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?