Imagine The Fire: Analyzing The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises is a big movie.

I think that’s one thing we can all agree upon, whether we loved or hated the film, whether we were disappointed or uplifted. The ambition behind Christopher Nolan’s final Batman story is monumental, and from the nearly three-hour runtime to the mammoth IMAX presentation to the sheer scope of the story to the staggering wealth of character, sociopolitical, and philosophical themes on display, The Dark Knight Rises is the first true ‘epic’ Hollywood has produced in at least a decade, dating back to Peter Jackson’s Return of the King. Movies, for better or for worse (I tend to think the latter), just aren’t made like this any more.

The film’s incredible weight makes it nearly impossible, to my mind, to ‘review.’ I can boil down my ‘review’ of the movie into one (admittedly complex) sentence: The Dark Knight Rises is a spectacularly satisfying conclusion to Nolan’s trilogy, a wickedly smart and audacious story propelled by phenomenal character work, tremendous performances from all involved, and some of the most awe-inspiring visuals of the modern era.

There. Reviewed.

It’s not very insightful, though, is it? Nolan’s trust in his audience is so great at this point that shallow surface analysis simply will not do. To properly explain why or why not one thinks the film succeeds, one must dive deep into what the film says, pick it apart, and have a meaningful discussion on the story, characters, and how it all operates in a larger context. This is what The Dark Knight Rises asks of us, and this is the challenge I now intend to confront.

In this article, I have written four interconnected essays that analyze The Dark Knight Rises on what I consider to be its most significant fronts. You may read them all sequentially, or navigate to individual sections using the linked table of contents below. There is an awful lot of material here for you to immerse yourself in, but given the magnitude of the film, I believe the size is justified. This is by no means a definitive analysis, but I hope you find it to be an invigorating starting point to a truly fascinating discussion. Enjoy.

Part One: A Storm Is Coming – The Structure of The Dark Knight Rises 

Part Two: More Than Just A Man – Character Closure in The Dark Knight Rises 

Part Three: Born in Darkness – The Dark Knight Rises in a Sociopolitical Context 

Part Four: The Fire Rises – Stylistic Innovations in The Dark Knight Rises

Read ‘Part One: A Storm is Coming’ by continuing onto the next page…