The Blu-ray release of Dark Knight Rises is coming up next week, no doubt packed with all sorts of nifty little extras that will have fans spending hours and hours watching things that aren’t the actual film. To celebrate, Christopher Nolan came out and talked openly about all things Batman in an interview with Film Comment.
He chats about many aspects of working with the franchise, including influences, vision, techniques, politics, casting and several other subjects dealing with the production of and meaning behind the trilogy.
Here are a few of the more interesting things that Nolan had to say, plucked from a rather large article at this NerdBastard’s discretion.
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About coming into the Batman franchise:
It’s a sign of how quickly things change in the movie business, but there was no such thing conceptually as a “reboot.” That idea didn’t exist when I came to look at Batman. That’s new terminology. Warner Bros. owned this wonderful character, and didn’t know what to do with it. It had sort of reached a dead end with its previous iteration. I got excited about the idea of filling in this interesting gap—no one had ever told the origin story of Batman.
About the realism in the film:
The term “realism” is often confusing and used sort of arbitrarily. I suppose “relatable” is the word I would use. I wanted a world that was realistically portrayed, in that even though outlandish events may be taking place, and this extraordinary figure may be walking around these streets, the streets would have the same weight and validity of the streets in any other action movie.
If I can believe in that world because I recognize it and can imagine myself walking down that street, then when this extraordinary figure of Batman comes swooping down in this theatrical costume and presenting this very theatrical aspect, that’s going to be more exciting to me.
About the attention to detail when it came to explaining Bruce Wayne’s toys:
I’m interested in process, the process of becoming. I’m fascinated by the idea of Bruce Wayne being an ordinary man without superpowers, turning himself into this larger-than-life figure who appears to have extraordinary abilities.
I’ve never liked films that go part of the way there and then take an improbable leap. So in terms of where he was sourcing something from, how he would go about it, we really tried to come up with the best solution possible and present it in the film.
About the way he presented his villains:
…we decided early on that the greatest villains in movies, the people who most get under our skin, are the people who speak the truth.
I think truly threatening villains are the ones who have a coherent ideology behind what they’re saying.
If you look at the three of them, Ra’s Al Ghul is almost a religious figure, The Joker is the anti-religious figure, the anti-structure anarchist. And then Bane comes in as a military dictator. And military dictators can be ideologically based, they can be religiously based, or a combination thereof.
About layering the character of Bruce Wayne:
…there’s the private Bruce Wayne, who only Alfred and Rachel really get to see; the public Bruce Wayne, which is this mask he puts on of this decadent playboy; and then the creature of Batman that he’s created to strike back at the world. By making him into these three aspects, you really start to see the idea that you have a private person who is wrestling with all kinds of demons and trying to make something productive out of that.
About the challenges of making the films:
Well, it was intimidating in theory, but a lot of the challenge with taking on a big film is not allowing yourself to get caught up in the way that other people do big films. Because you can put a team around you of very experienced people, and that gives you a great safety net, but that also has a lot of pitfalls.
And the thing I learned is that no matter how big the film became, people would always complain it was too small. For the studio, it was never enough. So you learn to relax with it a little bit, and trust your instincts about scale, how this is going to feel big enough when it’s in the can.
About moving forward from the first film to the next:
At the end of Batman Begins, when he turns the Joker card over, I found myself wondering, “Okay, who would that antagonist be?” seen through the prism of Batman Begins. I wanted to see how we could translate The Joker into that world. That was the jumping-off point.
About people interpreting Dark Knight Rises in a variety of political contexts:
What was surprising to me is how many pundits would write about their political interpretation of the film and not understand that any one political interpretation necessarily involved ignoring huge chunks of the film. And it made me feel good about where we had positioned the film, because it’s not intended to be politically specific.
And about the meaning behind the end of the Dark Knight Rises:
For me, The Dark Knight Rises is specifically and definitely the end of the Batman story as I wanted to tell it, and the open-ended nature of the film is simply a very important thematic idea that we wanted to get into the movie, which is that Batman is a symbol. He can be anybody, and that was very important to us. Not every Batman fan will necessarily agree with that interpretation of the philosophy of the character, but for me it all comes back to the scene between Bruce Wayne and Alfred in the private jet in Batman Begins, where the only way that I could find to make a credible characterization of a guy transforming himself into Batman is if it was as a necessary symbol, and he saw himself as a catalyst for change and therefore it was a temporary process, maybe a five-year plan that would be enforced for symbolically encouraging the good of Gotham to take back their city. To me, for that mission to succeed, it has to end, so this is the ending for me, and as I say, the open-ended elements are all to do with the thematic idea that Batman was not important as a man, he’s more than that. He’s a symbol, and the symbol lives on.
Oi, that was a page-full and there’s plenty more if you’re interested. Just click on over to Film Comment to check out the entire interview.
Thanks to Film Comment for kidnapping Nolan and forcing him to talk.