The Dark Knight Rises Trilogy

I’m a simple girl, I’m very easy to buy presents for. If you don’t want to buy me a Blu-Ray, buy me a book. If you don’t want to buy me either of those, buy me chocolate. As such, I think that Blu-Rays (or DVDs) are the perfect present for other people. This week I’m going to suggest some box-sets that will make great Christmas presents for family members and friends (or for yourself if you need a bit of quiet time away from all that enforced festive fun). The first box-set that should be appearing under a million trees this year is The Dark Knight Trilogy . Christopher Nolan’s Batman reboot has enthralled fans for the past 7 years, culminating in this summer’s eagerly anticipated climax to the story.

Batman Begins

Released: 2005
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson

The first part of the trilogy introduces us to Bruce Wayne, Gotham City’s young billionaire traumatised by the murder of his parents when he is a child. He travels to Bhutan where he is trained in martial arts by the mysterious R’as Al Ghul and the League of Shadows. When he learns that the League of Shadows plans to destroy Gotham City he returns, vowing to protect his home city in the guise of a masked hero – Batman. Without revealing his true identity Bruce helps the only honest policeman in the city, Jim Gordon and Assistant DA (and the girl Bruce loves) Rachel Dawes chase down the mob and crazed psychiatrist Dr Crane/The Scarecrow.

I’m not a huge fan of Batman Begins. When I first saw it I was completely unimpressed – as a stand-alone film it doesn’t do anything for me at all. There’s really no enemy to fight for the majority of the film – every superhero film needs a bad guy and there’s far too much set-up and not enough story. When we do get to the final act it’s not terribly engaging – who can really get passionate about a finale that’s a plumbing emergency and a scrap on the Docklands Light Railway? Having said that, as an introduction to two later, much better installments Batman Begins works well.

The Dark Knight

Released: 2008
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger

Without a doubt the high point of the trilogy, thanks in no small part to Heath Ledger’s magnificent turn as the Joker.

Gotham is becoming a cleaner city thanks to the combined efforts of Batman, Lieutenant Gordon and new, zero-tolerance District Attorney Harvey Dent. The mob is losing its grip and corrupt cops are disappearing from Gotham City PD but The Joker, a hideously deformed criminal is determined to cause havoc and uncover Batman’s true identity. Gotham begins to turn on itself and the threat comes directly to those Bruce Wayne loves most.

Two things make this film a real gem and one thing stops it being a masterpiece. Heath Ledger’s performance is outstanding and it’s a tragedy that he died so young. I’m a huge fan of Ledger’s and he was never better than in this film. His performance was outstandingly powerful and every tick; strange lick of lips and jerk of the head delivered so much. Christopher Nolan’s direction is fabulous, particularly when he is producing those iconic images – the Batman surveying his city, the bat symbol blazing on buildings or the Joker hanging out of the police car. His cityscapes are amazing and he takes you on wonderful journeys. Journeys, unfortunately, that last forever. Nolan does not know how to bring a scene to an end and everything goes on much longer than it has to – including the film. By at least 20 minutes.

The Dark Knight Rises

Released: 2012
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway

And so it ends. Lots of people are calling The Dark Knight Rises their film of 2012. It definitely appears on my top ten and probably in my top five. It is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy and brings the story full circle.

8 years on from the events of The Dark Knight and Batman is no longer a hero but an outcast and a wanted criminal. Bruce Wayne is living in self-imposed solitude, Jim Gordon is Commissioner of Police and Gotham is seemingly safe from danger. But not for long as a masked man called Bane arrives in the city and Batman is called upon to save Gotham from its greatest ever threat. He’s joined in this fight by young policeman, John Blake and cat burglar (but not cat woman) Selina Kyle.

This is a beautiful looking film. The effects are stunning, particularly on Blu-Ray on a nice big screen if you can experience it that way. The bridge and football field blasts are great and along with the hospital destruction from the previous film may be making their way onto a revised top ten movie explosions list. It’s also the film with the best chemistry between Christian Bale and his leading lady – because Anne Hathaway is by far and away the best one of the entire series.

There are enough plot holes to drive a batmobile through. At the end of The Dark Knight Batman runs off like a scampering kitten, yet at the beginning of this film he’s limping badly. Has Bruce Wayne actually taken up spelunking in the intervening 8 years? Tom Conti’s mysteriously accented man speaks of the “legend” of R’as Al Ghul’s child. Legend? It was only 20 or so years ago man. That’s not legend, that’s gossip.

Any complaints about The Dark Knight Rises (and the fact that Christopher Nolan needs for the love of God and all things holy to employ a script editor who knows how to wield a red pen) are forgiven though for the last five minutes. For those five minutes of sheer perfection when we just say yes, yes, yes over and over again and beg Nolan to write a new trilogy about what happens next.

I’ve not written much about the acting in these three films – uniformly it was great and I’ll be posting a top ten of my favourite performances in The Dark Knight Trilogy.

By no means is The Dark Knight Trilogy perfect, each film is just that 15 minutes or so too long for it to be perfect. It’s a beautiful looking piece of work and it’s something that everyone’s talking about and will be for years to come. It’s an instant classic and it belongs in everyone’s film collection.

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