After the emotional and intense events of The Dark Knight, the fans were still wanting more from the Caped Crusader. Though many had hoped for a sequel with more of the same from director Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises is very much a spiritual successor to the Batman films of old. The film picks up immediately where Batman Begins left off, as billionaire Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City to discover that his friends and family have all been murdered. With the help of police officers and forensic experts, Batman sets about solving the murder mystery and seeks revenge against the people he believes to be responsible. As with the previous Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises is deeply immersive in its use of CGI effects and practical stunt work, but it also boasts a much larger emphasis on character and plot. It marks the first time in many years that the Dark Knight had some serious competition for the number one spot.

A Retooled, Redesigned, and Revamped Batman

The Dark Knight Rises features a Batman that is, for the most part, different from the one fans know and love. Gone are the days where Batman just prowls the streets looking for villains, as we now know that Gotham City is no longer a metropolis that Batman can cavalcade through in a single night. Instead the city has been turned into a living, breathing nightmare, where gangs fight for territory and one wrong move can end in tragedy. Though this new Gotham is a far cry from the one we know and love, Batman is still the same, if not a little more realistic and grounded. Gone are the 80s cartoon colors and jingly-jangly gadgets, replaced by a noirish atmosphere that feels more in tune with the grim reality of 21st-century Gotham. In fact, director Christopher Nolan even told Empire Magazine that the film is “more adult in tone” than the previous two Dark Knight films. As a result, the Batman depicted in The Dark Knight Rises is not only grizzled and gaunt, but he sports a much more realistic wardrobe. Gone are the red trousers and white cuffs, replaced by finely tailored slacks and subtle yet bold patterns.

Christopher Nolan Assembles An Excellence Team

The writing team for The Dark Knight Rises included Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, and David S. Goyer. The trio worked on The Dark Knight, and though they didn’t return for this film, they did recruit a number of the talent that worked on The Dark Knight for The Dark Knight Rises. The film’s editors were Michael Giacchino and Henry Joost; both had cut their teeth working on films with Christopher Nolan and his brother, and they brought a polished and detailed eye for the cut of the film. Additionally, production designer Barry Barish crafted a Gotham that was organic and colorful, while costume designer Michael Wilkinson brought a more refined and classic look to Batman’s classic cape and cowl. One of The Dark Knight’s visual effects teams, Motion Picture Creative, returned to expand on the ideas laid out in the original film, and the result is an exhilarating cinematic experience that still manages to feel like a traditional good versus evil tale. It’s a complete package that benefits greatly from an immersive and interactive experience, something that the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are perfectly suited for.

The Joker’s Return

Though many expected Joker to have died in The Dark Knight after falling off the wagon with his disastrous henchmen takeover of San Francisco, the Clown Prince of Crime returned in the sequel. It seems that nothing in this world is permanent, as the Joker has, once again, bitten off more than he can chew. Driven by a need for chaos and a desire to right the wrongs of his past, the Joker sets his sights on Commissioner Gordon, whom he blames for sending him to prison. In a fit of vengeance, the Joker kidnaps Gordon’s daughter, and forces him to put on a public display of grief while also trying to find the Joker’s kidnapped child. Gordon is able to put his personal feelings aside and perform his duty as a father, but it is a moment of unspeakable sadness that he does not take with him to the grave.

Like many of the best Batman titles, The Dark Knight Rises is a game of two halves. The first 20% are brilliant, meticulously crafted exposition and dialogue that establish the world of the film and its many tropes. From there, the film descends into bloody chaos as Batman takes on the criminals of Gotham, some of whom are more of an acquaintance than others. Suffice to say, one scene in particular where The Joker dances with the Mad Hatter in a war-themed ballet is enough to satisfy most fans of the Dark Knight.