Out of all three of Christopher Nolan's "Batman" films, it's his third and final in "The Dark Knight Trilogy" that is the most ambitious. While the first two films in the series feel the most cohesive in terms of narrative and characters, "Rise" is eight years detached from the rest of the trilogy. Moreover, the film's scope is larger than even "Batman Begins," as it moves away from the crime aspects of "The Dark Knight" and focuses on more lofty themes of revolution and social upheaval. Marketed as "The Epic Conclusion to the Dark Knight Legend," the film sees Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement after eight years to face the arrival of a new villain, Bane.
The villain's goal to destroy Gotham is done under the guise of a city-wide revolution built off the lie conceived by Gordon and Batman at the end of the previous film. With Gotham's existence at stake, "The Dark Knight Rises" puts on display spectacular set pieces involving thousands of extras and bombastic action. Combining this large-scale story with its themes of class and social revolution, it's no wonder that director Christopher Nolan harkens this film to silent films, particularly the work of director Fritz Lang. Nolan's unique approach with each movie in the trilogy (especially with the last film) is fascinating and makes his iteration of the caped crusader much more memorable in the history of comic book adaptations.
Crafting 'A Revolutionary Epic'
When talking about the historical roots of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Empire's retrospective piece on the trilogy, Christopher Nolan was sure to mention the influence of silent films on the scope of the movie's production:
"It's all about historical epics in conception. It's a war film. It's a revolutionary epic. It's looking back to the grand-scale epics of the past, really, and for me, that goes as far back as silent films."
The war film that Nolan turned his big finale into feels like the next natural step following the previous two films. Gotham City's resolve as a city had been tested before — first with Ras Al Ghul and his attempt to poison the city with Crane's fear toxin in "Begins." Then, with Joker's anarchy, Batman was forced into retirement to preserve people's faith in the city's justice system. "Rise" is a culmination of these previous troubles, manifested into an epic battle between Bane's mercenaries and the law enforcement of Gotham, with Batman leading the charge. The third act of the film is a massive fight scene involving hundreds of extras, and thanks to Nolan shooting in IMAX, it was given an enormous scope:
"We've shot over a third of the movie in the IMAX format, and that naturally puts you more in the mode of staging very large events for the camera. It's my attempt to get as close to making a Fritz Lang film as I could."
A Tale Of Two Cities
Looking at the filmography of Fritz Lang, it's hard not to see the similarities between Lang's "Metropolis" and "The Dark Knight Rises." Both films explore class disparities, and the spectacular urban imagery "Metropolis" puts on display is similar to the cinematography Nolan uses to capture the scale and size of Gotham. Both films also share similarities with the Charles Dickens novel "A Tale of Two Cities," with Nolan's film having very particular homages to it. There are aesthetic examples, such as Bane's knitting during kangaroo court trials, that mirror the book's antagonist. Then there are more profound parallels, with Bale's Batman going on a journey similar to the novel's main character, sacrificing himself for the sake of his city, as Batman time and again displays unshakable faith in Gotham and its ability to rise above its struggles. Even the passage that Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) recites at Bruce Wayne's funeral is from the Dickens classic.
Whether it was an 1800s historical novel or Fritz Lang's silent films, Nolan's blockbuster ending to his trilogy certainly took unique inspirations. What's most impressive is how Nolan managed to take a movie so vastly different in scope and influence in "The Dark Knight Rises" and make it a grand conclusion that complements the previous two films that came before it. It's a striking example that illustrates how there aren't many directors making big-budget films like Nolan. While some may see "The Dark Knight Rises" as the weakest in the trilogy, its lofty ambitions at least make it one of the more conceptually exciting comic book movies in recent memory.
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