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YMMV / The Dark Knight Trilogy

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  • Anti-Climax Boss:
    • Scarecrow is taken out pretty easily at the end of Begins.
    • Two-Face's confrontation is mostly verbal, and his death is pretty sudden.
  • Awesome Music:
  • Badass Decay:
    • In the span of the first movie, Scarecrow goes from Evil Genius, to getting taken down in a matter of seconds by Rachel Dawes. In the next movie, he is no longer working for the League of Shadows and turning mob bosses insane. Instead, he's just a glorified drug dealer who is fodder for a Batman Cold Open.
      • In The Dark Knight Rises, Scarecrow is badass again, serving as the Hanging Judge of a Kangaroo Court, serving Bane's agenda. The shoulders of his jacket are frayed outwards in a visual nod to the Scarecrow's costume in the comics.
  • Broken Base:
    • In general, the more serious and grounded style of the trilogy, as compared to more stylized and less serious comic book movies — including the previous Batman movies — have divided some fans.
    Christopher Priest (author of The Prestige): I've got kids who like superheroes, and they think the Batman films are boring and pretentious. They like things like The Avengers and Iron Man because they're fun.
    • Christian Bale's Batman voice is either appropriate or unintentionally funny. Same with Tom Hardy's Bane voice.
    • Katie Holmes Rachel or Maggie Gyllenhaal Rachel?
    • John Blake. Well-acted and well-developed, or spotlight-stealing?
  • Character Rerailment: Nolan's idea of Bruce — dedicated, driven, but also humanistic, kind, compassionate, romantic, friendly — restores Batman to the characterization he had in the Silver-to-Bronze age right before Frank Miller and his imitators created the dark, brooding, menacing, and jerkier Batman. This version of Batman was previously seen in the earlier seasons of Batman: The Animated Series and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and also to some extent in Val Kilmer's Batman Forever. Batman in The '70s in stories like "Strange Apparitions" was genuinely friendly to civilians, sincerely romantic with Silver St. Cloud among others, and hoping to somehow make things work and not giving up on happiness. This informs his romance with Rachel Dawes where he sees Batman initially as a short-time gag that he could forgo while she would wait for him, only for her to realize that not only will Batman continue to remain needed when Joker arrives, but that she has moved on from him. The end of The Dark Knight Rises where Batman quits, settles down with Selina, who it's implied is now married to him, since she's openly wearing the necklace of Bruce's mother, also recalls the non-canon Silver Age story, "The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne" which hypothesized a future where Bruce and Selina would hook up, marry and they'd quite their identities. Batman's friendliness to John Blake, and his camaraderie with Gordon also has him going back to the kindly father figure and Cool Big Bro dynamic he had with his sidekicks.
  • Complete Monster:
    • The Joker from The Dark Knight (see that page for more details)
    • The Scarecrow in the novelizations by Dennis O'Neil (Batman Begins & The Dark Knight) & Greg Cox (The Dark Knight Rises). Unlike his more passive film counterpart, the novel version of The Scarecrow is presented as a terror-loving maniac. Starting out using several of his students as test subjects, driving them mad in the process, Crane allies with the League of Shadows in the present, creating and supplying them with Fear Gas so as to unleash it onto Gotham and drive the city to tear itself apart. Along the way, Crane performs more experiments in fear on his hapless patients at Arkham, orders the murder of a nosy attorney, and drives his partner, Carmine Falcone, insane to silence him. During the attack on Gotham, Crane led a prison riot, murdered a police officer, and tried to run down Rachel Dawes and a child she is protecting. Crane then becomes a drug dealer and kills a junkie as a test run for a lethal hallucinogen. In his final appearance, Crane takes a spot in Bane's conquered, anarchy-filled Gotham, presiding over a Kangaroo Court where everyone from corrupt politicians to innocent people are forced to walk across the icy river of Gotham, invariable leading to their deaths as they break through the ice, much to Crane's delight.
  • Draco in Leather Pants:
    • Crane.
    • The Joker. Yes, even with the scars.
    • Harvey Dent, believe it or not. Due partially to being so tragic and partially to being played by Aaron Eckhart.
    • Bane, especially after it's revealed he saved young Talia and is permanently disfigured and injured because of it.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Cillian Murphy as Scarecrow, who is the only actor outside the series' core ensemble to appear in all three films which also makes Scarecrow the only Batman villain to appear in three films in a row, something the Joker can't even lay claim to.
  • Epileptic Trees:
    • After the first movie came out, there was much debate on whether Ducard was Ra's al Ghul all along or if he inherited the title from the character Ken Watanabe played after he was killed. After all, Ra's al Ghul means "The Head of the Demon", so it could be a title held by the League's leader
    • Also whether Harvey Dent is dead. Word of God says he is. But for a time, not even the actor playing him knew.
  • Even Better Sequel: The Dark Knight is widely considered to be better than Batman Begins.
  • Evil Is Cool: All of the villains, in fine Batman tradition:
    • See the Scarecrow's entry under Ensemble Dark Horse above.
    • Thanks to Heath Ledger's hammy yet terrifying performance, the iconicity of the character and his willing to go to extreme lengths to commit evil for the sake of evil, the Joker is probably the second most famous and popular character in the movies next to Batman himself.
    • Bane is a badass Genius Bruiser, with emphasis on both "genius" and "bruiser" (one of the first times he's been portrayed this way in an adaptation). He wears a scary Cool Mask, manages great feats of both physical strength and intellect, breaks Batman's back just like in Knightfall, and takes over Gotham singlehandedly - though it's debatable whether he was working with or for Talia al Ghul the whole time. Not to mention that the "big guy" is also a hilarious Fountain of Memes "for you".
    • Catwoman, who's sleek, sexy and badass as always, and is the one to kill Bane. Even though she isn't truly evil in this incarnation, she's still a classic member of Batman's rogues gallery.
  • Fandom Rivalry:
    • With the Marvel Cinematic Universe, continuing the DC Comics/Marvel Comics rivalry. The two franchises are as different as night and day (though not the comics themselves). It so happened that Marvel Studios got their movieverse started with the surprise hit Iron Man in the same summer as the hotly anticipated The Dark Knight, and culminated their "Phase One" with the crossover/teamup movie The Avengers in the same summer as The Dark Knight Rises, both movies getting insane levels of hype and thus insane levels of fan rivalry. The rivalry overlaps with Hype Backlash over which franchise translates the comics better onto the screen. The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are generalized as either "more fun and colorful" and "unashamedly comic booky" with their more "fantastical" take on things - or "shallow" and "juvenile". The Nolan movies are generalized as either "more mature and ambitious" - or "pretentious", "too serious" and "comic book movies in denial" with their more "grounded and realistic" take on things.
    • To say nothing of the rivalry within the Bat-franchise's own fandom, between fans of this saga and fans of the Burton films - which is based on much the same varying perceptions about what a comic book movie should be.
    • There's now a rivalry with the DC Extended Universe, particularly with Ben Affleck's Batman. The whole argument ranges from whose portrayal was better to which Batman is stronger in combat. Many fans prefer Bale's more grounded portrayal while other fans prefer Affleck's more comic bookish portrayal.
  • Franchise Original Sin:
    • Bale's deliberately raspy Batman voice in Begins was seen as an odd choice, since no previous Batman actor had disguised their voice that way, but accepted as making sense within the movie's "grounded" reality. In the sequels it got even rougher to the point where some viewers thought it was unintentionally funny. The next cinematic Batman resorted to an electronic voice changer instead (as did the Green Arrow series Arrow before it), which may not be grounded but doesn't make it feel like the actor is having trouble enunciating.
    • The penchant of some characters like the villains and Alfred to perform extended thoughtful monologues set Begins apart from other comic movies, making it feel smarter and deeper. But by the third film this was increasingly seen as pretentious and clunky (as often the pace stops dead to let the characters monologue), especially compared to breezier fare like the Marvel Cinematic Universe entries. When the same approach was applied to later films like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice which shared a writer with the Nolan films in David S. Goyer, the reception was also more mixed. While a director like Nolan might be able to pull such conceits off and have the other parts of the films make up for any perceived drawbacks, other directors like Zack Snyder may have a harder time doing so to the satisfaction of critics and audiences (particularly since Goyer has had a poor track record with the films he's written by himself and he wrote these movies together with Christopher and Jonathan Nolan).
    • Many fans said that the conclusion of Rises where Batman quits, settles down with Selina Kyle, and passes the buck to a successor was out of character and not in keeping with the comics. Except from the very beginning of the trilogy, Nolan's Batman had a strong romantic drive. He only began his travel around the world phase when Rachel Dawes gave Bruce "The Reason You Suck" Speech after he revealed that he brought a gun to Joe Chill's hearing, and at the end of Begins, they part ways because she can't commit to a relationship while he's still Batman. In The Dark Knight, Batman, in the early act of the film, was shutting down crime, and he backed Harvey Dent in the hope that he could finally hang up his cowl and openly told Rachel, that once that's done, he wants to commit to a full-time relationship. In the very beginning, Nolan saw Batman as a guy only in the for short haul, but in the first two films this facet was neglected because it provided Dramatic Irony and tragedy to Bruce's decision to fight crime (i.e. he did so thinking there was still a chance to stop and have a normal life) and the first two films being that it chronicled the young Batman could be excused for showing a naive, hopeful, and still not fully quasi-Knight Templar-war-on-crime Batman beloved from Pop-Cultural Osmosis. The conclusion of Rises with its Time Skip, Author Existence Failure of Heath Ledger, and hasty resolution of plot-threads logically used the romantic motivation as a way to wrap the series out.
    • The trilogy as a whole hampered the long-term direction of DC/WB inellectual properties for the movies. When the first films Batman Begins and The Dark Knight came out, single-superhero trilogies were the norm, and the aesthetic of Nolan (Ultimate Universe, Doing In the Wizard, Darker and Edgier, Movie Superheroes Wear Black) helped bring gravitas to the films, and set it apart from the previous Batman films, but it also made it impossible to use as the basis for a Shared Universe, and which the success of The Avengers (2012) (released in the same year as Rises) more or less demanded from Warner Bros. Man of Steel was produced in the hopes of doing a more contemporary take on Superman, but while it did follow much of the template set by Nolan, many argued that such an approach didn't fit the tone of the character the way Nolan's did for Batman. The trilogy's take on Batman, Alfred, Lucius Fox, and especially Joker, Bane, Ra's al Ghul, was such a Tough Act to Follow that it likewise hampered the DC Extended Universe and its World Building.
    • The film's focus on Batman as a detective, Small Steps Hero and grounded realistic take on both Batman and his villains (none of whom really have their fantastic, pulp-science shtick) worked for Nolan's vision, but it also meant that Batman got cemented in Pop-Cultural Osmosis as a Badass Normal rather than Science Hero, when in fact the character was both. As such when the DC Extended Universe came around and they needed a Batman for the Justice League, and had to introduce him in a short amount of time, they didn't find space to emphasize how exactly it was that Batman could serve as an asset to the Justice League beyond being wealthy and good at martial arts which didn't look impressive next to his fellow league, and the Running Gag of Justice League (2017) and his dramatic arc in the same film is that he really can't keep up with super-powered beings and that he is barely able to keep up, whereas retaining the science-fiction element which was neglected in Nolan's films could have provided a way to justify how Batman could keep up with the League, since he fought superpowered beings like Clayface, Poison Ivy, and Comics!Ra's Al Ghul. Especially since the pulp-fiction became popular again in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
    • The trilogy codified the trend of franchise movies, especially DC Movies, using the Arch-Nemesis for the sequel and using the first film to set up the basic character beats and situation. It worked in Nolan's films, because Batman Begins, serving as a palate cleanser for the Schumacher films, was able to tap into the depth of Batman's Rogues Gallery (bringing in Scarecrow and Ra's Al Ghul), which has the density to make such a decision work. Likewise, at that time, Joker hadn't been seen on-screen for nearly twenty years, so his appearance in the sequel still had a freshness not yet dampened by overexposure. Later films, like Green Lantern and Man of Steel followed a similar mould of saving the arch-enemy for the sequel but they applied the trope to characters who didn't have the same richness of villains (Parallax and Hector Hammond being weak villains respectively, and the Sequel Hook to set up Sinestro went nowhere because of the failure of the film), while in the case of Man of Steel, both Zod and Luthor were associated with the original Richard Donner films too much to mark a new slate. This play-it-safe approach backfired with Justice League (2017) where to save Darkseid for the sequel, they used the minor one-note Steppenwolf instead, to weak results.
    • It also started a trend among other franchises, such as Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Avengers (2012), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Spectre to set up the appearance of an iconic villain with obvious Sequel Hook and teases that makes the interim films feel like a long trailer for another film, whereas Batman Begins focused on its main villains and only saved it for the final scene for a witty sequel tease that didn't specify anything other than someone like Joker might be active and on the loose, leaving the sequels to fully flesh out his appearance. Later films go to the extent of casting, setting up World Building and more or less spoiling the surprise and suspense of the looming threat by over-advertisement.
  • Fountain of Memes: Most of the most memorable quotes from The Dark Knight came from the Joker. And most of the most memorable quotes from The Dark Knight Rises came from the opening scene.
  • Genre Turning Point:
    • Batman Begins popularized the concept of Continuity Reboot for superhero movies (and inspired other movie series like James Bond) and grittier, more realistic superhero storylines in general. The Dark Knight is one of the very few comic book films to break free from the ghetto and be accepted as an example of fine cinema, highly raising the overall prestige of the genre.
    • On a franchise note, Christopher Nolan's films codified the idea that superhero trilogies tell an ongoing character arc that builds on the previous film rather than simply repeat beats. Before Nolan, Superhero trilogies (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men trilogy to some extent) generally had Static Characternote . Nolan however had Batman and Bruce Wayne visibly grow and change from film to film, with the resolutions and events from the previous film carried forwards organically, which in Rises allowed Nolan to give his screen version of Batman an actual conclusion, which was unprecedented for any superhero movie, and which inspired Logan a few years later. The MCU took inspiration from this in their ongoing serial nature, and while they have not indicated to go all the way as Nolan did, their movies have Dynamic Character, with changes and actions carrying on from film-to-film especially in Phase 2 and Phase 3, and in general Nolan's movies are credited for raising the standard of storytelling in the superhero movie genre, as well as cementing the idea among audiences that each actor's take on a character is unique and separate from another's and deserves a conclusion to that version independent from the serial nature of the overall IP.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Ducard's Freudian Excuse from Batman Begins, in light of what happened to the actor who played him.
    • In Begins, the scene where Wayne gets arrested near Wayne Enterprises property becomes this when reading this story.
    • The comparisons to the Great Depression, in light of the ongoing economic crisis.
    • Also, The Dark Knight has the Joker's "I think you and I are destined to do this forever" line.
    • The Dark Knight Rises involves various destructive riots in Gotham after an era of relative stability. The script and production occurred before the advent of the Occupy movement.
    • The violent scenes in all three movies, and especially the orphaning of Bruce Wayne in the prologue of Batman Begins, have become much more disturbing in light of the shooting at the premiere of the third movie.
    • The Aurora Theatre shooting was notable for the shooter dressing up as the Joker. The climax of Joker (2019) has hundreds of Joker imitators shooting up and spreading utter chaos among Gotham.
    • In light of George Floyd's death in 2020 with a police officer kneeling on his throat (Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement is in full effect here), the sight of Bane killing a man of African descent in the exact same manner becomes even more uncomfortable to watch.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Heath Ledger hitting on Jake Gyllenhaal's sister.
    • The Joker and John Blake going to high school together.
    • Bruce Wayne isn't the only bat-themed hero in Gotham. Nestor Carbonell, who played Mayor Garcia, also played Batmanuel in The Tick (2001).
    • The Dark Knight Rises showed Gotham enjoyed 8 years of relative peace once the crime rate was well and truly stamped out. When the same thing happens in The LEGO Batman Movie, the general population celebrates by rioting!
  • Iconic Sequel Outfit: In Batman Begins, Bruce makes his first batsuit by basically cobbling a custom mask and his ninja gauntlets with an armored Nomex bodysuit. In The Dark Knight, he requests a new suit made of a mix of Kevlar and titanium armor plating in order to increase his agility. While the batsuit in the first movie is more comic-accurate, the second batsuit is so synonymous with Christian Bale's incarnation to the point that the original suit never once appeared in The Dark Knight Rises.
  • Iron Woobie: Bruce Wayne saw his parents killed when he was eight years old, but hasn't let that stop him from dedicating his life to fighting crime, both as Batman and as Bruce Wayne.
  • Les Yay: Selina and Jen in the third film. This reaches critical mass when Selina is looking out the window, and Jen comes up behind her and is practically nuzzling her hair.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
  • Memetic Mutation: Has its own page.
  • Misaimed Fandom:
    • Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order. Base your decisions on the philosophy of an amoral lunatic. Granted, the Joker probably didn't change many minds when he identified himself as "an agent of chaos," but when he puts it so brilliantly
    • There's also a similar Misaimed Fandom towards Ra's al Ghul. Some prefer his philosophy to Batman's, even going so far as to say that Ra's had the right idea whereas Batman was just foolishly defending a city with no hope. While Ra's was more of a Knight Templar Well-Intentioned Extremist than a Straw Nihilist, the overall issue is the same: people agreeing with the villain a little more than the writers probably intended.
    • Some fans seem to focus more on Bane's aims of helping the oppressed masses and overthrowing the corrupt rather than the fact that Bane doesn't really give two craps about them: they're stated to be false hope to poison the city's collective souls before Bane blows the place sky-high.
  • Misaimed Marketing: All three movies were very, very, very heavily marketed to young children — complete with coloring books, gimmicky child-safe toys and costumes, and fast food kids' meals depending on the region. This has happened once before with the Batman movieverse, though this time around no kids seemed to be complaining.
  • Misblamed: Nolan sometimes gets called out for replacing Katie Holmes with Maggie Gyllenhaal in the role of Rachel Dawes (not that Rachel was a great character to begin with). In reality, Holmes declined to return in favor of starring in Mad Money.
    • It's been rumored for years that Holmes's then husband Tom Cruise pressured her into bowing out of The Dark Knight in favor of the lower-tier, lower-profile Mad Money so that she wouldn't outshine him in a higher profile film during the summer movie season. The result? The Dark Knight was a critical and commercial hit, Mad Money was a critical and commercial flop — setting Holmes's career back AGAIN (Mad Money was her first film in three years following her marriage to Cruise). Katie's loss was Maggie's gain.
    • The other prominent rumor was that she was simply replaced as a studio decision; a running criticism in many critics' reviews of Begins tended to center on her performance.
  • Mondegreen:
    • From the second film: Lucius Fox's "Aflong aflongkong!" He's actually saying "What's wrong with a phone call?"
    • In the third film, Catwoman's "My mother warned me about getting into cars with strange men" has been misheard by some as "Another war made by getting into cars with strange men."
    • Since the mask distorts Bane's voice, at times it sounds like he's saying something different.
    Your punishment must be more supere (severe).
  • Narm: Batman's delivery for more than a few viewers can sound funny rather than intimidating or ominous. It feels like the actor is trying too hard to sound harsh, screaming many of his lines and growling to the point that it can be hard to tell what he's saying at times. This has been the subject of criticism by several in the business, including Kevin Conroy, and parodied on shows like How It Should Have Ended.
  • Periphery Demographic: Like many superhero movies, a lot of young children enjoy the Dark Knight trilogy - but it's especially notable (and often controversial) here due to the very dark themes and lack of fantastical elements.
  • Sequelitis: The Dark Knight Rises is widely considered to be not quite as good as The Dark Knight, though it was still highly acclaimed, making it a milder case of sequelitis than many.
  • Strawman Has a Point: At one point Lucius Fox snarks that the reason the prototype body suit that Bruce turns into the first Batsuit was a government military troop armor that wasn't put into production because the army didn't consider a soldier's life worth $300,000. However, while a lightweight suit of bullet-proof body armor would be helpful, a price tag like that, multiplied times the number of troops it would have been used for and the cost of maintaining and replacing them, and its price tag goes up a few zeros, for what is still just body armor for ground forces.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Two-Face's inclusion in The Dark Knight sort of dragged the ending on. It honestly would have been better to have Dent's transformation into him be a Sequel Hook with him being the Big Bad of the third installment.
  • True Art Is Angsty: Is it ever! Nolan's Batman films are considered by critics to be both darker and better than other Batman films, let alone most superhero films. The Dark Knight in particular sold like hotcakes and is especially notorious for its bleak tone. Which is strange because it's the one of the only versions of Batman to conclude on a very happy ending, especially in Rises.
  • Tough Act to Follow:
    • The Dark Knight Rises suffers from this according to some; while still being very well-received and acknowledged as high-quality like the rest of the saga, it is somewhat overshadowed by its predecessor, The Dark Knight.
    • The Trilogy as a whole would cast a large shadow over the DC Extended Universe, particularly in regards to reusing the more somber tone for the first two films (which viewers argued was an inappropriate introduction for Superman) and for rebooting both Batman and the Joker so soon with mixed results (Ben Affleck's Batman turned out to be surprisingly well-received, while Jared Leto's Joker was hated for going in a more edgy direction).
    • Titans (2018) also tried to emulate the trilogy's aesthetic, while also adding in the gratuitous violence and profanity of the Deadpool films. Not only did this make it a target of mockery from the same audiences who jeered the DCEU, but due to the influx of DC-related television series coming out at the time, it failed to stand out.
    • Joker (2019) is a mixed bag in regards to this trope. It's clearly trying to emulate the Dark Knight Trilogy with its harsh realism and heavy mood and it arguably succeeds in not going overboard on that. It did however gain a reputation of glorifying domestic terrorism by making the Joker a Woobie protagonist and everyone else either a Hate Sink or ineffectual. Contrasted with The Dark Knight Trilogy, where in spite of its darkness it's still clear who the good guys and bad guys are.
  • Unpopular Popular Character: Both of Bruce Wayne's personas are widely disliked in Gotham. The viewers see him in a much more positive light.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: Word of God denies it, but there are too many allegories for aspects of the war on terror to simply overlook it. Go to the trope's page for a better explanation.
    • The disturbingly-realistic style in which exploding buildings and subsequent wreckage were shot can't help but evoke 9/11 somewhat. There's a reason people referred to the Joker as a terrorist in the film.
    • The use of unwitting Gotham residents' cell phones as a kind of sonar drew many comparisons to contemporary political battles over the legality of wiretapping calls overseas. It seems to come out vaguely in favor of its use in extremely limited situations, but also recognizes that those uses must be accounted for as Lucius and Bruce destroy the surveillance device once the Joker is apprehended.
      • And it's worth pointing out that Lucius' own reaction to the revelation of the sonar-net is "What The Hell, Bruce"?
    • Selina Kyle/Catwoman's statement to Bruce at the costume party calls to mind a lot of the current rhetoric surrounding the Occupy Wall Street movement.
    • The Dark Knight Rises got this in the week prior to its opening. First liberal pundit Christopher Lehane tried to make a connection between Bane and Bain Capital. Then conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh started up his own counter-interpretation. Needless to say, Christopher Nolan and Morgan Freeman (and for that matter, almost all comic book aficionados) went on record to declare how stupid Rush was being. Limbaugh and Lehane also got some flack from Chuck Dixon, Bane's creator (and a conservative). By the way, neither Lehane nor Rush had seen the movie yet.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?:
    • Many were leery about casting Heath Ledger as The Joker. As everyone knows by now, he proved them all wrong.
    • With Rises, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and Tom Hardy as Bane. While not to the same extent of Heath Ledger, they've also been praised for their performances.
  • Win Back the Crowd: One of the main purposes of this trilogy was to win people back to Batman after the failure of Batman & Robin. It's probably safe to say that it succeeded.


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