The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005 - 2012)
Directed By: Christopher Nolan Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Anne Hathaway, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Katie Holmes, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard
Certificate: 18 Running Time: Approx 457 minutes
If there's one thing I've noticed as a movie fan over the last decade or so, it's that superhero movies are big business, and if you go virtually anywhere online and talk about them, you'll find two main groups - Marvel fanboys and DC fanboys - who seem to enjoy spending their time insulting each other and trashing each other's movies. Despite being dismissed as childish by the DC fans, I think it's safe to say that Marvel fans have had the bragging rights as far as the overall quality of their movies is concerned. As I've mentioned here before, I've never really read any of the comicbooks and hadn't even heard of at least some of the characters that have risen to prominence in recent years prior to them appearing in movies, so it would be a reach to call me a Marvel fanboy, but I've certainly enjoyed their films more. The DC fans have had one line of defence against their nemesis over the years.
Yes that's right, for as bad as the likes of Man of Steel, Justice League and Suicide Squad (both versions) have been, the poor, weary DC fans have at least had The Dark Knight Trilogy to fall back on when things seemed lost. Even though I try not to get into these pointless Marvel vs DC arguments, I have had to take the DC fans at their word regarding this trilogy since I haven't seen the first two since they were first released and I've never seen the third one at all. In light of the recently-released (and very creatively-titled) The Batman, however, I figured it was time to brush up on my Dark Knight proficiency. To that end, I present unto thee:
Batman Begins (2005)
The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
I don't really know why I've paid this trilogy so little attention over the years - I saw the first and second films at the cinema but never since, and I hadn't seen the third one at all. It's not because I'm a Marvel fanboy which would no doubt be the first explanation offered by DC fanboys. I don't really know the reason to be honest, but after having watched them for this feature, I can certainly see why they are held in such high esteem by not only DC fans, but movie fans generally. I think that was the kind of praise they received in their day - they aren't just good comicbook movies, they're good movies full stop. High praise, all things considered.
Many have lauded the darker, more realistic tone of the films, and it's a valid point, but one aspect of them that stands out for me is the cast. I can't really think of a single bad example - Bale, Caine, Oldman and Freeman are all perfect for their roles, as were Murphy, Ledger and Hardy as the trilogy's respective bad guys. I did find Neeson a bit odd as Ra's al Ghul but that's probably only because I'm more used to the Arrowverse version(s). Hathaway was somewhat more divisive as Catwoman but, not being a comicbook fan, I thought she was fine, and she is obviously delightful to look at, even if she did have an ass-double in the catsuit (boo hoo!).
For some, the trilogy is about Heather Ledger's performance above all else and it's hard to argue. I wouldn't have even recognised him as Heath Ledger if I didn't already know it was him, to be honest. And that's coming from someone who counts A Knight's Tale among their favourite films! As memorable as his Joker is though, I think it's a rare case of every part of the production fitting together superbly. Everything, from the cast, Nolan's direction and writing (in addition to his brother Christopher and David S. Goyer in the case of the latter), the soundtracks, special effects, even down to the duration and pacing of the films is fantastic. They aren't perfect of course - what films are? - but you would be hard-pressed to find a trilogy that's better (Lord of the Rings doesn't count for obvious reasons).
To me, aside from a couple of things, The Dark Knight Rises is the sequel to Batman Begins while The Dark Knight is more of a standalone film, but however you look at them, each is an excellent film in its own right, and each also has things that tie it in to the other two. DC fans might not have had too much to throw back in the faces of Marvel fans over the last 20 years or so, but they can still rightly be very proud of this particular trilogy which pack as much of a punch now as they ever did.