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Batman — From the comic to the chthonic

Wayne's World
By NICK JOHNSTON  |  July 20, 2012

THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Real World Events: Global recession. Hope and Change. Michael Phelps. The Sichuan earthquake kills 80,000. Breaking Bad debuts. Bernie Madoff.

Comic World Events: The DC Universe is still falling apart, thanks to Grant Morrison's mind-bending epic Final Crisis. Bruce Wayne dies at the end of the series, leaving Dick Grayson to take up the mantle (don't worry, he'll be back).

Gotham City Style: Chicago, again, but as a symbol of the American city. The Nolan films are all about the struggle for the soul of the community.

Under The Cowl: Bale again, even more tortured, raspier.

Sidekick/Love Interest: Rachel again, though now played by the infinitely better Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Bat-Gadgets: The Bat-Pod, a variation on the Batcycle that functions as an escape pod from the Batmobile. A CIA plane that allows Batman to perform a hot extraction from a hostile situation. A new suit, in which Batman can turn his head! It doesn't help his voice, though.

Villains: A career-defining performance by the late Heath Ledger as the anarchic, ruthlessly insane Joker; Aaron Eckhart as the tragic Two-Face, a symbol of hope in Gotham corrupted by his thirst for revenge.

Bad/Bat-line: "I'm not wearing hockey pads."

What the Phoenix Said: Three cowls. "Too much time is spent setting up a third film, with the audience (and the Joker) left dangling as Dent is rushed toward his, and indeed all of Gotham's, fate. Still, a few scars are to be expected in the grotesque face of Nolan's batty genius."

Cowl rating/Nick's Pix: Four cowls. The best live-action Batman movie to date, it's a propulsive and intelligent mediation on the nature of anarchy and freedom.

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