When director Christopher Nolan was charged with revamping the Batman film franchise he took the Caped Crusader’s mythology very seriously and elevated the super-hero film genre to an entirely new level. When he unleashed 2005’s Batman Begins he started a phenomenon with his Dark Knight Trilogy that lead to the most controversial and insightful look into the mind of the DC Comic’s character – a character that has endured more than 50 years of storytelling.
First With The Reboot
Taking notes from some of the best stories from the modern age of comics, Nolan was able to deliver to the big screen a much more dynamic Bruce Wayne (portrayed by Oscar Winning actor Christian Bale) and a denser purpose for his decision to become a crime-fighting symbol of justice as the Batman. This dark avenger not only prowls the streets to Gotham to protect the innocent from the growing crime wave that is claiming the night.
Nolan’s Batman is motivated to insight a movement that inspires the people to take back what is rightfully theirs – to not fear the shadows. Everything though comes with a price, and as this force for good rises, so too do the servants of evil. In the first part of the trilogy, Wayne’s search to become the ultimate warrior leads him to undoubtedly his most merciless enemy. The mastermind Ra’s al Ghul and his League of Shadows have designs on Gotham City as well.
Incorporating the unscrupulous Dr. Jonathan Crane (aka “The Scarecrow”) as an unwitting conspirator in his plot, Ra’s al Ghul plans on burning the corrupt structure of the city to the ground, re-inventing it in his own image. Unfortunately he is unable to anticipate the city’s new defender, when Wayne now adopting the identity of Batman interferes with his scheme and stops the two in their tracks...but not before introducing an entirely new criminal element unlike any the world has seen before.
The League of Shadows and the fear-inducing Scarecrow were only the tip of the iceberg. No one could have anticipated the menace that would shake the very foundation that Batman was fighting to maintain. When the Joker arrives on the scene an entirely new breed of anarchy is unleashed on Gotham.
In The Dark Knight Nolan re-imaged the character of the Joker (played by Heath Ledger and first realized on the silver screen by Jack Nicholson) and pit Batman against a worthy opponent – the literal yin to his yang. The Joker devices a plot to prove to Batman just how easily men walk the line between good and evil; sane and insane. His mad plans involve the corruption of Gotham’s top DA, one Harvey Dent – who by the end of the mad encounter topples over the edge and becomes a monster called Two-Face.
Batman’s world is shattered and wrought with loss. The Joker ends up getting aced, but not without dealing the crime fighter a royal flush – winner take all. With the crumbling facade of Gotham’s justice system in the balance, Batman decides to fold and takes the blame for the death of Dent and the murders the vengeful campaign the mad men leaves in his wake.
Batman becomes a fugitive. The hunter is now, the hunted.
For the final chapter in his film trilogy, Nolan had to tie up the loose ends introduced over the course of the first two films. Namely, define the purpose of the Batman in the world and whether the hero actually did some good while on his crusade; had the Dark Knight’s mission been accomplished? It becomes obvious that the sacrifice Bruce Wayne’s alter ego made for the sake of protecting an ideal is a best an empty one. The cancer that plagues the city begins to surface from the inside out.
Absolute power consumes and corrupts absolutely. In the wake of Harvey Dent’s passing a new age of prosperity takes over Gotham City, but it’s only a “spot clean” – already plans are in place that will shake the foundations and the core of this era of good feeling will come crashing around everyone’s ears, when a new villain comes to town.
With Batman out of the picture, Wayne having retired his secret identity to live life as a recluse, the economy of his vast empire and that of the very city’s becomes compromised. When the mercenary named Bane comes to reclaim Gotham, he begins by plunging the city into economic turmoil. High-jacking the financial district is only the beginning. Bane across a weapon of mass destruction and severs the city from the rest of the world. Robbing Bruce Wayne and the rest of Gotham’s elite of their millions, Bane releases the criminals first prosecuted under the reign of Harvey Dent...and reveals the truth about Two-Face!
Ultimately destroying the people’s faith in their governing body, a war rages between the “haves” and the “have-nots” forcing the Batman to once more take up the cape and cowl when the tension level rises. In the midst of all the chaos, a notorious Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) is manipulated into delivering Batman into Bane’s waiting arms. In the end, broken and defeated, Bruce Wayne is imprisoned and forced to helplessly watch as his city plummets into despair, and refine his purpose in time to save the day.
Though it isn’t the spectacle that moviegoers were perhaps expecting Rises does meet and match the overall theme set by Nolan for his Dark Knight adventure. Having revolutionized the superhero film genre it couldn’t have ended any other way – the story had to be bigger than the Batman mythology. It had to be Shakespearean in its motif.
In order to save himself, Wayne must save the city. In order to save the city, he must become the Batman again...and commit to the ultimate sacrifice.
Nolan says he’s hung up his cape and Bale says he’s done playing the Caped Crusader, but with the superhero film now a hot commodity in Hollywood, you can bet we haven’t seen the last of Batman on the big screen. And with the success of Marvel’s Avengers it won’t be long before DC Comic’s own Justice League jump from the page and into the box office battle. The Dark Knight has risen...watch the skies. The signal is sent.
JC Alvarez is the Nightlife Editor for EDGE On The Net and a pop-culture columnist covering celebrity and entertainment. He is the voice behind the nationally syndicated Internet radio show “Out Loud & Live!” that broadcasts every Friday @ 9pm EST on www.modernworldradio.com.