OK, before we get started, let us all watch the trailer for The Dark Knight Rises one more time, shall we?
OK, have we managed to get all the giddiness out of our systems? Excellent.
As Dru noted on our Facebook page, this trailer is best described as quiet and apocalyptic. And really, what could be more fitting for the final film in Christopher Nolan’s series? Over the past two films, Nolan has examined the themes of faith, fear, and heroism, and everything about this trailer, from the “hope is lost / faith is broken” taglines to the nightmarish imagery of Gotham having gone to hell points to a film which is likely going to go to some fairly bleak places. Hell, I'd almost say biblical, with Bane seemingly intent of punishing Gotham as if it were Sodom and Gomorrah.
But what can comic book fans learn from the trailer about the upcoming film? Glad you asked.
1. Yeah, the film is drawing on the Knightfall story arc.
Not that anyone has doubted it ever since Bane was announced as the villain, or since the imagery of the broken bat-mask started popping up in in the ad campaign, but this trailer clearly indicates that the idea of Batman being "broken" by Bane will play a major part in the new film.
What is likely more interesting is the way in which Bane’s motives for taking down Batman have changed. In the comics, Batman was something of a personal goal, the man he had to take down in order to prove his greatness. Here, Bane seems to declare that he is punishing Batman for…something. This is in keeping with Nolan’s approach of reinventing Batman’s villains as a collection of terrorists rather than super villains, and Bane might be the most overt change we’ve seen yet.
2. Turns out there is a bit of Knightquest in this film as well.
Well, one narrative strand from Knightquest at any rate. In a nutshell, by the end of Knightquest, Bruce Wayne was healed of the spinal damage Bane gave him in their last battle, and was ready and willing to head on back to Gotham. Unfortunately, he had to do so minus Alfred, his faithful butler, who was fed up with Wayne putting himself in mortal danger every night, particularly after the events of Knightfall. Alfred would eventually return to the Batman family of titles, but it was years later before than happened.
A similar storyline seems to be playing out in The Dark Knight Rises, with Alfred seemingly having enough of Bruce Wayne’s quest to save Gotham at the expense of his health.
3. Is that a bit of No Man’s Land I see in there?
Unlike Knightfall, No Man’s Land is a storyline likely unknown to most non-comic fans of Batman. A year long Batman epic which played throughout every Batman book in 1999, No Man’s Land tells the story of Gotham City after it has been devastated by a massive earthquake. Deciding that the city is unsalvageable, the government of the United States evacuates all who want to leave the city, and then blow the bridges, declaring the area a "No Man's Land." What’s left of Gotham’s population is terrorised by the city's long list of homegrown maniacs, while the crime lords set themselves up as the rulers of Gotham. Standing in their way is what is left of the Gotham Police Department, led by Jim Gordon, and Batman.
From the looks of the latest trailer, it seems that Bane is setting up Gotham as a No Man’s Land type era himself, taking out the bridges and forcing the citizens of Gotham to deal with his chaotic rule. Standing in his way will be Gordon, whoever Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s John Blake is, Batman, and Selina Kyle.
If Nolan is indeed drawing upon all of these sources, then his approach seems to have been to take three memorable-but-flawed stories, and from each take their best elements: the core concept of Knightfall, the emotional strain of Knightquest, and the imagery of No Man’s Land. Mixed with Nolan’s seeming ability to hit the cultural zeitgeist at the right moment, it looks like we might just finally have a third film in a series which delivers on audience expectations.
But what do you all think? Let us know in the comments below!