One of the most popular incarnations of Batman Christopher Nolans The Dark Knight trilogy used a subtle genre trick to make the hero work. Starring Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader Nolans Dark Knight trilogy started with 2005s Batman Begins with follow ups in 2008 and 2012 with The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises respectively. The trilogy made use of a more grounded tone than many superhero films opt to take making Bales Batman a more believable hero in a way that hadnt previously been achieved.Each of Christopher Nolans Dark Knight movies featured different Batman villains with Batman facing Ras al Ghul Liam Neeson and Scarecrow Cillian Murphy Two Face Aaron Eckhart the Joker Heath Ledger Catwoman Anne Hathaway Bane Tom Hardy and Talia al Ghul Marion Cotillard all within a short three film span. While this introduction of many members of Batmans rogues gallery was ambitious the trilogys grounded tone and Nolans cinematic approach to storytelling made them feel organic to the Dark Knight trilogys Gotham.
Theres actually more to this than meets the eye however. Nolan used a subtle trick to make each film work every film in the Dark Knight trilogy makes use of tropes from different genres. This helped Nolan to make Batman and his villains feel like a natural part of their world as the audiences perspective of that world was shifted in order to better fit the story. This not only made the trilogy work but it also made Christian Bales Batman one of the definitive iterations of the character because it fleshed the Dark Knight out in an exciting new way.
Why Batman Films Struggle To Capture The Heros Tone
Though Batman has had a number of popular incarnations over the characters long history his films are often divisive among fans. This stems from the iconic nature of the character and the broad spectrum of different iterations there have been since his first comic book appearance. Every version of Batman focuses on just one or two ideas to capture the nature of the character and often this leaves other aspects of the Dark Knight untouched.The general issue is that Batmans history is contradictory. Even in movies alone hes had sillier more cartoonish versions such as Adam Wests wacky childish incarnations like that of George Clooney and more brutal cynical versions like Ben Afflecks. This range of approaches that can be taken to the character may work on one or two levels but theres always something left out and that leaves almost every Batman movie feeling as though it only represents a small part of the character. Consequently any single Batman cinematic effort will inevitably fail to deliver on one or more aspects of the source material that many viewers will consider essential.
Batman Begins Used Elements Of Horror
Though Nolans films predominantly fit into the superhero genre Batman Begins plot involved Scarecrows fear toxin and as a result the film subtly adopted some elements of horror movies. The use of Ras al Ghul also fed into this the idea of an immortal antagonist with murderous intentions is at the heart of the slasher genre after all but Scarecrow is the ultimate reason for Batman Begins horror elements. Much is made of Batmans use of fear particularly with regards to his approach to his vigilantism and the idea that both Batman and Scarecrow want to scare their enemies is central to their characterization in the film.Batman Begins Gotham is a dark and scary place with specific aspects of the films cinematography clearly intended to evoke fear. This is key to the films villain too Scarecrows fear toxin in Batman Begins makes his victims vividly hallucinate their worst fears and Ras al Ghul helps him to disperse it across half of the city. The use of fear as a driving force behind the films plot really leans into the aspects of the horror genre that often appear in Batmans stories.
The Dark Knight Was A Crime Thriller
The Dark Knight is widely considered the strongest of the trilogy thanks in part to its epic story that shakes the very foundations of Gothams society. Following Batmans involvement with DA Harvey Dent and his continued work with James Gordon of the GCPD The Dark Knight sees the trio attempt to tackle Gothams organized crime syndicates. Though the films main villain Heath Ledgers Joker might not seem obviously related to organized crime he works at their behest to kill Batman and bring chaos to Gotham.The use of organized crime as a part of the films plot makes The Dark Knight feel more like a crime thriller than a superhero film. With the police attempting to catch and take down notorious criminals before they can enact their violent plans the emphasis in The Dark Knight is very much on tackling crime. This is a major shift from Batman Begins tone but it works particularly as it highlights the detective and crime fighting elements of Batmans character adding another important genre notch to Christian Bales utility belt.
The Dark Knight Rises Tried Subtle Apocalyptic Themes
Perhaps the loosest fit of the trilogy The Dark Knight Rises pits Batman against Bane as the pair fight for control of Gotham City. Banes supposed plan is to hold the city hostage which he enacts by trapping its entire police force underground and destroying all of the bridges out of the city. By cutting the city off and declaring his own form of martial law Bane makes The Dark Knight Rises feel distinctly post apocalyptic.The Dark Knight Rises explores how Batman operates outside of the law and how certain situations call for a sense of morally sound lawlessness. The film also deals with Bales Batman emerging from self imposed retirement adding a survival of the fittest clause to its broad list of themes. The final film in Nolans Dark Knight trilogy attempts to resolve other elements of Batman not explored in the previous two films ending with Batmans victory as he saves the city one final time inspiring a successor in the process.
How Nolans Genre Trick Made His Batman Trilogy Work
Christopher Nolans Dark Knight trilogy explores the character of Batman in a way that other incarnations of the character havent. By subtly shifting genre in each film Nolan painted Bales Batman in a slightly different light each time showing the way in which he adapts to different situations and different villains. Above all this makes Bales Batman feel more adaptable than previous incarnations as Nolans trilogy made use of a wide range of the characters various elements.The shifting of genres allows for the films of Nolans Dark Knight trilogy to change in order to adapt to their respective stories and villains which made Christian Bales Batman feel better explored by his films. Not only does this speak to the versatility of Christopher Nolan as a filmmaker but it gels perfectly with the character of Batman who has undergone a number of iterations over the years many of which contradict one another. By utilizing this subtle genre trick Christopher Nolan ensured that his The Dark Knight trilogy delivered a well rounded and generally comprehensive version of Batman.