Nolan’s aesthetics serve his story, but both answer to a higher power. It’s about branding. It’s about making every aspect of a multibillion-dollar product support or at least work within a successful template and to exploit that template more vigorously than anything the American cinema has ever produced before. In an industry committed to catering to 14-year-old white males—while persuading the rest of us that serving 14-year-old white males is tantamount to serving us all—Nolan’s franchise elevates adolescent miserabilism to something like art. It draws the culture toward it, focusing our tastes and philosophies into an agreed-upon, simplistic conception of the world as a very—if vaguely—hellish place. The only thing that separates us from psychopaths like Bane and the Joker is that we think it’s a hell worth saving. We are all romantic cynics now. We have all gone goth. Affect motivates the art and motivates our perceptions in turn. Surely, anything this dark must be profound, astute, and serious. Its very grandeur is both part of the aesthetic and a hard sell for its importance.