There have been many different Batman adaptations over the last fifty years: the hilariously camp Adam West portrayal in the 60s; the darker, more ambitious films of Tim Burton (the first to fully embrace the superhero’s gothic overtones); Joel Schumacher’s cliché-ridden, colourful contributions, and now the world has had the privilege to have been given Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, a ruthlessly intelligent set of films that are now accepted as the highest standard of the superhero genre.
Have you ever heard the theory that each film in The Dark Knight trilogy is inspired by or similar to the film that Nolan made before it? It might not necessarily be true, but it definitely makes sense, and helps us to figure out what each film is about. Memento shows a man attempting to piece together his life after he loses his short-term memory – it’s about discovering your identity, working out who you can trust, and you can see the similarities in Batman Begins; Bruce Wayne becomes Batman by creating a new identity for himself, overcoming what he fears in order to fight what he hates. The next film Nolan made was The Prestige (for some reason largely forgotten), a film about magic, stage presence and public image, and The Dark Knight (this might be stretching it a bit) gives us the Joker and ‘watch as I make this pencil disappear’, and Batman choosing to sacrifice himself for the well-being of Gotham, taking the blame for the crimes of Harvey Dent.
So that just leaves Inception paired with The Dark Knight Rises – this is where the theory starts to crumble. Other than the sheer scale of both films, there isn’t much with which to compare the two. Perhaps it’s that in Inception the characters invent new cityscapes and in The Dark Knight Rises, Gotham is transformed into a different kind of city, one that has to unite in order to defeat the… Yes, it’s tenuous.
On a separate note, the third film of the Batman trilogy is fantastic. Remember the Bane that followed Uma Thurman around in Batman and Robin looking like a tiny Mexican wrestler. Tom Hardy’s Bane is larger, cleverer and generally a lot more imposing. He’s the villain who broke Batman’s back in the comic books. His voice, if you haven’t seen the film or any of its trailers, is what Darth Vader would sound like if he were high pitched and ever-so-slightly British. Where Christopher Nolan has succeeded most in this trilogy is in his casting of the villains: Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow is calm, collected and charming; Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning Joker holds the whole of The Dark Knight together, and now in Rises, Tom Hardy is so physical, so charismatic that you want him to appear in every single scene.
Bane is actually physically stronger than Bruce Wayne/Batman. This is the film where Caped Crusader becomes close to giving up all hope for both himself and the citizens of Gotham – the city is starting to fall apart and a revolution is just around the corner (a comment, maybe, on today’s society?). Relationships go deeper than ever before. Alfred gives Bruce a couple of lengthy, heartfelt lectures – he’s had enough with his master’s reckless actions – and it seems Gotham’s had enough with Commissioner Gordon – he’s a war hero, but it’s peace time.
I’ve heard it said that Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy is the most consistently brilliant set of films ever made, better even than the original Star Wars, The Godfather and Toy Story. Or The Lord of the Rings? Surely not – isn’t that blasphemy? The Batman films may not be the best trilogy ever made, but they’re very close to perfect. So much so that it becomes very hard to actually pick a favourite – all three have their successes, but equally have their failings, however small they may seem. Personally I think that if Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman hadn’t been in The Dark Knight Rises, it might have been improved to perfection; her character is unnecessary and just not very well crafted. Other than that though, the film is definitely worth seeing – it’s the best of its genre and I’m guessing that all superhero films from now on will now try (and probably fail) to emulate this kind of film-making. Five stars for sure.