My name is Chris Clow, on loan here from the web’s premiere source for Batman movie news, Jett’s Batman-On-Film.com. You can find my comic book reviews for a couple of regular titles over there, and I’m very happy to be part of the team counting down to the future’s most anticipated film releases. Look for my Dark Knight Rises Countdown column to run here at Movies.com on a bi-weekly basis beginning in June.
I don’t think there’s any question that 2008’s The Dark Knight set a new standard for superhero films. Beyond the $1 billion gross, TDK also gave us a richly layered story of villainy, corruption, heroism, love, and loss. It doesn’t seem like it’s a movie that can be topped, but come July 2012, Christopher Nolan and company will try.
The Dark Knight Rises is, for the most part, still shrouded in shadow and mystery befitting the title character. What’s not much of a mystery, though, are the main players in the cast, which feature a few returns coupled with new faces that will occupy Nolan’s Gotham City. Here’s what we know so far of the cast:
Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman: This one was a bit of a no-brainer, as Bale had signed on for three films back when he donned the Dark Knight’s cape and cowl for the first time back in 2005. Bale has gone on record saying that this will be the last time that he portrays Batman, and I don’t think there’s any doubt in the minds of the fans or of the film community at large that everyone remembers Act III, the grand finale perhaps more than the first two.
Bale’s a very versatile actor now with an Academy Award win under his (utility?) belt, which is quite a step in legitimizing Batman even further in the public consciousness. For this Bat-fan, Bale’s final turn as the character will be bittersweet, because comparing Bale to what we’ve had before, his Batman is the truest to the source material that we’ve ever had in a major motion picture.
Gary Oldman as Commissioner James Gordon: Finally getting the promotion that all Bat-fans knew was inevitable; Gordon begins this film as a man on a hunt: a hunt he started, for Batman. Like Bale, Oldman’s portrayal of Commissioner Gordon is the truest to the comics of the good-natured, highly skilled, and very intelligent police commissioner that is a true confidant of our favorite nocturnal avenger.
The true anticipation for this film in the eyes of many has to be the story that Batman and Gordon set up at the very end of the last film, where Gordon will be actively hunting and condemning Batman for the deaths caused by the Joker and, more directly, Two-Face. All the while, Gordon will quietly believe that Batman is the hero that Gotham deserves. Watching the relationship between these two unfold further in the private moments is a joy-in-the-making, and as a Batman fan, the central theme of Gordon and Batman’s nearly symbiotic and solid relationship will be one of my favorite moments.
Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth: The singular British actor returns as Bruce Wayne’s surrogate father, servant, and moral mentor in this film. Unlike most of the other cast members, Caine doesn’t seem to have any qualms about sharing news about the film as he gets it. Caine’s Alfred, while not very aesthetically similar to the Alfred of the source material, is easily the truest in terms of demeanor and virtue. His return for the last part of Nolan’s trilogy is essential in creating a definitive series of Batman films, and will undoubtedly carry on his mission of guiding the troubled Dark Knight through the moral dilemmas that are bound to present themselves over the course of the new film.
Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman: Undoubtedly the largest new inclusion from Batman mythology into these films, it seemed as if it was only a matter of time before Selina Kyle showed up, given the heavy influence that the works of Frank Miller (Year One), Jeph Loeb, and Tim Sale (The Long Halloween and Dark Victory) have had on both of Nolan’s films so far. Catwoman had a large presence in these stories and her inclusion in this story seems like a natural occurrence in this Gotham City.
High hopes arise from the casting choice here, as Anne Hathaway is definitely a commodity in the world of cinema right now. Her performances in films like Havoc and Brokeback Mountain show an actress with the skill of portraying both a troubled young woman as well as an ability to show a great deal of inner turmoil. As a Batman fan, I’m very pleased with this particular choice, and look forward to what Hathaway’s acting skill coupled with Nolan’s directorial prowess will yield for Summer 2012.
Tom Hardy as Bane: Easily the most unexpected of character and casting choices, Bane’s inclusion in this story shows a departure from the typical fare of Batman’s more formative years. I wrote a piece for Batman-On-Film back in February entitled, “So Who is Bane?” where I explained that Bane’s appearance in the Gotham City of the comics didn’t happen until well after Batman had established himself and had already partnered with three Robins. Bane’s presence here, at first glance, is a little baffling, but it’s well known that Christopher Nolan loves exploiting issues of dichotomy in his films.
Bane and Batman are both characters that were largely formed by childhood trauma, and are both men that dedicated themselves to becoming the best they could be, given their circumstances. The choice of Tom Hardy is a great one, as far as I’m concerned. I very much felt that he was the breakout actor in Nolan’s Inception, and it seems as if you could bisect Hardy’s new character of Bane into two characters he’s played previously, namely those of the title character in Bronson and the villainous Reman PraetorShinzon of Star Trek: Nemesis.
Josh Pence as Ra’s al Ghul: If there was ever a sign that Nolan is bringing his story full circle to the themes present in Batman Begins, it would be in the return of the leader of the League of Shadows. While certain reports are saying that Pence’s role will be purely in a flashback capacity, the recent rumors circulating about the appearance of the Demon’s Head’s restorative Lazarus Pits in the film may suggest otherwise. Whether or not the Lazarus Pit is present in the film, the mere inclusion of Ra’s suggests that the League of Shadows may not be done with the Guardian of Gotham City, and neither will this mentor of Bruce Wayne.
Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate: Described as a “Wayne Enterprises board member eager to help a still-grieving Bruce Wayne resume his father's philanthropic endeavors for Gotham,” many fans are calling shenanigans and seem to think that Cotillard will actually be playing Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter, Talia. One of the femme fatales of Batman’s world, the Talia of the comics devotion to her “beloved” Bruce Wayne are outmatched only by her desire to see her father ascend to his “rightful” place as a ruler of the world, and she is constantly torn by these emotions. It’s entirely possible that Cotillard will not be playing Talia, although given the activities of Ra’s in the first film by using an alias to throw suspicion off of him; it’s closer to the realm of possibility than some people may think.
Cotillard returns to the “Nolan crew” after playing the all-important Mrs. Cobb in Inception, a role which showed her ability in creating a disturbed but justified woman (and of course, a mental projection of that woman). Her addition here can only spell good things for a film with an already stellar lineup.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake: JGL’s role here is described as a Gotham City Police Officer that is assigned to “special duty” under Commissioner Gordon. That special duty may involve the hunt for Batman as set up in The Dark Knight’s closing moments, but with a crime-infested city like Gotham, I’m sure that there are plenty of special duties that Gordon would need good cops for.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s involvement in the Batman franchise has been rumored for years. His casting in this film, like Cotillard, Hardy, and Hathaway before him, is nothing but a plus to the production. JGL’s role in Inception showed his ability to play a man dedicated to a cause, as well as showing his impressive action chops. Previous roles of his, for instance in 500 Days of Summer, also prove that he has the necessary dramatic skills should his role in this film call for them.
The hype-machine seems to be kicking into full gear now that The Dark Knight Rises is shooting, and I’m sure we’ll be in for a wild ride together up until the film’s release on July 20, 2012.
Christopher Nolan, his brother Jonathan, and David Goyer have crafted a Batman series that while not always true to the aesthetics of the comics, have given us character drive, demeanor, and motive straight off of the page. Nolan is smart to realize that it’s these things that are most important to who these characters are, which is why his version of the Joker wasn’t “the world’s first homicidal artist” from the 1989 Batman film. It’s why his version of Two-Face wasn’t a cackling lunatic that we saw in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever. It’s also why his Batman is not a first-degree murderer, as we saw in the Burton-Schumacher series.
Nolan understands these characters and what drives them because he has something, along with his brother and David Goyer, which other creative Batman film teams didn’t have: a reverence for the source material. As long as the team stays true to that, then The Dark Knight Rises should be one hell of a ride. For a grand finale from Christopher Nolan, I don’t think that’s too much to expect.
436 Days Until The Dark Knight Rises