WARNING: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.
Given the open ending and overwhelming critical and financial success of its predecessor, there may not be a movie in the history of cinema that was more certain to be made than The Dark Knight Rises. And, short, perhaps, of George Lucas’s second Star Wars trilogy, it may be that no previous movie has ever been the subject of such high expectations from its producers and its audience alike. On July 19th, a day before the movie opened, the possibility for both a Best Picture nomination and the title of highest-grossing film of all time were legitimately in play. And why not? Batman Begins, released in 2005, was by itself one of the best superhero movies that we’d seen to that point. The Dark Knight, three years later, redefined the model of what a superhero movie could be, and even led directly to a change in the structure of the Academy Awards. Meanwhile, director Christopher Nolan, in his breaks between movies, had directed a well-received Victorian magician drama in The Prestige and a Best Picture-nominated blockbuster in Inception. Reasons for optimism, in other words, were everywhere.