Ahoy! Potential spoilers ahead (but sort of not really?) for The Dark Knight Rises. For the TL;DR crowd: everything was very hard, but very rewarding. Making movies is tricky business! Also: IMAX, IMAX, IMAX! Chris Nolan loves IMAX. Oh also and maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Robin or something …and what? Who said that?! Well, read on and make up your own minds about it.
Production notes are a funny thing: people rarely pay attention to them, or skim through at best. But when Warner Brothers released the production notes for The Dark Knight Rises, it signaled a beginning to the end of the Batman fever that Christopher Nolan got us all swept up in all those years back. And so hyper-speculation as to what-it-all-means has become the game for everything Batman. That includes these notes, natch.
So what can we learn from the 49-page document? Well: a really, really vague outline of the general storyline, as well as a helluva lot of love for IMAX. Wowzers, does this man ever love his fancy technology, eh? There’s more, obviously, so let’s dig in and see what’s worth noting.
First of all, Anne Hathaway is giving herself a lot of credit for the evolution of our beloved Bruce Wayne, asserting “I think Bruce owes Selina a big thank you because he was leading a pretty lonely life until she came in and got his blood pumping and reminded him that there are fun people out there in the world. One of the things that fans have always enjoyed about Bruce and Selina is the playful side of their relationship. They may operate very differently, but they actually have a lot in common: they like to keep certain things hidden; they’re usually several steps ahead of everyone else in the room; and they prefer to dress in black.”
At this point in the novella, Warner Brothers wants to add that “she smiles” before moving onto describing her costar, Christian Bale, who isn’t (shockingly enough) known for his sense of humor and ability to take himself less-than seriously. But apparently everyone is wrong! “I had so much fun working with Christian,” it says. “He’s quick to laugh and have a good time, but he’s also so solid. He’s the kind of actor that raises your game.” Generally when I think of Christian Bale, I can’t help but slap my knee and let out a hearty guffaw because man oh man is he ever hilarious and not-at-all-terrifyingly intense.
Like most of the characters in Nolan’s take on the comic book classic, don’t expect it to be a carbon copy of Bob Kane’s masterstroke.
“I did look back at some archival comics and read a lot about Bob Kane’s inspirations for Catwoman, but the most important thing was to be Catwoman in this film and fit into Christopher Nolan’s Gotham City.”
One of the hallmarks of production notes is the masturbatory way with which they talk about how amazing and great everyone is, and Bale isn’t the only one getting the commending. Every single person on the film (at least that’s what it feels like) gets a lengthy bit of praise from members of the cast, crew, janitors, and–in a surprising twist–the nuts and bolts of Sony Studios in Culver City (they’re notoriously very particular about interviews). Especially praiseful was the cherubically adorable Joseph Gordon-Levitt who explains how overcome with fanboy emotions he was over the Bale-as-Batman transformation.
“When Christian put on that suit, I didn’t have to make believe: I was talking to Batman. It doesn’t happen very often, but every now and then when I’m shooting a movie, I have a moment when it feels like real life. That was definitely one of the strongest of those moments I’ve ever had.” AKA, JGL has a mancrush! Bale’s got him going goo-goo eyed! Aww shucks.
Looks like he might have to fight off Tom Hardy though, who also praised Bale for his performance. Which is very nice, but, hasn’t his ability to turn into a very convincing Batman been made evident a few times now? Regardless, our boy Hardy (who plays the muffly Bane) explains that “the first time I saw Christian in the makeup chair, and I arrogantly thought to myself, ‘That’s not a problem; I can handle him.’ And then, on the set, Batman showed up. It wasn’t Christian Bale anymore; he absolutely was Batman.”
Breaking News: Christian Bale plays a very convincing Batman! You heard it here first.
So what about all the other characters? Well, Nolan says (in the notes they use “reveal” but I think that’s because whoever was editing this was bored and had a thesaurus nearby) that finding the perfect Catwoman was all about finding “the balance between the classic image of the character and a believable person you care about. Casting Anne Hathaway in the role was the key to that. She was able to combine those facets seamlessly so they aren’t in conflict, but one is amplifying the other.” Bale says that his connection with Catwoman is representative, too, in that “what really impacts Bruce is that, after years of isolation, he’s meeting this woman he finds fascinating and funny. He suddenly recognizes he’s been seeking something, even unconsciously…that he’s lost all the color in his life and needs some human contact.”
Batman’s just one lonely dude in a crazy-intricate costume looking for another lonely person in a crazy-intricate costume. First comes love, then comes…?
Well then comes Gordon-Levitt, of course! His character is the “new protégé [of Gary Oldman‘s, also known as Officer Gordon], policeman John Blake.”
But who is this mysterious character that no one seems to want to talk about but is apparently a major player? Well! According to Gordon-Levitt, “John Blake is the kind of guy who probably always wanted to be a cop and dedicates himself to being excellent at his job. He is someone who believes in what he does and I admire that in anybody. In the midst of a lot of cynicism, he remains proud to be a police officer.” Dedication is a word that pops up a lot in these notes. They go on to say “Gordon definitely sees something of himself as a young cop in John Blake. Everyone else seems to have lost focus because things have been so good, but Blake is the first to realize that something’s up, and Gordon recognizes those instincts by promoting him and putting him on his team.” And then Nolan says “Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne have become somewhat jaded, so we wanted to contrast that with a younger, more idealistic individual who, in a way, represents where they’ve come from. Joe really captured the strength and courage of a man who refuses to back down, regardless of the odds.”
Interesting, isn’t it? The claim that our young John Blake could turn out to be the next Batman-like character (perhaps in his own trilogy of films?! Could we be so lucky?), or perhaps even a Robin, has been circulating for awhile. This, while no confirmation of anything, definitely hints that there is more to John Blake than just being a really dedicated policeman. Which would be great for lovers of Nolan’s work and his obsession with origin stories, and also for those who aren’t quite ready to let the whole world of Gotham go quite yet.
Either way, excitement for The Dark Knight Rises is on the, well, rise. So look for lots more speculation and hints in the future.
[Image Credit: Warner Brothers]
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