If it's crap ... We'll tell you
As the "Legend of The Dark Knight" draws to an end on July 20th, to look back on the series that has spanned 7 years, is like drinking a fine wine, it only gets better with age. Considering how far the franchise, and characters have come since the first rumors of a "new Batman film", it's a tremendous feat in both a artistic sense, and in a cultural sense. With that being said let's take a closer look at Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight Series".
"Why Do We Fall"
What is unanimously claimed to be one of the "worst movies of all time", Batman and Robin was released on July 20th, 1997, and with it's predecessor Batman Forever taking on a less gothic, dark tone than that of the previous Burton films had taken up, Batman and Robintook this idea, and new stance on the character to a new level of ridiculousness, that turned audiences, and Hollywood executives away from even the name "Batman". At this point Batman was a poison, that no director, no actor, and no studio wanted to deal with, however Batman was still going strong with his animated self, and the comics were still doing alright.
Batman on film was dead around this time. Warner Bros. was in fact considering a sequel to Batman and Robin, before the film was ever released, called Batman Triumphant, which would involve Scarecrow, who was rumored to be played Howard Stern, and Harley Quinn would've been played by Madonna with Jack Nicholson returning for only hallucination scenes as The Joker again. However these plans are dropped immediately following the release of Batman and Robin due to terrible word of mouth. In 1998 another Batman film was rumored, Batman: DarKnight, this time the film would've involved Bruce Wayne giving up Batman, and Dick Grayson going to college, but those plans were also dropped as well.
In the early 2000's more ideas for a new Batman film were in the works such as Batman Beyond, and Batman: Year One, but while Batman Beyond was almost instantly abandoned, Batman: Year One had some levity to it. It would essentially be an adaptation of Frank Millar's graphic novel of the same name, and would've been directed by Darren Aronofsky, but in 2002 Warner Bros. moved on from Batman: Year One, to the failed Batman vs Superman film which....only got a mention in an I Am Legendscene.
"Evil Fears The Knight"
It was 6 years, and Batman still hadn't made a comeback on screen, but behind the scenes director Christopher Nolan, who had previously done Momento, and writer David Goyer, who had previously done Blade, were already in the process of writing a script for a new Batman movie and aimed for a darker and more realistic tone, with humanity and realism being the basis of the film. It would star Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman who at the time needed to bulk up for the role, because he was previously in The Machinist, where he was pretty much the size of a stick, the villains would be Ra's Al Ghul played by Liam Neeson, and Jonathan Crane or better known as Scarecrow played by Cillian Murphy. It also had Katie Holmes as a new character Rachel Dawes, and Sir Michael Caine (Nolan's good luck charm) as Alfred, and last but not least Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. The film was made thorough the world, and had a modest budget of $150 million.
In all Batman Begins was a more low key film than what you would think. It was no where near as hyped as its successor, and it was also competing with Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and King Kong, but it became more famous, and popular after it came out. Batman Begins tried something totally new to the Batman film series, in that it was keeping close to the original comics as much as possible, yet it ended up still being it's own thing that you can clearly distinguish from other interpretations. With the long history of Batman as a character I personally felt that the origin was done to a tea, and all the major Batman elements were done right, and the themes of Fear were fitting, and worked for the trilogy as the later films would encompass Anarchy, and Pain.The actors portrayed their roles very well, and brought a very different take on each character, from other interpretations. Nolan created a world that is as close to the Batman comics, and our reality as it can get. You feel as if these events would very well happen in our time, and reality, and critics seemed to agree as this film received all around praise, with Roger Ebert giving it a 4 out of 4 stating...
"the Batman movie I've been waiting for; more correctly, this is the movie I did not realize I was waiting for".
Batman had a bright future on screen, with Batman Beginsmaking around $205,343,774 domestically, and $372,710,015 worldwide, making it the 3rd highest grossing Batman film, and the eighth-highest grossing film of 2005 in the US. Batman was soaring high.
When the sequel to Batman Begins was announced in 2007, it was obvious who the villain would be, as it was hinted at, at the end of Batman Begins. The Joker would be a vital edition to the series, and would push the series from popularity with fans, adults, and kids to the pop culture phenomena that it is today. However with most of the same cast from Batman Begins returning, despite Katie Holmes being replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal, the actor cast as the psychotic, anarchist The Joker would be no other than Heath Ledger, which would get the same, if not even more resentment from fans than Michael Keaton got when he was cast as Batman. Ledger, already being an established actor being nominated for an Academy Award in 2006 for Brokeback Mountain, was a weird choice to take on the role, and the design of the character didn't help much of the fan disappointment initially.
When Ledger tragically passed away in January of 2008, due to a lethal drug overdose, public interest for the film went from....fairly interested, to the most talked about piece of entertainment of the year. With The Joker being the new villain, Nolan wanted The Dark Knight to be a more grander film than Batman Begins, the stakes would be amped, and the characters would go through moral dilemmas, and conflicts that any great classic film has.
The hype surrounding The Dark Knight was, and still is ridiculous, no matter how fantastic the film is, the hype for the film was unlike anything seen. The viral marketing was a major part of making this film the biggest thing of that year. Turn on any channel, and Dark KnightTV Spots would emerge left and right, any trailer released was a worldwide news story, and even Jesus Christ would come back in order to see the 2:00 showing....(Ok that didn't happen), but the anticipation was amazingly high. Expectations were so high, people didn't now if they can be met, but when early reviews, and reactions started to pour in, they read something like this.
"Heads up: a thunderbolt is about to rip into the blanket of bland we call summer movies. The Dark Knight, director Christopher Nolan's absolute stunner of a follow-up to 2005's Batman Begins, is a potent provocation decked out as a comic-book movie. Feverish action? Check. Dazzling spectacle? Check. Devilish fun? Check. But Nolan is just warming up. There's something raw and elemental at work in this artfully imagined universe. Striking out from his Batman origin story, Nolan cuts through to a deeper dimension."
- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Another major part to The Dark Knight being what it's hailed today is the inclusion of Harvey Dent played by Aaron Ekhart, the political aspect of The Dark Knight made it a definitive staple of America culture, as it channels the events after 9/11. The film is sometimes called "A crime drama, with moral and political dilemmas, that just so happened to be a Batman movie". The Dark Knight was beyond critical, and audience acclaim, and while some say it to be "overrated", I personally believe The Dark Knightis not only one of the greatest movie ever made, for many reasons, but also the pinnacle of entertainment, and more than just a movie.....a statement in the form of a Batman film.
The Dark Knight was made with a budget of $185 million, and at the end of its theatrical run, it made $533,345,358 domestically, and $1,001,921,825 worldwide making it the highest grossing movie in the Batman franchise, and of 2008. It is now the 12th highest grossing film of all time. The film received many accolades, but most notable was Heath Ledger's twenty awards for acting, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, Screen Actors Guild Award, the Golden Globes Award, the BAFTA Award, and more. Ledger's amazing performance is now one of the most popular pop culture icons of all-time, up there with Darth Vader, Hannibal Lector, and others. Needless to say The Dark Knight had almost everything going for it, even something such as the score was beyond incredible from Hans Zimmer, and James Newton-Howard. The film exceeded the regular notion for a "summer movie"it became an iconic piece of American cinema, and entertainment. The Dark Knight was at the top of the world, and it could only get even better.
After the mega success that was The Dark Knight, the hype over the next installment, and it's key elements, and villain could be matched with that of the hype for Dark Knight. Fan speculation pointed to either The Riddler, or The Penguin as the primary villain for the sequel, however when it was announced that Tom Hardy, who had done Bronson, and had previously worked with Nolan on Inception, and Anne Hathaway, who had done many films in the past were announced as both Babe, and Catwoman, again as with many Nolan film, fans were skeptical, not of Hardy as Bane though, but of Hathaway as Selina Kyle. These new editions and more (including Joseph Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard, and Matthew Modine) this new Batman film would take Batman to the ultimate point of his journey, the definitive end to the legend of The Dark Knight, it's the story of a hero taken all the way to the edge...and how they come back. With Batman Begins thing on the theme of Fear, and Dark Knight taking on Anarchy, the new Batman film The Dark Knight Rises would take on Pain, which is fitting having Bane as the primary villain.
The hype surrounding The Dark Knight Rises, is at it's ultimate peak with the film releasing in only a few days. As more, and more trailers came out, still shots, clips, and more this finale to the Nolan Batman films is looking to be the largest, and best installment. It is unaware of the actual story elements other than the film is based off of Knightfall, and No Man's Land, but we will all find out when The Legend Ends on July 20th. The Dark Knight Rises...will be the definitive end to the "legend"
When looking at the Dark Knight series as a whole, one cannot fathom the enormous impact it's had on cinema, and entertainment. Taking a dead franchise, and giving it so much weight, making them something to cherish. These are more than just films....they are part of culture. They will forever be know as the definitive "Batman movies", and will go down along with the original Star Wars movies, and Lord of the Rings movies as one of the greatest film trilogies to ever come out of a camera. Christopher Nolan, and his whole team have created something special. Connecting all movie goers, fans, and regular people who just want to see a movie together. The definitive end to this phenomena will arrive on July 20th. Here's the the end of the "Legend"....The Dark Knight Legend.
The Dark Knight Rises soars into theaters July, 20th
What does "The Dark Knight Series" Mean To You?
*Thank you to Mr.J who helped provide some information on the early years*