Today, in this rather lengthy post, I am watching Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy (2005 – 2012). This includes Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
In addition to the three films in the trilogy, I will also be taking a look at Batman: Gotham Knight (2008), an animated side-story, which is loosely set in the Nolan universe.
Each of the four films will be discussed at length, with various side conversations along the way. So, put your feet up, and get comfortable, you could be here for a while.
The Dark Knight rebooted
Batman Begins was released eight years after Batman & Robin (1997), and was envisioned as somewhat of a palate cleanser. While Batman & Robin was a colourful fantasy film, heavy on one-liners and over the top performances, Batman Begins was to be a gritty, more realistic approach to the Caped Crusader.
The film was to take Batman on a new path, with a new director, a new cast, and a new aesthetic. This was a complete reset to the series and it was also a bit of a gamble.
Warner Bros. Pictures had achieved a certain level of success with the previous run of Batman movies, Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995) and the aforementioned Batman & Robin. And while Batman & Robin had been a critical and commercial misfire, it still didn’t mean the studio was entirely sure about giving up the series.
Before Batman Begins arrived in cinemas, the Batman movie series became the subject of many conversations. At one point, there were discussions to continue on from Batman & Robin rather than abandon the series completely.
Once the studio decided this was not the best way forward, various projects were then thrown into the mix, to try something new. This included Darren Aronofsky’s Year One – a dark gritty reboot of the series.
But all of the projects were passed over in favour of Batman Begins. The Batman movie series was getting a reboot, and it would be dark and gritty, but perhaps not as dark and gritty as an Aronofsky film, rather one overseen by Christopher Nolan.
Whoever was to steer the Batman movie series, this was going to be a risk. If the movie failed to gain any real interest with audiences, it would be bad news for the studio.
But Batman Begins wasn’t bad news – it opened to positive feedback from critics and audiences alike. It also proved that Warner Bros. Pictures made the right decision when green lighting the film.
And from Batman Begins, audiences were soon given two sequels which would develop the story further. These next two films – The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises – would go on to experience great critical and commercial success, and confirm a series wide reboot was the best decision possible.
Now as mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am about to watch Batman Begins (or rather, re-watch Batman Begins). As I watch the film I am going to discuss the picture in real time, passing comment about what I’m viewing, along with some general musings.
If you have not watched Batman Begins before reading this post, I highly recommend you watch the film first. This post will contain spoilers, along with discussions about the plot, and I really don’t want to ruin things for you.
1min 30mins – The film opens with a young Bruce Wayne falling into a cave, filled with bats…
2mins – …but then it switches to an older Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale) at what appears to be a prison camp. The film jumps around a little to begin with, but it does settle down shortly.
3mins – What is very clear from these opening few minutes is that the tone of Batman Begins is a million miles away from the tone of Batman & Robin. Batman & Robin began with a bright, bombastic opening, that made the audience aware they were about to watch a comic book brought to life. Whereas Batman Begins is dark and foreboding, with a sense of realism.
4mins – Liam Neeson has made his first appearance and has introduced himself as Ducard, an associate of Ra’s al Ghul – the leader of The League of Shadows. Those who are familiar with this film (which should be everyone reading this post) will know that Neeson is lying about his identity.
6mins – It should be noted that the cinematography is absolutely stunning in this movie; as is the music. As much praise as Christopher Nolan gets for directing, praise must also be heaped on Wally Pfister (Director of Photography) and Hans Zimmer & James Newton Howard (Composers).
8mins 30secs – Ken Watanabe appears in the role of Ra’s al Ghul. Although it will later be revealed that he is not Ghul at all, just a decoy.
11mins – The story has returned to Bruce’s childhood, to set up a key piece of his origin – the death of his parents. This scene has been present in a number of films (Batman ’89, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), Joker (2019) etc) and I believe this is the best version of it to date.
14mins – The Waynes are killed by a mugger called Joe Chill. Chill is played by actor, Richard Brake.
15mins – I should say that this film has a great cast. Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer – this is a strong list of names.
20mins 30secs – As mentioned above, during the early section of Batman Begins the story jumps around the timeline to show Bruce’s childhood, his training in the Himalayas, the trail of Joe Chill etc. It can be a little confusing on first viewing, but it all makes sense and is a good way to cram in important story beats.
22mins 30secs – Katie Holmes is playing the role of Rachel Dawes, Bruce’s childhood friend. Dawes appears in both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (2008), but Holmes only plays the character in this film. Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over the role for the sequel.
27mins 45secs – Multiple villains feature in this film: Ra’s al Ghul, Joe Chill, Carmine Falcone, Victor Zsasz and Scarecrow. None of these villains had appeared in a Batman movie prior to Batman Begins. I’m always surprised that so many are included. Pleasantly surprised.
30mins – Little bit of trivia for you now. When Christian Bale auditioned for the role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, he performed his screen test while wearing the Batsuit that Val Kilmer wore in Batman Forever.
33mins – Despite the considerable number of villains in Batman Begins, this film focuses on Bruce Wayne and his journey to become Batman. The Batman films that were released prior to Batman Begins focused more on the villains, so this picture certainly reshifts things considerably.
37mins – Back in the Himalayas, Bruce engages in combat with Ken Watanabe’s decoy Ra’s al Ghul, although at this point in the movie he is still being viewed as the real al Ghul. Any longtime Batman fan watching this for the first time would have been very concerned that the film seemingly pitted the two characters against each other, then killed off al Ghul so shortly after introducing him.
40mins – All the time hopping stops here. From this point onward, the story is now told in a linear format.
41mins 40secs – Cillian Murphy plays the role of Dr. Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow in Batman Begins. Before Murphy got the part of Crane, he screen tested for the role of Batman. Having watched some of his screen test I can say Murphy is much better suited to playing Crane.
41mins 50secs – Tim Booth is playing the part of Victor Zsasz. Booth is perhaps best known for being the frontman of the British band, James.
44mins – Bruce is exploring the bat infested caves underneath Wayne Manor. I don’t even want to begin to imagine the sheer amount of bat poop down there. He must have been cleaning for weeks!
48mins – Lucius Fox – as played by Morgan Freeman – makes his film debut. The character was created in 1979, but did not appear in any Batman films before this one. Fox reappears in the two sequels.
51mins – What I love about Batman Begins, is the way it spends so much time establishing how Bruce Wayne could become Batman. Nolan and story writer, David S. Goyer have really thought about what it would take to build a superhero from scratch.
59mins – Almost an hour into the movie and Batman appears for the first time. This is very similar to the build up to Superman’s debut in Superman: The Movie (1978), which took almost an hour before he appeared.
1hr 50secs – “I’m Batman.”
1hr 5mins – A little plot point is dropped in here – the theft of a microwave emitter. The emitter will play a significant role during the finale.
1hr 10mins – The first time I watched Batman Begins, the one character I wanted to see more of was the Scarecrow. Cillian Murphy is so creepy as Crane, he should be in this movie more.
1hr 14mins – Jack Gleeson gets a brief moment on screen as a young boy who speaks to Batman. Gleeson is best known for playing the role of Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones.
1hr 16mins – In the scene that has just played out, the Scarecrow has infected Batman with his fear toxin, before setting him alight. This scene demonstrates both the psychological and physical pain Bruce/Batman is going through in his war on crime. A great way to convey both elements in one short scene.
1hr 20mins – Another mention for the microwave emitter, but it is still not clear why this weapon is important.
1hr 22mins – Crane is now putting something into the water supply. This plot point ties into the theft of the emitter.
1hr 27mins – Batman vs. the Gotham City SWAT team.
1hr 28mins – While Batman Begins isn’t as visually gothic as say Tim Burton’s Batman, it certainly has its moments. The sight of Jim Gordon carrying an unconscious Rachel Dawes through Arkham Asylum, while Batman is surrounded by a swarm of bats is very gothic. This whole section feels reminiscent of an old horror film.
1hr 31mins – To escape the police (who mistakenly think Batman is a bad guy), the Dark Knight has jumped into the Batmobile for an epic car chase across Gotham City. This whole section of the film is fantastic, with so much action and spectacle thrown at the screen. This is easily my favourite Batmobile scene in any Batman movie.
1hr 39mins – “Now, am I pronouncing this right? Ra’s al Ghul?”
This line is an in-joke, making reference to the fact the name, Ra’s al Ghul is often pronounced differently by comic book readers. Sometimes people say “Raz” al Ghul, while others say “Raysh” al Ghul. For the record, the movie opts for Raz, but I say Raysh.
1hr 39mins 30secs – After sitting out the last hour of the movie, Liam Neeson’s Ducard returns. It is now revealed that Neeson is playing the real Ra’s al Ghul.
1hr 40mins – In the comics, al Ghul is considered to be immortal, but here his ‘immortality’ is explained away by suggesting he simply has many decoys assuming his identity.
1hr 46mins – Wayne Manor is destroyed. The last time a villain broke into Wayne Manor and caused damage was in Batman Forever. In that movie, the Riddler and Two-Face broke into Wayne Manor, but only trashed the Batcave.
1hr 51mins 30secs – Using the microwave emitter, Ra’s al Ghul plans to turn Gotham’s water supply into steam. This will then activate the toxin which will spread fear across the city. As plans go, it’s not a bad one.
1hr 55mins – Brilliant. Just brilliant! Batman is hanging off the back of a monorail train carriage, while Jim Gordon is driving the Batmobile. What’s not to love about this movie?
1hr 59mins – Gordon has destroyed a section of the monorail bridge, and in turn this has caused the train to fall and explode. The city has been saved, but I do wonder what the clean up cost will be? Will Bruce Wayne be donating a bit of money to help out the city?
2hr 2mins – So, with Gotham City safe (for now), Bruce reconnects with Rachel, but the romance isn’t going anywhere. She knows he is Batman, but she feels he’s a little ‘too’ Batman, if you know what I mean.
2hr 4mins 30secs – As the film draws to a conclusion, Gordon has been promoted from sergeant to lieutenant and…
2hr 5mins 20secs – …the Joker’s appearance in the sequel has been teased with a playing card. What a great teaser for the next film.
You know, the thing that always impresses me with Batman Begins, no matter how many times I watch this film, is the speed at which it moves. The film crams in a great deal of story, as well as a large cast of characters, yet never loses its focus.
Batman Begins is Bruce Wayne’s story, and no one else’s, yet there is still room to introduce new villains, a new Batmobile, and so much more – including a whole new aesthetic for Gotham. This film could have easily been a mess, with too much to get through, yet it is the exact opposite. Bravo.
It is pretty clear that I am in awe of Batman Begins, but perhaps it is not clear just how much I like this film – so let me state this now: I believe Batman Begins is the best Batman movie ever.
In my opinion, Batman Begins is without doubt the strongest Batman film because it takes key components of the mythology, reworks them, then makes them accessible for a modern audience. Perhaps most important of all, this is a Batman film that can appeal to fans and newcomers alike – there’s something for everyone, regardless of what you know about the Dark Knight.
Now I will hold my hands up and say that the first time I watched Batman Begins in the cinema, back in 2005, I was not a fan of this film. I was so invested in the previous run of movies from Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher, that I found Batman Begins to be a little too different for me.
It was only on my second viewing, when the film came out on DVD, that I fell in love with it. I would say that watching the film the second time it felt like watching a completely different movie, and I was having an entirely different experience.
The reason I now saw Batman Begins in a more positive light, was because I embraced it for its new direction. When I saw it at the cinema, I had too much Batman movie baggage swirling around my mind.
In the eight years that Warner Bros. spent working on the various ‘potential’ Batman movies, I followed the stories and rumours. But I believe I became so invested in what Batman Begins might be, that it clouded what I watched – I was expecting something else entirely.
That second viewing allowed me to truly enjoy the film and I fell in love with it from that moment. And since then, I have watched Batman Begins countless times, including another screening at the cinema (as part of a double-bill with The Dark Knight back in early 2009).
When recommending Batman movies to people, I always recommend Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, as I know it is a very accessible collection of films. But I also know that the trilogy starts off so strongly with Batman Begins that those who start it will most certainly want to finish it.
The Dark Knight reimagined
Before I continue with the live-action movies in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, I am going to take a little detour. This detour takes the shape of an animated film called Batman: Gotham Knight.
Gotham Knight was released in 2008 as the third film in Warner Bros.’ DC Universe Animated Original Movies collection. This collection of films, which includes the likes of Superman: Doomsday (2007), Batman: Year One (2011) and Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018), tells a range of stories in animated form.
Gotham Knight was to be something different. Instead of being a straight-forward adventure film, it was a movie composed of six tales. Each tale boasted a different animation style, and focused on its own storyline, but together the six stories formed an interconnected piece of work.
But what does this have to do with Batman Begins and the rest of The Dark Knight trilogy?
When Gotham Knight was released as a direct-to-DVD title, the film was marketed as being a part of the Christopher Nolan Batman universe, bridging the gap (so to speak) between the events of Batman Begins and the events of The Dark Knight. The film was even bundled up with DVD copies of Batman Begins, to further establish the connection, and an emphasis was placed on this being another tale in the sprawling universe.
But is it?
For those who have never watched Gotham Knight, I will say this now: Gotham Knight is only loosely connected to the Nolan films. The film shares some of the same characters, including Lucius Fox and Sal Maroni (who appears in The Dark Knight), but it is very much its own thing.
It can be watched as a single entity, or it can be slotted into The Dark Knight trilogy if you are keen to expand your experience to four films rather than three, buy you don’t have to watch it. It is a film that can be picked up or dropped as you see fit.
But keen to cover all the films in this series, I am going to watch and comment on Batman: Gotham Knight. Personally, I have a lot of love for this film, and enjoy any excuse to give it a viewing.
Batman: Gotham Knight
1min – The first tale in this interconnected animated movie is Have I Got A Story For You, which is written Josh Olson and animated by Studio 4°C. This segment is loosely based on the classic comic book story The Batman Nobody Knows, by Frank Robbins and Rick Giordano, so if you are a comic book fan it might sound somewhat familiar.
2mins – The premise of Have I Got A Story For You is that four children meet at a skatepark. Three of the kids claim to have recently crossed paths with Batman, and recount their tales to the other child.
4mins – The first kid describes Batman as something quite demonic, calling him a “living shadow.”
6mins – The second kid describes Batman as a man-bat.
10mins – The third kid describes Batman as a robot. It is clear that all three children view Batman very differently.
11mins 10secs – As the three stories wrap up, the real Batman appears at the skatepark in pursuit of a criminal. The criminal almost gets the drop on the Caped Crusader but he is saved by the fourth kid, who then gets ready to tell the other three children what he witnessed.
12mins 30secs – Of the six segments in Gotham Knight, Have I Got A Story For You is easily the weakest, so I’m always surprised that this vignette was chosen as the opener to the movie. The premise of the story is fine, and the animation is strong (although the character designs are an acquired taste), but it lacks Batman!
As this opening section is about different interpretations of Batman, rather than one single Batman it is an uneasy way to start the film. Have I Got A Story For You is also the least Nolan-esque part of this film, so it is bizarre the film starts here. Oh, well – things improve from here on out.
13mins – The second segment is called Crossfire and is written by Greg Rucka and animated by Production I.G.
13mins 50secs – This segment introduces Detective Ramirez and Sal Maroni – two characters who will appear in The Dark Knight.
17mins – The premise of this segment is that Detectives Allen and Ramirez have to transport a criminal to Arkham. The criminal is the man Batman was chasing in the previous story.
18mins – Gotham Knight is starting to make its connections to Batman Begins. The area known as the Narrows has become part of Arkham grounds, following the events of Batman Begins.
23mins – Allen and Ramirez get caught up in a gang war, but are assisted by Batman.
24mins 30secs – Crossfire is a much stronger segment than Have I Got A Story For You, and moves closer to establishing a link with Batman Begins. In my opinion, the film should have opened with Crossfire, and Have I Got A Story For You should have been shuffled further along.
25mins – Onto the third segment now, which is Field Test. This one is written by Jordan Goldberg, with animation from Bee Train.
26mins – Lucius Fox appears in this story and his characterisation is very much in keeping with how Lucius is depicted in Batman Begins.
28mins – The focus of this story is on the development of a significant piece of technology that could aid Batman in his war on crime. The tech is an electromagnet that has the ability to repel bullets.
29mins 15secs – Something I must note: Although the animation styles change from segment to segment, the voice of Batman remains the same throughout this film. That voice belongs to Kevin Conroy – the fan-favourite actor who first played the Caped Crusader in Batman: The Animated Series, before going on to play the role for Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, the Arkham games and many more films, games and TV shows.
33mins – I really like Crossfire. The animation is gorgeous to look at, and the story is strong.
33mins 30secs – It would appear that Batman’s new bullet-repelling technology works a little too well. A bullet has deflected off of Batman, and has hit someone else instead. This explains why this awesome piece of kit does not get used in the next two live-action movies.
36mins – Segment four now, and this is In Darkness Dwells.
38mins – In Darkness Dwells is written by David S. Goyer and is animated by Madhouse. This story makes reference to the events of Batman Begins, and with Goyer on writing duties it feels very much a part of the Nolan series.
41mins – I love the animation on display here. This is without doubt my favourite segment in this movie.
42mins – Two villains are included in this tale. One is the Scarecrow, and the other is Killer Croc – a character who is effectively a man-crocodile. The character might seem a little too ‘fantastical’ for the Nolan series, but he works surprisingly well here.
42mins 45secs – The Scarecrow is sporting a different costume to his live-action counterpart. It is equally gruesome though, and more akin to his comic book look.
46mins 30secs – Onto segment five, which is Working Through Pain. This story picks up directly after In Darkness Dwells, but largely develops into an extensive flashback to Bruce’s past.
49mins – Working Through Pain is written by Brian Azzarello, and animated by Studio 4°C.
51mins – Once again, the animation is stunning.
52mins – This story helps to fill in a few background details about Bruce’s pre-Batman days, specifically how he learned to cope with pain. This is a great way to fill in a bit of story that Batman Begins simply didn’t have room for.
59mins – Working Through Pain looks to the past, but also keeps on eye on the future. It shows some of Bruce’s training, but at the same time highlights the path Bruce is on – a lonely one, which will put him at odds with those around him (a hint of what’s to come in the next two live-action films).
59mins 30secs – The final segment of Gotham Knight is Deadshot, which is written by Alan Burnett and animated by Madhouse. As the title suggests, this story introduces the villain, Deadshot – a hired assassin.
1hr 7mins – Deadshot is on an assignment, seemingly to assassinate Jim Gordon, but his real target is Batman.
1hr 9mins 45secs – After an exciting fight scene, Deadshot has been defeated and is now in police custody.
1hr 10mins 30secs – As Gotham Knight draws to a close, Bruce questions Batman’s role, before looking out of the window to see the Batsignal. Regardless of any self-doubt, he knows the Batman is needed, paving the way for the events of The Dark Knight.
Although Batman: Gotham Knight starts off a little uneasy, the film continues to improve with each passing segment. In the process it delivers a continuous stream of beautiful animation, the likes of which have not been seen in any animated Batman feature before or after its release.
It is clear the links to Batman Begins and the Nolan-verse are pretty loose (with a few discrepancies), but in many ways this actually works in the movie’s favour. If you want to watch it as part of The Dark Knight trilogy, you can; likewise you can ignore it – so it gives you the choice to count it or discount it depending on your mood.
Personally I like to incorporate this film when I watch The Dark Knight trilogy, as I believe it enhances the overall experience. It adds villains and situations that neither Batman Begins, nor the next two movies had room for, and this helps to flesh out the wider universe which could exist beyond these films.
Now it’s time to move back to the live-action films…
The Dark Knight continues
Due to the positive reaction to Batman Begins, Warner Bros. Pictures was keen to press forward with a sequel. Batman Begins had done decent numbers, and proved there was still an appetite for Batman, and more specifically proved there was an appetite for Christopher Nolan’s brand of Batman.
A sequel was given the go-ahead, with Nolan back in the director’s chair. The principal cast were all brought back (with one notable exception) and Australian actor, Heath Ledger was added to the roster as the Joker.
Ledger’s casting was arguably the biggest source of discussion, and was initially met with skepticism, with many questioning how the actor could possibly top Jack Nicholson’s performance in Batman ’89. But as the film developed, and more information about his Joker began to surface, those questions eventually subsided and fans started to accept the casting.
The signs looked good for The Dark Knight, with Christopher Nolan being given the opportunity to deliver something truly impressive. Then in January 2008, news broke that Ledger had passed away. The news was unexpected and upsetting and understandably it cast doubt on the movie’s impending release.
After much consideration, Warner Bros. opted not to postpone the release of the movie. The picture would certainly feel different in light of Ledger’s passing, but the studio was ready to screen the film and let the movie play as a tribute to the actor.
And as audiences would discover, The Dark Knight was indeed a fitting tribute to the actor, with Ledger bringing a truly magnificent performance to the role. All Nicholson comparisons were forgotten and Ledger was posthumously praised for what he did with such an iconic part.
But it wasn’t just Ledger that became the topic of conversation, the film itself was met with an incredibly positive reaction, as well as a sizeable box office – over $1 billion worldwide! It was very clear The Dark Knight had struck a chord with audiences and even more so than Batman Begins did in 2005.
In fact, the sheer amount of praise thrown at The Dark Knight led to the film quickly being described as one of the best comic book movies of all time. High praise indeed and this was boosted by various award nominations, as well as two Academy Award wins – one for Best Sound Editing and one for Ledger for Best Supporting Actor.
Over the years, The Dark Knight has maintained its status as a high point for the genre, and as both a Batman fan and a comic book fan, I enjoy the picture. But in an era where there are now lots and lots of comic book movies, does the film still stand up?
The Dark Knight
1min 20secs – As the movie opens, the Joker appears on screen, but only his back his visible. At this stage he is posing as a member of a gang, about to pull off a bank heist. What’s interesting here is that he is in disguise, very much like Ra’s al Ghul who was in disguise at the beginning of Batman Begins and how Bane will be disguised as one of his own men during the opening of The Dark Knight Rises.
4mins – The gang members are killing each other off one by one, leaving just one thief to get away with the money. That thief is…
5mins – …The Joker!
6mins – The Dark Knight has such a strong opening. It establishes who the Joker is and how he operates in such a short timeframe. This is economical storytelling at its best.
7mins 30secs – The Scarecrow makes his return to the live-action films, marking the first time a villain from a previous Batman movie has reappeared in the next entry. The fact that Scarecrow also appears in Batman: Gotham Knight means he is easily the most notable villain throughout. Take that, Joker!
11mins 25secs – With Wayne Manor still under construction (following its destruction in Batman Begins), Bruce and Alfred are operating from a secret underground facility.
12mins – Bruce passes comment that he needs a new costume, because the current one isn’t cutting it. This is a great way for the story to necessitate the need for a new Batsuit, rather than one being introduced simply to give Batman a different look (or to sell Batman action figures to the audience).
12mins 40secs – Gotham’s new District Attorney, Harvey Dent makes his first appearance, where he is played by Aaron Eckhart. Prior to appearing in The Dark Knight, Dent featured in Batman ’89 (played by Billy Dee Williams) and Batman Forever (played by Tommy Lee Jones).
12mins 45secs – Rachel is re-introduced (she was absent from Batman: Gotham Knight), but here Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over the role from Katie Holmes. Why did Holmes not return for this movie? It was reported that she turned it down in favour of other projects.
13mins 30secs – Eric Roberts plays the role of Sal Maroni, a character first introduced in Batman: Gotham Knight. In the comics (and as seen in Batman Forever), Maroni is the man responsible for scarring Harvey Dent’s face, leading to his transformation into Two-Face. However, Harvey’s metamorphosis into Two-Face differs in this film… although Maroni is connected.
21mins 30secs – Since the events of Batman Begins (and as seen in Batman: Gotham Knight) crime in Gotham City has not gone away, it has simply developed. Maroni has taken over from Carmine Falcone, and organised crime still runs rampant in the city.
22mins 30secs – The Joker wants in on the action, and introduces himself to the mob. This film is now only two Joker scenes in and Heath Ledger is already owning the screen.
29mins – Unlike Batman ’89 which spent a chunk of the movie establishing Joker’s origin, The Dark Knight doesn’t bother. Instead, the film offers up multiple stories about how he acquired the scars on his face, and makes it clear he is simply an agent of chaos.
34mins 30secs – I should note, that with the scope and scale of these movies, as well as all Batman’s gadgets, the Nolan films feel a lot like James Bond movies. Batman Begins took Bruce Wayne to the Himalayas, while The Dark Knight takes him to Hong Kong, and this kind of location hopping feels very much like something Bond would do.
42mins 30secs – I didn’t mention this during my discussion on Batman Begins, so I will say it now: Michael Caine is perfect as Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Alan Napier’s Alfred in Batman: The Movie (1966) and I adored Michael Gough’s Alfred in the Burton/Schumacher Batman movies from the ’80s and ’90s, but Caine is my favourite movie Alfred of them all.
49mins – One of the great things about the Joker is his unpredictability. To be a great Joker, you’ve got to keep the audience on the edge of their seat, and this is exactly what Ledger delivers in this film.
50mins – I mentioned Bond a little earlier, and now the film appears to be making the connection a little more obvious with a homage to From Russia with Love (1963). This homage is to the character, Rosa Klebb who has a knife contained in the toe of her shoe. Joker uses the same shoe trick when he gatecrashes a fundraiser party being held for Harvey Dent.
55mins – The Dark Knight features a character called Coleman Reese, who deduces that Bruce Wayne is Batman. His name and his ability to uncover Batman’s secret identity is a nod to the Riddler.
55mins 30secs – Let me be clear: Coleman Reese is not the Riddler – so don’t for one second think he is – but he is a subtle reference to the character. The clue is in the name. The Riddler’s secret identity is Edward Nygma, aka E Nygma or ‘enigma’. Coleman Reese is Mr. Reese or ‘mysteries’.
59mins 35secs – There is only one scene in The Dark Knight which sees the Joker without his makeup and it takes place during the public funeral of Commissioner Loeb. While I would have liked to have seen a little more of the non-makeup Joker, I believe it was the correct decision to limit this look to just one scene.
1hr 4mins 30secs – There are hints that Harvey Dent is starting to lose his cool. This helps set up his transformation into Two-Face.
1hr 14mins – Following on from the epic Batmobile/police car chase in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight has its own chase scene involving the Batmobile. While it is not as strong as the chase in Begins, it is still damn good.
1hr 19mins 30secs – The Joker is captured.
1hr 24mins – With the Joker in custody, Batman begins to interrogate him. This leads to a great conversation, whereby the Joker says he needs Batman.
1hr 29mins – And now for something I didn’t expect when I watched this film the first time around – the death of an important character.
1hr 32mins – …Rachel is killed. I geniunely didn’t expect this.
1hr 37mins 30secs – Harvey has become Two-Face. Digital effects are used for his facial transformation. Would practical effects have worked better? Maybe. The digital work is very good, but personally I would have preferred something more tactile. I appreciate this is personal taste, so don’t come for me in the comments section.
1hr 51mins – Batman has adapted Lucius Fox’s sonar technology to track the Joker. He is using surveillance equipment for his own purposes. Very unethical.
1hr 56mins – And speaking about ethics, the film enters into a mini debate regarding life and death choices, with a scene involving two boats – one containing prisoners and one containing law abiding citizens. Each boat is wired to explode, with the detonators handed to the passengers on the opposite vessel. The passengers are given a deadline to blow up the other boat. If they wait too long, they run the risk of being blown up themselves.
The Joker sets up this situation, to show how people can be corrupted. It backfires when the passengers prove him wrong, but I like that this idea is introduced in the movie. I know that some people are not fans of this scene – but I am.
1hr 58mins – Detective Ramirez (introduced in Batman: Gotham Knight) is revealed to have been corrupted. This initially appears at odds with the way her character is depicted in Gotham Knight, but on closer inspection it would seem that she is still a decent cop, she just made a bad choice.
2hrs 8mins – Batman defeats the Joker, and the Clown Prince of Crime lives to fight another day, although when audiences watched this film in cinemas (myself included), in light of Ledger’s passing, everyone wondered if the role would be recast for the sequel. Of course, it wasn’t.
2hrs 15mins – Although the Joker’s plan to corrupt the passengers on the boats has failed, he did manage to corrupt Harvey Dent. Harvey became Two-Face, killed a number of people and ruined his own reputation, so the Joker still managed a victory.
2hr 18mins – As The Dark Knight comes to an end, Batman takes the fall for Harvey’s actions and becomes Gotham’s outcast. This leaves plenty of room for his redemption in the final entry – but the next film won’t include Joker or Two-Face, their stories are done.
When you start with a movie as strong as Batman Begins it seems highly unlikely that you will be able to top it, yet for many people, Christopher Nolan did just that – he made a bigger, better film that didn’t drop the ball. And while I agree that the film delivered on all fronts, I wouldn’t call it a better film.
Personally I prefer Batman Begins to The Dark Knight, but (and this is important) that doesn’t mean I like The Dark Knight less. I lean more towards Begins as my de facto Batman movie, but I would gladly conclude that both films are more or less on par with each other. The important thing to note is that Christopher Nolan delivered two incredibly impressive films, that impressed audiences and made the suits at Warner Bros. Pictures very happy.
When The Dark Knight hit cinema screens in 2008 it became a phenomenon. Not since Batman ’89 had audiences embraced a Batman film in this way and that was good news for everyone.
Critically and commercially The Dark Knight was huge. Audiences also loved the Joker and Ledger’s Joker became an instant icon and one of the many reasons to return to the film.
Having seen The Dark Knight multiple times now (more times than I care to admit to) I can say I never tire of it. I do feel it is a few minutes too long (only a few), but this is an excellent piece of filmmaking and one which elevates the live-action Batman movie series to new heights.
The Dark Knight concludes
The Dark Knight was exceptionally successful; not just for a Batman movie, but as a film in its own right. There had been talk of a third entry in the series while The Dark Knight was in production, but due to the overwhelming response to the movie, it quickly became a foregone conclusion and The Dark Knight Rises was given the green light.
The film went into production, once again retaining most of the core cast. New cast mates included Tom Hardy as Bane, Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate.
Although there was a loyal fan base for Nolan’s Batman movies, and the potential to create a long-running series, it was made clear that this would be the last entry. As such, excitement built, as did speculation, with many fans wondering how the trilogy could possibly conclude?!
Either way, things once again looked good. In 1997, the Batman movie series was in bad shape and facing the best part of a decade lost in the wilderness, but by 2012 it was an entirely different story – the series couldn’t have been in better shape. And then tragedy struck.
On July 20th, during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, a gunman entered the Century 16 cinema and open fired. The gunmen – named James Eagan Holmes – killed 12 people and injured a further 58.
The shooting was a tragedy, and the media quickly linked the subject of the film to Holmes’ interest in Batman. Overnight, The Dark Knight Rises became a huge topic of conversation for the worst reasons, and it left Warner Bros. with much to consider about how to move forward.
Out of respect for the victims, the studio cancelled a number of international premieres and marketing campaigns were adjusted or dropped. The film would continue playing in theatres, but there was a different vibe surrounding the movie.
Yet despite the awful circumstances which surrounded the movie, The Dark Knight Rises became a huge success and performed incredibly well. Reviews were favourable and by the end of its run it crossed the $1 billion mark, becoming the second highest grossing film of the year (second only to The Avengers).
So, a pretty good movie then, right?
I’ll play my hand now and say yes, this is a good movie. Do I think it is as strong as the previous entries? Well, let’s find out, because it is now time to finish my Nolan-verse journey with the final entry in this series.
The Dark Knight Rises
3mins 20secs – The opening action sequence of The Dark Knight Rises, with Bane pretending to be one of his own goons, is a magnificent way to kick-start the film. Bane is a scary villain, plus this scene – in which Bane and the League of Shadows crash a plane – is simply exhilarating. I’m a big fan of this and once again, I’m getting James Bond vibes.
8mins 30secs – Eight years have passed since the events of The Dark Knight and in that time, the Harvey Dent Act has been enacted, which has put 1,000 prisoners in Blackgate Prison. Dent has become a hero to Gotham, while Batman has become Public Enemy No.1.
10mins – A number of key characters are introduced during the first ten minutes of The Dark Knight Rises, including Selina Kyle, Miranda Tate and John Daggett. Selina Kyle’s introduction is by far the best.
13mins 30secs – Another key character is introduced in the shape of Officer John Blake. Blake is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
17mins – Alfred tells a story, about a fantasy he often has, where he imagines a better life for Bruce Wayne. In the fantasy, Bruce has settled down with a wife, far away from Gotham City and is finally at peace. This seemingly insignificant story becomes very important at the end of the movie, yet here it just seems as if Alfred is telling a yarn.
29mins – John Blake has deduced that Bruce Wayne was once Batman. Blake is establishing himself as an exceptional cop.
32mins 30secs – Miranda Tate gets her first conversation with Bruce Wayne. Prior to the release of The Dark Knight Rises, there was a great deal of speculation about whether Miranda Tate was secretly Talia al Ghul – the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul. Anyone who has seen the movie, knows that she is.
39mins – Another important piece of dialogue is dropped here, when Lucius Fox presents The Bat to Bruce Wayne. The Bat is an unused flying vehicle, with a faulty autopilot system that needs fixing. This little conversation about the autopilot will play a significant role during the finale.
43mins – Bane has stormed the Gotham Stock Exchange.
50mins – Batman has returned to Gotham, causing a police chase across the city. No Batmobile this time (as it was destroyed in The Dark Knight), but the Batbike and The Bat both get used.
1hr 3mins – Patrick Leahy cameos as a board member at Wayne Enterprises. The US Senator, who is a life-long Batman fan has appeared in a number of Batman movies, including this one. He also appeared in a scene opposite Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.
1hr 9mins – Miranda Tate and Bruce Wayne get romantic.
1hr 12mins – Batman vs. Bane.
1hr 15mins 30secs – Bane breaks Batman’s back.
1hr 27mins – With Batman incapacitated, the Gotham City Police Department are searching for Bane. Leading to one of the most shocking scenes in the film…
1hr 29mins 30secs – Bane sets off a series of explosions in Gotham, trapping police in underground tunnels, destroying parts of a football stadium, and cutting the city off from the outside world. There is death and devastation aplenty.
1hr 38mins – The truth about Harvey Dent has been revealed.
1hr 39mins – Harvey Dent gets mentioned a number of times throughout The Dark Knight Rises, but there is no reference to the Joker.
1hr 41mins – Bane has taken over Gotham and society has crumbled. This film certainly raises the stakes on the events of the previous movies.
1hr 44mins 30secs – Ra’s al Ghul pops up in a quick cameo. He appears as nothing more than a figment of Bruce’s imagination, but it is an acceptable way to momentarily include him – and actor Liam Neeson – in the film.
1hr 57mins 30secs – Cillian Murphy makes his third and final appearance as the Scarecrow/Jonathan Crane. I am so pleased he gets this opportunity to reappear. I felt that Crane was under-utilised in Batman Begins, so it’s good to see the character weaved throughout the trilogy, and included in Batman: Gotham Knight.
2hr 1min – Bruce has returned to Gotham. The big finale is coming.
2hr 10mins – The Batman/Catwoman relationship in The Dark Knight Rises, is interesting as it feeds back into something established in Batman Begins. In that initial movie, Rachel Dawes told Bruce that she couldn’t be with him until he no longer needed to be Batman. As all the movies have proved, Bruce can’t completely give up being Batman (because deep inside he is Batman), so their relationship was never going to be rekindled, even if Rachel had lived. So, when it comes to romance, it only makes sense that Batman and Catwoman get together, because Selina Kyle has to be Catwoman, like Bruce has to be Batman. They both have a darker side to their personalities.
2hrs 17mins 30secs – Miranda Tate has revealed that she is really Talia al Ghul. I remember the lack of shock coming from the audience during the initial cinema screening. We knew. We all knew!
2hr 25mins – With this being the final entry in the trilogy, Nolan is going for a big finish. Batman, Catwoman, Jim Gordon and Lucius Fox are working together, Gotham is minutes from destruction from a bomb, and the end is truly nigh. This is compelling viewing and the perfect way to bring this series to a close.
2hrs 33mins – And just at the last minute… Gotham is saved. Batman is a hero, but he gave up his life for his city. Or did he?
2hr 34mins 45secs – And now for a few big reveals, starting with the revelation that John Blake’s real name is ‘Robin’ – a reference to Batman’s crime-fighting partner of the same name, who has been notably absent from the films.
2hr 35mins – The next reveal is that Bruce Wayne fixed the faulty autopilot on The Bat, giving him a potential escape route should he have needed it. Did he use it?
2hr 36mins – The next reveal is that someone has fixed the Batsignal, even though it had been destroyed at the end of The Dark Knight. Was it Batman?
2hr 36mins 30secs – And now comes the BIG reveal, as Alfred sits outside a cafe, just like the one in his fantasy. He looks across the cafe to see Bruce and Selina, safe and well. Is this real? Did Bruce escape the bomb blast, fix the Batsignal, then flee Gotham? Or is this scene just wishful thinking on Alfred’s part? It is a scene that is specifically left ambiguous, and I love it!
2hrs 36mins 45secs – As the trilogy ends, John ‘Robin’ Blake is now in the Batcave, which sets up the possibility he could become a new hero for Gotham. Would he be Robin or would he be a new Batman? That’s up to the audience and the fans to endlessly debate, but for now, the journey is over.
I really enjoyed re-watching The Dark Knight Rises. It is a marvellous movie, and a fantastic capper to Nolan’s series.
Do I think it is as strong as Batman Begins or The Dark Knight? No, but it’s not far off.
In terms of quality, The Dark Knight Rises hits every mark. It looks good, it sounds great, and it certainly doesn’t fall short of the standard that was set in Nolan’s previous entries.
My only real issue with The Dark Knight Rises is the length – I feel it is a tad too long. I noted that The Dark Knight was a touch too long, and that is also the case here.
I appreciate The Dark Knight Rises has a lot of story threads to tie up, but at around 2hrs 45mins it’s a lengthy film and there are moments where it does start to wobble a little. But it does find a second wind, so I am not going to dwell on this.
Nolan is a master filmmaker and The Dark Knight Rises is a damn fine film. What he has achieved with this film, as well as Batman Begins and The Dark Knight is outstanding. Truly outstanding.
The Nolan legacy
The Dark Knight trilogy is a milestone in the Batman mythology and one that audiences will return to for years to come. Each film is incredibly entertaining and a joy to watch, and I love coming back to this era to soak up as much of the story as possible.
Combined with Batman: Gotham Knight, there are four very distinct, very strong movies on offer. This is Batman at his very best, with some of the most compelling stories committed to film.
For me, Batman Begins inches above the rest, but I think all of the films are leading examples of a.) how to make comic book movies work on screen and b.) how to bring Batman to a new audience.
I believe there is plenty of room for all different versions of Batman (both light and dark), so the Nolan-verse is not the be-all and end-all of the Caped Crusader. But this collection of films is one that had a clear vision, and is up there with the best examples of the genre.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post about The Dark Knight trilogy and Batman: Gotham Knight. I hope you have found this discussion both informative and entertaining – I am grateful for your company.
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