The Dark Knight, Still the Best of the Trilogy and Here’s Why

I recently read an interview with Joss Whedon in which he was asked which of the new Batman trilogy he preferred and why? His answer was surprisingly Batman Begins.

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By Racker - 1/18/2013
The Dark Knight,
Still the Best of the Trilogy and Here’s Why

I recently read an interview with Joss Whedon in which he was asked which of the new Batman trilogy he preferred and why? His answer was surprisingly Batman Begins. He said he preferred Batman Begins because it was the only Batman film that was actually about Batman. Whedon continued by saying that he thought The Dark Knight was an excellent film but that he felt it was largely an ensemble piece and that Batman wasn’t the main focus as much as he would have liked. A few days later I began reading a lot of published stories from other sources in which both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises seemed to be the preferred choices over The Dark Knight. To be honest I was fairly shocked by this as I had always seen The Dark Knight as a seminal moment in film, a rare time when both critical acclaim and commercial success melded together like never before. It will always be my favourite of the trilogy and in this article I shall to tell you why.

First of all I think it is fair to say The Dark Knight changed comic-book movies forever. I think this fact is indisputable. Before that film, comic-book movies were seen as incredibly entertaining but none-the-less simple popcorn films. There was an obvious air of condescension from certain sections of the media as well as the general public. Even Batman Begins, despite its complex, psychological theme and dark, gritty visuals was seen essentially as something for the late teens/early twenties market. But right from the opening scene in the very first trailer of The Dark Knight, the world sat up and took notice. Everyone knew they were watching something that was more than just a lightweight popcorn movie for a certain market, with every new scene in that pulsating trailer, with every new chord of that bleak score that screamed this was a trailer not just to be seen once or twice but to be indulged many times over, the excitement grew. When the film finally arrived, it didn’t disappoint. The clear comparisons with Heat were undeniable but it only made it more enticing, the idea of Christian Bale’s/Al Pacino’s good guy trading taunts with Heath Ledger’s/Robert DeNiro’s criminal genius giving the film an extra weight. From scene to scene the movie rambles effortlessly along leaving you salivating at the prospect of more to come.

It goes without saying that I can’t do an article like this without mentioning Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as the Joker. I was seven years old when I first saw Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of the same character in Batman. I never thought I would see it outdone, but Ledger not only outshone one of the greatest actors of all time, he brought to life a more menacing, more homicidal, more maniacal villain than anyone has ever dared let grace the silver screen. The Joker of this world was as bizarrely creepy and disturbingly unhinged as you’ll find him in any comic that’s ever been written, and you couldn’t take your eyes off him. The highest compliment I could possibly give Ledger’s performance is that he has actually made it impossible to envision anyone else playing that character…Ever!!

My main reason for choosing The Dark Knight over Batman Begins and The Dark knight Rises is simply because for the first time in a Batman film we were shown the true ramifications of Bruce Wayne’s reality-altering decision to become a vigilante. Never before were his sacrifices laid so bare before us. The dual personalities of Bruce Wayne and The Batman both suffer in equal measure. For The Batman; the life of a fugitive, on the run, maybe never to be seen nor heard from again, his influence just a whisper on the Gotham breeze, for Bruce Wayne; the life of a lonely recluse, cruelly tortured by his own thoughts, forever tormented by the reality he can’t escape, his every decision up to this point led to the death of the woman he loved. There is no obscene amount of money, no cleverly disguised gadget that can heal these festering wounds. The feared monster that Bruce Wayne created, the theatrical figure to haunt and taunt the violent offenders, the evil rapists, the homicidal clowns of this town inadvertently bit back and left him a broken man surrounded by regret and self-pity. I have never seen a comic-book movie adaptation deal with these themes in such an effective and emotive way before (Batman Begins) or even after (The Dark Knight Rises) The Dark Knight.

I could go on for three or four more pages writing frantically and with a huge smile on my face about the very first moment we see the Batpod or the very second we catch a glimpse of Harvey Dent’s mutilated face, but I think I’ve made my choice clear. While I understand why the first and third films of the trilogy would appeal to people, for me The Dark Knight will always be the movie that showed us there are no limits to what can be produced from the wonderfully ingenious source material that has been read by millions for all these years. The Dark Knight was a game-changer; a creatively brilliant, billion-dollar film that ensured comic-book movies would continue to spark the interest of both the loyal fans that traipse the pavements outside the theatres and the money-men in Hollywood keeping a sharp eye out for the next billion-dollar franchise.

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35 Comments
kenjim152 - 1/18/2013, 5:57 PM
Dunno , Batman begins is still considered by many the best of the three.
tonytony - 1/18/2013, 6:30 PM
The Dark knight is still best of the three and is still the finest moment for comic book movies. It shows what is possible when a director strives to do more and show comic books as more than bubble gum.
CorndogBurglar - 1/18/2013, 6:44 PM
Batman Begins is still my favorite.
dellamorte1872 - 1/18/2013, 6:48 PM
BB is def my fav also HEATHs JOKER is entertaining but essentially its MALCOLM MCDOWELL from CLOCKWORK ORANGE
marvel72 - 1/18/2013, 7:08 PM
batman begins is the best of the trilogy & 'm not saying that because whedon has said it.

i've always thought it.
ToTheManInTheColdSweat - 1/18/2013, 8:12 PM
batman begins is my favorite followed by the dark knight rises BUT the dark knight is the best. that was a goddamn perfect movie.
MrEko - 1/18/2013, 9:07 PM
I love all 3 movies, each movie is unique and much different from it's predecessor:

Batman Begins - Noir graphic novel adaptation, in the vein of Year One.
TDK - Thriller, that deconstructs and reconstructs heroic lore and tropes.
TDKR - Pure Comic Book Movie, with a bombastic scenery chewing villain (the awesomeness of Bane) and even a hero's happy ending.

I agree TDK did change/influence cbms and blockbusters genre, in a very subtle but significant way. Before TDK, blockbuster sequels were retreads of the first movie, another hero's journey with more bells and whistles (hero gets call, hero goes on journey, hero saves people, the end).

TDK threw that basic formula* out and introduced a scenario where the hero is the active protagonist and the villain (joker) is a mysterious, scheming, speechifying individual with grand plans - the reaction/balance to the hero (batman)'s existence. You can see this formula copied by succeeding blockbusters: Game of Shadows, Skyfall, Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, Thor: Dark World and even Man of Steel.

*Prior to TDK, the only other sequel that came close to laying out this framework was wrath of Khan & empire strikes back*

In summary, TDK is a perfect answer to "What happens after the Hero's journey" - he gets broken/tested, his ideals are stripped down to its basics and fully reexamined, after which he re-emerges scarred and shaken but more idealistic and firmly rooted in his ideology/goal/mission.

I consider it to be one of the best CBMs ever made. My favorite is TDKR though... but that's just because I'm crazy ;)
MrEko - 1/18/2013, 9:30 PM
@Levitikuz, EXACTLY!!!
Same thought crossed my mind especially when you consider the fact Nolan's a huge Star Wars fan ;)
zachman2013 - 1/18/2013, 10:34 PM
The thing is...that the trilogy is perfect...I could call each one of the 3 films my favorite or the best for many different reasons.
Happy11 - 1/19/2013, 6:06 AM
I love BB for the way it looks Gotham had never look better and you didn't care when Bruce wore the suit, but for heart and story TDK is the best of the 3 in fact BB and TDK are the best CBMs ever. Because like me who has read Batman comics since the late 80s we were overexpecting TDKR but doesn't mean it's a bad film just very flawed.
DrHorrible - 1/19/2013, 7:20 AM
Batman Begins, quite simply, is the better "Batman" movie and the best Batman movie PERIOD. The Dark Knight is nice for what it is: a movie about a guy in a bat costume.

If you don't know what I mean, I'll say it this way: BB felt like it was REALLY Batman, in personality, story, etc. TDK felt like a crime drama with a guy in a goofy bat costume.

Get it? I hope so.

Don't even bring TDKR into the category of these two. That movie is absolute anal leakage.
SageMode - 1/19/2013, 7:42 AM
Begins was the only one out of the trilogy that felt like a Batman comic on screen (even though i wish they couldve done better with those horribly choreographed fight scenes).

And lets be honest the only saving grace of TDK wad Ledger's performance as the Joker. Take him out of the flick and it wouldnt get the recognition its received, but i still prefer Nicholson's Joker.
SageMode - 1/19/2013, 7:50 AM
Well i prefer Batman 1989 over the trilogy anyhow
jessepostal - 1/19/2013, 7:55 AM
To me I don't feel like any of the trilogy was batman, now when I play the arkham games, that's fuggin batman!
GoILL - 1/19/2013, 8:01 AM
I enjoyed all the movies in the trilogy and have watched BB and TDK pretty much around the same amount of times I might have to give TDK hte nod by a very slim margin.
AC1 - 1/19/2013, 8:07 AM
TDK is one of my favourite movies, and I think the better movie of the trilogy, but in many ways I prefer Batman Begins because it's made like a big-budget indie-movie, and is more about Bruce Wayne than any of the other movies are. The Joker is and always has been my favourite villain in anything, along with Darth Vader, and I really enjoyed Ledger's phenomenal performance/interpretation of the role, but I think in terms of what I find to be the most impressive Batman film, I think it's Batman Begins.

As for the Dark Knight Rises, I think if I'm brutally honest the only saving grace was Catwoman, although she didn't exactly fit into the movie very well. Also, Bane in the first half of the movie, but even then by the end of the movie he had also been ruined. TDKR almost seems like two smaller movies thrown into one pretty incoherent one (Catwoman bringing Batman out of retirement in his pursuit of her is one movie, while Bane and the return of the League of Shadows threatening Gotham is another), with the two story threads barely tying together through the corrupt businessmen who belong to the Catwoman story being written as Bane's colleagues, and Catwoman betraying Batman to Bane. Perhaps it's even three movies mashed together, since it could've been Joker's return and second attempt at destroying Gotham, but Bane now takes Joker's place.

Plus, the 'clean slate program' is right up there with 'Unobtanium' from Avatar on the list of worst movie items ever conceived.

In many ways I do think the series should've been left as a duology rather than being expanded into a trilogy - it's clear that there was an idea of an epilogue involving The Joker, but with Heath Ledger's death that was abandoned. That idea would've worked much better, but obviously couldn't be done, so it should've been left alone rather than doing TDKR, even though we did get some good performances.
iuhgluiblbjjkhkjhkljh - 1/19/2013, 8:48 AM
Marvel is talking trash now? [frick] you, Whedon.
AOSgotAlright - 1/19/2013, 10:23 AM
I understand the criticism of TDK. Some say it aspires to be more than a comic book movie, but to many others it aspires to be something other than a comic book movie.

To me though, I haven't seen a movie capture chaos like TDK has. I agree that Begins was a great beginning for Batman and was the only movie of the 3 that was about him, but it doesn't have that one defining characteristic that TDK has.
MrReese - 1/19/2013, 11:51 AM
I prefer BB than TDK & TDKR. BB was all bout Batman,TDK focused on Joker & TDKR focused more on Bruce. Great beginning,middle with just an o.k ending.

@CaptainCanti hahahaha XD
SageMode - 1/19/2013, 11:54 AM
CIPHER

I mean, both got the sadistic and twisted side of the Joker, but Nicholson's Joker was also theatrical, silly, and flamboyant and IMO a bit more charismatic.
OldComicBookFan - 1/19/2013, 12:25 PM
I have been reading Batman well over 40 years, and my favorite of the trilogy is Batman Begins. To me, it felt the most like the comics and the character. The only gripe I have with Batman Begins, is that he let Ra's Al Ghul die. Bruce Wayne in the comics would have never let anyone die willingly.
thejon93rd - 1/19/2013, 2:53 PM
I like The Dark Knight, but Batman Begins is easily my favourite of the three. The Dark Knight Rises came pretty close though. I thought that Bane was a great villain and it had the best action out of the trilogy, the first fight with Bane and Batman especially (though it did make me wish for a more brutal, climatic fight at the end instead of the quick minute or two that we got... which was still fun to watch).
GoILL - 1/19/2013, 4:57 PM
@LEVITIKUZ

I was the same way in fact a lot of people seemed to think the fight scenes in BB were not good but looking back at all Batman movies not just the TDK trilogy. I've seen more people express their preference for the way the fight scenes were done in BB to be used in the reboot.
THEDARKKNIGHT1939 - 1/19/2013, 5:19 PM
The trilogy really resembles the star wars trilogy.
Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight being the best of the three movies.
Unreal2k9 - 1/19/2013, 6:35 PM
Actually one of the most influential superhero movies was the first x-men flick. That really embraced the idea of a comicbook movie, more so than Blade.
WesleyGibson - 1/19/2013, 9:56 PM
dellamorte1872

You and that caps button have some sort of special relationship don't ya'll?

Anyway, I agree with Cipher about Ledger's Joker. Best shit I have read on this site in a while.
DumbledoreCalrissian - 1/19/2013, 10:56 PM
batman begins ftw.
IronSpider101 - 1/20/2013, 9:34 AM
I think The Dark Knight is still really good, and that they're all pretty consistent in quality.

But I think The Dark Knight is the lowest on both ends.

Best to Worst:
Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises, The Dark Knight

Personal Preference for me:
The Dark Knight Rises, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight.
nerdman81 - 1/20/2013, 2:45 PM
Begins is surely the best of the 3! TDK was great and all, but not the masterpiece people make it out to be. Heath gave a masterful performance, but without him, and the Joker, that whole movie would have been even more bloated, and subpar. Not to mention, the extreme voice change of Batman. Eckhart was ok as Two-Face. Wasn't a brilliant performance by any stretch, and the character was a complete waste, and thrown in as nothing more than a side plot device. Then also the over long ferry boat scene! Ugh, that was just dumb, and boring, and poorly written. Let's not even TALK about the massive abortion that was TDKR. That doesn't even rank in the top 100 CBM's of 2012 for me!
DukeAcureds - 1/20/2013, 2:49 PM
Begins gets my vote, but I'm loving it as a Trilogy, right now, more than anything else.
MisterMagurlypse - 1/20/2013, 4:10 PM
For me Begins is the best. TDK is a great flim on its own, it's like a crime thriller with well written, colorful characters. TDKR, well....Bane was fricking awesome, Selina was crazy good and John Blake was a pleasant surprise, but IMO was overall very disappointing. As far as a triolgy, what do we really have to compare it to; Rami's SpiderMan, X-Men and Blade? This is hard, hmm...it's funny I dislike the third flim of all of these. Even though the third installment hasn't come out yet, I'm gonna say....Iron Man is my FAV triolgy. Cause I know IM3 isn't gonna disappoint like the rest.
Supes17 - 1/20/2013, 4:24 PM
I think The Dark Knight is the best of the three.
TDKR did have a more comic book movie-ish feel to it though
WesleyGibson - 1/20/2013, 10:13 PM
MisterMagurlypse

You never know.
AC1 - 1/21/2013, 7:59 AM
The Dark Knight was definitely the cleverest story up to that point (if not up to now) that we've had in a CBM, so in those terms it's a masterpiece of a CBM, but by the standards of all movies it's not a masterpiece. It's a good movie and of a high quality, but it's no regular masterpiece.

@Cipher you hit the nail on the head about Heath Ledger's Joker, laughing in the face of death and viewing it as a victory. THAT's the Joker. Although I disagree about Mark Hamill's Joker being closer to Nicholson's - I respect Nicholson's performance but I've never really found him to be a definitive Joker in any way, nothing in terms of performance anyway. He was always more of a mobster character with a crazy laugh who dressed like the Joker IMO. Good performance, but not the Joker. As for Hamill, he's sort of the best of both worlds - many of the good aspects of Ledger (although he never reached the same level of psychosis), all the good aspects of Nicholson, and is much closer to the comic version. Mark Hamill is almost synonymous with the Joker, in many ways, more-so than he is with Luke Skywalker.
EdgyOutsider - 1/21/2013, 4:37 PM
I will agree that Batman Begins is the last Batman movie to feel like it's a Batman movie. Heath Ledgers Joker is the main saving grace for TDK. It's very good just, doesn't live up to the hype. I am gonna get major shit for this but, I like The Dark Knight Rises the most. It feels more like Batman than TDK did. Sure it has plot holes but, I didn't let em ruin my experience. Bane is the best part of the whole movie (I can understand what he says) and another reason I like it cause Batman ACTUALLY HAS A CHALLENGE. I got so sick of Batman not having a fricking challenge. But, aside from those reasons. It has the best acting from the rest of the cast, better story and is just an overall better film.

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