It’s been less than a year since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises blasted its way to the top of the box office, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time. As a follow-up, Nolan returned to his creation with a psychological horror film, seen as a companion piece to TDKR. While many expected that Nolan’s follow-up would live up to the incredible standards set by its predecessor, it appears that the filmmaker has outdone himself yet again with the latest adaptation of the Batman franchise. Here’s an in-depth look at Christopher Nolan’s Batman vs. The Dark Knight Rises, and whether or not it’s better than its predecessor.

A (Very) Brief Timeline Of Batman Vs. The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises marks the first time that Christopher Nolan has directed two consecutive tentpole films. The filmmaker followed up The Dark Knight with the summer 2014 hit, Interstellar, and then quickly returned with his most ambitious project yet. While the new Batman film doesn’t serve as a direct sequel to TDKR, it does pick up directly after the events of the previous film. The Dark Knight Rises opened in theaters on July 20, 2014, and as a result, we’re now entering a period of about a year and a half where we can compare the two films side-by-side. Here’s a breakdown of what happened in the Batman universe between Nolan’s The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.

Aftermath Of The Battle Of Gotham

It’s been two years since The Dark Knight came out in theaters, and during that time, Batman has been actively patrolling the streets of Gotham City. Along with Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and the police force, Batman has been leading a double life as a superhero. Though he’s made some allies along the way, none of them have been exactly what the Caped Crusader needs right now. Gotham City is a broken place, and the citizens aren’t exactly safe. The most dangerous gangsters in town are Rahsaan (Romeo Saenz) and his men, The Jokerz (a group of thugs who call themselves the Joker’s army.) After several failed attempts to take down Rahsaan and his crew, Batman finally tracks them down and puts a stop to their reign of terror. The confrontation gives the Dark Knight some well-deserved abs, but it also leaves him battered and seriously considering quitting the superhero game entirely. When Bruce (Christian Bale) decides to stick around, the police force helps him recover from his injuries and eventually rekindles his will to fight crime. It’s at this point where we see Batman put his skills to the test in a practical setting, and Nolan expands the Batman universe with an ensemble cast led by Bale.

The Rise Of The Villains (Of Which Is The Most Powerful, In The End?)

Once Batman starts getting back on his feet, he takes it upon himself to clean up Gotham City. The Dark Knight is an origin story that focuses heavily on Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent, who go on to become Two-Face and a sadistic version of himself, respectively. These two are the logical successors of the Joker, a character who first appeared in the 1939 series, All-American Comics, and then reappeared in Batman #1 in 1941. While the Joker’s goal is always to prove that he’s better than Batman, we quickly learn that he’s not the most powerful villain in Gotham. That title belongs to the Scarecrow (Liam Neeson), whose terrifying nemesis, the Batman, still patrols the streets of Gotham every day. It’s ultimately the Scarecrow who captures the imagination of the Gotham public, inspiring many of the city’s worst criminals. Because of his success in recruiting henchmen, the Joker quickly becomes the top dog of the villainous world.

The Evolution Of The Rogues

One of the most interesting aspects of The Dark Knight is how it updates and refines many of DC Comics’ classic characters. Chief among them is Vicki Vale (Eva Green), who turns out to be the love interest for both Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne. Although she doesn’t appear in The Dark Knight Rises, her involvement is felt throughout the film. Much like in The Dark Knight, the relationship between Dent, Wayne, and Vale forms the basis of much of the story. In addition to transforming the way we look at characters like the Joker and Two-Face, The Dark Knight also introduced us to several classic villains, like the Penguin, which has since been developed into a legitimate franchise. The film’s climax even features some cameos from notable villains like Bane, Mad Hatter, and the Penguin. These characters weren’t in the original comic books, but they’ve become staples of the Batman mythos and helped redefine the way we look at the Caped Crusader.

A Bigger, Badder Batman

Another one of the film’s distinguishing features is its use of practical effects rather than computer-generated imagery (CGI). The Dark Knight is packed with fight scenes, and they’re all very impressive, especially when you consider the size of many of the adversaries. One memorable scene in particular pits a grown man against a child in a fight to the death. To that end, The Dark Knight is often hailed as one of the greatest movies of all time, and it’s easy to see why. Even if you’ve never read a single Batman comic book, you’ll have a blast at the cinema. It’s a must-see for any fan of the Dark Knight.

The Best Of Both Worlds.

In trying to adapt his popular book series to the big screen, Mr. Aickman has given us something special. The Dark Knight Rises is the best of both worlds—the refinement of cinematic storytelling and the excitement of a comic book film. There are tons of amazing things about this installment, from its incredible visuals to the complex narrative that plays out across thousands of pages. It’s practically a cinematic masterpiece. The best parts of Mr. Aickman’s book come to life with perfect synchronicity, creating a complete world that feels like it could actually exist.

The Dark Knight Rises is the perfect culmination of everything Mr. Aickman has accomplished in his career. It’s also the ultimate sendoff for the comic book series that has kept us entertained for almost eighty years now. The film manages to encapsulate all of the excitement of a comic book while still managing to feel like a traditional Hollywood production. It’s an incredible feat, and definitely earns Mr. Aickman a spot among the greats.