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Film: The Dark Knight Saga aka: The Dark Knight Trilogy
Begins. Falls. Rises.
"A vigilante is just a man lost in the scramble for his own gratification; he can be destroyed, or locked up. But if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can't stop you, you become something else entirely... a legend, Mr. Wayne."
Action Prologue: Batman Begins starts off with Bruce Wayne beating up prisoners in Asia. The Dark Knight starts with the Joker robbing a bank and picking off his accomplices one at a time. The Dark Knight Rises begins with Bane conducting a mid-air kidnapping.
Begins - Batman: Year One (Bruce's origin mirrors that particular version, Commissioner Loeb, Carmine Falcone, Detective Flass), The Long Halloween (the idea of Batman, the police, and the DA's office presenting a united front; Scarecrow's appearance; Carmine Falcone's downfall), and Contagion (Ra's Al Ghul tries to spread a plague across Gotham). The Man Who Falls was also cited as an influence.
Rises - Vengeance of Bane (Bane's origin, King Snake is substituted for Ra's) Knightfall (Bane shows up and breaks Batman's back), The Dark Knight Returns (an older Batman comes back to fight crime, Gotham is under a nuclear threat, Batman fakes his death), Son of the Demon (Batman gets involved with Talia Al Ghul), No Man's Land (Gotham gets blocked off from the rest of the US and declared a disaster area), Legacy (Bane and Talia working together), The Cult (An underground group of criminals take over Gotham, Gordon is put in the hospital as a result of trying to confront them), again, Batman: Year One (Catwoman's origins). There might also be a subtle inclusion of Batman Beyond (A younger man prepped to take Batman's mantle after he resigns towards the end).
All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Bruce Wayne has bad luck when it comes to his homes. The League of Shadows burn Wayne Manor to the ground in the first film, the Joker and his henchmen invade his penthouse in the second, and in the third Bane steals all Batman's equipment inside Wayne Enterprises R&D. Wayne Manor, though, survives the third one.
Awesome but Impractical: In-universe, this is one of the reasons the prototypes never made in into production. For example, the reason the Nomex survival suit never made it past the prototype stage because "bean counters didn't think a soldier's life was worth $300 grand".
In Begins, Ducard can always been seen in a tailored suit when on an assignment and Scarecrow always wears a suit along with his mask.
Joker in The Dark Knight also qualifies as an extremely warped version. He even lampshades the suit's quality as he mocks the assembled gangsters.
Oh, and the suit? It wasn't cheap. You should know, you bought it.
Badass Beard: Bruce in both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises, and Ducard in Begins.
Badass Cape: Not only is it stylish, but when an electric current is run through it, the shape-memory fibers it's made from can transform the entire cape into a hang glider, or fold it up into a form fitting backpack.
Also, while not used in the movie, supplemental materials state that the gloves, which are used to apply the electrical current to the cape to allow it to become rigid, can also be used to administer high-voltage, non lethal shocks.
Badass Longcoat: The Joker, Jim Gordon, and Bane. Bruce also sports one in Begins.
Joker uses numerous Batman Gambits in The Dark Knight. This is perhaps the most obvious when he is in prison and goads one police officer to try and beat him up, overpowers the officer, and uses him as leverage to get his phone call. The call he makes is to the cell phone that blows up the station. If, at any point along the line, the police had acted differently than he'd anticipated, none of this would have worked.
Bane's plan to trap the police force in the sewers after he takes over Gotham City is entirely dependent on Commissioner Gordon reacting in the manner he does.
Big Applesauce: While Gotham City is usually considered to be more of a Chicago than a New York, you can't miss the half-completed 1 WTC in the aerial shots of its skyline in The Dark Knight Rises.
Big Bad/Big Bad Ensemble: Ra's al Ghul a.k.a Henri Ducard in Batman Begins, The Joker in The Dark Knight, Bane and Talia al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises.
Bittersweet Ending: Batman Begins and The Dark Knight both end with Batman triumphant, but at an extreme cost to both himself and Gotham. Dark Knight Rises has a more uplifting ending but not without its own bitterness.
Body Motifs: All three films put an emphasis on both faces and masks.
Bloodless Carnage: Comes with the PG-13 territory. The trope itself gets some Sequel Escalation; in Riseswe barely know that Gordon got shot by Bane's mooks until he's seen still in the hospital weeks later..
Book Ends: Bruce Wayne both begins and ends the trilogy out of Gotham and presumed dead, although his prospects at the end are considerably better.
Ra's al Ghul delivers a genocidal Knight Templar harangue that leaves Bruce a complete mess in Begins.
The Joker's favorite tactic, using nearly every anecdote as an opportunity to get in someone's head.
Bane attempts this, but it seems it didn't work as well.
Call Back: A rather dark one combined with Freeze-Frame Bonus. In The Dark Knight, the Joker claiming that humans will eat each other if they have to may be referencing the destruction of the Narrows. After the fear toxin was released, someone was seen savagely biting another person's face.
Canon Foreigner: Rachel Dawes for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Ramirez, Wuertz, Lau and all of the mobsters other than Sal Maroni for The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight Rises includes city cop John Blake and a Wayne Enterprises executive Miranda Tate.
Both cases from Rises end up being subversions — Miranda Tate is actually Talia al Ghul, while John Blake is a Composite Character combining Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and Tim Drake.
Cape Wings: Batman's hang glider cape, thanks to 'memory cloth', a special type of fabric that has bundled sections designed to take a specific shape when an electrical charge is applied. The Wayne Enterprise's version of memory cloth was originally designed to use in quick-pitch tents for soldiers, before Bruce repurposes the material to jump off rooftops.
Central Theme: According to Nolan; Fear, Chaos, and Pain, respectively. Note that these are all additive themes; each film includes the previous theme(s) in addition to its central one. A more detailed examination is on the trope page.
Chekhov's Gun: Bruce's gauntlet blades play a role in the defeat of each Big Bad. With them, he breaks Ra's sword in the train fight, prevents the Joker from blowing up the two ferries, and slices open Bane's mask to defeat him. Pretty good for a costume design that Christopher Nolan felt needed an explanation.
Closed Circle: Twice (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises), both times involving explosives with the Big Bad holing up most of the city's police department, civilians, and inmates of nearby prison out of the way so that the entire area will be driven to chaos. The former was Arkham, the latter was the entire city.
Batman's fighting style for the movies, the Keysi Fighting Method, is set entirely around being as simple and damaging as possible.
Joker is by far the least reserved fighter of the cast. One fight has him shove a mook at Batman and then try to kick the Dark Knight in the groin with a knife strapped to his shoe. In another, Joker sets three mad dogs on Batman and then attacks Batman with a crowbar.
The Scarecrow in Begins is no slouch either. In his first confrontation with Batman, he hits the vigilante with a dose of fear gas from behind, splashes him with kerosene, and then lights him on fire. Yes, that's right; he brought experimental chemical weapons to a fistfight.
The Scarecrow: You look like a man who takes himself too seriously. Do you want my opinion? You need to lighten up.
Bane, oh so very much. The man's forehead should be considered a lethal weapon.
The movies' Flass resembled the dark-haired, unshaven, overweight Harvey Bullock more than the comics version of Flass, who was blonde, clean-shaven, and muscular, though movie Flass did retain his comic counterpart's corruption.
Likewise, the movies' Loeb only shares the name of the comics' character, resembling Michael Akins in both looks and personality (African-American, young, and honest) more than the comics' Loeb (Caucasian, old, and extremely corrupt).
Henri Ducard has become an alias for Ra's al Ghul in this continuity.
John Blake in Risesis a composite of the first three Robins, having Jason Todd's back story, deducing Batman's true identity like Tim Drake, and like Dick Grayson has a brief stint as a police officer and in the end takes up the mantle of Gotham's protector.
Talia al Ghul combines elements of comic's Talia and her sister Nyssa Raatko, along with a bit of Bane's comic backstory.
Corrupt Politician: The trilogy isn't as bad as the comics. In addition to Gordon and Dent, there's an honest judge and an honest mayor, and the Commissioner before Gordon was honest as well, if incompetent. All the above but Gordon bite the dust before the series is over, though.
Crapsack World: Gotham is on the brink of economic collapse when Bruce is a child, under the thumb of the mob by the main events of Begins, being terrorized by psychopaths and increasingly desperate gangsters by The Dark Knight, and becomes a city without law and then a total war zone in Rises. However, by the end of Rises, Gotham shows steps towards becoming A World Half Full.
Dark Is Not Evil: Batman, as always. These films especially place a HUGE emphasis on how dark the character is, but also on how heroic and selfless he is.
Darker and Edgier: The films in The Dark Knight Saga are arguably the darkest film adaptations of Batman to date.
Deconstruction: Nolan's Batman films could arguably be seen as a deconstruction of Batman by showing the shortcomings and downsides to the kind of mentality one would have to have in order to become Batman. It is definitely NOT a romantic or romanticized view of Batman's lifestyle.
Crane goes from a major antagonist to a One-Scene Wonder between the first, second, and third films.
Alfred has very little screen time in The Dark Knight Rises.
Though he does at least make the most of what he has, providing his usual insight, wisdom, and poignancy.
Depending on the Writer: Who was the acting DA after Carl Finch's assassination? Rachel Dawes (as mentioned by the Batman Begins novelization), or Roger Garcetti (as mentioned by Gotham Tonight)?
Discretion Shot: It's a rule. Anytime someone (e.g. Rachel or Mayor Garcia) is incinerated by explosives, the viewer only gets to see the first explosion go off almost right behind the victim and his/her hair being blown forward before the picture cuts away from the all-consuming conflagration.
Batman's equipment is re-purposed prototypes for the Department of Defense, and based on technology that given current research will likely be available within a decade or so (although the comics were sort of already going in this direction).
Ra's al Ghul's apparent immortality comes from a simple Body Double trick instead of a supernatural pit of primordial goo.
In the third film, he shows up as a hallucination, and points out that there are many types of "immortality". Such as having a child willing to carry out his legacy.
The Joker's deformed smile is just a Glasgow Grin, and his white skin is just face paint to unnerve opponents.
Similarly, instead of Joker Venom leaving his victims with deformed smiles and other Joker-like features, he instead carves Glasgow Grins and then paints their faces himself.
Bane only uses an anesthetic gas to help him cope with a severe injury, instead of a Super Serum that lets him Hulk out to enormous size.
Dramatic Irony: Between the second and third films. In Dark Knight, Rachel believed Bruce was incapable of living without Batman. And yet, Rises opens with Bruce having given up the cowl for 8 whole years, making her choice of Harvey over Bruce and her sudden death because of it all the more tragic.
Technically Rachel was right, because although Bruce gives up being Batman, he also gives up being Bruce Wayne as well and is content to live in mental torment as a recluse.
That, and the fact that at the first major sign of trouble, he suits up again without a second thought.
Batman wasn't so much "given up" (indeed, Rises make a point about Bruce's inability to give the identity up), as forced into retirement due to a lack of organised crime in Gotham.
The Dreaded: Each of the major villains to their own degree.
Carmine Falcone is terrified by Ra's al Ghul, to the point where the mention he'll be in Gotham puts the mobster on edge.
The Joker is feared by everyone from mob bosses to civilians to cops, and for good reasons. Even after being dropped off a building and having both his legs fractured, Maroni is still too scared of the Joker to give up any information about him to Batman.
Everyone from CIA agents to Catwoman is afraid of Bane. Given what he does to Gotham, they're right to be.
Batman's MO is to become this to the city's criminals: in most cases of crimefighting, he pulls off moves that seem designed to cause the maximum amount of fear in those he's chasing. In Dark Knight, it's shown to be working, as the presence of the bat symbol in the night sky discourages a would-be thief from going out. However, he is eventually overshadowed by The Joker here.
In the first movie, it's an underground cave network originally re-purposed by Bruce's ancestors for use in the Underground Railroad.
In the second film, the Batcave is one big concrete room underneath an empty Wayne Enterprises lot with the Tumbler, an incinerator, some computer monitors and a massive collection of secondary equipment that pops out as needed from the floor and the walls.
In something of a Shout-Out to the Neil Adams-era Batman comics, Bruce's Wayne Tower penthouse also sports secret passages leading to spare costumes and equipment.
In the third film, the Batcave has been expanded into an even more elaborate underground base that combines the giant cave of the first film with the simple geometric designs of the second.
Equal-Opportunity Evil: The League of Shadows is multiracial in Begins. Sal Maroni also employs gangsters of any nationality in Dark Knight.
Truth in Television for Maroni. It's possible for anyone to work for the "mafia" (they don't actually call themselves that) and become quite influential. The limitation is that only Italians (or half Italians) can become Made Men.
Establishing Character Moment: Both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises open with a short prologue introducing the viewer to the Big Bad, showing him doing something badass, and teaching us something about how he operates (e.g., the Joker manipulates his men into backstabbing each other, while Bane inspires such loyalty that his men would die for him).
Everyone Has Standards: Joker tries to defy this, but it turns into a Double Subversionwhen he plants bombs on ferries and says both will blow up unless one boat uses a detonator on the other. One boat has convicts, and the other has innocent people. Neither can bring themselves to do it. For extra irony points, it's the convicted murderers, thieves, and rapists who take the moral route and actually discard their detonator.
Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: If Gotham truly was beyond saving as Ra's al Ghul believed, would Bruce Wayne even be trying to save it from the machinations of the League of Shadows?
In Begins, The League of Shadows' plot to destroy Gotham by covering the city in fear gas.
Subverted in Dark Knight, as the Joker has no real Evil Plan, just the thesis that all Humans Are Bastards, and lots of increasingly complicated "experiments" to prove his point.
In Rises, Bane wants to break Batman, body and spirit, and completely destroy Gotham, as Talia Al Ghul's right hand man, and co-leader of the League of Shadows, fulfilling her estranged father's plan and simultaneously avenging him on Batman.
Evil Sounds Raspy: Reversed: Bruce switches to a very hoarse rasp as Batman—probably for some combination of hiding his identity and making him more frightening to bad guys.
Expansion Pack Past: Alfred's past in the British military and later as a freelance mercenary is often mentioned in anecedotes, but never fully explained.
The Faceless: In The Dark Knight, Gordon's daughter Barbara appears, but her face is never seen (she was on-screen briefly in Begins, as well, but doesn't even get credited as her real name).
Genius Bruiser: Bane, as is tradition. However this is actually one of the few times where he's been portrayed as such outside of the comics, or at least emphasized as one.
Genre Shift: Batman Begins is equal parts crime drama and adventure film, with elements of mysticism figuring heavily into the plot. The Dark Knight abandons the mysticism in favor of a more straightforward crime thriller set completely in an urban environment. The Dark Knight Rises then largely drops the crime drama and becomes more of a large-scale action epic, featuring a plot that wouldn't seem out of place in a James Bond film.
Batman Begins features the title character dangling and dropping Det. Flass almost as if he were bungee jumping until Batman is satisfied with what information he's given.
Subverted and lampshaded in The Dark Knight. Batman wasn't threatening to kill Maroni to get his information but to use the situation in a novel way that would actually make this Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique. However, Maroni doesn't tell him anything anyway, because he's not going to rat out The Joker for anyone, least of all Batman. "We're on to you," he says. "You've got rules. The Joker has no rules."
The Dark Knight Risesdouble subverts and lampshades this in the opening scenes of the film. A CIA team has captured a group of Bane's minions and is trying to get Bane's location out of them on a plane; they have them all in hoods, bring one to the open door of the plane, and stick the mook's head out of it. The suspect refuses to talk, and the CIA interrogator pretends to have him killed (shooting his gun into open air before claiming to have thrown the mook from the plane) before moving him out of the way.
Honor Before Reason: Bruce turning on The League of Shadows. Also everyone in Gotham who takes on the mob.
Horrifying Hero: Invoked by Batman, who actively tries to cultivate the image of terrifying, elemental, and incorruptable symbol. Those unlucky enough to be exposed to fear toxins also see him as a giant demonic bat.
Kill It with Fire: Attempted by Crane, on Batman, and done successfully by Joker, on mob accountant Lau. It's horrifying both times.
Knight in Sour Armor: Jim Gordon, who's trying to be a good cop in what continues to be a very corrupt town.
Loving a Shadow: The entire basis for Bruce's infatuation with Rachel Dawes - he sees her as the only woman in the world who could possibly understand him and his angst and the most perfectly pure woman imaginable, even though they have very little in common beyond being childhood friends who would like to see Gotham become a better place. Fortunately Selina Kyle eventually comes along and straightens him out.
Master of the Mixed Message: Rachel Dawes. She'll talk about how she admired Bruce when he was young and then rebuke him, or give Bruce a gift of a childhood memory and then rebuke him, or kiss him and then rebuke him.
Meaningful Echo: Aside from the echoes within the films, there's a number between them. We hear the following conversation between Batman and Gordon towards the end of Begins:
There's also this quote Ducard says in Begins to his then-student Wayne:
Ducard: You've traveled the world to understand the criminal mind and conquer your fears. But the criminal is not complicated.
Wayne, having apparently internalized this lesson, paraphrases this in The Dark Knight:
Wayne: Criminals aren't complicated, Alfred. Just have to figure out what he's after.
In Dark Knight, the scene between Alfred and Bruce following Rachel's death mirrors the scene in Begins between Alfred and the child Bruce after the death of Bruce's parents.
The Dark Knight has Harvey Dent's slogan, "I Believe In Harvey Dent", said by Bruce Wayne genuinely. Later, in the opening of The Dark Knight Rises, Commissioner Gordon speaks reluctantly and wearily at the eighth annual Harvey Dent day: "I Believed In Harvey Dent".
His third anecdote that was interrupted by Batman flinging blades in his face is a nod to Lovers and Madmen, which shows the Joker getting his trademark smile from havinghis face cut open by batarangs.
The sonar lenses Batman uses in the finale of Dark Knight were designed to mirror the white slits for eyes seen in most comics depictions of the character.
Co-writer Jonathan Nolan confirmed in 2008 that the sonar technology used to assist Batman in capturing The Joker was based on Brother Eye, Batman's spy satellite, which was featured in The OMAC Project, one of the build-up series to Infinite Crisis.
Lucius Fox summing up Bruce's complaints about his original Batsuit with "You'd like to be able to turn your head". None of the Batsuits since the 1989 Batman had allowed the actor wearing them to do this.
During the press interview where Harvey Dent claims he is Batman, you can see a microphone for "News 26", the channel for all Gotham news in Batman: The Animated Series.
When Batman returns to the streets in The Dark Knight Rises, he chases down crooks who are fleeing from an Old Cop, Young Cop pair in a police cruiser, much like he did in The Dark Knight Returns. Even the dialogue is very similar:
Old Cop: You're in for a hell of a show tonight, kid.
The Bat Cave being used by Wayne's ancestors in the Underground Railroad is from an old issue of Shadow of the Bat.
Bane hiring orphans for his operations in Gotham's sewer system is reminiscent of the "Sewer King" episode of BTAS.
The outfit Bane wears while robbing the stock exchange is a realistic take on Jason Todd's Red Hood costume.
Batman's first fight with Bane mirrors their battle in Knightfall in many ways, but most of all, Bane's finishing blow. The back break.
Bane cuts off Gotham from the world, its bridges are blown up, and its citizens left to fend for themselves on the streets, just in No Man's Land.
When the League of Shadows gives Bruce a chance to evacuate his birthday party, he does it by calling all his guests Two-Faced sycophants.
A joke is made about alligators in the sewer after John Blake tries to start an investigation on Bane in the sewer.
The "rewards" for the above good deeds, respectively are Ducard coming back and revealing he is Ra's al Ghul, and then burning down Bruce's home and trying to destroy Gotham, Harvey's botched rescue burns off half his face, which combined with the loss of Rachel Dawes, his Love Interest, drives him into insanity and villainy as Two-Face, and Bane is heavily beaten by the other prisoners of the Pit, forcing him to don his mask to feed himself anasthetic to dull his pain from the injuries.
Not His Sled: If we're to believe the subtle nods Christopher Nolan gave concerning not-too-obvious members of the traditional Rogues Gallery, Coleman Reesenote or Mr. Reese (mysteries) for short manages to gain a sufficient sense of humility and avoids becoming the Nolanverse Riddler, and Lau never becomes the Nolanverse Calculator.
After Bruce puts his lamborghini in between the big truck and the police SUV, he acts like this to Gordon.
Bruce Wayne: You think I should go to the hospital?
Jim Gordon: You don't watch a whole lot of news, do you, Mr. Wayne?
Played with in The Dark Knight Rises: Blake discovered Wayne was Batman upon recognizing the persona that Wayne often wore in public, as Blake himself had learnt to do the same to bottle his anger.
The Obi-Wan: Henri Ducard a.k.a Ra's al Ghul was this to Bruce in Beginsat least, until you discover his true nature with his plans to eradicate Gotham.
Bruce sometimes looks to Alfred for guidance.
Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Lucius Fox appears to be an expert in toxicology, ballistics, computer technology, sonar, radio communications, and personal protective equipment, to name a few.
Justified in that he used to be the head of a highly prolific multi-national corporation's R&D department. A working knowledge of the science behind most projects is generally required in such positions.
Batman's signature interrogation tactic, screaming 'WHERE?' while beating people up, used on Flass, The Joker, and Bane in each film respectively. It only really worked the way he expected it to in the first one, but either way he did get the information, although the second and third times did not end as well for him, with The Joker manipulating him and tricking him into saving Harvey not Rachel and later, Bruce found out his new Love Interest was Evil All Along and that she had the trigger for the nuclear bomb that he was looking for.
Batman surveys the city from high up every movie, each time at a different time of day (See I Have the High Ground above).
There is a party in each movie as well; Bruce's birthday party, Harvey Dent's fundraiser, and a masquerade ball held by Miranda Tate.
In each of these movies, when Bruce hosts a party, a villain crashes it. Ras al ghul in Begins, The Joker in The Dark Knight, and Selina Kyle in Rises.
Batman's bladed gauntlets help him defeat Ducard, Joker and Bane.
Batman's vanishing act. First, Batman manages to startle Gordon with it during some of their initial meetings. Then, Batman pulls the same thing on Harvey during their first encounter, and Gordon, who by this point is used to Batman doing that to him after six months of it, simply tells Harvey, "He does that." Finally, Batman himself is on the receiving end courtesy of Selina Kyle. "So that's what it feels like..."
Each movie has a line about thanking Batman (the first two times from Gordon and the last time from John Blake).
The only villain to appear in every movie in the trilogy is Doctor Jonathan Crane, AKA Scarecrow.
There is a funeral in every movie. First Bruce's parents, then Commissioner Loeb's and finally, Bruce Wayne's own funeral, though he is Faking the Dead.
Police Are Useless: All of them, save Jim Gordon. The Gotham police can't stop the League of Shadows in Begins and get regularly played by The Joker in Dark Knight, to the point Batman has to take out a SWAT team to stop them from killing hostages due to misdirection.
The police in Hong Kong are little better. Though quick on the scene, they just watch in stunned confusion as Lau is taken away by Batman.
Deconstructed with their inability to do their job in the beginning and reconstructed with their willingness when given the chance in the third film. The police did not have the equipment, ability, or number to take on Bane and his army after nearly all the Gotham police are trapped underground for three months in Bane's trap, becoming malnourished on the little food and water they could get and thus could only do recon on Bane's movements. Reconstructed after Batman blows open a way for the police to leave the underground and Batman gives the hesitant ones the hope to actually make a difference as they are shown that given the right chance and equipment they WILL do their best to protect society, even with low odds. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that the police were shown to be huge heroes, especially with the impact of Foley being too afraid to act during Bane's reign of terror, but deciding to fight after Batman comes back, and then being killed during the war against Bane's army.
Commissioner Loeb (Caucasian in the comics, African-American in the films).
Bane was originally of mixed Hispanic and English heritage (the former part being more obvious). He appears to be white and English in The Dark Knight Rises, but isn't mentioned to identify with any race.
Ra's al Ghul looks Arab in the comics while he is Japanese in Batman Begins. It turns out the real Ra's is played by Liam Neeson, who is Irish. His daughter is played by French actress Marillon Cotillard.
Reality Ensues: It's the order of the day in this trilogy. In fact, the trilogy goes so far as to pay attention to even the most minute and the most ludicrous details about how things work in real life.
Reality Is Unrealistic: Nolan's penchant for having special effects done in-camera tends to garner this reaction. The Tumbler and the Batpod were both thought to be too unwieldy to operate in real life, when each has at least one drivable model. In The Dark Knight, the eighteen-wheeler truck flipping over was at first deemed CGI or a scale model. It was a real semi in a real street.
Batman's cape was designed to fold into a backpack for The Dark Knight because the costume designers thought it would get caught in the Batpod's wheel. After a test run in which nothing actually happened, Nolan was happy to let it billow dramatically in the wind (though people still complained).
The police force is not obligated to provide a phone call for anyone and tend to comply if the suspect is being cooperative. However, this is such a pervasive occurrence in media that people brought it up.
After the initial snipe on the clowns failed, some reviewers were confused as to why the SWAT team would state their identities and refrain from opening fire for so long during close combat. As mentioned on the page for The Dark Knight, this is actual operating procedure.
As well, people questioned why the Hong Kong police wouldn't just shoot Batman, when basic gun safety informs people that you shouldn't shoot when your view is obstructed by low lighting or a hostage being used as a human shield.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: The villains deliver some of the best ones ever. Like the one that Carmine Falcone gives to Bruce at the beginning of Batman Begins. Bruce realizes that Falcone is 100% right about him, and his efforts to remedy that eventually enable him to become Batman.
Rule of Cool: Hang gliding, microwave weapons, ninjas, sonar mapping, fingerprints, fourth degree burns, and anesthesia, among other things, do not work that way. But it all looks awesome, so who cares?
All over the place. One of the core points in this iteration of Batman is the idea of Batman, the very being transcending something physical and becoming a symbol of justice against those for whom the normal means are not enough.
In a more basic sense, Bats. In the beginning they are one of the sources of Bruce's greatest phobias, but over time he copes with them and eventually in a sense, becomes one of them- a creature of the night. By the final leg of his journey, they are seen again when he symbolically has to feel fear once more to make the jump needed to escape the Pit as opposed to simply welcoming it, and when Blake accepts his place as Bruce's successor and receive the same swarming he did, akin to a test.
The logo for Batman Begins is raw and unfinished metal. The logo for The Dark Knight is burned into the side of a building. The teaser poster for Rises has the logo as a gaping hole in the sky.
Inverted Type 1 at the end of Begins. Rachel tells Bruce the man she loved is gone, and for now, only the Batman remains.
Followed by a straight Type 2 at the end of Dark Knight. Batman's stopped the Joker and saved Gordon's family, but instead takes the blame for Dent's murder spree to protect Harvey's legacy.
Save the Villain: Played straight with Ducard, then subverted. Played straight with The Joker. Later subverted again with Two-Face.
Science Hero: Nolan's version of Batman relies on his company's cutting-edge technology to create his superhero persona, provide himself with useful gadgets and find criminals. Also applies to the Omnidisciplinary Scientist responsible for creating Batman's gizmos, Lucius Fox.
Selina Kyle, the new Love Interest, discovers Batman's identity during a fight.
Sequel Hook: Joker's calling card at the end of Batman Begins, Batman riding off into the night as a wanted criminal at the end of The Dark Knight, and while Bruce and Selina live the rest of their lives together, with the rest of Gotham believing that Bruce Wayne died during Bane's occupation, the last shot of the trilogy has John Blake, or rather, Robin John Blake discovering the Batcave, and, like Bruce before him, bats begin to circle him as he prepares himself to become the newest Batman.
Alas, DC have announced that they plan to reboot the Batman franchise to allow it to fit into the greater multiverse, with a particular eye towards a Justice League movie.
So Last Season: The batsuit from Begins quickly proves inadequate for Bruce's needs in The Dark Knight. At least now he can move his neck for the first time in twenty years. Averted in Rises, as even though 8 years pass in the story, he uses the same suit that debuted in The Dark Knight.
Played straight with the vehicles, however. Each film has the previous film's vehicle show up and then be discarded for something better.
Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Crane, one of the main villains from Batman Begins, was reassigned in the sequel to the head Mook of the Batman Cold Open. The Joker meanwhile ends up being worse than the entire mob put together. To top that off, Bane takes over Gotham as a warlord for months and holds the city hostage with a nuclear bomb.
Status Quo Is God: Averted with Wayne Manor. After being burnt to the ground in Begins, the new mansion is still years away from completion in The Dark Knight, leaving Bruce and Batman to set up in a penthouse at Wayne Tower.
Stealing from the Till: A sympathetic example. Lucius and Bruce are technically embezzling assets from Wayne Enterprises, and they are discovered by an auditor (technically again), but it is limited to failed experimental gear collecting dust in the archives rather than things which people actually need on a daily basis.
Lucius Fox: Mr. Wayne, the way I see it, all this stuff is yours anyway.
A Storm Is Coming: Batman greets Sergeant Gordon with this line after appearing suddenly on his back porch in Begins. Selina Kyle warns Bruce of this while they dance at the Masquerade Ball in Rises.
Superhero Paradox: Subtly applied throughout the series, as it isn't often talked about. Ra's al Ghul would have destroyed Gotham if Bruce hadn't become Batman, but The Joker seems to find Batman an inspiration and tells him how he changed things. Bruce does discuss with Alfred how Batman was supposed to inspire good, not madness and evil; something that The Joker goes on to inspire in Harvey "Two-Face" Dent. On top of that, Batman saved Harvey Dent from certain death but didn't manage to save half his face and more importantly, his Love Interest who also happened to be Bruce's, which let The Joker visit him and convince him to give into insanity. Dr. Jonathan Crane was already evil before Batman came around, but it probably didn't help that Batman drove Crane insane with Crane's own fear toxin. Finally, if Batman did not leave Ra's to die; Bane and Talia would not have sought revenge on Bruce by torturing Bruce and Gotham, then nuking Gotham. Pretty much every main villain in the series with the exception of Ra's al Ghul is somehow linked to Batman in relation to why they're insane and/or evil and why they want to torment others or Gotham.
Terror Hero: Largely averted, throughout the movies it's shown that hardened criminals AREN'T cowardly and superstitious. The Batman's shock and awe tactics fail to impress especially against the non-mook villains. Justified as one crime boss mentioned that he ain't that scary if he's not willing to go all the way and kill especially in comparison to the Joker's atrocities. Even when the boss gets dropped from high up and breaks a leg, he's more angry than scared.
The Teetotaler: Bruce is never seen drinking any alcoholic beverage during the series, save for the scene in Begins where he kicks all his party guests out of Wayne Manor. In The Dark Knight, he's even shown emptying the glass of champagne he took for his toast to Harvey off the balcony of his penthouse. In such situations in the comics, where Bruce had to be seen drinking, he usually switched champagne for ginger beer or some other variant, and in the former situation Bruce had plenty of chances to switch his drink.
Thou Shalt Not Kill: Consistent with the character's meta portrayal. It's handled somewhat realistically in that, while Batman makes it clear he's completely against straight-up executing criminals under his power, and goes out of his way to use non-lethal takedown methods, he's shown to be willing to use potentially lethal force in a crisis situation (throwing Maroni off a three story ledge (dude could have landed on his head), doing the same to Dent (who did land on his head), and shooting at Talia al Ghul with an anti-tank gun to stop her from blowing up Gotham, and virtually anyone he beat up could have died from internal bleedings, concussions, etc.).
Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: Aside from the Joker, it helps to remember that Batman almost always jumps enemies by surprise, and Crane uses chemical warfare in fist fights. And then there was that trick with the rappelling cable on the SWAT team in The Dark Knight...
Two-Part Trilogy: Double subverted. The second movie is a standalone adventure, and the first and third are closely tied together.
Underestimating Badassery: A recurring theme throughout the series - Falcone underestimates Bruce (who comes back and trashes him years later), Batman underestimates pretty much all his villains and then his villains in turn underestimate him, Gordon is underestimated a few times, Selina Kyle is underestimated once or twice, etc.
To Ra's al Ghul: Jonathan Cranenote He thought Ra's wanted to hold the city to ransom, William Earle, Rachel Dawes, Mrs. Delane, Carl Finch, and even the Batman himself.
To The Joker: Harvey Dent, James Gordon, Rachel Dawes, Sal Maroninote at least until he grows the balls to report the Joker to Gordon, the Chechen, Mike Engel, Anna Ramirez, Coleman Reese, Grumpy, Chuckles, Happy, Dopey, the bus driver, the Gotham National Bank manager... and the Batman again.
To Bane and Talia al Ghul: James Gordon, John Daggett, Phillip Stryver, Lucius Fox, Peter Foley, Simon Jansen, Dr. Leonid Pavel, Agent Bill Wilson, Selina Kyle, and... you guessed it.
Vice City: Gotham, especially in Begins. As Gordon puts it to Flass:
Gordon: In a town this bent, who's there to rat to anyway?
Villain Team-Up: Each of the three films has two major Batman villains cooperating in some way or another. With Batman Begins it was Ra's al Ghul and Scarecrow. In The Dark Knight, The Joker shares the movie with Two-Face, but while Two-Face is pushing the Joker's plans forward, he doesn't team up with him, making it a Big Bad Ensemble rather than a Big Bad Duumvirate. This was seemingly subverted with The Dark Knight Rises as Bane appeared be the singular Big Bad right up until The Revealwhere it turns out he's just The Dragon for Talia al Ghul.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: The League Of Shadows, which genuinely wants to make the world a better place... by burning it to the ground and building a new one over the ashes of corruption.
Western Terrorists: Played with. Ra's al Ghul is played by Liam Neeson, though his group is fairly multi-cultural. The Joker and his group are all Americans from Gotham. Finally, Bane is played by Tom Hardy, though like Ra's he has an organization consisting of mercenaries from all over the world.
Ra's al Ghul and The League of Shadows believe the entirety of Gotham is corrupt, and it must be destroyed to allow the rest of the world to regain some semblance of balance.
Joker believes all humans are nothing but animals that will eat each other the second society breaks down. But only Harvey Dent gives in to his base desires, with Batman and those on the ferries showing they're not so ugly on the inside as Joker is.
The Windy City: The entire trilogy was partially shot Chicago, and as such many Chicago landmarks and features can be picked out:
The car chase with the Joker takes place on Lower Wacker Drive.
Maroni's car wrecks in the Amtrak yards at 18th Street
Gotham General is actually a touched up Brach's candy factory.
As the blaze at the hospital is being extinguished, a CTA (Chicago Transit Authority) bus can be seen, only with a decal saying GTA (Gotham Transit Authority).
'L' trains are frequently visible in the background.
Part of the first Batpod chase scene shows Batman driving through the Millennium Station. Signs for Metra, South Shore, Pedway and Randolph Street are also visible.
Bruce Wayne's Illinois license plates, only with "Gotham" where it normally says "Illinois".
Averted in the third film, where Gotham starts looking just like New York City, being an island surrounded by rivers that empty into the ocean. One World Trade Center, Saks Fifth Avenue and the Brooklyn Bridge also make cameos.
The LA skyline is also visible when The Bat takes off the roof during its first night of action.
World of Snark: So very, very much. You could make a drinking game out of it, if you feel like drinking yourself into a coma.
Would Not Shoot a Good Guy: Played with. Batman will attack police officers with swarms of bats and endanger their lives in high speed chases, but all to try and avoid direct confrontation. It's only when he has to stop a Disguised Hostage Gambit that he's willing to take them head-on.
Wuxia: Albeit a very modern (and western) take on a traditionally Chinese genre of Martial Arts story. Begins in particular is filled with an extended Training Montage in Asia, Quickly Demoted Leader, mystical initiations and philosophical introspection. The whole series, American setting notwithstanding, asks the classic Wuxia question; "What does it mean to be a Martial Artist?" and "What is a Warrior's duty to society?"
You Are Better Than You Think You Are: A rare example of the protagonist reassuring his colleagues. Batman reminds Selina that she is less selfish than she lets on, and tells Gordon that heroes don't need to dress up like giant bats.