This Friday the giant zit that is “The Dark Knight Rises” hype will finally be popped and the anticipation for Christopher Nolan’s superhero denouement will give way to discovery. But the great thing about Batman is that the character endures, even if Nolan’s interpretation takes its leave.
“Definitive” will be a word thrown around a lot when considering these films, but — and not to take anything away from Nolan — when stacked against what? Nothing that came before understood the character well enough to be considered the mold. So I hope future filmmakers will not feel trepidation when saddling up to give their take. In this world of reboots, we all know it’s coming. But I wouldn’t let Nolan’s trilogy cast too daunting a shadow. Again, the character endures. He was here long before Nolan.
And indeed, one of the reasons I’d argue this series has been so successful has been its reverence for that source material. Story arcs from Batman’s 70-plus years were fruitful inspiration for the filmmakers, and with the closing installment right around the corner, it seemed like a good time to call back to those yarns from the pages of DC Comics.
Some of you may be planning to take in trilogy events or re-watch the first two films at home before checking out the third installment. So while this isn’t a list dedicated exclusively to “The Dark Knight Rises,” it’s a good primer for wallowing in everything the films have taken into account so far.
Nolan and company did an interesting job of bringing this material into play. “Organic” was always a key word, folding and weaving events and themes from the character’s lineage that spoke to what he wanted to show on screen. There are plenty of direct references and even some repurposed moments, but there was extensive and smart use of compositing throughout as well.
So with that, let’s take a look at the stories that most informed Nolan’s vision of the character. Batman, like all great superheroes, is a character defined by his story’s themes. And those themes were mined considerably for this trilogy.
Naturally, I had to leave a few out. The cross-title “Legacy” arc gets into Bane’s connections with the League of Shadows (though that story’s more pertinent prequel is included on the list). Ed Brubaker’s “The Man Who Laughs” had some modest connections to “Batman Begins,” including the unveiling of the Bat signal. And the “Leviathan” story currently playing out in the pages of “Batman Incorporated” is coming at a serendipitous time, I must say. But the 10 below are the purest inspirations for the series, I think.
(Speaking of Brubaker, he must be feeling good after Marvel revealed the subtitle of the “Captain America” sequel: “The Winter Soldier.”)
SPOILER note: If you want to stay super pure and unspoiled on “The Dark Knight Rises,” maybe it would be a good idea to steer clear of this list for the next few days (not that speculation hasn’t pretty much uncovered a number of the reveals already). While I’m not ruining plot points and specifics in my copy, I am obviously detailing story arcs that could make you draw connections you’d rather not draw yet.
Feel free to offer up your favorite Batman arcs in the comments section below. You can also, as always, rate my selections as you go. (No numbered ranking from me. We’ll be going in chronological order.)
“The Dark Knight Rises” opens everywhere Friday.