Christopher Nolan’s Dark Night Rises will be in theaters on July 20th.  But even with all the excitement and fandom waiting for this movie, there may still be some fans out there who have yet to put their finger on why this film is so highly anticipated when the third movie in a super hero trilogy usually lets us down. See Spiderman 3, X-Men United, Batman Forever, and Superman 3 and 4 for more details on this surely growing list of atrocities.

The truth is that Nolan’s Batman is unlike any other super hero movie before it.  Nolan’s Bat-films are already known for being gritty and hyper realistic compared to other super hero movies.  But most of you out there probably don’t know how gritty and realistic it really is considering that it’s about a super hero whose super power is not needing any powers.

Batman may be the most human superhero in that regard, but that doesn’t stop him from being an inhuman bastard. Bats is known for being able to fight as hard as Superman and Wonder Woman despite not wearing solar cell powered genes or a body molded by gods apparently trying to audit a pottery class.  What may not be obvious is that some of his villains can also keep up with these super friends too.

Most bad ass way to break your hand EVER!

Ras al Ghul from the first movie is depicted as an immoral that, for all intents and purposes, cannot die in the comic books. comic book Joker doesn’t need make up as he has chemically bleached white skin and snotty green hair, and somehow fewer mouth scars.  You would think anyone who’s taken that many beatings from the Bat would be a giant scared walking callous. In both of these characters Nolan took away special powers and origins to give them a more realistic feel for his films. Neither of them got dunked in icky green stuff. What Nolan didn’t change was the nature of villains, the blood thirst and mainicalness. He took the cartoon out of the comic and with it the guarantee that the good guys will win.

In fact when you think about it Batman has technically lost in both of his films. Batman may have won the battles with his villains but he lost the war. In Batman Begins the prisoners of Arkham Asylum are released into the public, leaving Batman to stop Ras while they celebrate their freedom with what I can only assume is a murder fest of epic proportions.

This allowed the Scare Crow to pose almost no threat in both movies.

In The Dark Knight Batman has to stop Joker, who set up a truly devious plan that not only destroyed Gotham’s chance at redemption from a mob controlled government, but broke their white knight Harvey “Two Face” Dent, leaving Batman to take the blame for his “murder.” In both cases Batman, with all the heroism and badassery, finished the movie far behind where he started. except in The Dark Knight where he was slightly ahead of the pursuing cops. And despite the uplifting title of the newest incarnation, I’m not sure Batman will fare much better in DKR.  I’m honestly not sure he will even survive the movie concidering he’s fighting Bane with a Catwoman chaser. On the bright side his burial suite won’t have Kevlar nipples.

Contributing to the dark theme and uncertainty is the choice for villains. Bane is known throughout comic-dom as the man who broke the bat. Literally he broke Batman’s back. Let me say that again… HE LIFTED BATMAN OVER HIS KNEE AND SHATTERED HIS SPINE! Of course this was after he proved that he was smarter than Batman by figuring out his secret identity, releasing every prisoner on Arkham Asylum, and waiting patiently for Batman to get home… you know, so that the whole back braking thing could happen close to Wayne’s comfortable pillow top.

Not pictured, Bruce Wayne's pillow top

Hmm if I was going to pick a final villain, one whose threat level might actually dwarf Joker “I just want to see the world burn” Mcknifem, it might be the guy who could cripple the main character. And this is in a cartoon world where good guys actually win.

Then there is Catwoman.  If this movie is so dark, then why introduce the one costumed baddie that could drive the poor broken Batman to walk again. I’ll give you a clue, he’s not chasing Catwoman so hard because he wants to lock her up (but hand cuffs might be involved). Catwoman is the one villain that might be redeemable in all of Batman’s rogues gallery, and in the comic books she frequently rides the line between hero and villain, and even knows who Batman really is.

This means that Catwoman could fill literally any role in the Dark Knight Rises. She could end up being Batman’s replacement after he dies; could be his lover; or she could be trying to kill him for his alleged murder of Harvey Dent. She also could be another psycho killer who thinks Bane’s muscles are worth duking it out with Batman over. She might even fill the sidekick slot left open by the lack of Robin. At this stage there is no way to know, except to say that her merely being in the movie will bring an X factor that could make Wolverine run away with his tale tucked between his legs.

Pictured: cat-themed goggles

Nolan’s Batman takes place much closer to the real world, with a city and a man that we can all relate to, in a world that is much darker than both the comic books, and most comic book movies. This alone gives Nolan a veritable endless canvas to work with, to create and recreate everything in the Batman universe, which he has already demonstrated he is very capable of doing. But Nolan has included in each movie a theme about the world they take place in. In Batman Begins the idea of desperation came up over and over again, and Gotham was portrayed as a city that was falling into an abyss never to be able to pull itself out. The Dark Knight is more about corruption which apparently desperation leads to. Now again with Bane and Catwoman this final film could have any theme from the redeeming power of love to the crushing influence of super steroids on the human body, but as with all trilogy finales the sky is the limit.

So basically without precritqueing the actors, or trying to predict what’s going to happen honestly I’m as excited to find out as anyone, and I plan on seeing it in the big screen. I’ve tried to explain why DKR may be the defining movie of the trilogy, and why I don’t think Nolan will let the fans down. No, this movie will be darker and grittier than Christian Bale’s Bat-voice.

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