Rules ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Needs To Follow

We explore what lessons Christopher Nolan should learn in The Weekly Rising.
By Kevin P. Sullivan

Christopher Nolan
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/ Getty

We stand a little over four months away from the conclusion of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, "The Dark Knight Rises." The pressure on Nolan to deliver in an incredible experience compounds with "Rises" because, not only is he making a film about one of the most iconic heroes of all time, but he's following up one of the most successful movies ever.

"The Dark Knight" changed the game. It was a complex, gritty and heady superhero ensemble piece, the likes of which had never been seen before in the genre. Following an act like "The Dark Knight" requires an equally if not more confident move by Nolan and his team, one that's as ambitious yet still satisfying.

With the last film, Nolan cracked the code of the Batman movie, so here are some of the lessons he'll need to carry over to make "The Dark Knight Rises" just as memorable.

Keep it dark
Joker smashed a pencil into some guy's face. Then, he burned a guy alive on top of a pile of money. Rachel Dawes blew up mid-sentence. "The Dark Knight" went, well, dark and never made a big fuss about it. How bleak did any of the Marvel Universe films ever get? Sure, Bucky fake died. That was sad ... kinda. Nolan's world distinguishes itself by going there and making it feel natural. With only the close left, now is not the time to pull punches.

Don't have too many villains
It isn't necessarily my position that "The Dark Knight" featured too many villains. That was a general complaint made about adding Two-Face near the end; many said he didn't get his due respect. While I mostly disagree, there's something to that. If the villain in "Rises" turns out to be a surprise — as many predict it will be — the twist can take a lot of the impact out of the ending. We won't be as invested in that character's fate if he or she was revealed as an antagonist just 10 minutes before. If Nolan wants to surprise us with a villain, he should do it early and not put so much weight on the reveal.

Don't dumb it down
"Dark Knight" had a lot going on. Batman was hunting the Joker. Harvey and Rachel were pursuing Gotham's crime syndicate and citing conspiracy law. Gordon dealt with balancing his professional responsibilities with his wife's requests to not fake his own death. Even Lucius Fox struggled with the complex morality of helping Batman spy on everyone in the city of Gotham. It all seems like a lot, but the ensemble structure of the story added a complexity that has yet to be replicated in a superhero movie. Nolan never pandered to the audience or held its hand. He told a multi-layered story and let you figure out how the pieces fit.

Make it about something
Part of what made "The Dark Knight" complex was that its characters and their arcs presented ideas for the audience to mull over. It wasn't exactly "The Tree of Life," but Nolan managed to inject some philosophy into a movie about a guy who dresses up like a bat. The moralistic crux of the movie rested on Harvey Dent and his conversion to the dark side. All it took was a little push for the supposed incorruptible Dent to kidnap Gordon's wife and child. If Dent could go bad, what's Batman fighting for? "The Dark Knight" asked questions about its characters, which surprisingly enough, doesn't happen in many movies.

Make it about Batman
If "The Dark Knight Rises" is going to be the last we see of Nolan's Batman, we better get a lot of him. With "The Dark Knight," Nolan made the choice to also focus on all the people around Bruce Wayne, but for the conclusion, he'll have to narrow the iris and keep the camera locked on the Caped Crusader. For his final bow, something must be said about Batman, what he does and why he exists. Gary Oldman has said repeatedly that Nolan would never make a movie without having something to say. The director clearly has a deep respect for the hero and has made two movies trying to earn ours. "The Dark Knight Rises" will be his closing arguments.

What other rules should Christopher Nolan follow in making "The Dark Knight Rises"? Leave your comment below!

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