steely performance battles against this).
 
So part three offers a pleasing step forward in this regard: as Selina Kyle/ Catwoman, Anne Hathaway is a wonderful, withering voice of reason in the midst of a sendoff that just occasionally threatens to slip into po-facedness as it gears up for a big finale.
 
In the end, TDKR is able to go epic without becoming bombastic or losing its core cool. 
 
Myth conceptions
 
This management of tone is one of Nolan’s greatest achievements.
 
Superhero films are dominating the flicks like never before and Nolan’s Batman films are the cream of the crop, because they earn the right to take themselves seriously, not to have actors wink at the camera when the plot stretches too far into fantasy.
 
They’re never going to be confused with Ken Loach movies but they find a sophisticated sweet spot of heightened reality that allows the grand stories to tackle big themes, and for the intricate whole to mean something without looking out of its depth.
 
This six-discer rounds up existing extras and throws in two new ones. Documentary The Fire Rises: The Creation And Impact Of The Dark Knight Trilogy has previously unseen footage and an impressive talking-head roster including Guillermo del Toro, Michael Mann, Damon Lindelof and Zack Snyder.
 
Meanwhile, Christopher Nolan And Richard Donner: A Conversation sees the two directors comparing notes and discussing the influence of Superman: The Movie (1978) on Nolan. A measure-up between DC’s biggest titans? Now there’s an idea…
 
Rounding out a bumper package are three Mattel collectibles (The Tumbler, The Batpod, The Bat), art cards and a 48 page book stuffed with stills and behind-the-scenes shots.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • Jareth64

      Sep 23rd 2013, 12:32

      4

      The Dark Knight Rises remains hugely overrated and a massive disappointment. I don't care how many critics try and convince me otherwise, it's a 3/5 effort. The first two are great but what an anti-climax.

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    • Mck123

      Sep 23rd 2013, 14:12

      Jareth64 - Absolute spot on comment, TDKR is a terrible, boring and pretentious movie. Such a disappointment after the brilliance of the first two. Nolan is great film maker, but my word he got in wrong with the last film, anything would have been better that was was released. This set is a bit of a rip off as well no HD remasters of the first two films? no ability to remove the IMAX scenes, no recut of TDKR (which is massively needs). Warner Bros will be milking this cash cow for years to come.

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    • spid2411

      Sep 25th 2013, 11:33

      I liked all three the same - each has moments that I will go back to (Scarecrow revealing himself for the first time in Batman Begins, the interrogation scene with the Joker in the Dark Knight and the first fight scene between Bane and Batman in the sewer). To me they worked as the tone was correct and the villains were brilliant. It would have been easy to wheel out the Riddler for the third one but he is merely a poor mans Joker - what would be the point in having the same type of villain again? I thought choosing a physical threat for the third movie showed there was an intelligent film maker behind it - if this had been created by Marvel, all three films would be forgettable dross with a happy go lucky feel and c**p villains (designed more with Toy Shops in mind rather than how they fit the story). The perfect trilogy to me and I will be buying this special edition (but will be going nowhere near the new Batman s**t that Warners have decided to churn out to compete with Marvel - that will be a mess).

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    • spid2411

      Sep 25th 2013, 11:46

      ps - my only complaint would be the titles of the films. The first one should be called "The Dark Knight" (as its about how Batman came to be ), the second one should have been "The Shadow of the Bat" (as its about his effect on organised crime and how it triggers the rise of the Joker) and the final one should have been "Gotham Knights" (to reflect the gladiatorial nature of his adversary). Those titles also tie in with series titles for the graphic novels.

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    • batt101

      Sep 26th 2013, 13:59

      3

      To be honest I think the whole trilogy is over rated. Batman Begins was ok, the Dark Knight had its moments (Joker) but dragged towards the end (Harvey Dent) and Dark Knight Rises suffered from a laughable villain (Bane).

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    • Ali1748

      Sep 27th 2013, 11:38

      5

      Nolan's Batman will go down as one of the greatest trilogies of all time.

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    • Mattsimus

      Oct 5th 2013, 16:17

      The Dark Knight Trilogy / LOTR trilogy are the greatest trilogies to ever hit the big screen, that being said I do agree with some of Spid points..... although Master Spid, you are clearly always very anti-marvel and marvels films have been massively better over the past few years!

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    • Ali1748

      Oct 8th 2013, 12:52

      I still consider The Indiana Jones Trilogy great, The Crystal Skull was just a bad dream!

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    • Vnofd5

      Oct 16th 2013, 22:33

      5

      The only reason people were disappointed with TDKR is because they didn't view the trilogy as a whole story. This boxset is how it was meant to be... just watch them all and see a beautiful story unfold.

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    • spid2411

      Oct 23rd 2013, 11:38

      Mattsimus - agree with you. Two wonderful trilogies. As for anti-marvel, I guess I am. The reason is they have a very corporate approach to this which I find very cynical - it's just about making money without the care and attention to detail shown in The Dark Knight/LOTR movies. For these to work you need artists or fans of the source material to be at the helm, not just any director who will do it for the paycheck. I remember Mark Kermode talking about TDKR saying he didn't understand how Nolan has been allowed to do this on such a huge budget. And that is the difference - the director is given artistic freedom to make the best film possible. With Marvel they seem to be all over it. And the thing is that now Warners are going the same way with this stupid Batman/Superman thing so great films like the Nolan trilogy will become all the rarer. Money talks though and that appears to be all that matters. Warners made over 170 million dollars on product placement in Man of Steel before the film was even released and again this is a cynical, corporate approach where they know that us geeks will flock to see it so they hit us with as much (not so subtle) advertising as possible. Its an approach that leaves me feeling cold and also produces naff films (like Man of Steel - was really looking forward to that as I could see a new trilogy to rival the two mentioned above but instead they merely used it to set up a Justice League film and rake in the cash) .

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    • Jareth64

      Oct 23rd 2013, 11:58

      @Vnofd5 - No, it's because The Dark Knight Rises is pretty s**t. Vast, boring, stupid, and s**t.

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    • NickyC

      Oct 24th 2013, 18:05

      Personally I find Bale much more interesting as Bruce than Batman. Always have. I think, for my money, that's why Ironman and Batman are the best trilogies of the crop. It's the fact that both RDJ and CB bring so much of themselves into it that makes their portrayals so human and allows the directors to push the envelope on the heightened reality aspects. I will buy anything those two guys are selling, because when an actor brings there own humanity to it then I feel more connected to what they're doing, no matter how fantastical the plot might be. But that's just me ... we all connect with different things. However, I do think that older audiences look for that human element and people will continue to love the Dark Knight Trilogy into their old age. I doubt I'll watch The Avengers again when I'm 60 (it's already looking a bit simple for my tastes), but the Dark Knight Trilogy? f**k Yeah!

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    • H3isenberg

      Oct 25th 2013, 10:58

      As I said at the time, TDKR - people just couldn't admit Nolan made a bad film especially this magazine which became Total Nolan during this period. I watched all three as a whole story Vnofd5, and the third one was The Godfather III of them. Long, uninspiring, silly-voiced villain, ridiculous 'twist' tepid fight scenes, plot holes the size of Jupiter. Yawn fest. Best to pretend the third didn't happen

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    • kevinsutherland

      Oct 26th 2013, 18:05

      4

      In my opinion TDK is the best of the three, but if I were to watch any of the trilogy I would find myself picking up Begins. I still remember how much I enjoyed watching it in the cinema. I can't say that about many films!

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