I will forever be grateful to director Christopher Nolan for rescuing the Batman franchise from the humiliating and increasingly cringe worthy offerings from schlock meister Joel Schumacher. Although I am certain that the latter’s campy renditions of the Caped Crusader must have pleased some people (I still remember long theater lineups when the movies came out), I was never a fan. My preferred interpretation of this iconic character tends more towards the gloomier and grittier end of the spectrum (à la Batman Year One). So you can imagine my elation when it was announced that the Nolan brothers would resurrect this dying franchise! And they did not disappoint.
The origin-centric Batman Begins was everything I could have hoped for. I could gush over this movie till my fingers bled, but the main reason this version worked for me was that the screenwriters emphasized character development over eye popping visuals. Don’t get me wrong; there is plenty of eye candy here, but the movie is not centered around it’s set pieces, unlike Tim Burton’s wonderfully imaginative but ultimately forgettable Batman films. When the credits of this first installment rolled, I couldn’t wait for Mr. Nolan’s second chapter, especially after he teased us with the possible premise of a Joker storyline.
Before The Dark Knight was released, I must admit that my faith wavered (ever so slightly). It’s not that I lacked confidence in the Nolan brothers’ ability to knock another one out of the park. My fear was more grounded in the fact that most studios tend to overdo it the second time around (more villains, more mayhem, but ultimately less gratification). I should not have doubted them. The Dark Knight proved to be a monumental cinematic achievement, due in large part by the superlative portrayal of The Joker by the late Heath Ledger. It is unfortunate that his magnificent performance as the Clown Prince of Crime will be remembered as his swan song.
Unlike Batman Begins, the ending of The Dark Knight gave no clue as to the possible direction of the concluding chapter. All we could assume was that Batman was going to be hunted by the police as a result of his sacrifice. And once again I pondered how the creative team would come up with a story that could rival it’s predecessor. As a whole, I believe that the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s vision is truly satisfying. No, the movie is not perfect. Yes, there are several plot points that could be shot to hell. But such nitpickiness (that’s a word, right?) would result in not seeing the forest for the trees.
My gushing admiration of Christopher Nolan’s work aside, I do understand the disappointment that some viewers had with the last installment of his Dark Knight trilogy. The danger with well established superheroes, such as Batman, is that everyone has an opinion on how they should be portrayed and many believe that there is a definitive version of their favorite characters. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since his inception, the Caped Crusader has gone through a gamut of interpretations. Remember Zebra Batman? (Ugh! I choose not to).
With that in mind, here are my final thoughts on this wondrous trilogy : I believe that Christopher Nolan’s movies are not about The Batman at all. They are all about the journey that Bruce Wayne undertakes to first cope and then transcend the hell that his parent’s death put him through. These three chapters take us through the allegorical climb Bruce must undertake to escape his personal pit towards a more enlightened future. And I, for one, am overjoyed that our hero is able to leave behind a life of darkness and despair for what we can only hope will be a better life.
P.S. For more entertaining reviews and discussions about The Dark Knight Rises, clickety clack the links below :
Ain’t in cool news : Harry Knowles is not a happy camper folks.
Entertainment Geekly : join Jeff Jensen and Darren Franich for an in-depth discussion about The Dark Knight Rises.
iFanboy movie review : Paul Montgomery (long time contributor and Fuzzy Typewriter podcaster) gushes about The Dark Knight Rises in his usual erudite manner.
iFanboy : Conor, Ron and Josh ponder the wonder that is The Dark Knight Rises.