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In anticipation for Christopher Nolan's final entry into his Batman trilogy, we here at Cinema Blend are revisiting the caped crusader's earlier film outings to see how they hold up and speculate on how each may contribute to The Dark Knight Rises. We'll be posting a new Batman Rewind article each day, and you can revisit all the previous installments here.
Many have called The Dark Knight the most hyped film of all-time, and while that honor may be deserved, a lot of events had to happen to make that possible. After 1997’s Batman & Robin, the once proud series was left a neutered and unpopular version of its former self. The caped crusader was no longer cool, and there were legitimate questions as to whether he ever would be again. Nolan’s brilliant 2005 reboot Batman Begins reenergized the dormant fanbase and for the first time since ’92, had the public clamoring for more. As filming concluded, rumors began swirling that Heath Ledger had offered a haunting, Oscar-worthy performance. Roughly six months before The Dark Knight’s Summer release, the actor tragically died at the age of twenty-eight, leading many to wonder if his final role really was his best.
Too much hype can be the kiss of death in Hollywood, but when millions emerged from their midnight screenings, the response was almost completely positive. Buoyed by gushing fans, euphoric reviews and people who saw it three, four or even five times, The Dark Knight went on to gross more than a billion dollars. The film won Ledger an Oscar, Nolan almost two hundred million dollars to make Inception and fans the right to brag about their favorite superhero being better than ever. To this day, TDK is still considered by a majority to be the greatest superhero flick ever made, and all opening weekend success The Dark Knight Rises finds will be directly relatable to the overwhelming love the public feels for its predecessor.
The Dark Knight could well be the best superhero movie ever made. I thought it immediately after leaving my theater in 2008, and upon rewatch, I would still be willing to argue its merits. Ledger’s turn as the Joker is worth every grandiose piece of praise we heaped upon his memory, and Eckhart’s Harvey Dent is even more effortlessly cool than I remembered, especially in the courtroom scene where he tells the would-be-assassin to “buy American”. As a whole, the film holds up very well, but without the initial excitement factor, a few problems with the story arc are more easily detected—like the fact Batman is arguably the least interesting part of the movie.
He doesn’t really grow much or develop as a character, and he’s consistently overshadowed by his foes. Wayne’s interactions with Lucius Fox aren’t particularly exciting or memorable, and Alfred gets the better of every single conversation the two share. He really only works as a counterpunch to The Joker and Harvey Dent, which is all kinds of weird since he’s supposed to be our hero. Perhaps because of Batman’s lack of awesomeness, the film also feels slightly too long. Momentum dips considerably during the boat scene, and his final battle with the Joker feels like a bit of an afterthought.
All things considered, The Dark Knight is a great movie. It deserves to be watched and enjoyed over-and-over again, but it’s not above reproach. It’s filled with minor issues and slight missteps, which means The Dark Knight Rises can improve upon it. Of course, that task won’t be easy.
How Does It Lead To The Dark Knight Rises?
The Dark Knight ended with our hero being hunted. Public opinion slowly turned against the caped crusader throughout the film, and by the end, his popularity was at an all-time low. That anger and hostility will carry over into the start of Rises. More than likely, it will even permeate through its first act. Dent told us it’s always darkest right before the dawn, and for Batman, I expect that to be proven. Look for Nolan to give us a bleak landscape, a Gotham without a hero and a morality without a center.
In addition, look for people to die. The Dark Knight had no qualms about killing off its characters. From Rachel to Dent, the film allowed the Joker to have a body count, and it would be a shock if that morbid direction didn’t continue through the conclusion. I’m not sure we’ll get to see Bruce Wayne die, but expect some of his friends, whether they be Lucius, Alfred and/ or Jim, to wind up in the grave. Nolan’s vision of the world Batman inhabits has always been filled with consequences. As the final chapter in his trilogy, Rises will have blood on its hands.
More importantly, expect The Dark Knight Rises to be awesome. If The Dark Knight accomplished anything, it was (at least mostly) fulfilling the crazy high expectations coming off Batman Begins. I can’t promise you Rises will be as good as either of those two films, but the competence we’ve seen from Nolan in the past suggests we should be in for something special.
And A Few More Things…
Most Deserved Act of Physical Harm Say what you will about the Joker and Harvey Dent getting their comeuppance, but no act of aggression in The Dark Knight feels more deserved than Jim Gordon getting slapped in the face by his wife. Whether he was looking to protect the safety of his family or not, it takes a cold man to let his loved ones think he’s dead. She had every right to give him a redmark across his cheek, just as she had every right to hug him immediately afterward.
Best Chemistry Between Characters No scene in The Dark Knight works as well as Harvey Dent and The Joker bantering in the abandoned hospital. It’s riveting. More importantly, it feels right. The DA is a logical man. It’s believable he would blame outside agents for unleashing the Joker more than the Joker himself. I also love how excited Ledger gets when Dent tells him they’re going to flip a coin for his life. It’s like an upgraded version of his laugh when he’s later thrown from the building.
Best Example Of The Obsessive Love For This Movie This guy’s poor billboard getting defaced.
Most Intimidating Joker Comment “Would you like to know which of (your friends) were cowards?”
Moment I Most Wish Was Changed I wish Batman had simply let the Joker fall off the building, laughing like a hysterical six-year-old. Nolan couldn’t have known Ledger would soon die, making his participation in the third installment impossible, but I still wish we could go back in time and change the scene to let him go out like a crazed lunatic.
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