Batman returned to the big screen with Christopher Nolan as the director of the planned Dark Knight trilogy. The series goes back to the beginning. This series lets Bruce Wayne grow up, mature, and become Bruce Wayne/Batman. Gotham City itself is not merely a backdrop for the action, but a character. Different from its predecessors, the trilogy is darker, but the stories have become better and more complex.
Batman Begins (2005) quite literally starts from the beginning. Young Bruce Wayne is terrified of bats after a childhood accident. He is forced to witness the murder of both his parents. The murderer is caught, and the movie moves forward in time. Bruce as a college student returns home to Gotham for a brief visit. His parents murderer who provided information about one of the gangsters operations is to be released. Angry at the injustice, Bruce leaves Gotham to try to understand the criminal mind. His travels land him in a Chinese prison where he is recruited by Ducard, a representative the League of Shadows. Bruce trains with the League to learn their fighting skills and techniques. When he learns that the League has a darker agenda he escapes and returns to Gotham where he becomes Batman scourge of the criminals who run the city. The mob is not the only enemy he must face.
The second film The Dark Knight (2008) sees Batman regarded as a vigilante, however he may be the only force capable of dealing with Gotham’s newest criminal, a man known only as the Joker (Heath Ledger). Unlike in his first appearance in the 1989 film, this Joker has no backstory. He is focused on creating madness and mayhem and defeating Batman. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) is the new hotshot D.A. who is working slowly and steadily to end Mob control of Gotham. His success has made him a hero to the people, but also a target to those whose livelihoods he threatens. At a press conference Dent claims to be Batman and becomes the Joker’s target. The Joker does not kill Dent, but his attack turns Dent into “Two Face” an angry vigilante who seeks justice for the death of his love. As Dent observes one either dies a hero or lives to become the villain. Prophetic words indeed...
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) is the final film in the series. At the end of The Dark Knight Bruce Wayne had become a recluse and Batman has disappeared from the streets. However, a new and even more dangerous enemy has emerged. He is Bane, a terrifying figure who appears out of the sewers. Bane seeks to bring Gotham to its knees and destroy the city. At Wayne Manor an unwanted guest slips in and ends up confronting Bruce Wayne. She escapes with Bruce’s fingerprints and a necklace that belonged to his mother. The thief is Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), a notorious jewel thief. However, she is the one person who brings Bruce Wayne back to life, which happens just in time as Batman may be the only force who can defeat Bane and retake Gotham. A truly fitting conclusion to this epic trilogy.
Want even more about the Dark Knight? Check out The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy.
While this “Batman on Film” view has focused the superhero’s recent film appearances, Batman’s multi media history dates to the original comic books which first appeared in the late 1930s. In 1943 the first Batman film appeared in serials. Television was a Batman venue in the 1960s. Unfortunately episodes of the Batman television series are not available on DVD, but a film starring Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin is available. Batman made his animated television debut in 1992 in aptly titled Batman the Animated Series.
Amateur chiroptologists (those who study bats) can listen to the movie soundtrack of The Dark Knight Rises as they remember the future of Batman and Gotham City has yet to be written.