It’s only fitting that the summer movie season should end with a bang as the final installment in the Batman trilogy comes out. After all, this is the trilogy that nearly every other facet of pop culture was made in the shadow of. Whether it was the comics, television shows, or even video games, all three iterations of The Dark Knight are responsible for altering the landscape of popular culture.
But which of the three movies are worth your time and money? We break down the pros and cons of each installment as they stand, challenging you to make a well-informed decision about which one to see at the theater.
The Dark Knight (2008)
You’ll often hear people say that 2008’s The Dark Knight was the quintessential Batman movie. And you’d be hard-pressed to argue with them. The movie perfectly encapsulated everything that had made the earlier two entries so successful and continues to be cited as one of the best comic book movies of all time. It introduced the world to a wealth of iconic villains and set-pieces that remain to this day some of Gotham City’s most recognizable landmarks.
The Dark Knight also benefited from being the last installment in a trilogy, so the stakes were much higher than they would have been for a regular movie. This is reflected in the film’s thrilling climax where the good guys have to face off against several enemies at once while trying to prevent the city from falling into chaos. It’s a real nail-biter and a complete throwback to the days when Hollywood thrillers were daring and unpredictable. And it’s thanks to this that it’s often cited as one of the greatest thrillers of all time.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
It was inevitable that Batman would become somewhat of a tired character by the time The Dark Knight Rises rolled around. After all, he’s been around for 70 years now and seen far more than his share of evil. This is demonstrated in the first scene when we see Christian Bale donning the cowl for the first time in 12 years. So much has changed in that time, and Batman has had to adapt to keep up with the times. However, these changes have only served to make him more relevant. The need for his intervention has never been greater, and the collateral damage he deals with has become more immediate and severe. This is a theme that the movie hammers home over and over again.
The Dark Knight Rises takes a different tact on the world-saving journey than its predecessor did. Where The Dark Knight focused on one central issue, The Dark Knight Rises grapples with several. One of the primary concerns is what to do about Bane, the devious villain who almost single-handedly destroys Gotham City. To this end, the movie introduces us to a number of new characters who band together to fight the good fight and save their city. It also serves as a sort of mission statement for Batman, affirming his commitment to Gotham City while also reestablishing his relevance in today’s world. It’s a fine, complicated balance that the movie successfully navigates.
The New Batman (2014)
It’s fair to say that Warner Bros. really milked the farewell tour for all it was worth with The New Batman. The studio gave the world one last hurrah with this entry, delivering a dazzling display of costumes, cars, and effects. For those who love superhero movies, this was a complete nostalgia fix with cameos from stars and villains from the 1960s and 1970s.
The New Batman was also a nice change of pace for the Dark Knight series. While the previous two movies featured some pretty intense action, the bulk of the running time was spent in scenes of Batman talking to cops, reporters, and even some villains. This is where the movie gets its name from: rather than fight crime, the new Batman sits in his Batcave analyzing the latest criminal trends and dispatching rogue cops who try to bring him justice. It’s a complete 180 from his previous vigilante mission.
This change of pace was a deliberate move on the part of the filmmakers. They wanted to offer a more mature interpretation of Batman and draw on a different source of inspiration. Instead of a comic book, the movie was inspired by the 1966 TV series. As the man himself, Adam West, put it: “In the old days when we used to do the TV show, we would talk about everything under the sun except money. Now that we’re making the movie, it’s turned into a huge discussion.”
One could argue that Adam West’s Batman was actually more realistic and, in many ways, more heroic than Nolan’s superhero. West’s capricious lifestyle gave way to a more idealistic, self-sacrificing Batman who believed in a just world. West’s Batman helped pave the way for the Christopher Nolan Batman, the darker and more brooding anti-hero who deals in brutality and intimidation rather than filigree and charm. So even though this is Batman’s swan song, it’s also the beginning of a new era.
What do you think? Are you excited for Batman’s swan song? Was there a specific moment that you’ll remember coming out of The Dark Knight trilogy? Let us know in the comments below!