Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies have infused the same kind of life and energy into the character on the movie screen the same way that Frank Miller’s seminal work, The Dark Knight Returns, breathed a much needed air of life into the comic book counterpart. Like Miller’s work, Nolan’s Batman Begins gave the edge and darkness back to the big screen version of Batman that Joel Shumacher managed to rip away and stomp to pieces with the not very good Batman Forever and the downright dreadful Batman and Robin. With BeginsNolan placed Batman into a gritty, dirty, harsh, and unforgiving world, or simply put, the real world. Nolan’s idea to take the comic character and place him into the real world was an approach simple, yet genius in its idea, and by doing so gave Batman Begins a sense a realism few, if any, had managed to capture in a so-called “comic book” movie.
Then came The Dark Knight, and Nolan and company managed to pull off a rare feat where the sequel was, by many counts, as good if not better than the original. With stellar performances by most of the cast, and an award winning standout performance that helped make the movie what it was by the late Heath Ledger, Dark Knight managed to expand upon an already complicated world that Batman inhabits. It proved that the world was truly a dark and scary place where the good guy doesn’t always win, and if anything, winds up losing more than he could ever have planned. What’s more, it showed that sometimes in order to be a hero you have to play the villain. The ending of Dark Knight proved that Nolan wasn’t going to treat his version of Batman the same as other filmmakers treated theirs. That he was willing to take Batman down a path of pain and sacrifice no one had ever seen before on film, setting up big expectations for the next movie in Nolan’s opus.
Which brings us, finally, to The Dark Knight Rises. The anticipation for this movie is on the next level, and probably the only other movie that it comes close to matching with such hype and hope is Star Wars Episode I before its release. Unlike Episode I, Risesdoesn’t disappoint. It’s a fitting conclusion to an already extraordinary franchise, and with this final chapter, a franchise I believe won’t be surpassed in film making quality and storytelling for a very long time. The movie picks up eight years after the events of the Dark Knight and we find a Gotham City in a state of peace. So not only is the Batman not wanted (remember he took the fall for the actions of Harvey Dent and is now a vigilante wanted for the murders of the people that Dent had Killed along with the Death of Dent himself) but no longer needed. Bruce Wayne has long since hung up the cape and cowl and has secluded himself in his home, a broken and miserable man, even if he doesn’t truly know it. But what peace there is doesn’t last long when Bane (played wonderfully and steals the movie with malevolent mastery by Tom Hardy) comes to town and wreaks havoc. At the heart of Rises is a questionasked by Bruce Wayne’s father in the first movie, a question that has echoed throughout the entire trilogy: “Why do we fall?” What happens when almost all that you have and care for has been taken from you? What happens when you’re crushed both physically and spiritually? How do you get up from that? How do you find the strength to be the hero that everyone wants you to be? Rises answers that question and then some. This series of films has long been a kind of character study on Bruce Wayne more than the Batman himself, and never has that been more evident than with this movie. Rises has the unique feature of being a Batman film where Batman really isn’t prominently featured until the last quarter of the film. That being said, there’s more than enough going on in this film thanks to Bane and his exploits where Batman isn’t really missed (at least not by the audience).
Nolan Described this final movie as a massive war film, which is true, but the path to war is a long one. Indeed, unlike its predecessors, Risesis slow in its pacing, taking its time to establish and re-establish both new and old characters. But once war has started the movie shines and the wait to get there is truly worth it. Despite the slow build, Nolan and co. somehow make it all work, and with performances from Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, who she played to delightful perfection, Michael Caine who is by far the heart and soul of this movie, and Joseph Gordon Levitt as officer Blake, who plays a pivotal role in this film, it is the overall story that spans three films that is the biggest star. Rises comes full circle, linking itself more to Batman Begins than the Dark Knight. And where Begins was thought to be nothing more than a simple origin story now plays a very important part to the events of this film. The Dark Knight Rises isn’t better than The Dark Knight, but it is as good as, and this final chapter increases the importance of the first film, and by default, makes Batman Begins better also.
It’s rare that you find a series a films where it’s clear that great attention and care was put into the story, the characters and crafting of said films. Christopher Nolan’s goal from the beginning was to take Batman out of the comics and place him in the real world. Where decisions that are made, like in the real world, both good and bad, have long standing consequences that are felt for years after. The Dark Knight Trilogy is a saga that is a rare kind. It’s a series of comic book movies that never takes itself to be that. It’s easy to believe in these characters, to see them being in the real world, because the world they inhabit is as close to real as a comic character has ever been in. I don’t believe it to be hyperbole when I say that the Dark Knight Trilogy as a whole is a modern day masterpiece, on par with the likes of the Lord of the Rings and the Original Star Wars Trilogy. Theses films will be looked at and over by future film students, scholars and plain ol’ buffs on what to do when creating something different. Something that stands out and stands the test of time, as I have no doubt these films will do. There will be other Batman films in the future, but it’s very unlikely any will come close to what Nolan and everyone involved with the making of these films have pulled off. Nolan ties up all the loose ends and closes the book on his grand opus for good. He finishes the trilogy off in grand fashion, letting the audience know it’s the end, but still leaving us wanting more. And that is ultimately the true mark of a good series of films. When they come to a close you never want them to end…and I most certainly wish that this series wouldn’t.