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Christopher's 2005 reboot of the Batman franchise that tells the origins of how Bruce Wayne became Batman.

Nolan's greatest feat: A retrospect on the brilliance of BB

Posts: 179
Before this film, there was a rule regarding blockbuster films that was indisputable. These films, huge investments financially, need to protect that investment by appealing to the absolute common denominator, a rule enforced in two ways: First that the film could be enjoyed with next to no thought, in fact it could be enjoyed internationally even if not understood, thus the reliance on visuals. The other was to avoid serious subject matter, especially resonant to the current world, because takes on serious issues can offend, which limits audiences, or goes over audience's heads, or irritates teenagers who don't care or understand yet. Spider-Man was the template, complete fantasy without any theme based exploration but instead pure escapism and wish fulfillment. And btw, I'm not knocking Spider-Man, Spider-Man 1 & 2 are legit, 2 has a well thought out character journey, and 1 has a true controlling idea (power comes responsibility). I admire Spider-Man's ability to still ground the main character within everything. Even better to studios, the LOTR/Star Wars route, a world so animated, in approach and literally, that it is complete and utter escapism. It's not just not relevant to our world, it's taking you to a completely fictional one.
NOTE: I'm not knocking any of those things, I'm a huge Star wars fan and think fantasy is integral when done correctly.

And it should be said that the studios were/are in many ways right, people don't want to pay to be preached to, and most attempts to weave real life theme into fantasy is more like Avatar, where Unobtanium is blatantly oil and the characters that want it are pure evil. You can understand why Studios don't want director's politics in their films if it's gonna be like that.

Anyway, Warner Brothers changed, and they deserve a ton of the credit. Seeing the offense audiences took to how fake and inane Batman & Robin was, and how thoroughly it misunderstood what Batman is, they focused on making a grounded reboot to Batman that would appeal to what people like about Batman himself. The theory, while grounded is what the fans want, it's also CHEAP, (for a blockbuster, Begins was 150,000, which is about the lowest threshold for blockbusters). If the fanatics love it, the strength of Batman's name alone would carry it to getting, and in the process they would have repaired a brand that was decimated but still is a key asset. They understood that before Batman could be a cash cow again, he had to get our trust back, and that deserves praise. Worth noting: the irony that this approach was agreed to because Warner's understood that repairing the brand needed to be the immediate goal, very similar to how the film itself views Batman. Wanting to keep the budget low but drive credibility high, they needed a young talent to helm it, someone who could set the series right and do it for a non a list fee.

Now here's a scary thought: If Darren Arnofsky, who is very talented, wasn't out of his fucking mind, we would never have gotten Nolan's take on Batman, and never known what we missed. Arnofsky first had the keys to this reboot, but his concept of rebooting batman was making Bruce homeless, making Alfred a black man named Bubba and making the batmobile a pimped out cadillac (Seriously, you can look it up). I imagine Arnofsky was fired by the end of the meeting. So they gave up for a bit and tried to make Batman vs. Superman, which was greenlit until Wolfgang Petersen decided to do Troy at the last second (THANK THE FUCK GOD). Finally, they turned to Nolan, who's idea was to do Batman fairly straight up, but do it all practically, make it real. Perfect for WB's goal, it would appease to hardcores while avoiding paying thousands of digital artists overtime to get the effects done in time, so it's a go.

For the next year Nolan and David Goyer would plot how to make a Batman film that really, truly interest them, and the result would be the biggest revolution in Blockbusters since Jurassic Park introduced realistic CGI. They did it by combining their skill sets Goyer was there to keep it Batman and make sure Nolan was still making a comic book movie while also being a living resource on everything Batman. Nolan guided the project, and did so with two groundbreaking ideas. One, this film wasn't going to be about superheroes, it was going to be about FEAR. Nolan looked at the world and then build from what he saw, (and it can be seen on the news, in history books, and in philosophy classes). Fear is power, and the wicked use fear to gain power, and then to keep those below them in line.

Second, and just as important, is that instead of dealing with actual heroes and villains, he was going to deal with icons. It isn't about what they can do, it's about what they make the people believe.

First, with fear. Suddenly, Nolan wasn't just making a movie about Gotham, he was making a movie about societies everywhere, about the world, and it would all be hidden in a blockbuster film. But this is all worth nothing if the film feels like a socio-political lecture, the real brilliance is in how organically this theme expanded to the spectacle. Highlighting the Scarecrow as relevant, they found a villain who fully embodies control through fear. In Ra's Al Ghul, a terrorist who plans to destroy from within by spreading fear. Using a drug to make it visceral, a believable and scary plan is in place.

Then they used it, on the other side, to legitimize the idea of Batman in a real world. They made bats symbolize Bruce's fear from day 1, while his father explains to him to always remember, even the scary animals get scared too. His father also aims to save Gotham, his goal by uniting it while his company works to help the city. Bats, and fear of them, become one with his anger over his parents fate, as his fear of bats led to his parents getting killed, but not before his father tells him to not be afraid. Bruce is scared, and He's lost, wallowing in pain, with no direction. His parents believed in helping the town, and they got killed for it, and bruce is left to either blame himself or believe it was the criminals fault, so Bruce now has only one mission in life, vengeance. As his father's son, it is his job now to lead Gotham, but he's to hurt and not ready, he must first have vengeance. Only it doesn't work out as planned, vengeance instead is carried out by a mobster, a mobster who controls the town, using fear to keep the entire system undermined, controlling those meant to protect us, resulting in an ongoing epidemic of criminals just like the one who shot Bruce's parents. This moment changes Bruce's path forever, as he throws away his gun, understanding that eye for an eye violence isn't a solution ,it only perpetuates the problem and creates more criminals. (It also is heavily hinted that this is a key moment where Bruce and Ducard went separate ways. Ducard speaks of getting actual vengeance, and it being satisfying. The difference expands into their views towards all of Gotham) He decides right then that murder is not the answer, ever, and that while vengeance is direct, the problem that killed his parents is wide spread. Having been lectured by Falcone on how the city is controlled with fear, Bruce goes on a journey to learn how to do the same. By the end of that, he understands that more then a man is needed to put fear into criminals, it has to be bigger. His father once tried to set an example to get the wealthy to donate towards fixing Gotham, but it was their deaths that actually did so. Dramatic examples, as Bruce says, get people to change, as men are incorruptible, it must be a symbol. So what symbol can inspire fear in criminals? Bats, naturally...

Like that, dressing up as a bat makes complete sense to fight crime. From the theme of fear they justified the absurdity of batman, explained how batman would be ideal to fight crime, created terrifying and resonant villains (and a plot to go with it) without resorting to larger then life villains, and made all of it have a universal and everlasting resonance. Fear was used to tap into our cynicism and current state as a world,while giving Batman a genuine, realistic goal. Instead of just being there to fight each super villain that comes up, his goal is to create an environment free of fear, through his own actions and the actions of those he'll inspire, so that the good people of Gotham can finally stand up to the bad ones. With batman's protection, Gotham can have the courage to fight back, and in the process they'll learn how, and new everyday heroes will start to fight for what's right, at which time Batman can go away as the city can protect itself, with real people to inspire them. (Setting up TDK, we should say, as Dent represents the epitome of Bruce's plan to create real, and ultimately the naivety of it). The result of this all is an action film that would organically resonate with adults who don't have time for silly action movies. This isn't silly, it's mythology, and it's dealing with very real issues, but with just the right balance. We still have a grand plan from the villain to destroy the city, but spreading fear and watching it attack itself is much harder to dismiss, possibly because this strategy is used in real life, we're arguably dealing with exactly this process as a country right now.

The genius of it all is, as a plot, as an origin story, as an action film, this is still a large scale super hero film to the core. And yet a philosophical approach makes it so a superhero film can exist while taking place in a vague reality, where superheroes don't exist. That approach is to deal in icons instead of actual heroes. Why? Because superheroes don't exist in these films either, that's the genius of it all. The film creates a gap between perception and reality, so we no longer have to take the leap of faith that these superheroes actually are, but instead follow the attempt to create one. It's not important that Batman is above flawed humanity, it's only important that Gotham believes he is. In other words, Nolan deconstructed the genre, so the battle is no longer for the mythical figure to prevail, but for the human to at all costs protect the idea of the mythical figure.

To apply it to a separate situation, let's say superhero films are actually films about Jesus. While all films until now were in fact about a man who becomes a leader by walking on water and being the son of god, this is a film about a normal man who knows the people needs leadership, and sacrifices all to create the myth of Jesus. And in a time where we believe in less and less, this approach is compelling, fresh and above all, believable within reason.

Nolan, with this thought, broke the code of how to have your cake and eat it too, how to have spectacle yet theme, and this code needed to be broken in the worst way. Never before had a blockbuster been so thematically built. And yet, most importantly, it was entertaining as hell! I watched this movie non stop when i was in high school and it first came out on dvd, and I was years away from viewing films analytically. The film is just a success, cut and dry.

It is often said that Begins is a standard comic book film while TDK is on another level, and I don't disagree, but many don't understand how Begins was, under it's surface, planting all the seeds that made TDK and TDKR possible. The structure might be classic origin story, but the execution is where all the groundbreaking creativity was, and it left a fertile base full of conceptual questions and philosophical resonance going forward.

So when we're all seeing The Dark Knight Rises this weekend and enjoying a size, resonance and thematic scale never before seen in this type of film, remember that it all started with this film, and it all started with two ideas of how to approach this reboot.

With all this in mind, enjoy completing the trilogy.
Posts: 1331
Location: Alabama
dustbust5 wrote:Before this film, there was a rule regarding blockbuster films that was indisputable. These films, huge investments financially, need to protect that investment by appealing to the absolute common denominator, a rule enforced in two ways: First that the film could be enjoyed with next to no thought, in fact it could be enjoyed internationally even if not understood, thus the reliance on visuals. The other was to avoid serious subject matter, especially resonant to the current world, because takes on serious issues can offend, which limits audiences, or goes over audience's heads, or irritates teenagers who don't care or understand yet. Spider-Man was the template, complete fantasy without any theme based exploration but instead pure escapism and wish fulfillment. And btw, I'm not knocking Spider-Man, Spider-Man 1 & 2 are legit, 2 has a well thought out character journey, and 1 has a true controlling idea (power comes responsibility). I admire Spider-Man's ability to still ground the main character within everything. Even better to studios, the LOTR/Star Wars route, a world so animated, in approach and literally, that it is complete and utter escapism. It's not just not relevant to our world, it's taking you to a completely fictional one.
NOTE: I'm not knocking any of those things, I'm a huge Star wars fan and think fantasy is integral when done correctly.

And it should be said that the studios were/are in many ways right, people don't want to pay to be preached to, and most attempts to weave real life theme into fantasy is more like Avatar, where Unobtanium is blatantly oil and the characters that want it are pure evil. You can understand why Studios don't want director's politics in their films if it's gonna be like that.

Anyway, Warner Brothers changed, and they deserve a ton of the credit. Seeing the offense audiences took to how fake and inane Batman & Robin was, and how thoroughly it misunderstood what Batman is, they focused on making a grounded reboot to Batman that would appeal to what people like about Batman himself. The theory, while grounded is what the fans want, it's also CHEAP, (for a blockbuster, Begins was 150,000, which is about the lowest threshold for blockbusters). If the fanatics love it, the strength of Batman's name alone would carry it to getting, and in the process they would have repaired a brand that was decimated but still is a key asset. They understood that before Batman could be a cash cow again, he had to get our trust back, and that deserves praise. Worth noting: the irony that this approach was agreed to because Warner's understood that repairing the brand needed to be the immediate goal, very similar to how the film itself views Batman. Wanting to keep the budget low but drive credibility high, they needed a young talent to helm it, someone who could set the series right and do it for a non a list fee.

Now here's a scary thought: If Darren Arnofsky, who is very talented, wasn't out of his fucking mind, we would never have gotten Nolan's take on Batman, and never known what we missed. Arnofsky first had the keys to this reboot, but his concept of rebooting batman was making Bruce homeless, making Alfred a black man named Bubba and making the batmobile a pimped out cadillac (Seriously, you can look it up). I imagine Arnofsky was fired by the end of the meeting. So they gave up for a bit and tried to make Batman vs. Superman, which was greenlit until Wolfgang Petersen decided to do Troy at the last second (THANK THE FUCK GOD). Finally, they turned to Nolan, who's idea was to do Batman fairly straight up, but do it all practically, make it real. Perfect for WB's goal, it would appease to hardcores while avoiding paying thousands of digital artists overtime to get the effects done in time, so it's a go.

For the next year Nolan and David Goyer would plot how to make a Batman film that really, truly interest them, and the result would be the biggest revolution in Blockbusters since Jurassic Park introduced realistic CGI. They did it by combining their skill sets Goyer was there to keep it Batman and make sure Nolan was still making a comic book movie while also being a living resource on everything Batman. Nolan guided the project, and did so with two groundbreaking ideas. One, this film wasn't going to be about superheroes, it was going to be about FEAR. Nolan looked at the world and then build from what he saw, (and it can be seen on the news, in history books, and in philosophy classes). Fear is power, and the wicked use fear to gain power, and then to keep those below them in line.

Second, and just as important, is that instead of dealing with actual heroes and villains, he was going to deal with icons. It isn't about what they can do, it's about what they make the people believe.

First, with fear. Suddenly, Nolan wasn't just making a movie about Gotham, he was making a movie about societies everywhere, about the world, and it would all be hidden in a blockbuster film. But this is all worth nothing if the film feels like a socio-political lecture, the real brilliance is in how organically this theme expanded to the spectacle. Highlighting the Scarecrow as relevant, they found a villain who fully embodies control through fear. In Ra's Al Ghul, a terrorist who plans to destroy from within by spreading fear. Using a drug to make it visceral, a believable and scary plan is in place.

Then they used it, on the other side, to legitimize the idea of Batman in a real world. They made bats symbolize Bruce's fear from day 1, while his father explains to him to always remember, even the scary animals get scared too. His father also aims to save Gotham, his goal by uniting it while his company works to help the city. Bats, and fear of them, become one with his anger over his parents fate, as his fear of bats led to his parents getting killed, but not before his father tells him to not be afraid. Bruce is scared, and He's lost, wallowing in pain, with no direction. His parents believed in helping the town, and they got killed for it, and bruce is left to either blame himself or believe it was the criminals fault, so Bruce now has only one mission in life, vengeance. As his father's son, it is his job now to lead Gotham, but he's to hurt and not ready, he must first have vengeance. Only it doesn't work out as planned, vengeance instead is carried out by a mobster, a mobster who controls the town, using fear to keep the entire system undermined, controlling those meant to protect us, resulting in an ongoing epidemic of criminals just like the one who shot Bruce's parents. This moment changes Bruce's path forever, as he throws away his gun, understanding that eye for an eye violence isn't a solution ,it only perpetuates the problem and creates more criminals. (It also is heavily hinted that this is a key moment where Bruce and Ducard went separate ways. Ducard speaks of getting actual vengeance, and it being satisfying. The difference expands into their views towards all of Gotham) He decides right then that murder is not the answer, ever, and that while vengeance is direct, the problem that killed his parents is wide spread. Having been lectured by Falcone on how the city is controlled with fear, Bruce goes on a journey to learn how to do the same. By the end of that, he understands that more then a man is needed to put fear into criminals, it has to be bigger. His father once tried to set an example to get the wealthy to donate towards fixing Gotham, but it was their deaths that actually did so. Dramatic examples, as Bruce says, get people to change, as men are incorruptible, it must be a symbol. So what symbol can inspire fear in criminals? Bats, naturally...

Like that, dressing up as a bat makes complete sense to fight crime. From the theme of fear they justified the absurdity of batman, explained how batman would be ideal to fight crime, created terrifying and resonant villains (and a plot to go with it) without resorting to larger then life villains, and made all of it have a universal and everlasting resonance. Fear was used to tap into our cynicism and current state as a world,while giving Batman a genuine, realistic goal. Instead of just being there to fight each super villain that comes up, his goal is to create an environment free of fear, through his own actions and the actions of those he'll inspire, so that the good people of Gotham can finally stand up to the bad ones. With batman's protection, Gotham can have the courage to fight back, and in the process they'll learn how, and new everyday heroes will start to fight for what's right, at which time Batman can go away as the city can protect itself, with real people to inspire them. (Setting up TDK, we should say, as Dent represents the epitome of Bruce's plan to create real, and ultimately the naivety of it). The result of this all is an action film that would organically resonate with adults who don't have time for silly action movies. This isn't silly, it's mythology, and it's dealing with very real issues, but with just the right balance. We still have a grand plan from the villain to destroy the city, but spreading fear and watching it attack itself is much harder to dismiss, possibly because this strategy is used in real life, we're arguably dealing with exactly this process as a country right now.

The genius of it all is, as a plot, as an origin story, as an action film, this is still a large scale super hero film to the core. And yet a philosophical approach makes it so a superhero film can exist while taking place in a vague reality, where superheroes don't exist. That approach is to deal in icons instead of actual heroes. Why? Because superheroes don't exist in these films either, that's the genius of it all. The film creates a gap between perception and reality, so we no longer have to take the leap of faith that these superheroes actually are, but instead follow the attempt to create one. It's not important that Batman is above flawed humanity, it's only important that Gotham believes he is. In other words, Nolan deconstructed the genre, so the battle is no longer for the mythical figure to prevail, but for the human to at all costs protect the idea of the mythical figure.

To apply it to a separate situation, let's say superhero films are actually films about Jesus. While all films until now were in fact about a man who becomes a leader by walking on water and being the son of god, this is a film about a normal man who knows the people needs leadership, and sacrifices all to create the myth of Jesus. And in a time where we believe in less and less, this approach is compelling, fresh and above all, believable within reason.

Nolan, with this thought, broke the code of how to have your cake and eat it too, how to have spectacle yet theme, and this code needed to be broken in the worst way. Never before had a blockbuster been so thematically built. And yet, most importantly, it was entertaining as hell! I watched this movie non stop when i was in high school and it first came out on dvd, and I was years away from viewing films analytically. The film is just a success, cut and dry.

It is often said that Begins is a standard comic book film while TDK is on another level, and I don't disagree, but many don't understand how Begins was, under it's surface, planting all the seeds that made TDK and TDKR possible. The structure might be classic origin story, but the execution is where all the groundbreaking creativity was, and it left a fertile base full of conceptual questions and philosophical resonance going forward.

So when we're all seeing The Dark Knight Rises this weekend and enjoying a size, resonance and thematic scale never before seen in this type of film, remember that it all started with this film, and it all started with two ideas of how to approach this reboot.

With all this in mind, enjoy completing the trilogy.


You may be my favorite new member... :think:
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