Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ Franchise

As we near the final film – we take a look at what Christopher Nolan has done for the Batman franchise.

Director Christopher Nolan on the set of The Dark Knight Rises 

If you devote yourself to an ideal, then you become something else entirely“. Never has a line of simple inspirational dialogue in the opening act of a franchise, been in more relation to its British born writer and director Christopher Nolan. As the world prepares to finally lay its eyes on The Dark Knight Rises, it also sees the end of a series that has captivated fans, heaped countless amounts of praise and redefined the meaning of grand scale film making.

Having just three feature films behind him, and never having made a huge scale production before, Nolan was given the task by Warner Bros. of reinventing the story of Batman for the big screen. With the franchise dead in the water due to the sinking series from Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher in the mid nineties, it would appear to be a monumental task for Nolan to get audiences having a convincing belief in the hero once again. Wiping the slate clean of any pre-conceptions and already laden comic-book artistry, his first installment, Batman Begins takes Bruce Wayne’s story right back to his childhood. This was going to be Nolan’s story, how he wanted to tell it and how he’d provide his audience with a lesson in effective character building never before seen in hero movies.

Saving the leather and cape for half the film’s duration, Nolan concentrates all his efforts to producing ideas rather than spectacle. Emphasising Bruce’s rooted idea of eradicating crime, becoming a symbol of fear to those corrupt and putting an end to the crime that has riddled his home city like a disease. With character building done to blockbuster effect, the action, the settings and the sense of heightened believability just flows through the film’s heart. No diving straight into the suit, no pre-installed gadgets, no pondering on gothic tones to endure the sense of dread, Nolan provides a real world sensibility to all the little traits that make up his Batman and his life around him.

Having captivated his audiences for more, his follow-up piece The Dark Knight, proves to be a masterpiece in blockbuster film making. A masterpiece that mixes striking artistic imagery and intelligent narrative rarely seen in modern-day blockbusters. Instead of making the usual Hollywood sequel of turning everything louder and bigger, Nolan plays with his characters underlying weaknesses, swarms his camera around an inescapable labyrinth of Gotham City and showcases his enduring ability to stun audiences with grand set pieces to produce a timeless epic.

But it’s the artistic approach that sets The Dark Knight apart, coupled with the late Heath Ledger‘s performance as The Joker, that has since captivated the film to become the high water mark to a new generation. Whether it be an action pursuit with the resulting silent awe of a moving truck flipping forward in the air onto itself. The interrogation between two outcasts of society played up in the most convincingly built way. The collapse of a high scale district hospital as it implodes to the ground in seconds. Or the striking beautiful image of typified anarchy, as The Joker enjoys the early evening air, leaning out of a police car window whilst speeding away from the terror he’s just inflicted onto Gotham’s citizens.

It’s these productive techniques from Nolan that single him out from being just any other director. Blending his ensemble cast of old masters such as Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, with the endearing quality of Gary Oldman and Cillian Murphy, Nolan moulds their depth in quality to allow Christian Bale to spearhead his own unique performance. It’s not just a case of how much Nolan gets out of his actors, it’s how he crafts them individually to drive the story along. Along with working with his longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister to get a crisp defined environment, coupled with the lingering enigmatic hues of Hans Zimmer‘s scores worthy of any renowned opera house performance.

With Nolan’s continued ethics to his film making, carrying out his idea of making The Dark Knight Rises the perfect final act to stand up with his previous two, shows his love of the project and how much it has propelled him to become one of the biggest directors around today. And with directors like Christopher Nolan around, the future of cinema is very much, in good hands.


The Dark Knight Rises, is released in cinemas on Friday 20 July 2012.

© Warner Bros Pictures