Reinventing Batman: Part Two
The sequel to “Batman Begins” had built up such an air of anticipation that it practically exploded onto screens three years later with a record opening weekend. Christopher Nolan’s “Begins” was pretty self-contained, and fans were content with his reinvented, modern Batman. But in these times of sequels, prequels, redos and revamps, of course there was going to be more.
A big viral marketing campaign began, centered on one of Batman’s most well known villains: The Joker. Posters of Heath Ledger (2005’s “Brokeback Mountain”) in the infamous clown makeup and purple suit seemed to dominate every available ad space. Then after Ledger’s tragic death, this was considerably dialed down. However, anticipation of not only “The Dark Knight” but also of Ledger’s twisted performance as Batman’s legendary nemesis meant that excitement surged rather than slowed. Aside from The Joker, a marketing focus was also directed on another of Batman’s adversaries — Harvey Dent aka Two Face (Aaron Eckhart of 2007’s “No Reservations”). Fan anticipation and general buzz about the sequel was so high that Warner Brothers’ campaign was less aggressive than it might have been.
“The Dark Knight”
It’s always a good sign when nearly all the main cast returns for the sequel, with the exception of Maggie Gyllenhaal (2002’s “Secretary”), who takes over from Katie Holmes as Assistant District Attorney Rachel Dawes. Christopher Nolan’s brother Jonathan was also taken on as a screenwriter, having previously written for “The Prestige” (2006).
We are also introduced to another type of hero, Gotham’s “white knight” District Attorney Harvey Dent. He prefers fighting crime from the courthouse instead of running around the city in a mask and cape and therefore is more of an official hero, more widely accepted by society than Batman. Dent and Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman of 2011’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”) try to change the world without the use of fancy gadgetry and a costume.
In “The Dark Knight,” it has been a few years since Batman introduced himself to Gotham City as a crime-fighting vigilante. Controversy surrounding his role in society is evidenced by a discussion heard on the radio in the opening scenes. He is perhaps not as revered or accepted as Superman was by the people of Metropolis. With Dent, Gordon and Batman fighting the good fight, hope is slowly returning to the city — that is until The Joker makes his appearance.
He follows no rules and doesn’t hesitate in beginning an anarchic campaign to destroy the city and everyone in it. Ledger’s towering performance dominates, taking the character to its darkest corners and sidelining Batman somewhat. But when they are together, the atmosphere is electric.
The Joker’s schemes are decidedly complex, and there are so many of them in the film that they almost trip over each other for screen time. It isn’t surprising that Batman, Dent and Gordon can’t keep up with him. The plot also takes us to Hong Kong and the chance for some jumping from impossibly tall buildings Bat style and to introduce the audience (or at least those who aren’t comic-book fans) to the sonar device created by Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman, of 2005’s “Million Dollar Baby”). A lot of praise is given to Nolan for his exceptionally mature film that succeeds in taking the story to its darkest places. This is his best work, taking the comic-book movie to the next level.
“The Dark Knight Rises”
As with “The Dark Knight,” marketing for “Rises” began with a new villain. This time, it was in the form of other malevolent mad man — the extremely muscular Bane, played by Tom Hardy (of 2008’s “Bronson”), whose image was released to the world over a year ago. We have seen a glimpse of the power behind Bane’s punch and the carnage he can bring about. This is a villain who is a physical and mental match for Batman.
We also have another key player in town – Selina Kyle, played by Anne Hathaway (2010’s “Love and Other Drugs”). She’s been seen wearing standard prison garb, leading us to think she’s been broken out by Bane, along with a group of other dangerous-looking inmates. Her story treatment will be an interesting one; scenes from trailers show her as also a possible romantic interest for Bruce Wayne. And she appears to have her own Batpod; this girl has a cunning plan and is not to be messed with.
Even with the high number of TV spots, trailers, posters, virals and sneak previews, no major plot spoilers have been given away. Warner Brothers has made it a challenge to go in to the film completely blind; it is difficult not to come across something about the film in the lead up to one of the summer’s biggest releases. Of course, this is the third film in the trilogy, so as we know by now, all bets are off. With villains taking the fight to the next level, there is a possibility that Batman will lose. This is not, after all, your typical Hollywood blockbuster, where all loose ends will be taken care of by the final act. With Christopher Nolan at the helm, anything is possible.
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