Review of the Dark Knight Trilogy
This past weekend, the finale to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise screened around the world. Three movies from one of today’s best directors; and to top it off the movies were about a superhero. Join me as a review not only the finale, Dark Knight Rises, but also the first two movies, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. If you want to read the review for just the third film then you should check out Ricky’s The Dark Knight Review. Hit the jump to see what I thought of this trilogy.
It should go without saying, but SPOILERS for all three of the Nolan Batman movies.
Almost ten years ago, Christopher Nolan was brought on to a then unnamed Batman movie. Soon after that, an up-and-coming writer David Goyer was brought it to work the script along with Nolan. Thus Batman Begins was formed.
Their work over the past decade has not given us one of the best comic book movie series, but one of the best trilogies out of all cinema.
But that is just being general, let’s get a little more specific on how good this trilogy is.
How can we talk about this franchise without talking about the main character?
Christian Bale (The Machinist, Newsies) would go on to portray Bruce Wayne/Batman. I do not think they could have made a better choice. Bale can be solemn and brooding, but enjoy the brief moments of levity that Nolan sprinkles throughout his films. Bale is also physical enough to handle the rigors of being an all-too-human superhero. To gain the role, Bale needed to gain muscle after dropping down to 120 pounds for his role in The Machinist. Nolan thought Bale had bulked up too much and had to drop thirty of the one hundred pounds he had put on. And remember all of this was in less than a year’s span. Either way, Bale has proven that he had the chops to be the physical Batman we needed and the playboy billionaire for the duality of the role.
The character of Batman shows development not only through the his initial growth in the first movie, but throughout the series. He has grown from the spoiled brat to a self-sacrificing hero. Every time that we see the downward trend, it is with good reason. Bruce Wayne does not want to give up just because of a bruised ego, usually he has to traverse through some of the hardest problems he ever faced. Thomas Wayne had said it best in the first movie when he asked Bruce, “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” That line is repeated throughout the series, and the resonance it carries makes each movie a battle for Batman to fight on a moral front. Bale displays this growth easily for the world to see.
We will kindly overlook the exaggerated raspy voice that Bale does for Batman.
The best judge of a hero is the opposition that he faces and this Batman has a class of villain all to its own.
Each movie, Nolan forces Batman to face off against a set of villains. These villains are masterfully down by incredibly talented actors.
Cillian Murphy steps into the role of the demented Doctor Crane that uses fear toxin to subdue his enemies. I have always enjoyed Murphy’s work and this is no exception. His cool stare and lanky features bring out the villain to reality. Murphy will make reoccurring appearances throughout the series and each time he is fun and charming, just like a sociopath should be. Liam Neeson takes on the role of Ra’s al Ghul, although we do not find out about that until later in the film. The fact that Ghul uses a decoy brings realism to the idea of the immortal Ra’s al Ghul. Neeson is another quality actor that plays a cult leader to a terrifying level. Neeson plays self-righteous with great calm and intensity, even the way he dies is head on. Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker is beyond breathtaking. Many people, including myself, were skeptical that the former teenage heartthrob would fill in the role of the maniacal Joker. But Ledger pulled off a feat that not many people can do. There is not many words I can say that will describe this performance, I will allow his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor speak for itself. It is a role that will make you laugh and cry. After Ledger there was Aaron Eckhart that would play the ill-fated district attorney. Eckhart played the role beautifully as for the majority of the film he would be a likable character which makes his downfall all that more meaningful. Subtle touches, different yet similar voices, allowed Eckhart to masterfully display the dual personality. And finally we have Tom Hardy playing the role Bane. Much like Christian Bale had to put on weight to become the Dark Knight, Hardy had to go through the same rigors to become the masked man. For an actor that played a role with mask that covers most of his face and still manages to pass on his emotions is incredible. The eyes of Hardy make Bane that much more believable than the comic book version of the mask would ever allow.
Escalation was the word used in the first film. In each film, Gotham has been abused by a truly better class of villain.
Let’s start with Nolan himself along with other production thoughts.
Christopher Nolan learned how to shoot fight scenes through the Dark Knight Trilogy. In Batman Begins, the fights were short and jittery. It was hard to follow those shots. But by Dark Knight Rises, Nolan was master at work allowing audiences feel the physicality of these fights.
Nolan has one of the best eyes for backdrops and settings. The climb to seek out the League of Shadows, Batman overlooking Hong Kong, and the looking up through the cells of Pena Dura. Each locations used were absolutely breathtaking and makes me want to visit each. On top of this, Nolan continues excelling his craft by directing elaborate heists and battles to go along with the setting.
How about the supporting cast? If you thought I read off a list of great actors as we went through the villains, then you should be amazed at the list of actors that populated Gotham. Gary Oldman as Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred, Morgan Freeman as Lucius, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as “Robin,” and many more. Each of these actors helped with the levity when the situation become too dire, allowed the audience to live vicariously through them, and gave the moral backbone of the series.
I honestly could go on for a lot more, but as this trilogy must end so must this article.
To sum it all up, the Dark Knight Trilogy is by far one of the best trilogies in film. It also happens to be one of the best comic book films put to date. I am sad that we can not have more of this franchise, but I am also glad for it to have existed.
These films were not what audiences deserved, but it is what they needed.