Continuing my series leading up to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I present one of the finest film trilogies ever made.
After the absolute failure of ‘Batman & Robin’ in 1997, the franchise was rebooted, to display a realistic, grounded, and criminal world that would see Bruce Wayne becoming The Dark Knight, fighting to restore Gotham City.
Batman Begins (2005)
‘Batman Begins’ not only had me discover who Christopher Nolan was, but it’s one of the movies that truly got me more interested in the superhero genre. And I’m sure most of the world might say the same.
It tells the story of Bruce Wayne and all of the events that transpired in his life that led to him becoming one of the most famous superheroes of our time, Batman.
Before this film was released, the Batman franchise had been in limbo for 8 years. The series that was launched in 1989 with Tim Burton’s original movie was one of the biggest commercial successes of all time.
Unfortunately, the sequels that followed got gradually worse with each release, and by the time 1997 hit with ‘Batman & Robin’, the series was dead in the water. The popular character needed a hard reboot. And ‘Batman Begins’ truly delivered.
Right off the bat, one of the first things I notice is that the casting is pure excellence. Michael Caine as Bruce Wayne’s trusting butler Alfred, Gary Oldman as James Gordon, and Liam Neeson as the man who trains Bruce Wayne to become the hero we all know. These are just some of the supporting characters, but even throughout the entire trilogy, the casting really shines. Then of course there is Christian Bale who plays the Caped Crusader and I feel that he definitely does a great job.
The story is very well executed and draws heavily from Batman’s actual origins from the comics. It was very interesting to watch as Bruce Wayne trained to become a perfect physical being. And seeing him fighting crime for the first time in costume was extremely exciting, especially with Hans Zimmer’s score being present to really emphasize every single shot.
The only real complaint that I do have for this film is that the action is very poor. All the fight scenes are close ups and it’s difficult to comprehend what is happening. This is really a minor nitpick, especially since this flaw improved heavily in the sequels that followed. So at the end of the day, it’s not a huge deal to me.
Everything else on the other hand is great, and I would recommend it to anyone. ‘Batman Begins’ captures exactly what is so intriguing about the character. The story is crafted so well around his origins, and the city he is trying to take back from the corrupt. It’s truly one of the greatest origin stories ever put to screen.
The Dark Knight (2008)
This set a whole new standard. ‘The Dark Knight’ is without a doubt, one of my most favorite movies of all time. This film is the reason I love Christopher Nolan’s work now, and the reason I look forward to every film he makes.
There is so much to say about this movie that has been said time and time again by everyone, so I’m going to stray away from those things a bit. However, if I’m to keep one thing, it’s that Heath Ledger’s portrayal of The Joker is definitely one of my favorite acting performances of all time. It’s just outstanding. Case closed. Everyone else continues to do a great job as well. A stand out that many don’t tend to mention is Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent. He’s definitely one of the most underrated aspects of this movie, and does an amazing job dealing with two completely split personas.
One thing that stands out to me is the use of symbolism in this film. It really takes over to the point where if you don’t pay attention to it, you may not fully grasp the ending and the themes that play throughout. Some might say it’s not subtle enough, but I have found that I’ve had to explain certain elements to people numerous times. There might be a couple instances where one might think the foreshadowing is painfully obvious, but I think these techniques are handled very well for the most part.
It delves insanely deep into what the main characters stand for, and where they have the potential to end up. The Joker is a wild card. Harvey Dent is a hero with a face that Gotham City needs. But how easily can he break? Batman is a hero surrounded by mystery and skepticism. But he knows what he’s up against, and had never succumbed to even his own deepest fears and personal demons. So breaking him is nearly impossible.
It’s one of the finest ways of having the characters work to tell the story that I’ve ever seen. Many times, what makes a movie predictable or cliche is when the story dictates what the characters do. It should never be that way, but unfortunately there are films that do it. ‘The Dark Knight’ not only gets this right, it does it in such an amazing way. There’s never a piece where I think “Oh that character would never do that”. This is what makes the Joker such a fantastic villain. He knows how each person works. He knew that in order to take down Gotham, he would have to bring down one its heroes. He had a feeling from the get-go that Batman was more than likely totally incorruptible, so he played his card on trying to bring Harvey Dent to a level Gotham never saw coming.
He succeeds, and yet Batman gives his last final effort to make Gotham not see what Harvey became, and what the Joker accomplished. He protects his image, and becomes the villain to the eye of the public in order to remain being the hero. It’s one of my favorite endings to a movie. I remember seeing this the first time and my jaw dropped down in awe because of how excellent this ending was.
As I said in my ‘Batman Begins’ review, the one flaw I had with that movie was how poorly the action was shot. This is no longer an issue with this film, or in the third one. Every shot is outstanding and the action scenes really grip you in. To see a film maker actually improve his style over the course of one or two movies is so cool to see.
It’s almost unnecessary for me to go into so much detail of what makes this film so great. Most of you have either seen it and know already, or have at least heard all about it. You may think that if you aren’t into comic book movies, you won’t like it. Don’t think that way. It feels nothing like a comic book movie. It takes characters from comics but places them in a real world setting and feels more like a crime drama than it does a superhero flick. If you haven’t seen ‘The Dark Knight’ yet, just fix that already.
It’s a masterpiece.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
I don’t think a Batman movie following ‘The Dark Knight’ was ever going to TOP ‘The Dark Knight’. And I feel as though there were many people out there that expected this. How do you tell a story as great or better? How do you top Heath Ledger’s Joker? How do you make this a movie that revolutionizes (yet again) the comic book film genre?
The answer is quite simple. You don’t. You make the best movie you possibly can, and you make it different.
Bane is a much different style of villain. A physical one. Something The Joker could never be. To compare them is comparing apples to oranges. This is why I think that Bane was the perfect antagonist for this movie. Christopher Nolan knew he couldn’t recast The Joker, or use a similar villain that would only challenge Batman with mind games. He knew that this time, something different had to happen, and he chose a more physical and emotional threat through using Bane.
Batman is broken by the mid-point of this movie, and many people might not like the fact that he sits out for a large chunk of it. But let me explain why this is actually an amazing aspect of not only this film, but the trilogy as a whole.
This particular version of Batman isn’t just about a vigilante protecting Gotham City. It’s also just as much about Gotham City itself. Why would we spend so much time getting to know James Gordon, Lucius Fox, Alfred, and the many other people that come and go? Why are they all played by such terrific and legendary actors?
Because they are just as equally important to the story as the Caped Crusader himself.
The first movie shows us a corrupt city that needs change. Batman comes in, and helps in all of the areas James Gordon and Rachel Dawes can’t. He’s the only one that is able to get his hands a little dirty, because he isn’t abiding by any laws. This all continues in the second film, and even escalates. Gotham is on an upswing, but they’re still dangling on a single thread. Mostly because the city’s clean up (from a legal jurisdiction stand-point) is all thanks to the district attorney alone. The Joker corrupts this one man (Harvey Dent), and Batman takes the fall for Harvey’s crimes in order to preserve Gotham, and not undo everything that put it back in order.
The story honestly could have ended right there. But given that this was an intended trilogy, you have to ask the correct question of where does the story go from there, and how would Batman return? You tell the story about what would happen if that “truth” of Harvey Dent were to be revealed, and how an entire city could crumble all because of this lie.
Bane strikes while the iron is hot. He’s attacking a Gotham that has a false idol, and has a hatred of the symbol that actually saved them. Batman has been inactive, thus out of shape. Ready to get his ass kicked, Bane breaks Batman, and takes him to a prison to watch his city be destroyed.
It’s this section of the movie where we see Bruce Wayne trying to escape the prison that he’s in, while cutting to an almost completely hopeless Gotham City. These scenes in Gotham are actually pretty great, mostly because of the people involved. These supporting characters get their moment to really shine in this section. I personally really feel the scope of the city and its people.
You see how much of Gotham has truly changed in the time that Batman was around, and how much it still struggles because he wasn’t there to really finish what he started. One character in particular, begins to see that nothing can be done with the set of rules that are given to him. He starts taking influence from the Batman, and gets things done his own way. While Batman is missing, this person is doing a lot of things Batman would do. Although he doesn’t have the luxury of the awesome tech…
Batman has an admirer in John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). All sound a bit like Batman’s famous side-kick? Of course. That’s why John Blake is Robin. I’ve seen many people say that this whole “Robin” twist was nothing more than a pointless Easter egg/name reference. I don’t think that at all. I like to view this character as a real interpretation of Robin. He’s just not as traditional as one might have hoped for. Instead of being a crime-fighter, he’s a police officer. Instead of abiding by Batman’s rules, he abides by the actual law, all while straying away from it… This Batman does not have a textbook Robin…but it does in fact have one.
So Robin, Gordon, Fox, and the police are doing whatever they can to stop Bane. And yeah… they’re honestly completely screwed, and need Batman. Because this is superhero movie, in case you forgot. So Batman teams up with Catwoman (who by the way is awesome in this movie), and gives Robin, Gordon, and Fox their own assignments while Batman handles Bane. The finale of this movie is what makes up for any slow points. Every supporting character has something to do, and it’s mesmerizing to see this war for Gotham go down.
After everything is all finished, and you finally have a moment for your heart rate to settle… Christopher Nolan wraps this trilogy up in a perfectly tied bow. Showing that the city was saved, Alfred’s wish of Bruce moving on coming true, and the symbol and legacy of the Batman carried on through another.
Is it as perfect as ‘The Dark Knight’? No. As I already stated, that’s just a tough act to follow. There might be some plot holes, and I’ve had them pointed out to me. But honestly, they aren’t holes big enough to actually bother me. One thing I do have as a slight complaint though, is that there’s far too much exposition regarding the terror situation. For a series surrounded by symbolism and creating ways for the story and characters to mean something and feel grounded, I felt like there were a few scenes where I didn’t need certain things spoon-fed to me. A lot was obvious through the use of visuals. I didn’t need them constantly going over how much time was on the clock of detonation, and how screwed they all were. They could have trimmed 5-10 minutes off if some of this exposition was removed or handled in a different way. I think what happened was, Christopher Nolan just got done with ‘Inception’. As you might know, that movie has a lot of (necessary) exposition. It might have just become a habit that wound up carrying over with this movie in the scripting process.
But wow. That’s as nit picky as it gets.
It’s a terrific follow-up to two other AMAZING Batman movies. The casting continues to be great. I loved Tom Hardy as Bane. He was very menacing, and who cannot love that voice? Anne Hathaway as Catwoman is completely underrated. I liked how she was portrayed as being the opposite of Two-Face, in that she started out bad, and then turned good. I love the music, the direction, and just the overall feel and scope that this movie has.
It did what it was supposed to do, and that was to be different. It told a story worth telling, and the characters continued to drive it. On top of all of this, it gave us a fantastic conclusion to a near-perfect trilogy.
This is a great video that I found that perfectly sums up the greatness of this series. It’s basically all three movies formed into a montage. Give it a watch!