PoP THEORY : THE DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY – STORY ANALYSIS (CONTAINS SPOILERS)

Nolan begins….

Christopher Nolan’s much vaunted Batman trilogy consisted of Batman Begins (BB), The Dark Knight (TDK) and The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR). The trilogy has been credited for legitimising superhero movies after the damage done by the campy Batman Forever and Batman and Robin.

Ironically, the critical (and commercial) success of the trilogy paved the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, allowing Marvel Studios to subsequently shatter DC’s previous monopoly on comic book film adaptations.

Moore Miller time …

Nolan treated the stories and characters in his trilogy as seriously as a realistic crime drama would. While deeply influenced by Alan Moore’s Killing Joke and Frank Miller’s Batman : Year One and The Dark Knight Returns comic book stories, Nolan and his collaborators drew inspiration also from Michael Mann’s Heat and Fritz Lang’s Testament of Dr. Mabuse.

Whilst Batman/Bruce Wayne is given a strong origin tale in BB that establishes his motivation for his vigilante activities, it is TDK and TDKR that paints Wayne as a tragic figure, wanting to do the right thing as the Batman but driven also by his need to live a life without the Batman.

Batman’s interactions and relationships with the villains of the story, also reflect who he is. From the father-figure cum cautionary tale presented by Ra’s al Ghul to the love-hate polar opposites of the Joker to the hidden jezebel persona of Talia, Wayne’s character flaws are revealed and redeemed.

3-part harmony …

Whilst there exist certain plot holes in the trilogy – detractors point especially to TDKR’s issues with Wayne’s recovery from a broken spine – taken as a whole, the trilogy works, with each movie serving as a distinct act.

BB is the introduction, TDK is the meat in the middle and TDKR is the wrapping up conclusion that I would argue is satisfying and logical in the final analysis. Nolan’s stated objective to be as realistic as possible, would often work against the storytelling. After all, the main character is still a person who dresses up like a bat to fight crime and so suspension of disbelief is always going to be a challenge, no matter what.

At the end of the day, the plot and characters gel quite well together and there is enough internal consistency throughout the trilogy to maintain the engagement of the audience.
Starry knights …

The Dark Knight trilogy has been enriched by the quality of the performances on screen. There’s no doubting the calibre of veteran thespians like Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Gary Oldham and Morgan Freeman but of course, the late Heath Ledger’s delivered a tour-de-force performance that outshone all-comers and earned him a well-deserved Oscar posthumously.

Unintended consequences …

The success of the Dark Knight trilogy persuaded Warner Bros to tap on Nolan’s expertise to mine a similar tone for the Superman reboots, which director Zack Snyder admirably executed in the Man of Steel and Batman V Superman : Dawn of Justice. However, Warner Bros dropped the ball with regards to the scheduling of the latter movie resulting in Marvel Studios gazumping their plans for the DC Extended Universe with Captain America : Civil War and subsequently MCU movies leaving the DCEU in the dust. But that’s the subject of another post.

The Dark Knight triumphant …

There is no doubt that Nolan’s trilogy stands alone as the definitive version of The Batman. It will continue to be the yardstick by which all other subsequent Batman adaptations will be judged against. It remains to be seen whether Matt Reeve’s upcoming reboot will be able to change this fact. I seriously doubt that though.

Would appreciate your comments on this post at the Power of Pop Facebook page.

still there’s more

Related Post