Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises-How to End a Series

I finally saw The Dark Knight Rises.  I’m sure that many of you haven’t seen it yet, so I promise no spoilers, and I’m even hesitant to give it too much praise because that can raise expectations, and I don’t want anyone to be disappointed because they were expecting more, but I’m going to say it anyway.  I thought The Dark Knight Rises was the best of the trilogy.

The others were very close, maybe even too close to say.  All three movies go together in a cohesive way that they can almost be thought of as one story.  And I think that this has to do with why this final movie was so satisfying.  If we look at all the movies as the journey of Bruce Wayne, it could be thought of as one movie, and I think that is the importance of a trilogy or a series, that it all fits together, and on some level, the whole thing is one story.

I think this is really tough to pull off and why so rarely does a series end strong.  X-men, Spiderman, even the Hunger Games series all failed to achieve this, just to name a few.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed all those movies and Mockingjay, but they weren’t strong finishes and did not leave me with a sense of satisfaction that this movie did.

I don’t want to imply that this movie had a happy ending.  I don’t need a happy ending to be satisfied, and I did cry a little (or a lot, maybe my husband and I had to watch the credits roll for a little while I regained my composure).  But to me the ending was perfect.

 So here is what I learned from this movie on how to give a series a strong end (I’m going to be a little vague here because I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it).

1.  All the stories tie together.  I hate the middle filler that you sometimes get in trilogies.  All the stories need to stand alone, and they all need to build and be connected.

 I’m not saying that that all the movies have to continue the same plot line or involve the same villain that was not the case in The Dark Night Rises.   The Joker wasn’t involved in the League of Shadows, but the first and second movie had a strong impact on the third.  The legacy of Harvey Dent and the death of Rachel had a hefty influenced the mental and emotional states of both Bruce Wayne and the people of Gotham City, and this set the stage for the third movie.

But Bruce Wayne was really what connected all three stories together.  The series was his story, his evolution.  His character arc goes through the entire three films and ties them all into his story.

 2. Stakes need to be bigger and the challenge needs to be harder.  Honestly how can there be a better villain and a stronger opponent then Heath Ledger’s Joker?  Well, there can’t.  IMO, Heath Ledger’s Joker will go down as one of the best villains of all time.  He truly was amazing.  So how does The Dark Knight Rises up the stakes?  By starting the movie with Bruce Wayne already damaged by The Joker. 

Batman doesn’t start strong.  Rachel’s death has taken a toll on him.  He isn’t the man he needs to be to beat Bane.    And a weakened hero against such a formidable foe (Bane is good, he just isn’t The Joker) makes the stakes bigger and the challenge harder, and batman struggles in this movie as he has never struggled before.  That is what we need to see in the final installment of a series.

 3.  Need to go back to the beginning, and address the original problem.   I’ve heard the saying a lot in writing that the ending needs to connect with the beginning, and in a series, the ending movie/book needs to connect with the first book and solve the first problem presented.

I’m not going to give anything away, but there are lots of references to the first movie in the last one, and the original problem of Bruce Wayne trying to find a way to heal is at the heart of The Dark Knight Rises.   

 4.  Needs to feel like it was all worth it.  With all the suffering a character goes through in three stories, the audience needs to feel that it wasn’t for nothing.  Whether the story ends in tragic or triumph, there needs to a sense of victory in the end, lives saved, hearts changed, lessons learned, hope restored.  The Dark Knight Rises delivers on this big time.

It has been a long time since I walked away from a movie or book series feeling this satisfied.  Maybe that’s why The Dark Knight Rises is at the top of my superhero movie list.  Really all three movies in this series were brilliant.  Yes they did have flaws, they were all a little overwrought in their plots, just too much going on, but the emotional payoff was huge, and that is the most important element of storytelling.

So what did you think of The Dark Knight Rises?



  1. I haven't seen the Dark Night Rises, and I don't have any plans to, in spite of the fact that Batman Begins was my favorite superhero movie ever. I don't have a stomach for horror, and I think The Joker moved the whole series to that level. I'm probably in the minority though.

    You made some great points about trilogies, which I appreciate, because I have plans for a trilogy. Your comments gave me much to think about. Great post, MaryAnn!

    1. The Dark Knight Rises was more similar to Batman Begins than The Dark Night, IMO. So you may want to give it a try. I know what you mean about horror elements in The Dark Knight, and don't get me wrong The Dark Knight Rises was dark, but it wasn't any darker than Batman Begins, IMO.

      So you may want to give it a try. :)

    2. Really?? That makes me extremely happy. In that case, I think I might go. :)

  2. I love Batman, because the character isn't forced into being a hero. He didn't get in an accident, and sudden;y develop powers. He's just a man with resources who uses those resources to do good.

    They did a brilliant job with the new movies, and you just did a brilliant job showing why.

    (Although, to be fair, I think any good rock climber could have climbed out of that prison. I thought the rock climbing bit was really illogical. Why jump, when there were a ton of good hand holds?)

    1. LOL, Sheena, I agree about the rock climbing thing. I've seen rock climbers balance their weight on the tiniest little nubbins. Some rock climbers are just amazing.

  3. I haven't seen it yet, but I gather (being that it was a satisfying ending) that Batman didn't die. Yay!
    But seriously, that was a great post. I like reading or watching a series, but I prefer to read companion novels. Books set in the same world, with characters featured from earlier works, but which stand alone. Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue. Howl's Moving Castle, Castle in the Air, House of Many Ways. I get overwhelmed when a series is more than a few books long. I just can't commit to a character for that many books--not when I'm reading, and not when I'm writing. I think if more authors followed your guidelines, they wouldn't lose me as quickly.
    Great post MaryAnn!

    1. I didn't say he didn't die, nor am I saying he does. I've read many books where the main character dies and it is still very satisfying. Just saying. :)

      I actually prefer series to stand alones. Except when the series goes on forever or more than five books and it feels like the author is dragging it on for no apparent reason (Wheel of Time).

  4. I totally agree with your analysis. When the credits rolled, it felt like the story was complete.

    1. (By the way, I hate Blogger's Captchas.)

    2. Thanks Esther.

      I agree that Captchas are annoying. I didn't realize we had them on. I'll look into turning them off.

      Thanks for stopping by. :)

  5. I haven't seen the movie yet. But I really appreciate the way you've captured and explained how a trilogy works when it's at its best. Thanks!!

  6. Hey I just barely saw the movie and I wondered what your blog said about it. I loved the movie too. Although I wonder why movies and TV seem to be getting darker and darker lately. I little bit miss the 80's and actiion adventures just being fun. I do agree that the focus on Bruce Wayne is what makes this series better then the ones in the 90s which I liked. They always seemed more about the villians. I think it was how well rounded the characters were that made this movie. Alfred made me cry when he said that he loved Bruce this the day he heard his cries through the house. How powerful of a connection that was. I liked the side characters the young cop, catwomen, the complexity of Bane.

    I hope there are more movies in the future or maybe just Robin movies with no Batman. It sounds interesting to me.


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