Dark Knight Trilogy: Collector's Edition review (Blu-ray)

It was inevitable that, once Nolan's Batman trilogy was completed, a set such as this would come along. And what a pretty, pretty box set it is, too – lots of bells and whistles, all detailed below in the Extras. The films themselves? Ah, what wonderful films they are. Nolans Dark Knight Trilogy is unlike any superhero story ever committed to film before. Nolan brings his indie sensibility to the task, and what results is one of the greatest trilogies ever made ...

Batman Begins (2005)
Following the murder of his parents, Bruce Wayne (Bale) disappears from Gotham City and is presumed dead. After a few years under the tutelage of Ra’s Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe), Bruce returns to Wayne Manor trained in Martial Arts and soon acquires a penchant for winged rodents. Wonder what he’ll do with all that inheritance.

Delving into the origin of Batman and further exploring the damaged psyche of Bruce Wayne, it’s the first Batman movie to actually focus on the caped crusader. We finally get to see what makes him tick and, most importantly, why exactly he chose the bat as his symbol. Bale’s Batman isn’t the invincible symbol of stoicism that he once was. A new, more human hero, he bruises, cocks up landings and lacks the grace and charisma that made the character previously seem invulnerable. Likewise, Gotham is no longer the gothic concrete jungle we’d seen before; instead, it’s a cold, desolate metropolis just like any other American city. The result is a film and character that are actually relatable – a feat that no previous superhero movie had achieved. So realistic is it in fact, that it warrants barely any suspension of disbelief. Sure, it’s a film about a man dressed up to look like a flying rodent, but you’re utterly convinced that for this guy, in this city, at this time, it’s the most sensible thing he could possibly do.

As for the performances, not one of them can be knocked. Bale carries the cape with pride and respect while the rest of the star-studded cast do nothing to try and steal the limelight. Particular mention however has to go Murphy for his portrayal of sinister shrink Jonathan Crane, aka The Scarecrow. Oozing venom and menace, dispite his scrawny demeanour, he proves himself as dangerous a villain as anyone we’ve seen before. Finally, it just wouldn’t be a Batman film without the Batmobile. Replacing the tricked out cars of yesteryear, Bats’ new ride is The Tumbler. A one-man tank designed to drive over everything and anything, it provides the film with a few of the coolest scenes ever to grace celluloid.

The Dark Knight (2008)
Batman sets out to destroy organised crime in Gotham City for good, with the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and committed new District Attorney Harvey Dent. The triumvirate initially proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker, who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces The Dark Knight ever closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante.

Think you know Batman? Then think again. Nolan and the gang have taken what they did in Batman Begins and, while ramping up the action, have dialled down the happiness to almost nil. This is not a superhero movie, not by a long shot. I've never considered Batman a superhero anyway – he has no super powers, just incredible skills and access to some wonderful toys – and Nolan appears to agree. He's the first director to truly take Batman out of the comics and set him firmly in the real world.

The Dark Knight is a grim, grittly, relentless crime thriller that just happens to have a couple of its characters wearing crazy costumes. And speaking of crazy, how about Ledger's Joker? This really is the definitive portrayal of the character – forget Nicholson, forget Romero, forget even Hamill in the animated series. THIS is the Joker as he was meant to be portrayed: sick, twisted, evil, psychotic – the personification of chaos itself. He's a complete nihilist, who is not out for fame or fortune, but desires destruction simply for its own sake. Not to take anything away from the other actors — they all shine, particularly Eckhart as Dent. The script is perfect, and though the film is long at just over 2½ hours, it's never dull. Nolan has managed to completely wipe the Schumacher/Goldsman abortion, Batman & Robin, from our collective memories. The Dark Knight is a masterpiece.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Nolan concludes his Batman trilogy with a Bane and a whisker. And it's no surprise to say that The Dark Knight Rises is everything you'd expect from this terrific take on the Batman legend from one of the smartest and most imaginative filmmakers working today.

It's eight years since the events of The Dark Knight, when Batman/Bruce went into self-imposed exile after taking the blame for the death of DA Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face. A damaged Bruce limps around Wayne Manor on a cane, noting that there's nothing out there for him any more. Gotham City has changed, and for the better. Thanks to the Dent Act, organised crime is almost non-existent. But all that ends when terrorist Bane turns up to take the city hostage and lead a revolutionary uprising that could easily have been snatched from today's headlines. Meanwhile, Batman swings back into action thanks to gorgeous catburglar Selina Kyle, who steals Bruce's mother's pearl necklace from a safe in Wayne Manor.

Bane's motives, at first, are about as clear as his voice – for a lot of the film, he sounds a lot like the teacher in the Charlie Brown films – but all is revealed as we approach the brilliant climax. To say more is to enter into spoiler territory. Much of what happens in The Dark Knight Rises harks back to the first two films – both with themes and events. Bane is big and brutal, and he beats Batman black and blue, but he's nowhere near as terrifying a presence as The Joker was in The Dark Knight. The rest of the cast all shine, as you'd expect, but the big surprise is Hathaway – her Selina Kyle is all flirty, minxy charm and a real nasty kitty when she wants to be. Hathaway finally dispels all doubt that she has oodles of talent behind that oh-so-pretty face. The Dark Knight Rises is truly Batman Triumphant, and Nolan can hang up the Batcape with pride.

EXTRAS ★★★★ OK, where to start? This is really quite an impressive package. The six-disc set features all three films with their existing extra content, plus two new featurettes and exclusive new collectible memorabilia (including exclusive villain prints, reproductions (ie, toys) of the Tumbler from Batman Begins, the Bat-Pod from The Dark Knight and the Bat from The Dark Knight Rises, and a large 48-page photo book of the trilogy).  The existing special features consist of ... Batman Begins: A preview of The Dark Knight; Batman Begins spoof Tankman Begins; an "in-movie experience" where Nolan and Goyer reveal the movie's backstories as you watch (only available if your player has BonusView or BD Live capability); several making-of featurettes (The Journey Begins, Shaping Mind & Body, Gotham City Rises, Cape & Cowl, The Tumbler, Path to Discovery, Saving Gotham City, Genesis of The Bat); featurettes on the development of the script, the stunts and the digital efects; and a stills gallery and the theatrical trailer; The Dark Knight: Three making-of featurettes (Gotham Uncovered: Creation of a Scene, Batman Tech, and Batman Unmasked: The Psychology of The Dark Knight); Gotham Tonight (6 episodes of a Gotham City cable news show); four galleries (The Joker cards, Concept Art, Poster Art and Production Stills); trailers; and TV commercials; The Dark Knight Rises: A terrific one-hour featurette all about the various incarnations of the Batmobile, from the original comics through to the movie serials of the 1940s and the iconic TV show of the 60s to the cars of the Burton and Nolan films. There's also a series of featurettes about the Production, the Characters and Reflections, all under the title Behind The Scenes: Ending The Knight. There's also a trailer archive and an art gallery. All up, about three hours' worth of bonus behind-the-scenes material.The new special features in this set consist of ... The Fire Rises: The Creation and Impact of The Dark Knight Trilogy (1:16:48) – The story behind the creation of the franchise, including rare footage and interviews with Guillermo Del Toro, Damon Lindelof, Michael Mann, Richard Roeper, Zack Snyder and more; the featurette Christopher Nolan & Richard Donner: A Conversation (25:11) – bringing two iconic superheroes to the big screen, and how Superman influenced Nolan when developing Batman Begins; IMAX Sequences from The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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