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July 3, 2017

The Dark Knight Trilogy – #2 Reggie’s Take Movie Franchise Countdown

by Reggie's Take

After the previous two Batman movies from Director Joel Schumacher, Christopher Nolan came along and gave Batman fans a trilogy worthy of a Dark Knight and the number two spot in my movie franchise countdown.

Director Joel Schumacher’s 1997 “Batman and Robin” was so awful it left a sour taste with the fans and critics alike that George Clooney vowed to never play the role of Batman again. Warner Brothers having decided to move on considered a live-action Batman Beyond movie and an adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, both in the end were canceled.

In January of 2003 Warner Brothers hired director Christopher Nolan to direct an untitled Batman film, David S. Goyer was brought on to write the script. Nolan said he wanted a realism and humanity to be the foundation of an origin film, saying. “It will be a recognizable, contemporary reality against which an extraordinary heroic figure arises.”

Nolan also felt the previous Batman movies had more style than drama and drew his inspiration for the new Batman movie from Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman movie. Nolan rejected the idea that that a young Bruce Wayne watched a Zorro film with his parents the night of there murder. Nolan believed in emphasizing the importance of bats to Bruce Wayne making the idea of him becoming a superhero original to Bruce. This was Nolan’s reasoning for no other heroes from DC existing this particular world of Batman.

What makes a Batman movie a Batman movie? The Batsuit. Previous Batsuits from the first four Batman movies were stiff and very restrictive with the actor not able to have full movement of his head. A new cowl was designed to be thin enough to allow movement but thick enough to avoid wrinkling when Bale turned his head. The suit itself was also redesigned to be flexible, light, durable, and black.

When Batman Begins was released to theaters on June 17, 2005 it would earn just over $205 million domestically and $373 million worldwide and would finish as the eighth highest grossing movie of 2005.

Warner Brothers on July 31, 2006 officially announced the sequel to Batman Begins titled The Dark Knight. The first live-action Batman movie not to use the word Batman in the title.

Before Batman Begins even hit theaters David S. Goyer had already written a treatment for two sequels introducing the Joker and Harvey Dent. Goyer’s original vision was for the Joker to scar Dent during the Joker’s trial in the third movie, turning Dent into Two-Face. Initially Nolan was not certain if he wanted to return for the sequel, but he knew he wanted to reinterpret the Joker on screen.

Jerry Robinson a co-creator of the Joker was brought in to consult on the character portrayal. Nolan wanted to avoid diving into an origin story for the Joker and decided to portray his rise to power so not to diminish the threat he poses. Nolan explained his reasons in an interview saying. “The Joker we meet in The Dark Knight is fully formed … To me, the Joker is an absolute. There are no shades of gray to him – maybe shades of purple. He’s unbelievably dark. He bursts in just as he did in the comics.”

When it came to casting the role of the Joker several actors expressed their interest in playing the villain. Paul Bettany, Lachy Hulme, Adrien Brody, Steve Carell and even the late Robin Williams all publicly threw their hats as it were in the ring. Nolan already had an actor in mind that he had wanted to work with and that of course was Heath Ledger.

After Ledger saw Batman Begins he figured out a way to make the Joker work and still fit the movies tone. Ledger described his Joker as a “psychopathic, mass murdering, schizophrenic clown with zero empathy.”

Sadly on January 22, 2008, after he had completed filming The Dark Knight, Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose. According to Christopher Nolan all of Ledger’s scenes were shown as they were filmed and no digital effects were used to alter the actors performance.

Bruce Wayne in “The Dark Knight” showed Wayne more as a detective, something not fully developed in “Batman Begins”. Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent played by Aaron Eckhart were given a friendly rivalry and according to Nolan were the backbone of the story. Nolan also made the decision to allow Harvey to become “Two-Face” in “The Dark Knight” which would allow the movie to have an emotional arc, something he didn’t feel the Joker could offer.

“The Dark Knight” was released to theaters on July 14, 2008 to very positive reviews. The Dark Knight would earn nearly $535 million dollars in the U.S. alone and another $469 million worldwide for a total of $1 billion in box office sales. Becoming at the time just the fourth film in history to gross over a billion.

The Dark Knight Rises would become the final installment set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan who was hesitant on returning was able to develop a story with his brother and David S. Goyer that he felt would bring the series to a satisfactory close.

Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises” would see the introduction of Selina Kyle or Catwoman played by Anne Hathaway and Bane played by Tom Hardy. Nolan took inspiration from 1993’s “Knightfall”, 1986’s “The Dark Knight Returns” and 1999’s “No Man’s Land” for the movie.

When Warner Brothers executives wanted the movies villain to be “The Riddler” they encouraged the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio, but Nolan wanted a character with some physical presence and made the commitment to use Bane instead.

Warner Brothers released the “Dark Knight Rises” on July 20, 2012 to positive reviews from critics, but unfortunately during a midnight showing of the “Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado a gunman opened fire inside the theater killing 12 people and injuring 58.

The final installment in Nolan’s trilogy earned $448 million here in the U.S. and $636 million over seas giving it a worldwide box office take of just over $1 billion dollars.

Reggie’s Take:
Christopher Nolan did for Batman what George Lucas did for the original Star Wars trilogy; give us one of the best movie trilogies there is.

Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie was the first serious Batman to come to the big screen and at the time set the bar for superhero movies. Burton’s Batman with Michael Keaton was at the time nothing we had ever seen before when in theaters or on television. “Batman Returns” was good and even though a bit darker then the first was still worthy of the name Batman.

Warner Brother big mistake with the fist four movies was listening to fans that Batman was to dark and turned the franchise over to Joel Schumacher. “Batman Forever” although lightened up in its look and a slight more humor was a watch able movie, but when we got to “Batman and Robin”, well that was a movie that made the 1960’s Batman movie with Adam West look like an Oscar winner.

“Batman and Robin” killed the franchise for all intense purposes and it wasn’t until Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” in 2005 that the Batman film franchise was restored to a degree. Nolan for the first time showed how a young Bruce Wayne became Batman on screen, something that had never been shown before on film. It introduced Batman in a way that felt believable and still stayed true to what Batman is. Christian Bale as Batman made a very believable Bruce Wayne and as Batman fit Nolan’s vision.

As good as “Batman Begins” was Nolan’s sequel in 2008 “The Dark Knight” would become the crown jewel of the trilogy. In “The Dark Knight” Nolan introduced in a new way, Batman’s greatest villain, the Joker. At the time Heath Ledger was cast in the role many thought there was no way that Ledger could play a believable or good Joker and when the movie hit theaters Ledger and Nolan proved many wrong. He could play the Joker if not one of the best Jokers ever.

Ledger’s Joker was dark, sadistic and Nolan’s script showed why the Joker is Batman’s greats foe. Nolan’s Joker forced Bruce Wayne/Batman to take steps that not only pushed Batman’s own ethical limits, but also made the caped crusader consider action he may not of normally considered.

The Dark Knight Rises in 2012 was the final movie in Nolan’s trilogy. Set eight years after the conclusion of “The Dark Knight”, Gotham city was taken over by Bane. The last time we saw Bane on the big screen was in “Batman and Robin” and that in no way did justice to how the character really was in the comics.

Taking inspiration from the comics, Nolan drew from the Knight Fall series in which Bane breaks Batman’s back. In the comics bane maybe a big strong brute, but he’s also very intelligent as well. Nolan’s interpretation of Bane may not of been spot on, but it was by far an improvement over what Joel Schumacher gave us.

If there is one complaint I have with Nolan’s trilogy it comes in “The Dark Knight Rises”. At the end of the movie after Batman has flown the nuclear bomb away from Gotham Batman is presumed dead and is honored as a hero. Fox discovers that Wayne fixed the Bat’s autopilot and while visiting Florence, Alfred sees Bruce Wayne with Selina Kyle.

Now I understand why they showed Bruce with Selina, they wanted everyone to leave the theater on a happier note, not thinking that Bruce/Batman is really dead. My problem with that scene goes back to an earlier scene in the movie where Bruce and Alfred have a discussion about that exact scenario.

When I watched the movie I left the theater wondering if Alfred really saw Bruce and Selina or was it something that he was imagining? I may not be in the majority, but I was not a fan of that scene and feel it leaves more confusion then it does a happy ending. Granted the scene with Fox learning that the auto pilot had been fixed helps, but at the same time exactly when did Batman bail out and did he do so long before the bomb exploded or was his suit also capable of protecting him from the blast and radiation.

In the end Nolan’s three Batman movies took Batman to a place of legendary status when it comes to a movie franchises. All three movies were smart, fun, exciting and well thought out. Will there ever be another Batman trilogy to come along that will be even better? Possibly, but that may not happen for some time.

Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Trilogy”, is it worthy of the number two spot in my franchise countdown? I would say with confident, yes.

 

Batman Begins Poster

Batman Begins / Warner Brothers / 2005

Batman Begins Synopsis:
A young Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels to the Far East, where he’s trained in the martial arts by Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson), a member of the mysterious League of Shadows. When Ducard reveals the League’s true purpose — the complete destruction of Gotham City — Wayne returns to Gotham intent on cleaning up the city without resorting to murder. With the help of Alfred (Michael Caine), his loyal butler, and Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), a tech expert at Wayne Enterprises, Batman is born.

 

The Dark Night Poster A

The Dark Knight / Warner Brothers / 2008

The Dark Knight Synopsis:
With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman has been making headway against local crime—until a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker (the late Heath Ledger in his Oscar-winning role) unleashes a fresh reign of chaos across Gotham City.

To stop this devious new menace—Batman’s most personal and vicious enemy yet—he will have to use every high-tech weapon in his arsenal and confront everything he believes.

 

The Dark Knight Rises Poster

The Dark Knight Rises / Warner Brothers / 2012

The Dark Knigh Rises Synopsis:
It has been eight years since Batman vanished into the night, turning, in that instant, from hero to fugitive. Assuming the blame for the death of D.A. Harvey Dent, the Dark Knight sacrificed everything for what he and Commissioner Gordon both hoped was the greater good. For a time the lie worked, as criminal activity in Gotham City was crushed under the weight of the anti-crime Dent Act.

But everything will change with the arrival of a cunning cat burglar with a mysterious agenda. Far more dangerous, however, is the emergence of Bane, a masked terrorist whose ruthless plans for Gotham drive Bruce out of his self-imposed exile. But even if he dons the cape and cowl again, Batman may be no match for Bane.

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