Chris Clow is a comic book expert, retailer and contributor to Batman-On-Film.com and ModernMythMedia.com. When not geeking out, he is a Political Science major at Western Washington University. You can find his Dark Knight Rises Countdown column here at Movies.com every other Thursday, and his comic book reviews at BOF for various monthly titles. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.
The last time I wrote this piece a couple of weeks ago, things seemed so…uncomplicated. We got a poster for The Dark Knight Rises and a pretty cool promotional image featuring Tom Hardy’s Bane, and some steady news had come out of the production. It’s funny what 96 seconds of footage can do, but first, some production news!
Globe Trotting and Going to School, Wheels in Pittsburgh
Back on July 14th, BOF reported that the film finished its production needs in the UK and would then be moving elsewhere. The last UK location was apparently the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London. BOF then passed on a report to its readers first shown at Latino Review (Possible Spoilers), which said that the film’s production will do some shooting at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University involving an action scene.
BOF also reported that pictures of the “new” Batmobile arriving in Pittsburgh have arrived online, although Jett didn’t post them due to their unofficial nature. Even so, he states that if you find them online, the level of “spoiler” will most likely be minimal, and I tend to agree with him.
Jett also passed on a link originating from the local PBS Pittsburgh affiliate giving various interesting anecdotal info about the production and while there may be some slight “spoiler-ish” details, they’re relatively minor. One last link reveals the shooting locations and dates for the production in the Pittsburgh area, featuring a letter to potentially affected business owners in the area by Warner Bros.
Does Nolan’s Last Mean the End of His Cast?
Back on July 20th, Jett reposted a video from DigitalSpy.com where Michael Caine briefly talks about his time as Alfred, and that he may be up for more buttling (yes, that’s what it’s called) even after Christopher Nolan leaves the director’s chair. After giving some minor details into his schedule on the film and how he feels the production is “great,” Caine went on to say, “I think it will be the last Batman that Chris Nolan will make. I never say the last time for me for anything.”
It remains to be seen what kind of cast shake-up would happen after Nolan leaves his directing position and moves to producer, but retaining the role of Alfred across reboots would be perfectly alright with me (and I’m guessing most comics and movie fans), especially when we’re talking about an actor like Michael Caine. His Alfred has been an extraordinary addition to the supporting cast, with the appropriately caring and wise insight that the character is supposed to have.
Looking at another multi-movie franchise, there seems to be little to no story impact in the most recent James Bond films from retaining Dame Judi Dench as the MI-6 leader M. Dench first picked up that role in Piece Brosnan’s first Bond outing GoldenEye, and retained it after the series was rebooted with Daniel Craig in the lead in Casino Royale. She’s expected to return in director Sam Mednes’ Bond film to be released late next year, and shows no signs of leaving the franchise yet.
Whether other Nolan cast members would return in a new Batman film, or at least be willing to, remains to be seen. I’d be pretty doubtful about most of the other actors returning, but I’d be far from disappointed if actors like Caine and Gary Oldman returned even after Nolan and Bale leave.
Comic-Con Brings No News, Actor Tweets Rises Casting
In a reversal of the usual trend coming out of Comic-Con International in San Diego, virtually no news about Dark Knight Rises emerged from the ground in “America’s Finest City.” This kind of proved to be the trend for the show this year, save for the Amazing Spider-Man panel. In truth I was at least expecting some sort of viral presence similar to what happened with the 2007 show for The Dark Knight, but the real movie news came out of the production and the released teaser trailer. More on that in a bit.
The astonishing thing from the Con this year was that the majority of news pertained to the medium that gave the show its name: comics. With DC’s “New 52” initiative, relaunching their entire super hero line with new #1 issues in September, much of the news actually managed to revolve around comic books for the first time in several years. While I personally find this pretty refreshing, it is slightly frustrating for those hoping that Comic Con would bring us at least some news about the cinematic Batman. However, as he has proven multiple times in the past, Christopher Nolan knows what he’s doing. More than anything, this feels like a mom or dad not wanting to give their child candy or cupcakes before dinner. We might whine about it, but in the end, it’s probably better for us.
In other news, actor Christopher Judge, best known to genre fans as alien warrior Teal’c from the long-running TV series Stargate SG-1, has been cast in an unspecified role in Dark Knight Rises. The news broke when the actor himself tweeted,“I can finally confirm: I have been cast in The Dark Knight Rises.” The news hit BOF from an article by the folks at Cosmic Book News.
Hardy Tight-Lipped about the Film, Not About the Trailer
In a video from MTV posted to BOF Tom Hardy is playfully non-revealing in information about Dark Knight Rises, saying that he doesn’t want to incur the wrath of Christopher Nolan should he spill any details. Although when the interviewer asked if Hardy is excited due to the buzz caused by the first teaser trailer, Hardy suggests that he really feels it in his heart. Still playfully diversionary when asked if it’s good to see people excited, Hardy says, “I love people, and I love seeing them happy because it’s a lot better than seeing them violent! Is it not?”
After some relenting, Hardy did say that the film looks great, and after seeing the trailer he is “very, very excited” for what the trailer promises. And this is from a guy on set every day! It’s very fun seeing that Hardy is evidently excited about his work, and yet still has a go at the reporters and press people trying to get details out of him. He’s not letting anything get out, but it’s pretty damned entertaining to see the answers he comes up with in lieu of details about the film.
Gotham’s Great This Time of Year…?
On July 27th, Jett began to speculate as to which season the story for the film will take place in, as certain details are pointing to the Fall or Winter. Receiving emails from extras for the Pittsburgh shoot, they tell Jett that they’re being instructed to dress as if it were Fall/Winter. Beyond this, a story from a reliable BOF source has relayed that, “They are doing a plate shot in a helicopter over New York City this week. Apparently, Chris Nolan wants to get the city with snow on the ground.”
The last Batman film to be set solidly in the winter was Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, which is probably the bleakest Batman film ever made. Will the Winter continue to be so unforgiving to the Dark Knight? Time will tell.
Animated Batman Films Coming: “You cannot stop me, not with wine or vows or the weight of age…”
Some Batman film news to come out of San Diego was on the animated front. While one of my all-time personal favorite Batman stories in Year One sees release as an animated feature this October, WB animation producer Bruce Timm revealed that Frank Miller’s major Batman work and arguably most popular book to date, 1986’s The Dark Knight Returns, will be adapted into two parts in 2012. For those unaware, the animated DC Universe films normally have a restriction to a 70-75 minute runtime, and given the size of DKR, it would be impossible to adapt such an important work properly with those limitations.
While it’s frustrating that they couldn’t just make a bigger film, it’s impossible not to be excited about one of the most beloved and defining Batman stories for an entire generation being adapted by an animation house that definitely knows what they’re doing. Their work has been consistently good with the releases so far, and I don’t think it’s outlandish to expect stellar work from that team on this story. The only date given was 2012, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if at least the first part of the film was released in conjunction with The Dark Knight Rises next summer.
Teaser Trailer Released, Will Batman Survive Rises?
After what seems like long last, Christopher Nolan has finally decided to grace us with a short amount of footage showing exactly what his new Batman film will at least partially look like. Opening with similar images to the previously released teaser poster, the trailer re-educates us on the journey that this Bruce Wayne has been on so far. Mostly utilizing footage from Batman Begins, the piece seems to emphasize that this was the beginning and that the new film will bring about some kind of definitive end to at least the story.
Recycling Liam Neeson’s words as Henri Ducard/Ra’s al Ghul from the beginning of Nolan’s first Bat-outing, the trailer also emphasizes that Batman has indeed risen to the legendary status that Bruce’s mentor had envisioned for him in the opening moments of Begins. We then move into the first piece of new footage, and that is of an injured and pained Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) laying in a hospital bed and apparently speaking to Batman, even though the hand on the rail of Gordon’s hospital bed is ungloved, and apparently wearing a business suit. “We were in this together,” he says. “And then you were gone.” Has Batman hung it up since the end of The Dark Knight? Apparently, he has.
“Now this evil rises,” Gordon continues. “The Batman has to come back.” The concerned and recognizable voice of Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne, NOT his Batman, asks, “What if he doesn’t exist anymore?” Gordon responds with a statement and apparent plea: “He must…he must.” We then catch a brief glimpse of Bane as the camera pans up to show us the same devastating urban destruction that the teaser poster displayed. With the title comes an indiscernible chanting, like a threatening cadence, before we briefly see Batman staggering on his feet as the giant form of Bane ominously paces toward him. The trailer then claims that this film is “The epic conclusion to the Dark Knight Legend.”
As a teaser trailer, this gave me more than I ever thought it would. Comparatively, when looking at the teaser for The Dark Knight we received around this same time four years ago, the trailer for Rises goes a step further by setting up what the world of Gotham will look like in the new film, as well as by giving us a look at the fully formed new villain. The most obvious difference between the two is the fact that we get actual moving footage from the film, as the teaser for the previous film merely gave us dialogue and a breaking Bat-logo. This is apparently a Gotham City that’s even more on the brink than it was when the Joker was spreading his brand of terror through the streets, and it apparently has gotten this way because of the inaction of Batman himself.
This is a pretty realistic interpretation of what a man might do in a similar situation, I think. When the deck is so utterly stacked against you then you may feel it as an extraordinary impediment to your progress. But if I read my Dark Knights correctly, Batman’s sense of duty to his city outweighs any guilt he can feel. The plea from Gordon in a hospital bed seems like the one thing, even more than a stern lecture from Alfred, to get him to take the cowl back up and hit the streets as the resident nocturnal avenger.
All in all, I’m very, very pleased with the teaser, because it did its job very well: it teased. It’s made the wait for July 20, 2012 more painful, and as a Batman fan, has kind of scared me a little. WB exec Jeff Robinov has gone on record saying that the Batman franchise will be rebooted after Rises, so would the renowned filmmaker go so far as to kill the main character? In the real world, could a man even survive a mission as threatening as Batman’s? With Nolan’s penchant for making the new films as realistic as possible, it seems like this type of ending wouldn’t be completely out of the question.
On the other hand, Nolan himself spoke when Batman Begins came out about how the Joker card at the end of that film was a symbolic representation of the vastness of Batman’s world, and that even if he didn’t get a chance to do a sequel, he wanted the audience to have a sense that the story is always continuing, similar to how it does in the comics. Nolan’s films, while having stylistic differences, have far more character and story fidelity to the source material than any previous Batman film. While it’s possible that Nolan may kill Batman, it’s just as probable that he wouldn’t. That he’d instead do what he did at the end of his first Batman film, and give the audience a sense of what fans of the comics have always known: no matter when, where, or how dark it gets, Batman will always be there.
That about does it for this edition of the Dark Knight Rises Countdown. What do you think? Did you like the trailer? Would Nolan kill Batman? Are you excited about seeing Dark Knight Returns in full motion? Who do you think Christopher Judge will be playing? Should Michael Caine return In future, non-Nolan Batman films? Let me know what you think, and I’ll see you in a couple weeks!
357 Days (Less Than a Year!) Until The Dark Knight Rises