If you haven’t seen TDKR, stop reading now and go and watch it. You’re warned.
It’s over. The dark knight trilogy by Christopher Nolan has reached its end, faithfull to its style and to that concept introduced at the end of the first chapter: scalation.
‘Batman Begins’ (C. Nolan, 2005) rebooted the saga telling the origin of the character and that obscure period of time between the deaths of Thomas and Martha Wayne and the return of the ‘prince of Gotham’ to the city. But the important point, and the wise move of the movie, was that every piece of its structure and narration was heading to a solely objective: make Batman believable. Every decision Bruce Wayne takes, from leaving Gotham to dress as a bat, has a reason; each gadget added to his equipment (starting with the cape and following with the batmobile) has an explained origin and a reason to be used. This realism extends to the rest of the characters: either Ra’s Al Guhl nor the Scarecrow are plane characters, but they have their motivations (more or less profound in each case).
As regards the story, ‘Batman Begins’ drinks directly from the comic ‘Batman: Year One’ (Miller, Mazzuchelli, 1987), and, like there, justifies the existence of the Batman as a symbol that will bring fear to the heart of the criminals. He will be ‘the lord of the night’.
And the title of the second entry can’t be more promising. It’s no longer the Batman: it’s ‘The Dark Knight” (C. Nolan, 2008). This film, unanimously considered the best in the saga, works as a perfect machinery, a pice of clockwork where nothing is missing and nothing is left over. The performances are brilliant: Christian Bale is a Batman urgent to hang the cape and live a normal life who sees his opportunity in the social promotion of the new district attorney, Harvey Dent. But he can’t see the great tragedy that’s approaching at the hands of a misterious character who calls himself The Joker, until it’s too late for everyone.
If the underlying theme in ‘Batman Begins’ was fear and how it transforms people, in ‘The Dark Knight’ it’s the dichotomy order-chaos. We don’t need to know the Joker’s origin to understand that he’s an agent of chaos, a force of Nature that pushes all the other characters towards decissions that will mark them forever, in a literal or a figurative sense.
By the end, Bruce Wayne will have to hang the cape, but not the way he expected: now he’s banished, an outlaw, a real ‘dark knight’ out of society. Exactly as he is in comics. Within two films, Nolan sets the character in the place where it belongs.
And then ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ arrives. The beginning is brilliant. Bane’s introduction is brutal; he may not be one of the most charismatics characters in the Batman universe, but he’s indeed one of the few who means a physical and mental challenge. And Tom Hardy’s performance is excelent, considering that he spends the whole movie carrying a mask, so he can only rely on his eyes and body language.
On the other hand, the chemistry between Selyna Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and Bruce Wayne is great and will provide the right and necessary touches of humor. And, since the very first moment he enters the screen, the agent John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) reminds of someone, yes, that one who comes to your mind very quickly… And it works, it really works. So much, that it was not necessary to make a final explanation. Wouldn’t it had been better to leave the spectator with that feeling of “wasn’t he…”?
The decadent and retired from social life Bruce Wayne is a direct reference to the best part of “Return of the Dark Knight” (Frank Miller, 1986). The film also sets its foundations in “Knightfall” (Dennis O’Neall, 1992) and the macrosaga “No man’s land” (1999). A series of events that will take the Batman from retirement, to fall and to rise again, as a legend.
However, something fails. In this film, where the hell is the dark knight? There’s Bruce Wayne, with all his gadgets and determination, yes, but, where is the lord of the night? What is more, why is so often not at night? What happened with that idea about bringing fear to the heart of criminals? There’s a hoping moment: the loyal Alfred tells Bruce that he must not trust just the technology and the strength to defeat his opponents. He must be something else… But it’s Nolan who seems to pretend not to hear the advice, and takes the movie in the direction of the clichéd action spectacle, instead of developing an another level more complex story, as “The Dark Knight” was.
Not everybody knows that, in comics, one of Batman’s nicknames is just ‘the detective’. Ironically, it’s Ra’s Al Guhl who most frequently calls him this way, for his capacity of deduction, his skills as investigator and his habit to overtake his enemies with his intelligence more often than with his strength. There’s nothing about this in TDKR… A lot of action, not so much emotion and none of intelligence.
The scalation that started at the end of ‘Batman Begins’ has reached its peak, and on its way it has left behind not only the credibility that so hardly was forged during two and a half movies. Christopher Nolan’s wise move was to build a Batman’s story in which, as spectators, we didn’t have to suspend our credibility: everything was plausible, everything was realistic and was justified. He was even accused of abandoning the “sense of wonder” that movies about superheroes were expected to have. But his movies weren’t about superheroes; they were about characters of flesh and bones, with fears, strenghts and weaknesses, with realistic personal relations, and the masks, the literal and the figuratives, were perfectly explained. In it’s final part, TDKR asks the spectators to suspend their credibility. But it’s too late.
In the scalation was also left behind the dark knight. Luckily, we can bring him back from ‘Batman: the animated series’, still the best adaptation of the character on screen.