For nearly 75 years, Batman and Gotham City have been symbiotically connected, one essential to the formation of the other. And each new iteration of the character has brought with it a new city. Gotham began life as an exaggerated New York, but since the 1980s, Batman has become darker and more psychological, and with him, the city has become more conceptual and nightmarish. Director Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, which concludes with The Dark Knight Rises, rescues Gotham from the couch by presenting it, instead, as a real city with real horrors. In Nolan's films, Gotham City represents America in the age of terrorism.
Previous Batman movies conceived Gotham as a world outside time and reality. The city in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), for example, was created on soundstages and backlots and seems to have sprung out of the subconscious, with Art Deco and Expressionist accents grafted onto a noir cityscape. It's visually exciting, for sure, but more dreamlike than urban reality.