Before The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
by Peter Jaffee.
It’s going to be interesting to see if The Dark Knight Rises out shines The Avengers. The upcoming superhero film directed by Christopher Nolan, who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Jonathan Nolan, and the story with David S. Goyer, is the third and final installment in Nolan’s Batman film series. Batman Begins (2005) was either the best film of the year or the worst, all depending on your choice of how the Batman character should be portrayed. Looking for the 1960s TV camp? You won’t find it here. Instead, Nolan chose to portray a darker rendition and in his sequel, The Dark Knight (2008), the Caped Crusader is overshadowed by one of the best performances a Hollywood thespian could portray — thanks to the late Heath Ledger. But if you liked the first two movies, you’ll certainly love the third and final installment. Especially if you are a fan of the Batman comics and what I am about to do for you is offer a bit of background for what this movie is based on. It’s always good to go into a movie prepared with a little Bat-knowledge.
The film has inspirations in two Batman comic book series: Knightfall, published in 1993, which debuted the villain Bane, and The Dark Knight Returns (1986), in which Batman returns to Gotham City after a ten-year absence.
The plot of Knightfall begins with the master criminal Bane freeing all of the maximum-security inmates of Arkham Asylum, a notorious psychiatric facility in Gotham City. Aware that he would lose in a direct assault against Batman, Bane’s plan consists of weakening Batman by forcing him to deal with the deadly villains simultaneously. Among the freed inmates, there are numerous high-profile villains, such as the Joker (who trapped Arkham’s administrator), the Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Firefly, Cavalier, The Ventriloquist, The Mad Hatter, The Film Freak and others. The scenario creates a rift in the relationship between Robin and Batman, as Batman irrationally seeks to face the outbreak alone — in later issues, Robin asks Batman if he is even needed as his sidekick anymore.
Over the next few issues, Batman becomes weaker and weaker as each criminal is put away. The rescue of Mayor Krol from the teaming of the Joker and Scarecrow pushes Batman to his mental and physical limits: a dose of Scarecrow’s fear gas makes him relive the murder of Jason Todd, which he considers to be his greatest failure. After this encounter, Bane makes his move and attacks Batman at Wayne Manor. By this time, Bane had deduced the secret identity of Batman. The fight between Bruce Wayne and Bane is detailed in Batman #497. By this time, Batman is so exhausted from the exertion of catching the escaped criminals that he cannot even defend himself; Bane beats him mercilessly before breaking Wayne’s back over his knee inside the Batcave below the manor, symbolically “breaking” Batman and leaving Wayne a paraplegic. Bane takes the grievously-wounded Wayne (still costumed in the Batman outfit) downtown to Gotham Square and throws him from a rooftop to demonstrate his superiority to the populace. With Batman incapacitated, Bane assumes control of Gotham City’s underworld and takes over several illegal operations within it.
After his defeat, Bruce Wayne enlists the aid of Dr. Shondra Kinsolving to rehabilitate him and asks Jean-Paul Valley (Azrael) to take up the mantle of Batman so that Gotham has a protector. Tim Drake argues with Bruce to allow Dick Grayson (the former Robin and then-current Nightwing) to become Batman, as he is more experienced and mentally competent. Bruce replies that Grayson has his own responsibilities and would only take up the mantle of the Bat reluctantly. (Dick later expressed resentment at not being asked to stand in as Batman.) Bruce’s rationale for this decision is revealed in later issues – secretly, he does not want Dick to have to face Bane, as he knows Dick’s character will compel him to try. Indeed, Bruce gives Jean-Paul strict orders never to engage Bane in combat—and when Jean-Paul does face Bane, only his modified gloves save Jean-Paul from being thrown to his death.
In Batman #500, Jean-Paul, in his new mechanical Batsuit (which is an amalgam of the Azrael costume with the Batman’s) confronts Bane in an arduous battle and prevails, although many bystanders are put at risk. Jean-Paul leaves Bane broken mentally and physically, though he struggles with the choice of whether to simply kill Bane or hand him over to the police. He decides that he will let Bane go to Blackgate Prison. Jean-Paul continues to watch over Gotham after the fight as Batman until Wayne recovers. A few of these scenes can be seen in the movie trailer — exploding bridges, Bane confronting Bruce Wayne with the knowledge of his secret identity, the return of Batman after eight years and Bane releasing all the inmates from Arkam Asylum.
It’s amazing how movies used to be promoted with magazines, television spots, collector cards and cereal boxes. Now, the internet has opened up a whole new world of promoting. Movie studio reps have told me that they print fewer and fewer movie posters because of the cost factor — after all, fans posting copies of the movie trailer on Facebook and YouTube not only generate free publicity, but to an audience that can easily afford to buy movie tickets. It’s all about demographics and statistics. As with The Dark Knight, viral marketing campaigns began early during production to help promote the upcoming film. When filming concluded, Warner Bros. refocused its campaign; developing promotional websites, releasing the first six minutes of the film and theatrical trailers, and sending random pieces of information regarding the film’s plot to various companies.
The plot is as expected. Following the death of District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman assumes responsibility for Dent’s crimes to protect Dent’s reputation and is subsequently hunted by the Gotham City Police Department. Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Batman returns to Gotham, where he encounters the mysterious Selina Kyle and the villainous Bane, and must confront the latter’s plans to destroy the city. Warner Bros. president of production Jeff Robinov had hoped a third film would be released in 2011 or 2012. Nolan wanted the story for the third installment to keep him emotionally invested. “On a more superficial level, I have to ask the question,” he reasoned, “how many good third movies in a franchise can people name?” Nolan only agreed to a third film on the basis of finding a worthwhile story, fearing that he would become bored halfway through production if he discovered the film to be unnecessary.
Nolan confirmed the Joker would not return in the third film, and dismissed rumors that he considered using unused footage of Heath Ledger from The Dark Knight. The film has an estimated budget of $250 million and Nolan elected not to film in 3-D, but instead stated that he intends to focus on improving image quality and scale using the IMAX format. This ought to be impressive considering the entire film supposedly runs almost 3 hours!
Several accidents occurred during the production of the film. While filming at Wollaton Hall, a tractor-trailer crashed into the main entrance, though no one was injured. A stuntman parachutist later crashed through the roof of a home in Cairngorm Gliding Club, Feshiebridge in Scotland, and became wedged there after a failed landing during a skydiving stunt; he was not seriously injured. While filming scenes in Pittsburgh, Anne Hathaway’s stunt double crashed into an IMAX camera while filming a sequence that required her to ride a Batpod down a flight of stairs during a riot. There were no injuries, but the camera was destroyed. A second accident took place in Pittsburgh when the truck carrying the then-unidentified vehicle later termed “The Bat” went off-course and crashed into a lighting array, damaging the model of the aircraft. Production was delayed while the model was repaired. All this suggests a lot of stunts and explosions in the movie! So now that you know the background to this movie, hopefully you’ll be just as excited as I am!
And meeting Sherry Jackson from the Batman television series will be exciting this August at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention!
The Dark Knight Rises