Villains ‘define’ Dark Knight trilogy: Nolan
LOS ANGELES, May 13, (RTRS): Christopher Nolan may have left Gotham City behind. But in a wideranging two-hour talk at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, the director offered a unique take on his Dark Knight Trilogy.
“To me, each film is a different genre,” Nolan said, about the movies starring Christian Bale as Batman. “They tend to be defined by the villain.”
Nolan explained that he saw 2005’s “Batman Begins” as a straightforward origins story. “The villain (Liam Neeson’s Henri Ducard) is an appropriate adversary,” Nolan said. “He’s a mentor-turned-enemy.” Next, came the second movie in 2008 with Heath Ledger. “‘The Dark Knight’ for me was always a crime drama in the mold of a Michael Mann film. The Joker was a terrorist, an agent of chaos set loose.” Finally, in 2012’s the grand finale, “The Dark Knight Rises,” costarring Tom Hardy, Nolan envisioned “this historical epic. Bane as a militarist foe helped that.”
Interestingly enough, Nolan didn’t necessarily see himself launching a “Batman” franchise, when he took the job at Warner Bros 13 years ago. “We hadn’t planned on doing a sequel,” Nolan said. “So shifting genres and the nature of the antagonist felt the way to take the audience on a journey and tell them something different about Bruce Wayne.”
Nolan admitted that he approached the comic-book world through a different lens, as a noir-thriller. “Yes, it’s a superhero, but it’s based on ideas of guilt, fear, these strong impulses that the character has,” Nolan said. “Bruce Wayne doesn’t have any super powers other than extraordinary wealth. But really, he’s just someone who does a lot of push-ups. In that sense, he’s very relatable and human. I think that’s why I gravitated towards it.”
When asked if his “Batman” paid homage to James Bond, Nolan admitted a connection. “We mercilessly pillaged from the James Bond films for certain aspects,” Nolan said, adding that they wanted to make him as compelling as 007. He noted how Gotham’s chief inventor Lucius Fox is similar to Bond’s Agent Q, who has a closet full of gadgets. “But I think if I made my version of James Bond, ‘Inception’ is far more guilty of that than ‘The Dark Knight,’” Nolan said.
Nolan is visiting the Cannes Film Festival -- for the first time -- for the premiere of a 70 mm print of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which screened on Friday. “Films that are made in an analog way ought to be presented in an analog way whenever possible,” Nolan said.
Nolan spent much of his talk explaining why he preferred shooting on film instead of digital. “Film still stands as the best analogy for the way the eye sees,” he said. “For my purposes, I find it to be the most immersive and emotionally involving tool for drawing the audience into the story.”
Nolan first saw “2001” at the age of 7, in London with his dad, after it had be re-released on the big screen following the success of 1977’s “Star Wars.” “I think what I’ve carried about that experience as far as my own films is really just a sense that films can be anything,” Nolan said. “What Kubrick did in 1968, he simply refused to acknowledge that there were any rules you had to play by in terms of narrative.”
That was a lesson that he carried with him throughout his career. “It’s incumbent on us to push whatever boundaries we can and not be beholden to the theoretical rules,” Nolan said.
His 2000 indie breakout hit “Memento” proved that. “It’s often referred to as a non-linear film, and it’s not,” Nolan said. “It’s intensely linear, but it runs backwards. For that reason, you couldn’t eliminate a scene, you couldn’t change the order. I had to do that in the script stage.”
Nolan gave credit to his wife, Emma Thomas, who produces all his films. “Emma is my longest and closest collaborator,” he said.