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Immersed in Movies: 'The Dark Knight Rises' from Inception

Thompson on Hollywood By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood July 19, 2012 at 7:07AM

While other directors strive to ground their superhero movies with relatable characters, Christopher Nolan has achieved something greater with "The Dark Knight Rises": he wraps up his gritty Batman trilogy with an operatic flourish and a sublime catharsis, coming full circle back to "Batman Begins."
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Speaking of Gotham, Nolan's screenwriting brother, Jonathan, found inspiration in Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities," a perfect metaphor for doppelgangers, orphans, and terrorism. "In all these films we threatened to turn Gotham inside out and to pull it on itself," the scribe noted. "We haven't achieved that until this film and 'A Tale of Two Cities' to me was the most harrowing portrait of a relatable, recognizable civilization that had completely fallen to pieces due to terrorists in Paris in that period."

The director admitted that he'd never actually read 'A Tale of Two Cities' until after discovering the reference in his brother's draft of the script. Then he expanded the metaphor in his draft. "What Dickens does in that book in terms of having all his characters come together in one unified story with all these great thematic elements and all this great emotionalism and drama, felt exactly the tone that we were looking for," Nolan added.

For Nolan, though, it's all about the relationships in helping Wayne find salvation: Anne Hathaway's Selina/Catwoman, a femme fatale and kindred spirit; and his three guardians: Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), the gadget master; Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), his conscience; and the grandfatherly Alfred. Indeed, there's an emotional exchange between Alfred and Wayne about his future that not only refers back to the earlier one about symbolism but also to "Inception." All they need is the spinning top.

Murder, memory, magic, and mythmaking -- that's the Nolan canon. "The Dark Knight Rises" harmoniously brings it all together. That might even be the recipe for a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Desowitz's Immersed in Movies blog is here.

This article is related to: The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan, Batman, Reviews, Reviews


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.