EDITORIAL: Shining a Light on The Dark Knight Rises

With inevitable comparisons to The Dark Knight, it's easy to overlook some of the incredible features of Christopher Nolan's final Batman film. Warning: SPOILERS

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By Luke Webster - 7/30/2012
2012 has been mind-blowingly massive for CBM fans. The Avengers brought some of the most sacred fanboy dreams to life, The Amazing Spider-Man offered us the smartass Spidey we’ve been longing to see with an impressive Peter Parker to boot...and now the third and final movement in the Dark Knight trilogy has beaten the curse of the threequel delivering a brutal and moving conclusion to one of the greatest trilogies, not only for CBMs, but for cinema as a whole.

It’s easy to be critical of what we are presented with on the big screen. After all for many of us these stories are the ones we’ve been reading, imagining and living since childhood. We live and breathe these tales and rightly expect anyone who interprets them to handle them with the reverence they deserve.

VicSage wrote a fantastic and thought provoking article HERE and while I’m all for being critical, I think it’s also good to celebrate the fantastic achievement that TDKR is. To further the discussion I want to celebrate all the things which TDKR did right and perhaps explore some of the reasons why this movie has sparked such passionate debate on our forums.

Bruce Wayne’s story is concluded

For over 70 years Bruce Wayne has been Batman. Week in week out. Ever reliable. Ever infallible. Ever eternal. And it’s great! He solves mysteries and escapes traps in a way that only the serial format comic books offer. But the story never ends. To give Bruce Wayne a definitive ending that would service the character and please the fans is almost impossible to imagine (and rarely attempted).

In cinematic trilogies, the first film covers the origin and the second lets loose with bigger action. However studios love to keep a franchise open for future instalments, so often the third movie has nothing else to do but rehash the same elements already covered in the first two movies with less of a payoff (Spidey 3, X-Men 3).

TDKR jumped straight into considering what an ageing Bruce Wayne might do towards the end of his career – with a body that won’t sustain him and a legacy to consider. We find Bruce has been inactive as Batman (like in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns) and his life is bereft of purpose and drive.

It takes a madman threatening Gotham for Bruce to come alive again, willing to risk body and soul to save the city he vowed to protect. In a state of weak physical and mental health, Bruce is clearly the underdog. It gives our hero a true challenge to overcome and a solid motivation to fight. It explores the dogged determination of the character as well as his fierce love for the city. Bruce finds peace in allowing his version of Batman to give so much that he symbolically dies, allowing a new version of Batman to rise and watch over Gotham (whether it is Robin, Nightwing or Batman Beyond type).

No one was safe

Nolan said up front this would be his last Batman flick and (presumably) an end to the Nolanverse. Fan speculation was rife that Alfred would die, if not Gordon, Lucius or even Bruce himself. The inclusion of Bane hinted Batman would suffer some very real damage - most likely a broken back. By choosing to stage a conclusion, there was no obligation to keep all characters alive for the next outing.

In other words Nolan found a way to inject a very real sense of danger into the story. Seriously when was the last time you actually thought Batman may die...and stay dead? It was the equivalent of trapeze without the safety net. There was more risk in everything Bruce did as the story unfolded.

Classic story arcs

In both Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and TDKR Bruce gets old and jaded, before a serious threat revitalises him and draws him back into action. Bruce realises just how much he loves being Batman to the point he is willing to die for Gotham. I’ll bet good money WB will reboot the Batman franchise to jumpstart an attempt at the Justice League (and keep the Batman cash cow alive). That means we’ll revert back to a young Bruce Wayne underneath the cowl. In my opinion TDKR is the closest thing we’ll see to Frank Miller’s seminal classic on the silver screen for a long time to come - and it’s a worthy companion piece to Miller’s vision.

TDKR also performed major fan service by including elements of Knightfall and No Man’s Land – two of Batman’s most iconic story arcs.

Commitment to comic book lore

It niggled me endlessly that the characters quite clearly meant to be Bullock and Montoya in TDK were renamed (I assume so as not to sully Montoya’s reputation with the devious actions of Ramirez). I understand it was necessary for the machinations of the story but it still sucked.

When Nolan told us that TDKR would feature the likes of Miranda Tate and John Blake, despite their similarities to the characters we wanted them to be, it wouldn’t have surprised me if he had chosen to insert entirely new characters instead. However these red herrings led to some of the sweetest fan payoffs, seeing the reveal of the complex Bruce/Talia relationship and a damn good version of Robin, in a movie made by a man who said he would never include him. Plus we saw a Catwoman as complex and manipulative as depicted in the comics. Throw in a spectacular Scarecrow cameo and a somewhat immortal Ra’s al Ghul and it’s clear that Nolan, despite his desires to keep Batman grounded in reality, has shown a thorough respect for the source material.

Tom Hardy elevated Bane to a new level

There is no way anyone could replicate the electric insanity of Ledger’s performance... but even more fundamentally there is no villain as compelling as the Joker. Nolan instead explored the tactical brute force of Bane. While the Darth Vader voice and lack of Venom has attracted criticism, Hardy and Nolan stayed true to the core of the character whilst injecting nuance and depth. The menace Hardy achieved through eyes and voice alone is inspiring, not to mention his on screen physicality.

Although it was disappointing there was no reference to the Joker, I respect Nolan’s desire to maintain Ledger’s legacy. Plus mention of the Joker could have drawn attention away from the threat of Bane. I guess it’s similar to Marvel deciding to leave Nick Fury out of the Captain America film for risk of him overshadowing Steve Roger’s story.

This isn’t The Dark Knight #2

A lot of the comments seem to be along the lines of TDKR was really good...but not as good as TDK. And that’s fair enough! TDK set a new benchmark for CBMs. It made a mainstream audience sit up and take note that a story based on comic books could be thrilling, intellectual and moving. With so many people expecting so much from the third instalment, there was bound to be a certain level of disappointment.

But the beauty of TDKR is that Nolan did not try to recreate TDK. Instead he chose to pursue a different theme, a different type of villain and an altogether different story. Once the dust of expectation settles, I’m sure TDKR will stand up to repeated viewings to be considered a worthy conclusion to a truly epic trilogy and thoroughly enjoyable in its own right. It brings a unique view to the Batman mythos and allows TDK to live on as a respected classic. All in all I pity the director that takes charge of the inevitable reboot.

I’d love to hear what aspects you loved about TDKR. Sound off below with some of the things you think TDKR did right!


The Dark Knight Rises stars Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hardy, and Anne Hathaway, and is directed by Christopher Nolan. The film can now be seen at your local theatre
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19 Comments
Knightrider - 7/30/2012, 12:48 AM
Nice article, very well put together. Agree with a lot of your points. What I also like is you tipped your hat to the other great CBM's from this year, which makes reading this not feel like a praise one shot another style article.

My only critism, is it is the last one, but I really want to see this 'Robins' journey, but get why they did it to illustrate that the legend lives on, and Batman will always have its protector.

People dislike the idea of Bruce ending his life as Batman, and I can see why, but I felt it worked really well here, and comics never have to deal with age so easy to have to not worry about that element.

ShadowOfTheWeb - 7/30/2012, 3:12 AM
Thanks @Knightrider :)
I definitely agree, the ending left me wanting more. it's sad to know this version of the story probably won't continue
breakUbatman - 7/30/2012, 3:36 AM
TDKR is like MGS4 the hero goes through so much but can finally rest or can he?

I loved the emotional aspect of this movie, the autopilot scene with Fox at the end was cool, but the fixed Bat-signal sealed the deal for me.

What I love about the trilogy as a whole is that Bruce Wayne makes selfish human decisions as opposed to being heroic all the time. At the end of Begins he said he'd look into the Joker, brushed it off in TDK until the Joker came for him and caused all sorts of hell. Rachel died because he chose to save her and he believed that he was the obvious choice for her as opposed to Harvey. He then got his ass handed to him by Bane because he thought Batman was better. "Take me to him", what a fool.

Also love the fact that the world seems populated by more than just the hero's friends

AmazingFantasy - 7/30/2012, 4:56 AM
TDKR was a complete letdown and disappointing, an over hyped mess and never felt like Batman AT ALL IN THE MOVIE. Movieweise, TDK shits all over this, Batman wise BB rapes this. Wasn't the best out of the 3 nor even being "Batman-ish"

No good characters, Batman isn't even in the movie, Alfred goes away for half the film. Now onto Bane, Talia and Catwoman.

Talia- Underdeveloped-plot device.

Bane- Doesn't look not have heritage from Batman I grew up with as child watching the 90s show/reading comics. Bane just felt like a walking catchphrase machine. Gets killed by Catwoman...
Seilna Kyle isn't even Catwoman, she’s just Miss Kyle. She was hot and all, no whip, claws or tail is a pass.
The only part I liked was the last 30 minutes, and [frick]ing hell the worst way to end a trilogy is to have the audience unsure is he’s alive or dead. No closure.

And what’s worse is Nolan did "[frick] you fans he's Robin, we aren’t doing that haha suck my dick"

7/10. Disappointing, over hyped mess that doesn't live up to TDK or BB.

My 2 cents.

BANE HAS NOTHING ON THIS.


Fantine - 7/30/2012, 7:43 AM
@TheGoddamDeadpool At what point in the film could Selina be called Catwoman? It would have sounded forced, she didnt need to be referenced as Catwoman, people knew who she was.

And how stupid would a whip have looked? How is a whip meant to stop a bullet? As for the claws, I always thought they were gimmicky anyway. And a tail? I wont even bother.

Taila was underdeveloped, which is a shame because for the brief segment, Marion give a stunning performance as her.
Fantine - 7/30/2012, 7:44 AM
A point a strongly agree with in this article is the renaming of characters who are so obviously the comic books ones.

Juno Temple is obviously Holly Robinson, shes young, blonde, lesbian and works with Catwoman, so why name her "Jen" as its being reported. Would it have been so much effort to name her "Holly" ? pisses me off/
PapaMidnite - 7/30/2012, 7:46 AM
"Tom Hardy elevated Bane to a new level"

So true. Not always the source works in the big screen, on the contrary: comics are full of silly elements and Bane is one of the silliest characters IMO. Never was a Bane's fan. Said that, i prefer the militarized terrorist Bane from TDKR.
GoILL - 7/30/2012, 7:55 AM
Nice article Luke.
MrReese - 7/30/2012, 9:03 AM
I agree with this article. fully.

"The only part I liked was the last 30 minutes, and [frick]ing hell the worst way to end a trilogy is to have the audience unsure is he’s alive or dead. No closure."

ummmm he's very much alive.When the camera turned from Alfred 2 Bruce ppl in my theater started clapping knowing he had made it. Ur right about Miranda tho.

In other news : I love how Miss "No Ass Having" "Not Sexy Enuff" "2 Sweet 2 be Catwoman" Anne & "Midget & Puny Bane" Tom completely shut some of these ppl up kinda like Mr.J did back 08. XD

MrReese - 7/30/2012, 9:04 AM
All these articles make me wanna go watch it again haha
jamescalinaya - 7/30/2012, 9:09 AM
@TheGoddamnDeadpool

"Bane- Doesn't look not have heritage from Batman I grew up with as child watching the 90s show/reading comics."
His heritage is more accurately portrayed in Rises than BTAS. He is Half-Carribean Half-British in the film like the comics. In the comics, he even looks white.

BTAS didn't adapt Bane as faithfully as you think.

"The only part I liked was the last 30 minutes, and [frick]ing hell the worst way to end a trilogy is to have the audience unsure is he’s alive or dead. No closure."

There IS closure. He IS alive. All the evidence points to his being alive. Even the motherfrikkin NOVELISATION SAYS HE'S ALIVE. He IS alive.

"And what’s worse is Nolan did "[frick] you fans he's Robin, we aren’t doing that haha suck my dick"

Robin John Blake was an amalgam of the first three Robins in the comics. He was a cop like DICK GRAYSON once was, he's got JASON TODD's hotheadedness and tendency to fake a smile, and he deduced Batman's identity by himself on an observation like TIM DRAKE.

Nolan was being respectful to the character. And to the audience too.

You're too unappreciative. The film is underrated imho.
ShadowOfTheWeb - 7/30/2012, 9:26 AM
Cheers @GoILL!
MrReese - 7/30/2012, 9:50 AM
@jamescalinaya I think they all gave moving performances.Especially that Alfred. LOL

"There is a prison in a more ancient part of the world.A pit.Where men are thrown 2 suffer & die.But sometimes a man rises from the darkness.Sometimes the pit sends something back."

"Bane"

"Born & Raised in Hell on Earth."

"Born in a prison?"

"No1 knows why or how he escaped.But they do know once he did,he was trained by Ra's Al Ghul,your mentor."

"Bane was a member of The League of Shadows"

"& then he was excommunicated.& any man who is 2 extreme 4 Ra's Al Ghul,is not 2 be triffled with."

Underrated indeed.
iamtheknight - 7/30/2012, 12:10 PM
U R RITE ABSOLUTLEY STUNNING FROM START TO FINISH A BRILLANT MASTERPIECE DID NOT WANT TO LEAVE MY SEAT NOT EVEN FOR POPCORN REFILLS
Jaywing - 7/30/2012, 12:22 PM
@jamescalinaya

You should write an editorial with your comment alone! I'm so sick of people saying he didn't adapt bane from the comics... And the complaints with robin. He was totally a combination of all the robins. Also how do people think he left it open ended? Bruce is alive... Did people not pay attention the last five minutes??
iamtheknight - 7/30/2012, 1:48 PM
well i agree with the article he coulda been beefed up a little and used the venom and the mask could have been a least a zipper type or maybe had a nod to the original design like for instance while bane was in the prison he could have disscused with the prison doctor some way of hiding the scars and a device to make him live or something like that
Azrael725 - 7/30/2012, 6:06 PM
very well written article man! i agree with all of your points, especially the last one. i think thats the beauty of this trilogy. each film is so different from one anotherand each has its own moments of awesomeness. the trilogy as a whole takes my #1 spot of all time favorite film(s).
VicSage - 7/30/2012, 7:37 PM
Liked this article quite a bit. Should also be on main now since mine has since been removed. Would be a nice companion piece. Really liked this article. Thanks for the mention as well! There's so much more I want to say about this film, as people believe I hated it since that article.. which isn't true. I was just underwhelmed. Still, I recognize it's 100x better than half the tripe that hits the screen. My expectations were simply incredibly high.

I'm planning on writing an article with all the comics that influenced TDKR soon.

Anyways, great article! You got my thumbs up
ShadowOfTheWeb - 7/30/2012, 7:48 PM
Thanks @VicSage, much appreciated :) yeah i'd be stoked if it gets to main.

I totally understand where you are coming from - I didn't get the impression you were hating on the movie, hopefully that came through :) I can relate. I followed all the online marketing and watched all the sneak previews for TDK and was similarly underwhelmed just because I had unreachably high expectations (although I still think TDK is incredible). Look forward to reading your next article!

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