They don’t get much bigger than this. After rebooting the caped crusader’s tale with 2005’s Batman Begins, 2008 sequel The Dark Knight went on to become one of the world’s biggest movies ever, banking Dhs9 million in the UAE alone, and still sitting at number 12 in the emirates’ all-time box-office league. After a protracted period of ‘will-he-won’t-he’, director Christopher Nolan decided to return to Gotham one last time to wrap up his trilogy. Ahead of the Dubai release of The Dark Knight Rises on Thursday August 16, we cornered the 42-year-old British director to find out whether this long-awaited movie can live up to the hype.
Did you feel a tremendous weight on your shoulders to try to equal the success and impact of The Dark Knight, let alone top it?
Most of the pressure you get with a sequel – when you know you have to try to give the audience a reason to come back to Gotham City – comes at the very beginning, when [you’re starting to create] the story. Once we knew we had a story to tell – what happens to Bruce Wayne – everything else started to fall into place. You have to forget the pressure and just try to make the best film you can.
View The Dark Knight Rises review
How did you make Batman, a character formed in a 1939 comic book, relevant in the contemporary world?
I’ve enjoyed working with these characters because they have the potential to be topical, the reason being that they’re not real. It’s not real life. You’re dealing with a heightened reality. You’re not dealing with Chicago or New York. You’re dealing with Gotham, and that gives you a very interesting world to play with in a very heightened way, in a very operatic way. You’re aiming for a sort of mythic status.
Can you tell us about the new female characters in this film?
[With] a second sequel, you have to expand your story in a lot of directions as you introduce characters. You’re very aware that you don’t want to dilute what the story is, and you want those characters to be real people. You want them to be people you’re going to care about, people you’re going to believe in. So some of it comes from the script, but a lot of it was in getting Anne Hathaway [who plays Selina Kyle/Catwoman] and Marion Cotillard [Miranda Tate]. I rely on them a lot to construct a very credible, psychological basis for the characters, just as I have with all of these guys.
Given the massive success of the second film, why did you decide to end the series? And how did the studio react?
The point at which I was saying to the studio it would be a trilogy was the point I was telling them: ‘Yes, I will do a follow-up to The Dark Knight.’ So, they were thrilled. Obviously, I’m sure they’d love us to keep doing this forever, but I think they understood that my attraction to coming back for a third time was finishing our story, so that we’ve told one big story with three major parts to it. And that really is the reason we’ve done it. It was part and parcel of what we were doing.
You’ve had quite the ride from indie films to blockbusters – bottom to top. What’s next for you? Is it back to basics?
I have no idea what’s next. I’m going to go on holiday and relax, and I’m quite enjoying not knowing what I’m going to do next. As for the ride from doing the smallest level of filmmaking, which is where we started, to these big films, the process has always been reassuringly familiar to me. Your job as a director is to ignore the scale of things and try to look at the shot you’re going to put on screen, and how that [shot] is going to further the story.
The Dark Knight Rises is in cinemas from Thursday August 16. Read our review here.
Christopher Nolan Rises
A journey from cult favourite to Tinseltown’s most wanted
Nolan’s first major studio release was an ambitious brain-twister about a widower (Guy Pearce) suffering with anterograde amnesia who is unable to form fresh memories. Based on a short story by Nolan’s brother Jonathan and shot in the first person, Memento’s main narrative plays backwards chronologically, while a second sequence of memories plays forwards. Spoiler alert: the two finally meet at the movie’s close.
The critical acclaim heaped on Memento meant that Nolan could recruit acting legend Al Pacino and Robin Wiliiams for his next movie, a knotty and disorientating police thriller based in an Alaska town bathed in perpetual daylight. Its success gave the director the clout necessary to pitch his reboot of the Batman saga that began with 2005’s Batman Begins.
The Prestige (2006)
Reuniting his new Batman stars Christian Bale and Michael Caine (as well as recruiting David Bowie), The Prestige adapted Christopher Priest’s epistolary novel about two rival illusionists in 19th-century London, using Nolan’s now-trademark non-linear approach.
Nolan’s magnum opus to date was a labour of love that took more than a decade to realise. It was only after the overwhelming success of Batman sequel The Dark Knight (2008) – and rumoured to be in exchange for signing up for a sequel – that the director was granted the financial backing to realise his lofty ‘dream espionage’ concept, starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Currently the 30th highest-grossing movie ever worldwide, the studio gamble clearly paid off.