Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is often cited as one of the best examples of adapting Batman on film. The movies – which include Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – are critically acclaimed and consistently appear on ‘best of’ lists when it comes to Batman movies.
In fact, the films are so well-loved that many fans long for more entries in the series – even though that it is unlikely to ever happen. The three films tell a complete story with a beginning, middle and end, and both director Christopher Nolan and Batman actor, Christian Bale have since moved on to other projects.
However, The Dark Knight trilogy doesn’t have to be confined to just three movies. If you are a fan of the series and would like to enhance your next viewing of the trilogy, you can do it with the addition of one more film – Batman: Gotham Knight (2008).
What is Batman: Gotham Knight?
Batman: Gotham Knight is a feature-length animated Batman movie, which is loosely set in the same world as The Dark Knight trilogy. The film was released in July 2008, a week before The Dark Knight hit cinema screens, and tells a collection of stories set after the events of Batman Begins (and before The Dark Knight).
Unlike traditional movies, Batman: Gotham Knight is not one single story, it is instead composed of six segments, each running around ten minutes in length. The six segments include:
- Have I Got a Story for You
- Field Test
- In Darkness Dwells
- Working Through Pain
Each of these stories is in some way connected to the previous tale, yet they are all distinctly different. This is in large part due to the four animation studios that worked on the film: Studio 4°C (Have I Got a Story for You & Working Through Pain); Production I.G (Crossfire); Bee Train (Field Test); and Madhouse (In Darkness Dwells & Deadshot).
The different animation styles used throughout the film are stunning, with Field Test, In Darkness Dwells and Deadshot the standout chapters of the film. The voice cast is also superb, with veteran Batman voice over artist, Kevin Conroy providing vocal duties for the Caped Crusader.
Conroy is supported by an impressive line-up of names, including Jason Marsden, Scott Menville, George Newbern, Hynden Walch, Corey Burton, Rob Paulsen, Will Friedle, Kevin Michael Richardson, David McCallum, Parminder Nagra, Pat Musick and Andrea Romano, amongst others. Many of these voice actors have provided their vocals to other DC animated characters over the years and here they add depth to this movie.
Why include Batman: Gotham Knight with The Dark Knight trilogy?
While Batman: Gotham Knight works perfectly fine as a standalone film – or even viewed as six separate shorts – the movie was designed with Christopher Nolan’s Batman movie universe in mind. The film makes reference to situations and characters that appear in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and borrows some design ideas from Nolan’s world (although the designs are altered for this film).
Tonally, Batman: Gotham Knight is very much like the Nolan Batman films. It is a serious take on the Caped Crusader, with the more fantastical elements grounded whenever possible.
In the segment, Field Test, Lucius Fox – a character who played a significant role in The Dark Knight trilogy – creates an electromagnetic device that can deflect bullets. This piece of technology, as well as Fox’s conversations with Bruce Wayne, feel as if they have been ripped directly from Nolan’s world.
Likewise, the segment In Darkness Dwells depicts a Batman who is very much like the character seen in The Dark Knight trilogy. He’s tough, determined and as he says himself “I work through pain” – something his live-action counterpart would agree with.
Batman: Gotham Knight isn’t an exact fit for Nolan’s world, but it is clear it is a story (or rather, a collection of stories) which are heavily influenced by the director’s take on the Caped Crusader. As such, it explores themes and ideas that Nolan simply didn’t have space to delve into.
Is Batman: Gotham Knight essential to The Dark Knight trilogy?
Watching Batman: Gotham Knight is not essential to enjoying The Dark Knight trilogy – it wasn’t written or directed by Christopher Nolan and does not have Nolan’s involvement in any way. However, including the film as part of Nolan’s Batman movie universe does enhance the offering.
The film has enough links to the Nolan series to make it feel part of the wider story and it provides another 1hr 20minutes of content – which is great if you want even more from The Dark Knight trilogy.
It should also be noted that Batman: Gotham Knight includes villains that were never introduced into Nolan’s world. So, in addition to Ra’s al Ghul, Talia al Ghul, Scarecrow, Two-Face, Joker, Mr. Zsasz, Bane and various gangsters, Batman: Gotham Knight introduces Killer Croc and Deadshot into the mix too.
Both of these characters are superb inclusions, that really fit into Nolan’s world. There’s also room for more Scarecrow too, as the character appears in the segment, In Darkness Dwells – albeit in a radically different costume.
Batman: Gotham Knight works as a one-off piece or as a companion film. It doesn’t need to be added to The Dark Knight trilogy, but it can certainly enhance the offering as a side story.
For those who want to delve deeper into the Nolan world (and who wished it never ended), Batman: Gotham Knight creates an expansion to what was depicted in live-action. It is an imaginative film, with six very interesting tales and a beautiful display of animation.
Batman: Gotham Knight is available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital. It is part of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies collection – a series of feature length animated films featuring DC heroes and villains.
Should you want to know more about the DC Universe Animated Original Movies collection, check out my post: ‘The best order to watch animated Batman films’. Alternatively, feel free to read one of the recommended reads below.