The Satisfaction of Endings — The Dark Knight Trilogy (Spoiler Free)
Seven years ago I went to Batman Begins as a hopeful movie-goer. At the time, I was looking for somewhere else to focus my creative attention and energy. The Harry Potter excitement was wearing off, and Marvel’s recent big-screen adaptations had peaked my interest, but I wanted my superhero interest to be in my preferred base of DC Comics. My dad and I went to Batman Begins and we watched, enthralled. When the credits started to run, my dad turned to me and said with a bit of a fist pump (as he does when excited), “That rocked!”
I still feel that way about Batman Begins. I watch it now and find myself going back to 2005. I was floundering through my undergraduate work looking for what I wanted to do. I found creative writing in part because of Batman Begins. It showed me the power of backstory, and the power of telling a linear story in a non-linear fashion with a three dimensional character.
Three years later came The Dark Knight. This time I was in London, and I was dying because I had to wait a full week after everyone else. The movie is breaking records in the US, and I’m just sitting on it because the UK release was a week later. I saw the film three times while I was in London, partially because I enjoyed it, and partially because London was amid a heat wave, and a nice large American-inspired multiplex was beautiful air-conditioned relief.
It’s been four years, however, and my love of The Dark Knight has wained. Oh, I still think it’s a great film, of course, and Heath Ledger’s Joker performance deserved the Oscar, posthumous or not. But I’ve found myself gravitating to the first one, with an ending that wasn’t happy, per se, but one that has promise and expectation. The second ends on such a dreary note that I knew the final film could be nothing but dark and depressing. Even with a title like The Dark Knight Rises, I had a hard time believing that it could be a happy movie. The trailers only cemented that idea. Anxious, excited, but with trepidation, I went.
What I found was satisfaction.
Endings and I have a love/hate relationship. I’m often overwhelmed by endings. The first time I became aware of it was when I finished reading the Mallorean by David Eddings, having spent ten books with those characters. I wandered around my dorm room listless, confused, and anxious. Truly, anxious. What was I going to do now?
Movies give me the same feeling that books do. I almost left Return of the King early so I could avoid the moment when Frodo tells Sam he’s going to the Grey Havens. Yes, even the cheesy sentimentality of the Deathly Hallows epilogue gets me, both on the page and screen. The resolving moment that creates the emotional cue to stay “it is finished” is a very intense experience for me.
With Dark Knight Rises I didn’t feel that, in that I didn’t feel the anxiety over reaching the end. Instead, I felt complete and total satisfaction. The movie was over and I was glad the story was over. I was glad for the characters, I was glad for myself. My immediate reaction was, I want to watch that happen again.
A film-minded friend described the film as cathartic; I agreed. Another friend (which no interest in the film) responded it would have to be to pull out of a such a dark storyline. I thought about that. I don’t think the dreariness of the Dark Knight Trilogy caused the catharsis. Rather, I would say this film left Gotham changed, but gives our society hope. Films that create hope for humanity, even after humanity has made a total mess of themselves, give me hope, and give me a very nice closure.
So, for me, there are two kinds of endings: the endings I never want to come and the endings I love to experience over and over again. Part of me loves both kinds of endings, but I think I will always lean to the satisfaction of endings like Dark Knight Rises.
And, for the record, anyone who hasn’t gone or would like to go again, I’m available.