"The Dark Knight Trilogy" Was NOT "Too Real," AND...
it DID "Respect the Comics!" (Part 2 of 3)

Author: Rick Shew (Follow @SHEWRICK)
February 15, 2015

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you missed Part 1, CLICK HERE to read it.

Allow me to address the complaint that THE DARK KNIGHT RISES “didn’t deliver.” After 2008’s THE DARK KNIGHT, it seemed that Christopher Nolan had outdone himself. After all, he had just given the world the BEST COMIC BOOK MOVIE EVER (still is!) and Heath Ledger had just given the world the most sadistic, diabolical and nefarious cinematic Joker to date. Oh, and hey, guess who agrees with me?!

“Batman isn’t a comic book anymore.
Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT is a haunted film that leaps beyond its origins and becomes an engrossing tragedy. It creates characters we come to care about. That’s because of the performances, because of the direction, because of the writing, and because of the superlative technical quality of the entire production.”
(Roger Ebert, July 16, 2008)

How could Nolan top that?!

The way that he did was that he didn’t try to “top it,” per se. Instead, he gave us a story that fit perfectly into the DC mythology, and was consistent with the tone and reality of the previous films. Bruce was a reclusive hermit, Rachel was dead, Harvey was dead, The Joker was in Arkham and Gotham City seemed to be safe.

That was, at least, until the last great threat to Gotham presented itself to her, in the return of The League of Shadows. Or, at least, the final remnants of that crumbled organization.

This, to me, was perfect. Bruce was forced to come out of hiding and confront his last great challenge. He had to “save” Gotham, just as he’d set out to do in BEGINS.

And it’s not just Bruce Wayne whose character arc gets major fulfillment in RISES. I love the arc that Alfred has in this film, having to leave Bruce because he loves him so much, and I absolutely LOVE the introduction of “Robin” in the form of John Blake. And the villains were perfect, as well. But, most importantly, I love the ending. In fact, I think the final scene in RISES is my favorite moving ending of all time. It is right up there with THE USUAL SUSPECTS and GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (side note: Lemmon & Spacey final scene = GOLD).

Including the magnificent ending, RISES also has two of my top five favorite scenes in the entire trilogy. The second is the scene where Bruce escapes “the pit.” Both are perfectly done and truly capture the essence, pride, determination and resolve of Bale’s Bruce Wayne.

When I reflect on RISES - particularly with those that do not like the film or found it very disappointing – it is its nontraditional time line that comes to mind. The first two films have a more cohesive timeline, but RISES takes place over the course of several months – maybe even up to a year. I think this confuses people a bit, and I can see why. But for me, it was one the many elements that I love so much about it.

I also think there was no going back after Ledger’s Joker. Some rumors claim that he would have been in the film if he had not died, but I’m not so sure about that. To me it seems that, for Nolan, less was more with The Joker. I just don’t see Ledger making an encore appearance. Besides, it wasn’t about “topping” The Joker; it was about giving Bruce an honorable finale. This is also why we were given Bane (Tom Hardy), as opposed to The Riddler, for example. Nolan got as far away from The Joker as possible. And Bane was the perfect choice to do so.

RISES was inded a very different film than TDK…which is why it worked. And if the ending doesn’t give you chills, well, I can’t help you.

I have friends that love BEGINS and TDK, but didn’t like RISES(although a few of them have grown to love it after its first HBO run), and Roger Ebert actually didn’t care for it as much either. So, in all fairness, here is a more critical blurb from my favorite movie critic of all time…

“Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) emerges reluctantly from years of seclusion in Wayne Manor and faces a soulless villain as powerful as he is. The film begins slowly with a murky plot and too many new characters, but builds to a sensational climax.” (Roger Ebert, (July 17, 2012)

OK, he didn’t hate it, but I still respectfully disagree with my man Ebert. The film was never “slow.” It was gripping with character development and it gave us the most touching scene in the entire Trilogy: Alfred leaving Bruce.

But I have a whole other misguided complaint to disassemble! The fervent fanboy’s pedantic avowal that the entire trilogy was “too real” and “didn’t reflect the comic books!”

Regarding the “too real” complaint – a common criticism from self-proclaimed comic book purist – Nolan’s films were indeed grounded in “reality.” In fact, the filmmakers referred to it as “heightened realism.”

The op-ed continues after the jump!

After the macabre and weirdness of BATMAN RETURNS and the utter goofiness of the Schumacher films, Warner Bros. had to go in an entirely different direction. Enter Chris Nolan with a fitting and grand vision which was actually pretty simple: What if Batman inhabited a world that was grounded in reality? What if he inhabited a world where nothing was supernatural? What if he inhabited a world where there was nothing like him in existence? (which, side note, is exactly why Bale’s Batman could not continue on in BATMAN v SUPERMAN or the JUSTICE LEAGUE films). What if he inhabited a world where Batman’s time in action would be limited due to the physical damage he would naturally do to himself? What if he existed to have just a noble single mission...

Save Gotham.

Guess what? That is exactly what Nolan gave us. And it was brilliantly done. I find the “too real” thing to be and extremely overrated and unwarranted complaint. I mean, at the end of the day, you STILL had a man dressed as a BAT, running around, wreaking havoc on the mob, everyday criminals and a psychotic clown who is trying to destroy the city. Is this “reality?!”

Fine, if you needed Bane to be 9 feet tall, or The Joker to be permawhite, or Batman to be able to fight tirelessly until the end of time, or Ra’s Al Ghul to literally be immortal, or have a teenage boy fighting alongside Bale’s Batman, then yes, these movies are not for you.

But, if you can step back from that perspective for a minute and hear me out, you may thank me later. See you all in Part 3!- Rick Shew


Rick Shew is a lifelong Batman fanatic.

His love for Batman traces back to the ripe age of 5 when he became obsessed with the 1960’s TV show and later a diehard Batman bomic book reader (THE KILLING JOKE remains his all time favorite).

As an actor, Rick has appeared in numerous films, local & national commercials and over a dozen theatrical productions. However, his favorite gig of all time was playing Superman, alongside Batman, Batgirl, The Green Lantern & Wonder Woman in the "DC Comics Live" show at Six Flags San Antonio, TX.

Although Rick attended The University of North Texas, he is a diehard Texas Longhorns football fan. He is a HUGE fan of THE Dallas Cowboys as well (#DezCaughtIt).

Other likes include cooking, reading and hosting his left leaning political page LeftShewPolitics.

Rick resides in Dallas with his 3 beautiful women (his wife and their 2 daughters), his kitty cat and his dog, Cooper.

Even though Rick has a full-time job with a hospitality/software company based out of San Francisco, he also helped conceptualize a bar in Dallas (where he also sits as a financial investor), NICKEL AND RYE. So, when in Dallas, please come have a bite and a drink!

Follow Rick on Twitter @SHEWRICK.

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