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Master of Arts (MA)
Cinema and Interactive Media (Communication)
Date of Defense
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
The objective of this thesis is to provide an overview of Christopher Nolan’s famed “Dark Knight Trilogy”, a body of three films based on the superhero “genre” including Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) ultimately exploring the definition of genre itself. It will explore whether or not the trilogy is a style of movies in its own right or merely a version of the action/adventure-style filmmaking that has pervaded cinema from its inception, yet notably in Michael Curtiz’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) to James Cameron’s Avatar (2009). With regards to the source material, many comic books, real world scenarios, and noir sensibilities (mostly the filmmaker and his brother’s own) went into the crafting of an epic saga that bridges the concept of “becoming” to an elongated metaphor of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. It is in this adaptation process with classic literature that Christopher Nolan makes something elevated above simple mass entertainment. The world has changed quite a bit since the cycle of films known as the Dark Knight Trilogy began in 2005. Initially Christopher Nolan and his collaborator on Batman Begins, David S. Goyer, crafted a dark city, Gotham, which only through the intervention of an orphaned billionaire could find the backbone to take back its streets from the criminality that infested it from the bowery to city hall. By the time The Dark Knight was released in 2008 a stronger connection to its 9/11 roots and an introspective reflection on the nature of fighting terrorism and ideas began to bear fruit. When The Dark Knight Rises was released in 2012 its opening nights were marred with tragedy when a man wearing a gas mask opened fire on an auditorium in Aurora, Colorado killing no less than 12 and injuring 70 others. Life had come full circle and imitated art in such a way as to truly punctuate the point of aggression to escalation to destruction. This is particularly egregious given that these films were meant to reflect a deeper understanding of our post-9/11 world. As for the genre itself, as marked below, the trilogy depicts three different styles of the action/adventure film all the while asking questions about what is original and what is not.
dark knight trilogy
Conine, Thomas E. III, "The Dark Knight Trilogy: An Overview of Adaptation and Disqualification of Genre" (2015). Open Access Theses. 584.