The Dark Knight (2008)
Batman has found that the influence he has over his city is not quite the one he wanted: heavily armed copycats roam the streets, dressed as him while taking out criminals and the nights are more dangerous than ever. Only one glimmer of hope remains; the emergence of the new District Attorney Harvey Dent may be the key to saving Gotham and allow Batman to hang his cape up for good. But a new threat has hit Gotham’s streets and his campaign of terror has only just begun…
First there was a blanket of secrecy. Then news started to creep out; they said the film was huge, epic, a sprawling crime drama in the vein of Michael Mann’s Heat. It was said that Nolan had created a masterpiece and that the late Heath Ledger had given an incredible performance as Batman’s true nemesis, the Joker. Even with all the hype, when it opened, no-one – not even Warner Bros – was prepared for the level of the film’s success. Going on to gross over one billion dollars and win Ledger a posthumous Oscar for his fantastic turn as the Joker, The Dark Knight was instantly – and rightly – lauded as a masterpiece. Its scale and intensity are simply astonishing and Nolan’s decision to shoot as much in camera as possible pays off huge dividends; Gotham, away from the over-designed Narrows of Batman Begins, looks like a real living breathing city, grounding the film in authenticity. And yes, Ledger’s Joker does steal the show; as well as movie psychotic, he captures a little of the genuine street-raving nutcase and is all the scarier for his flashes of charm and playfulness.
A glee in violence and chaos hangs around him like a bad smell and his unpredictability powers the entire movie. By the time Harvey Dent goes through his tragic (and still staggering) transformation into Two- Face, the film has transcended any generic “comic-book movie” tag and has become simply one of the greatest studio blockbusters ever made. Even today, trying to find coherent, sensible negative reviews of the film is next to impossible. And Nolan, meanwhile, well he ummed and aahed. Would there be another Batman film? Probably not. What was he up to next? Well… As if we couldn’t guess, that was a secret…
Cobb is a specialist; he, and his team, are experts in stealing ideas directly from someone’s mind by breaking into their dreams. But after a botched last job, Cobb finds himself accused of his wife’s murder and is unable to return home to his children. Enter Saito, a Japanese businessman who claims he can get Cobb home with a clean slate. In return, all Cobb has to do, is plant an idea in the mind of Saito’s business rival…
Advance word on Inception was sketchy, right up until release. We knew it had another eclectic cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy and Ellen Page. We also knew that it took place largely in the world of dreams and had something to do with corporate espionage. The veil of secrecy that had enshrouded The Dark Knight had clamped down even tighter over the production of Inception, the first film written from an original idea by Nolan himself since Following, his debut. And the result, unbelievably, was another box office juggernaut.
In an era dominated by sequels and adaptations, Inception laid waste to all before it like no other original property since perhaps The Matrix. It was an epic sci-fi piece, a rollercoaster, a brain-ache and a Bond film all in one. Once again, shooting all over the globe and as much without digital augmentation as practical, Inception had set-piece after set-piece of jarring invention and dazzling vision. Honestly though, after multiple viewings, I found it starts to unravel a little; if it’s multiple levels of dreaming cocooned one inside another and the amount of exposition we are given to fully understand the rules of the game we are playing ultimately feel too rigid and forced to feel truly dreamlike, that’s ok – the plot is really just a delivery system for a sequence of head-spinning set-pieces. It still works as a huge, inventive action movie and one that’s still head and shoulders above more than ninety-nine percent of the dreck we’re served up most summers, both in terms of idea and execution.
Then The Dark Knight Rises was announced. It would be the last of a trilogy. Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard would be following Nolan over from Inception to join the cast that also now included Anne Hathaway. Despite Nolan’s usual level of secrecy, a high amount of location shooting meant that set photos were being leaked daily.
The first trailer arrived, showing very little and then the first proper trailer arrived and blew people away. Subsequent trailers have followed and the frenzy has well and truly started. Tickets are on sale and in most cases, for the opening weekend, are already sold out. And Nolan, the calm eye at the centre of the storm, seems relaxed. Recent interviews have found him as calm as ever. And apart from over-seeing Zack Snyder’s Superman re-boot Man of Steel (which Nolan himself has promised will be in a mostly hands-off capacity), he seems to have no imminent plans for his next film. Of course he could have already shot one and we wouldn’t even know. Maybe he’ll take a little time off. Certainly he seems genuine when he says that this will be his last trip to Gotham City. Personally, I’d like to see him return to the likes of Memento and Insomnia, not necessarily in terms of form or content, just something a little more adult, hard-edged. We shall see. All we know for certain is that when The Dark Knight Rises finally drops, all bets are off. It’s money in the bank.