The Dark Knight Rises, final chapter of Christopher Nolan's reimagined Batman saga, hits theaters one week from today, and it promises to be nothing short of best-of-the-franchise material.
Sixteen years after Tim Burton’s 1989 blockbuster, Batman, and eight years after what critics and fans alike regarded as the most forgettable picture in the franchise, 1997’s Batman and Robin, visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan, as well as his brother/screenwriting partner Jonathan Nolan—remarkably successful collaborators since writing the Academy Award-nominated screenplay for 2000's critically lauded and audience-mystifying Memento—were chosen, respectively, to helm and write the highly anticipated fifth film in the Warner Bros.and DC Comics franchise, over sterling filmmakers like X-Men‘s Bryan Singer, Terminator Salvation‘s McG, Batman Forever‘s Joel Schumaker and The Perfect Storm‘s Wolfgang Petersen. Batman, now known as the Dark Knight by Christopher Nolan; his cast and crew; and countless millions the world over, has been overwhelmingly revered as the iconic caped crusader for almost 75 years and is the most successful DC Comics character of all time.
The legendary protagonist was originally created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger as a comic-book superhero, shortly before the masked vigilante first appeared in “Detective Comics” #27 in May 1939. Since then, Batman has been featured primarily in publications and productions presented by DC Comics and Warner Bros. Pictures. Batman Begins, written in tandem by the Nolan brothers and helmed by older brother of six years, Christopher, now 42, and starring American Psycho cult hero Christian Bale, along with Schindler’s List Oscar nominee Liam Neeson, and two-time, Oscar winner Michael Caine (Best Actor, The Cider House Rules; Hannah and Her Sisters), was released on June 15, 2005, according to IMDb.
The Nolan brothers, creators of Memento, the true chronological nature of which was debated at water coolers and family dinners worldwide after its 2000 release, much like Nolan’s mesmerizing, brain-stinging, 2010 thriller Inception, have been second only to four-time, Oscar-winning, epic filmmaking duo Joel and Ethan Coen—at the craft for nearly 20 years longer than the Nolans—in writing and directing trenchant, blockbuster, Academy-honored films since the first tick of the second millennium.
Following the release of Batman Begins, due to the film’s international critical and commercial success, the brothers penned a sequel, The Dark Knight—Christopher again tapped to direct—which was released on July 18, 2008, almost exactly three days short of three years after the first installment of the Dark Knight Trilogy. The 2008 film featured Bale, who reprised his dual role as Bruce Wayne/Batman; Michael Caine, once again as Alfred Pennyworth; Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby), as Bruce Wayne friend and technical engineer Lucius Fox; and then-Academy nominee [the late Oscar winner] Heath Ledger as Batman’s quintessential archnemesis, The Joker, made famous by three-time Oscar winner Jack Nicholson in Burton's 1989, franchise-launching smash. Bale reportedly collected somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 to $55 million for his second outing inside the legendary kevlar suit—after profits from global box office receipts, as well as DVD and Blu-ray sales.
Warner Bros. Entertainment would have been adjudged insane—and likely vilified, if not burnt to the ground by fervent fans—if they had not optioned a sequel, which they did immediately following the record-shattering first week of The Dark Knight, July 18 to 24, 2008, during which it hauled in tractor trailers full of greenbacks, $238,615,211 million all told domestically, according to Box Office Mojo. Before shooting the third film in his trilogy—7th in the Warner Bros. franchise—Nolan told The L.A. Times in 2008 he was slightly hesitant to make a third Batman picture. The lauded British filmmaker said, “On a more superficial level, I have to ask the question . . . how many good third movies in a franchise can people name?”
Movies in the Star Wars, Harry Potter and Transformers franchises spring to mind, although primarily—if not entirely—for their box-officer clout. When co-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, 36, handed his brother Christopher an early draft of the Dark Knight Rises script, penned by both Nolans and David S. Goyer, a document of more than 150 pages—obese at best by Hollywood standards—Jonathan said, ‘You gotta think of, like Tale of Two Cities, which of course you’ve read.’” Christopher later told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “‘It just felt exactly the right thing for the world we were dealing with and what Dickens does in that book in terms of having all of these different characters come together in one unified story with all of these great thematic elements and all this great emotionalism and drama.
It felt like exactly the tone we were looking for.’” Principle photography on what three-time, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Nolan has called his third and final Batman film—we’ll see, depending on its success and that of his next projects, though, in light of his golden track record (Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, Inception, all hits, three of them huge), he likely won’t need to do another Batman film. Well, the studio-coveted director certainly won’t need one from a career or financial perspective—unless, of course, he strikes up a lasting and envy-spurring friendship with Avatar creator and three-time, Oscar-winning Titanic filmmaker James Cameron, writer-director of the highest-grossing and second-highest-grossing films in cinematic history.
If history remains the true, pattern indicator it typically is, Nolan's career may draw more distinctive success and artistic esteem with projects patterned away from the Batman franchise. Although, it goes without saying that by measure of Academy and critical praise, not to mention record-breaking, universal appeal, Nolan has indisputably and indelibly redesigned the mold and protocol of comic-book film adaptation. Millions around the globe will be ecstatic to learn that the writer-director’s next project, Man of Steel, starring Henry Cavill; Amy Adams; and Oscar winners Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner, due for theatrical release in late 2013 or early 2014 according to IMDb, returns him directly to the DC Comics universe and will likely be another box-office megasmash.