WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR ALL THREE BATMAN FILMS
The Dark Knight Rises marks the end of Christopher Nolan’s Batman story, three films which changed the face of blockbuster filmmaking and breathed a whole new life into the superhero genre. In bringing the Dark Knight back to the screen, Nolan crafted something extraordinary: He took the comic book hero out of the comic book and placed a superhero in a recognizable universe.
Nolan embedded Bruce Wayne/Batman in the midst of mob wars, maniacal anarchists, civil unrest and dissenting rioters on the streets of New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago and London, which doubled for the streets of Gotham. With the use of these locations, the city of Gotham embodies contemporary political issues that gives a relevance and another level of political depth that made Nolan’s Batman franchise just that much more game changing.
But this chapter of the Batman character is now over and Warner Bros. has to deal with the fact that Christopher Nolan will not have anything to do with Batman as far as sequels and reboots go. Lightening very rarely strikes twice in Hollywood, so finding a director and screenwriter who can provide a reinterpretation that is a big an artistic and financial success as Nolan’s take on Batman will be no small feat.
The advice to any filmmaker now would be to leave The Dark Knight Rises and Nolan’s whole Batman legacy where it is and let the sleeping dog lie. Of course, the film does conclude with a door left open for further development with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character effectively inheriting the mantle of Batman, which if anything was a narrative device used to close off the film’s big theme as opposed to a cliffhanger implying that the franchise has further to go. It hasn’t, though, and it should go no further.
The best option, if not necessarily the easiest, would be to start from scratch or go in a whole other direction tonally, thematically and narratively. Nolan’s vision of Batman was extraordinary, both original and refreshing. Never before had we seen a Batman set in a world that so closely resembled ours. Never before had we seen the line between the comic world and our world so clearly blurred, that took a stylistic leave from the comic book world and took its cues from the cinematic world of realism.
While the Batman films of Tim Burton referred to works such as Metropolis and Blade Runner, Nolan mainly found his style from the work of Michael Mann and Sidney Lumet. Placing particular emphasis on films like Prince of the City and Heat, the major inspirations for his Dark Knight Trilogy, Nolan crafted a vision that is wholly unlike anything we’d seen before, and achieved amazing results. For the new director, the impetus would be to move as far away from that as possible. In fact, the best thing to do would be to go back to the comics.
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