There is no shortage of trilogies in our world of film. Spanning genre, scale, impact, and even necessity, there is an abundance to choose from. But it is rare, and certainly difficult, to create a perfect trilogy. One that does not lose pace or identity halfway, one that does not alienate the audience after a point or cause them to lose interest.
Christopher Nolan’s work has taken us far away from our real world, and deep into the realms of fantastic possibilities. Time and again, his films have tried to showcase time technology, about worlds far away, and worlds within our own minds. Somehow, a superhero film seems to be an odd one out within his filmography. But on close examination, it is clear that ‘The Dark Knight Trilogy’ fits into the same avatar as his other films. A trilogy that asks questions relentlessly, to the characters, to us, and to our perception of who is a hero and what is his responsibility.
Played by Christian Bale, we see Bruce Wayne facing his internal conflicts in the trilogy. We see his transformation spanning from the first installment to the third. It could be said perhaps that the first film is a becoming, the second, a reckoning, and the third, an undoing. We witness Batman fight and Bruce Wayne pretend, but the reason this trilogy stands out is because of how deeply it takes us into the turmoil of choosing to be Batman. We realize that no ordinary man could have chosen to be Batman, and it is perhaps this choice, and not his suit, that makes him a superhero.
The concept of a hero, and the devastation it can bring to the man who dons the suit, is demonstrated over and over to us. We are not dazzled or swept away by Batman, we watch in awe and fear as we see him endure to an extent that is usually not possible.
It is a device that when used in film, has the potential to be used with staggering effect. With ‘The Dark Knight Trilogy,’ the city becomes a character of its own. We see Gotham, we hear about its troubles, and eventually we understand why Gotham is worth this much sacrifice.
While most superheroes have set out on their missions to protect their respective cities, Batman seems to do it with a dream and hope of what Gotham can be. He believes that Gotham can be saved, and more importantly, that it deserves to be. We see the corruption, the squalor, the divides that have descended upon the city. We recognize that this is a city full of the apathetic and the driven. It is a city that has enough darkness around its edges to accommodate and appreciate a vigilante who has taken on the mantle of protector.
We are also reminded, time and again, that it is the people and the city that Batman and Bruce Wayne are fighting for. It does not matter what they do to him, how they see him, or what they expect from him. ‘The Dark Knight Trilogy’ show us that a hero’s duty is to go on, no matter how he is treated, even by the very people he is trying to protect.
An immersive superhero experience demands a scale and visual landscape that is certainly within Christopher Nolan’s area of expertise. We see the suit, the visual effects and the stunts go up in scale with each film, mirroring both the progress of our time and the hero’s own growth. It is aided superbly by the score composed by Hans Zimmer, a score that serves its purpose and lifts the scenes to a visceral level.
Perhaps one of the greatest triumphs of the trilogy is the deep characterization that fills up all 3 films. From Alfred, the butler who guides and guards Bruce Wayne, to Rachel, the woman who can see through Bruce Wayne and Batman, there are powerful and engaging characters in every single one of the films, familiar and first-timers. It gives the audience a chance to feel what Bruce Wayne feels, as we encounter each character and try to place them as friend or foe.
‘The Dark Knight Trilogy’ particularly elevates itself past the routine superhero genre with its treatment of villains. Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Tom Hardy and Marion Cotillard are some of the acting giants who step into the role of villain, bringing us face to face with terrifying consequences, unhinged madness, and the knowledge that any hero can be turned into a villain.
The world of the Dark Knight trilogy extends beyond the landscape of Gotham or Batman. These aren’t adventures, and we aren’t here just to have fun. This is a trilogy that breaks its characters down and discards our preconceptions. It is a commentary of the depths a superhero must take himself down to, and how he must split himself into two, to ensure he does not become the hero that lives long enough to turn villain.