Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Cinematic Anticipation: 'The Dark Knight Rises'


How do I even begin a series of posts on The Dark Knight Rises? If I can promise you one thing, it's that every little bit of information in this post has been posted, printed, published, preached, discussed, debated, denied, denounced deliberated and described at least 1000 times in and on just about every movie related publication out there. Of course, it's not easy to add something new to the biggest film currently in production (even bigger than The Hobbit I'd say). After all, TDKR did win the SCREAM award for most anticipated film of 2012 (as voted for by the fans) the other day. So, hit the jump to see a basic overview of what's been happening on this mammoth production to date.


What!? The Biggest Film Currently In Production?

The reason why TDKR is so unbelievably huge is due to one major factor: its predecessor. The Dark Knight was pretty damn spectacular success. In case you forgot, it scores 8.9 out of 10 on IMDB (and ranks number 9 on the top 250 of all time, being ranked number 1 at a stage), 94% on Rottentomatoes, and has box office takings of over a billion dollars. I have not seen many lists that do not say TDK is the greatest superhero movie of all time. It achieved the rare feat of succeeding not only as a great superhero movie, but also as a dark and complex crime thriller. Wait a minute, am I forgetting the fact that Heath Ledger pulled off one of the greatest performances of all time as the Joker, possibly contributing to his tragic death? Yes, it was reported that the role caused him severe insomnia, and he eventually died from an overdose of prescription medication. This must have boosted TDK, but I think the film was so brilliant; it would have been a massive success anyway.

Naturally, Warner Brothers has been keen as all hell for Christopher Nolan to make a sequel. So keen, in fact, that they let him make Inception as a thank you for TDK and to get him to make TDKR. Truth be told, they did not expect Inception to be a success, but it was a triumph - scoring huge at the box office and winning over critics and audiences alike. How do they say? You win some, you win some.

It's quite obvious that Christopher Nolan and his people have a massive task before them. Can they live up to the expectations of TDKR? I think that after reading this post, you will agree that the probabilities are overwhelmingly indicative of a massive success come July 18 2012.

Who's Behind It All?

Because of the massive success of TDKR and because Christopher Nolan is such a great director, his preferred henchmen are once again on board for this production. Just looking at Nolan, he is one of those directors who have never messed up. And boy oh boy, has he made some awesome films. Here they are (IMDB scores at the bottom to give you an indication of what people thought)…
TDKR is produced by, inter alia, Nolan's wife Emma Thomas (who has produced all of his films to date). The cinematographer (one of the most important cogs in a machine like this) is Wally Pfister. He has worked with Nolan on all his films except his first, won the Oscar for Inception and was nominated for 3 more Oscars, all Nolan films. One thing's for sure, working relationships like these seldom go pear shaped (I just think of Tarantino and his people: Lawrence Bender, Robert Richardson (more recently) and of course the late Sally Menke). The thing I like most about Pfister however, is the fact that (from the looks of his IMDB filmography), he seems to have started out working in soft core porn! Titles like Inside Out, Secret Games, Night Rhythms, Animal Instincts and Object of Obsession abound. Go you good thing go! Whatever it takes, they say.

Of course, the remaining crew are all there as well. Even though they more than warrant a mention in any publication, I will not expand here. We wouldn't want to go on too much of a frolic, now would we? If you are really interested, check out… IMDB.

The Cast of Thousands

The old favourites are all returning (anybody who turns this down is a fool): Christian Bale is the Bat Man, Gary Oldman is Commissioner Gordon, Liam Neeson is Ra's Al Gul, Cillian Murphy is Scarecrow (the last two obviously returning briefly, possibly in a flashback), Morgan Freeman is Lucius Fox, Michael Caine is Alfred and Nestor Carbonell returns as Mayor Anthony Garcia. We all know they were fantastic in Batman Begins as well as TDK, but how are they going to add something new to TDKR? Well, the new blood is phenomenal…

The most important part of any superhero movie is the villain, even more so than the hero. We know the Bat Man: he wears a mask, is broody and intense. His real intricacies seem hidden behind that mask, and cape, and voice. It's the villains that add the true depth and colour (just think of the Joker). But before we go there, let me canvass who else has been added to the already stellar cast.

Marion Cotillard is Miranda Tate, "a Wayne Enterprises board member eager to help a still-grieving Bruce Wayne resume his philanthropic endeavours for Gotham." Initially rumours abound that she was actually playing Thalia Al Gul, daughter of Ra's Al Gul and another villain. She has denied this. Either way, Nolan obviously enjoyed working with her on Inception, and she is an excellent addition to any cast. She is easily one of my favourite actresses working today.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is John Blake, "a Gotham City beat cop assigned to special duty under the command of Commissioner Gordon." Another Inception addition, fantastic actor, and the subject of plenty rumours regarding his real character. You will soon notice that there are rumours surrounding every single aspect of this production, so I will not speculate.

Juno Temple is simply described as a "street smart Gotham Girl". Not much to go on, but I like her. She was Eema in Year One. Wait a minute, there must be a rumour here too - yes - she is rumoured to be playing Holly Robinson, a young prostitute and Catwoman's sidekick. Nice.

Now, onto the 2 meaty bits:

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. What? Catwoman, in a Nolan film? Even after that atrocious piece of crap with Halle Berry? It's true, even though speculation initially indicated that she would only play Selina Kyle, ie before she became Catwoman. Anne Hathaway since revealed (accidentally) on Oprah that she would be donning the Catwoman outfit. The photos have confirmed this. I think that if anyone can pull off Catwoman in a movie, Nolan can (not as an actor of course, but as a director). But the character has not been the subject of most argument. People have been bitching like hell about Anne Hathaway being cast in the role. I have 3 things to say:

(1) I like Anne Hathaway. I started off not being a fan at all, but she really is not so bad. She is a good actress, and she has personality. Then again, my view is not all that important.

(2) Christopher Nolan is known for assembling strong casts in his films. Just look at his resume, there have been some spectacular choices. I hardly think that for this the most important film of his career, he is going to make a stuff-up. Plus, in this particular film, he could choose basically anyone he wanted. Obviously he saw something that we haven't yet.

(3) Eva Green, Angelina Jolie Blake Lively, Rhona Mitra, Charlize Theron, Abbie Cornish, Jessica Alba, Vera Farmiga, Jessica Biel, Megan Fox, Natalie Portman, Gemma Arterton, Britney Spears, Kate Mara, Charlotte Riley, Emily Blunt and Keira Knightley all auditioned for the role of Selina Kyle. After the initial audition process, Green, Biel and Mara all screen tested. Ultimately, Anne Hathaway won the role. No more needs to be said.


Tom Hardy as Bane. This gets me excited for 2 reasons: Tom Hardy, and Bane. First, Bane is my favourite Batman villain. I'm no expert, but the only comic I ever read was Knightfall, in which Bane was the villain. He is a real piece of work, a scary bastard. Plus, I like the idea of a more physical villain over the brainy type (Joker, Riddler, Penguin, and Scarecrow). Bruce Wayne is a clever guy with no superpowers, so the real way to get at him is probably to beat him up, correct? And let's not forget, Bane is not so stupid either.

When they first announced TDKR (a long time ago, early 2010) I wished that Bane would be the villain, and my friends and I immediately began speculating as to who could play him. Tom Hardy was the immediate first choice. He is an awesome actor, and has the ability to transform in a Christian-Bale-esque manner (which is particularly necessary for the Bane character). Just look at the pics below…


Low and behold, Hardy was cast as the villain (about a year later). I thought that the main reason was because (1) he is another Inception addition and Nolan likes him and (2) his role in Bronson. That is the photo on the far right above. What a beast. But I was wrong; and so was Tom Hardy himself, it seems. Apparently, "One of the reasons why Christopher Nolan cast Tom Hardy as Bane was because of his performance in the film RocknRolla. Hardy stated that he thought he was cast because of his role in Bronson. He arrived on set only to learn that Nolan has never even seen Bronson." What? You must be shitting me! If you saw Hardy in Bronson and Warrior (second from right above), you will know that there is no better choice for Bane. Nolan, once again, obviously knew that without having to see those films (Warrior wasn't out at the time).

 

An Epic Production of Epic Epicness

First, it's not in 3D! Thanks heavens. Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister decided that they would prefer to go with quality visuals and IMAX spectacle than the gimmickry that is 3D. It takes a director with serious clout to convince a studio to go with that these days (since 3D tickets are more expensive, meaning more money). Look, I don't mind 3D, but I associate it with popcorn entertainment, not the kind of quality we want to see in TDKR.

Second, the budget is in the region of $250 000 000. That is pretty damn big! And oh so necessary, because Nolan is a fan of using practical effects and action sequences over CGI (see this article over at Cracked). That gets pricey.

Third, Christopher Nolan is known to take no half measures when it comes to filming locations. Inception was filmed in LA; the UK; Paris; Alberta, Canada; Tokyo, Japan; and Tangiers in Morocco. And with TKDR they haven't slowed down. Filming has been taking place in Bucharest, Romania; Jodhpur, India; England; LA; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and soon in New York. Not only that, they will apparently be filming scenes at "Occupy Wall Street". If you don't know what that is, see here. UPDATE: Entertainment Weekly just reported that TDKR won't be filming at Occupy Wall Street after all. Hippies.

Fourth and finally, let's hope the action sequences can match the truck flipping awesomeness of TDK. From what I've seen, I'm sure it will. At one stage the crew wanted to film a stunt where a burning military plane is landed on a highway in Scotland. I don't know if they ever managed to do it, but they are clearly thinking huge! A while back, Wally Pfister summed it up perfectly when he said this in an interview on the Kevin & Josh Movie Show (via Ropeofsilicon):

"In terms of the action, we are all scratching our heads right now trying to figure out how we’re going to do it; how we’re going to do it in the amount of time we’re going to do it in. The opening scene of the movie will blow your mind."

All indications are therefore that we are in for a major spectacle. I am in no condition to doubt it. There have been literally dozens of set pics leaked during the filming that has taken place so far, something that is rather unusual for the secretive Christopher Nolan. Is it because this production is simply too big to contain, or because he has been deliberately misleading the public? There have been rumours about that too. Check out some of the pics below. They include Bane and Batman having a rumble, filming at the Pittsburgh Steelers' stadium (Heinz Field), Catwoman on a Batpod (the stunt double managed to destroy an IMAX camera at one stage), a new vehicle which is either the Batcopter, Batwing or two vehicles (even though I think it's the same thing), and Bruce Wayne himself on set with Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister in the background. Around 10,000 extras were used to shoot the Gotham Rogues scene in Heinz Field. Some of the Pittsburgh Steelers played football players, including Hines Ward, who played himself.


Story

Wait a second, all that ranting and raving and I haven't even mentioned what it is about? Short answer: I don't care - in Nolan we trust. Better answer: according to IMDB, TDKR contains direct references to the "Knightfall" saga in the comic books, where Bane spreads chaos in Gotham in order to lure and weaken Batman, and break him. It also references the "Legacy" and "Bane of the Demon" storylines, where Bane meets Ra's Al Ghul, and both have their own visions of becoming immortal and dominant. This is more than backed up by the photos and speculation to date. Best answer: there is no official synopsis yet (or I have not seen it).

Where Are They Now?

TDKR is just under 9 months away. That is quite a way to go - a woman could have a baby in that time! Filming has not wrapped yet, and I think we will see a lot more in the next few months. A trailer was released (and leaked just before) to accompany the last instalment in the Harry Potter Franchise way back in July (a full year before release), and I was not particularly impressed. It's not surprising though. Warner Bros obviously demanded a trailer because of the enormous number of people who would be seeing the Potter finale, and Nolan had to oblige. With a year to go, obviously they did not have much yet, and I'm surprised they at least showed some footage. Check it out:


This poster was also released, which I think is awesome:


Finally, it was announced just the other day that a six minute prologue of TDKR would show at 70mm IMAX cinemas to accompany the release of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. That is pretty damn cool and they apparently did the same with TDK (before I am Legend). However, don't get too excited about it. The prologue will screen before 70mm IMAX screens only (not the smaller, digital IMAX theatres), and there is no IMAX in South Africa at all. So we will just have to wait another 9 months until Christopher Nolan and his magnificent army give birth to yet another beautiful baby.

PS. This post may seem comprehensive, but it is not the half of it! For more TDKR news, check out www.superherohype.com, www.batman-news.com and the interwebs in general. It is literally teeming! I will, however, be providing regular updates on TDKR (as my Constellation of Cinematic Anticipation imperative), so stay tuned!

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