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How Nolan Explored Three Major Cities With His Batman Trilogy

Gotham is a nasty place in Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight‘ trilogy.

From mob violence, to terrorism, and to all forms of white collar crime- Gotham is not exactly an ideal tourist destination. It is a tough city, with alot of grit and plenty of misery. After all, it’s the place where a young Bruce Wayne saw his parents get murdered.

In this blog post, I will compare each Batman movie to an American city. The point isn’t to say ‘this American city is as bad as Gotham.’ Nor is it to mock anyone who lives in those places. Personally, I have really great memories visiting my choice for The Dark Knight Rises!

So, let’s begin!

Batman Begins Is Similar To Los Angeles, California

Gotham does not experience frequent earthquakes. Nor does it have palm trees. However, Los Angeles- known as ‘the city of angels’ attracts a certain personality towards it. To put it in simple terms, Los Angeles has a reputation for appearing fake and insincere. This makes sense: L.A has a competitive job and housing market, and appearing a certain way wields advantages.

However, that doesn’t translate into the people of L.A being fake and superficial. That’s not true! But it does mean that for alot of people in L.A, (especially ones working in the uber-competitive film and music industr) they do have something they want to hide or play down. After all, when you are in such a big city like Los Angeles, it’s hard to find people to trust.

It’s as if they are wearing a mask.

In Batman Begins, we follow Bruce’s identity be forged into Batman. This requires him to investigate into corruption from high circles. He comes across many deceptive individuals. One of them in Jonathan Crane (Scarecrow) who hides his actions while acting under a mask. The film ends with Bruce metaphorically dropping his mask, and telling Rachel who he really is.

Bruce’s honesty, in this situation is a rejection of the superficiality and corruption of many people in Gotham.

L.A is indeed a city, that like Gotham, has issues with crime and poverty. As do the other two cities on this list.

Which brings me to the next point-

The Dark Knight is similar to Chicago, Illinois

This pick is more visual. Chicago, with its huge skyline, is a city that is bustling with energy. Adding onto that, there are wide alleys and gothic infrastructure in both Chicago and Gotham. Hell, much of the shooting of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy took place in Chicago!

What else draws me to the Gotham and Chicago comparison is not just visuals. It’s history. Chicago has had notable gangsters (check out this Time Out article) ranging from politicans to mobsters.

The Dark Knight, of course, features the most famous Batman villain. The Joker! Not only is he an extremely notable gangster, but he inverts many of the ideas presented by Chicago gangsters.

For one, the Joker is not well-dressed. He seems to have no healthy relationships, and is obsessed by the desire to prove his point. That’s not the image Chicago gangsters would want to express.

However, crime is far from glamorous. If we are talking about murder, rape, trafficking, extortions, etc- then that’s bad. The Joker shows us how messed up Chicago crime actually is. Because of that, Christopher Nolan did the impossible: he made Chicago gangsters less appealing.

We may be fascinated by The Joker- but we don’t want to enter his world.

The Dark Knight Rises is about New York City, New York

In the 21st century, two events defined New York City’s image to the rest of the world. They were the September 11 terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda and the Global Financial Crisis.

Both of these events are explored within the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

Firstly, Bane and Ra’s Al-ghul are essentially, terrorists. And unlike previous villains, the goal is not to run Gotham or to change it. The end goal of Bane is to turn ‘Gotham to ashes.’ After all, one of the main objectives of terrorism is to destroy.

Essentially, The Dark Knight Rises exists in a post 9/11 world where terrorism is a massive threat. What’s also sinister about terrorism is that it can destory systems from within. We see this in Gotham, too, with the many corrupt lawyers, bankers and police officers.

Nolan explores the Global Financial Crisis, but in lesser detail. We see details of how financial strains impact on people- from Selina Kyle justifying her theft, to an orphanage being shut down, or by Bane sabotaging the stocks and shares market.

The ending of The Dark Knight Rises- which involves Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt) becoming more determined to make Gotham safer. Just as many people in New York City helped out during 9/11, it’s vital to remember that there are good people in the darkest of our times.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Three cities for three movies! What do you think? I’d be curious to read what cities Gotham reminds you of.

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