"Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money.
They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with.
Some men just want to watch the world burn."
With "Batman Begins," writer/director Christopher Nolan opened a new chapter in the Batman film franchise by taking the legendary character back to his origins, re-imagining why and how the billionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne became the enigmatic crime fighter known to the world as Batman. In "The Dark Knight" Nolan returns to the Batman saga with the character now, in the director's words, "fully formed."
Nolan continues, "I thought we left the world of Batman at an interesting place in the first film, and the end suggested an intriguing direction in which the story could continue." Nolan developed the story with David S. Goyer, with whom he had collaborated on the screenplay for "Batman Begins." Nolan and his brother, Jonathan, then partnered on the screenplay for "The Dark Knight."
In "The Dark Knight," Nolan says he focused more on how Batman's very existence has changed Gotham City…and not, at least initially, for the better. "At the end of 'Batman Begins,' we hinted at the threat of escalation--that in going after the city's crime cartels and attacking their interests, Batman could provoke an even greater response from the criminal community and now that has come to pass. There are some very negative consequences of his crusade brewing in Gotham City."
Producer Charles Roven offers that the issue extends beyond Gotham's resident criminals. "On the one hand, Batman has begun to rid Gotham of the crime and corruption that has plagued the city, but, ironically, the vacuum he created draws in an even more powerful criminal element, who see it as their chance to take over the city."
Producer Emma Thomas notes, "In 'Batman Begins' we largely concentrated on the origins of the character--how Batman evolved out of Bruce Wayne's own early trauma, his fears, his anger and, finally, his resolve to fight crime and corruption. In 'The Dark Knight,' Batman has become well-known to the police and citizens of Gotham City, but while some consider him a hero, others wonder if he is doing more harm than good. And the arrival of a new kind of criminal raises the stakes on that debate.
"What's intriguing," Thomas adds, "is that the billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne--with his fabulous cars, a beautiful woman on each arm and not a care in the world--is not at all who this man really is. So while Bruce Wayne wears a mask to hide his identity as Batman, it is actually Batman who defines Bruce's true identity, and the public persona of Bruce Wayne is the 'mask' he wears to co-exist in this world."
It didn't start out that way. Returning to the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, Christian Bale asserts, "I believe Bruce thought it would be a finite thing, that Batman would serve as an inspiration to Gotham City and that he would eventually be able to leave this character he conceived behind. But he is coming to understand, more and more, that this is not something he can easily walk away from now…or possibly ever. There are new enemies to protect the city from."
The most dangerous of these enemies is Batman's most infamous nemesis--a maniacal, remorseless fiend known as The Joker. "The Joker is the ultimate screen arch-villain," Nolan attests. "In his own way, The Joker is as much an icon as The Dark Knight is, and that presented us with both an opportunity and a challenge in terms of exploring the character's distorted point of view. But we also wanted to create a villain who, as colorful and outrageous as he is, is still coming from a place of reality. In keeping with the tone we established in 'Batman Begins,' we determined he is a pretty serious guy, despite being called The Joker. So we began with the notion of The Joker as the most extreme form of anarchist--a force of chaos, a purposeless criminal who is not out for anything and, so, can't be understood. He is not only a massively destructive force, but he also takes great delight in his murderous nature, which is a pretty terrifying spectacle.
"As the screenplay developed," Nolan continues, "we started to explore the effect one guy could have on an entire population--the ways in which he could upset the balance for people, the ways in which he could take their rules for living, their ethics, their beliefs, their humanity and turn them on themselves. You could say we've seen echoes of that in our own world, which has led me to believe that anarchy and chaos--even the threat of anarchy and chaos--are among the most frightening things society faces, especially in this day and age."
"The Joker is somebody without any rules whatsoever," Bale states. "How do you fight somebody who is bent on destruction, even if it means self-destruction? That's a formidable foe." The actor goes on to say that The Joker's total lack of morality is one of his most potent weapons in his war with Batman because, conversely, "Batman has a very strict moral code for what he will and won't do, and The Joker can use that to his advantage. Batman still has this huge reserve of anger and pain and knows he could easily go too far, so he must not cross that line. He has to be sure that in chasing a monster, he doesn't become a monster himself. Chris Nolan has raised interesting ethical questions in this movie about the complications of having power versus aspiring to power."
Bale, who counts "The Dark Knight" as his third collaboration with Nolan, adds, "I think Chris has a great talent for satisfying the need for a rollercoaster ride, for just being purely entertained, without forgoing moments of great personal conflict and the duality within the characters. He manages to do both without compromising either."
While The Joker wreaks chaos and fear, the crusading District Attorney Harvey Dent is the new face of law and order in Gotham City. "Harvey is a man of the people. He's an all-American hero in a very different way from Batman," says Nolan. "So now you have the triumvirate of Batman, Harvey Dent and Lieutenant Gordon--the justice system, the police and a vigilante--forming an alliance to bring down crime. Using Batman gives them an edge over the criminals, but it is still the police who will arrest them, and then they will be tried through the justice system. But what comes up is the question of whether you can bend the rules without breaking them. And that becomes the underlying theme of the story."
The dynamic between the three crime fighters changes abruptly when an unforeseeable turn of events destroys the steadfast DA Harvey Dent and gives rise to the vengeful villain Two-Face. Nolan comments, "The hope that Harvey represents to Gotham City and then the tragedy of what happens to him and his transformation into Two-Face…it's a remarkable story."
The director observes, "The Joker is the more flamboyant villain, so he commands attention. But in some ways Harvey Dent/Two Face is the more compelling character because he has such an amazing arc. Our Joker has no arc, per se; he's just hell-bent throughout. The Joker and Harvey Dent--these are two of the most fascinating characters from the Batman comic books. They have an almost mythic quality and it was exciting to view them through the prism of the world we created."
In a groundbreaking move, Nolan broadened the scope of that world with a filmmaking first. Nolan shot six major action sequences with IMAX cameras, becoming the first director to use the large-format cameras to film even a portion of a traditional feature film. "In continuing Batman's story, the challenge was to make things bigger and better--to expand the world we established in the first film, both through the story and in the way we presented it," he states. "I was thrilled with the way the IMAX photography turned out. It throws the audience right into the action in a way no other film format could. It takes me back to when I was a kid going to the movies and experiencing the scope, the scale and the grandeur that great cinema can offer. As a filmmaker, I think you're always trying to get back to that, and expanding the canvas of our story with IMAX seemed a great way to do it."
The filmmakers have also made several changes to the world of Batman: Bruce Wayne's familial home, Wayne Manor, burned to the ground at the end of "Batman Begins," so Bruce now resides in a modern penthouse overlooking the city. Batman also has a newly designed Batsuit, which gives him more range of motion and a greater field of vision--"I can turn my head," Bale smiles. And the agile and powerful Bat-Pod makes its much-anticipated debut as The Dark Knight weaves through Gotham City traffic in a pulse-pounding chase sequence filmed on the streets of Chicago.
Batman's pursuit of justice also takes him on an odyssey halfway across the world to Hong Kong, marking the first time The Caped Crusader has left the confines of Gotham City on screen.
"Chris had a wonderful overall vision of what he wanted to achieve with this film, and he was able to accomplish that and more," says Roven. "He's one of those rare directors who, when he tells you what he's trying to do, no matter how ambitious, you can rely on the fact that he will do it, usually even better than you imagined."
READ MORE ABOUT THE CAST
READ MORE ABOUT THE DARK KNIGHT'S STATE-OF-THE-ART CRIME-FIGHTING ACCOUTREMENT AND THE BAT SUIT
READ MORE ABOUT SHOOTING THE DARK KNIGHT AND THE MUSIC
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