Warner Bros. asked that I not just write another boring old review of “The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition,” which hit Blu-ray disc earlier this week and packages all three Christopher Nolan titles together in a super impressive set that rivals the best I’ve come across. I can’t say I blame them, considering “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises” have been picked apart countless times by critics in various media formats. The email press release stated they were seeking “creative features,” and with that spirit in mind, here goes nothing.
Take a moment and think of the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name “Batman.” Now, consider whether or not that image, object or definition is different thanks to the Dark Knight trilogy. Ten years ago, for me, I would have envisioned a still perplexingly cast Michael Keaton jockeying with Danny DeVito in “Batman Returns” superseding Val Kilmer in “Batman Forever.” Ten years prior to that, I’d probably have thought of DC Comics or Adam West. Today, though, I Nolan’s Batman and supporting characters more or less exclusively, and given how good the films were individually, it’s easy to forget the competition. What does this say about the micro and macro impacts of the Dark Knight trilogy? What does it hint at as being triggers for impact on our personas and psyches?
Analysis aside, these titles breathed life into a character and franchise that needed a little refreshing. Tim Burton weirded everyone into a corner during the 1990s, and the franchise needed someone to grab the bull by its horns and provide a good shaking back to reality. Batman will always first and foremost be a superhero comic book character, thereby justifying the over-stylized violence and colorful characters. The magic to Nolan’s version of the title role, however, has to do with the relationships he emphasizes between Bruce Wayne/Batman, his friends and his enemies.
It would be challenging to line up the connections Bruce Wayne has between the supporting characters throughout the Dark Knight trilogy and select a hierarchy that would allow us to offer analysis on which served as the most critical. Between Bruce and Alfred, Bruce and Lucius Fox, Bruce and Rachel Dawes, Bruce and Commissioner Gordon, not to mention all the villains, we’d run up a tab we might never be able to pay off. But if you unpack the highlights between these characters and the way their interactions change over the three films, you arrive at the focal point of the entire series. Yes, in a simple capacity, Batman saves the day and the Gotham City in the process, but without his mentors and positive influences, his efforts would surely have been misguided, if not complete unsuccessful.
If I had to pick one that was most critical, it would be Bruce’s connection with Alfred, who stands by him through thick and thin, never wavering in the face of danger or when given a task he doesn’t quite line up with. Alfred offers rhyme and reason to Bruce’s otherwise hellish lifestyle as a billionaire playboy by day and crime fighter by night. He stops Bruce to protect him from himself, and holds him accountable when no one else knows how to do so. He influences his actions in a professional and person capacity, offering wisdom and insight from age and life experience that Bruce, despite his skill, intelligence and wealth, simply doesn’t possess. Alfred, it could be argued, it just as important to Batman’s success as Batman himself. As “The Dark Knight Rises” runs its course, Alfred reaches a limit he never felt possible and departs from Bruce’s side. It is a culmination of frustration and disillusion we saw coming in “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” but it hurts on an emotional level to see the man Bruce needed, overlooked, came back to and so often relied on step away due to choices made and effects had by the very person he so cared for. Truly, if not for Alfred, there would be no Batman.
Can you imagine taking Alfred away from Batman? Or Batman not having his cool gadgets, cars and protective gear? The character himself is directly connected to so many around him who help to make the image stand and live with determination, wit and passion. But what always stood out to me was the perspective Batman didn’t seem to have on his role as a savior for the community and world surrounding him.
You could argue that Batman’s choice in each film was to prioritize saving those he was closest to, typically female leads. In doing so, he took on the burden of saving Gotham. But did he walk out the door intending to make sure everyone in his hometown lived to see another day? Was his intent to stop Crane, the Joker and Bane, or did he see taking them out as a way to extract revenge for what they did to those he loved and cared for most? In arguing either perspective, a focal point to Nolan’s films has to do with the way a person with power uses, or abuses, it with regard for those he values most.
This six-disc ultimate collector’s edition includes Blu-ray copies of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” “Batman Begins” uses one disc for the feature film and the extras, while “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises” both need a disc for the film and a disc for the special features. The sixth disc includes bonus content specific to the collector’s edition, including a lengthy featurette I really enjoyed with interviews and perspective from names like Zack Snyder, Guillermo del Toro, Michael Mann and Damon Lindelof. All IMAX sequences from “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises” are included on the bonus disc, while some other pretty wicked goodies find their way into what might be the heaviest box set I’ve ever picked up. We get Mondo villain art, mini reproductions of the Tumbler, the Bat-Pod and the Bat, plus UltraViolet copies of each film and a sharp HD photo book. In stepping back, it’s easy to see who this set is for, and the name “ultimate collector’s edition” feels fitting. If the numbers on the front are accurate, only 141,500 of these sets were produced. I got number 13,277.
Change over time is a valuable thing to watch for as you process the impact each film in this great trilogy brought to the table. Character relationships, tie-ins to current events and cultural impact also have their fair share of things to watch for. As a trilogy, this deep, engaging set of films successfully captures body and mind. As a set, this collector’s edition provides so much more than I ever expected, giving a new perspective to three movies I thought I already knew pretty well. I predict this won’t be the last version Warner Bros. puts forward, but for now, this is truly the best packaging you’ll find for the Dark Knight trilogy.