6. Gladiatorial Combat
In designing the look of the big knock down, drag ‘em out between Batman and Bane – arguably the central set piece of The Dark Knight Rises – Nolan and production designer Nathan Crowley purposefully designed the set of Bane’s lair – an underground steel labyrinth that stands in stark contrast to Batman’s underground but much more organic Batcave – to look a bit like a gladiatorial arena.
Gaffer Cory Geryak told American Cinematographer Magazine that the “idea [was] that they’re gladiators in the Coliseum”. To emphasize the brutal nature of the fight, cinematographer Wally Pfister also used extremely overexposed lights, that would create harsh pools within which Batman and Bane battle.
5. A Tale of Two Batmen
For a lot of directors of big superhero movies, the extent of their artistic inspiration is “whatever comic book movie was a big hit a couple years ago.” But from very early on in the screenwriting process on The Dark Knight Rises, co-writer Jonathan Nolan was looking to an esteemed literary source – Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. “What I always felt like we needed to do in a third film was, for lack of a better term, go there,” Jonathan Nolan said around the time The Dark Knight Rises was released; “all of these films have threatened to turn Gotham inside out and to collapse it on itself…’A Tale of Two Cities’ was, to me, one of the most harrowing portrait of a relatable, recognizable civilization that completely folded to pieces with the terrors in Paris in France in that period.”
The Dickens influence resulted in a first draft that “was 400 pages long or something”, according to Christopher Nolan; “I read the script and was a little baffled by a few things and realized that I’d never read ‘A Tale of Two Cities’. It was just one of those things that I thought I had done. Then I got it, read it and absolutely loved it and got completely what he was talking about… When I did my draft on the script, it was all about ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.”
Tale of Two Cities, which depicts the French revolution, can be felt all over the place in The Dark Knight Rises, particularly during the section of the film depicting an “occupied Gotham”: a society where the rich feast off the poor (Selina Kyle plays, to some extent, like a benevolent Madame DeFarge in Nolan’s story) leads to a justifiable “people’s revolution” which turns very bloodthirsty very fast; kangaroo courts that sentence the guilty and the innocent with equal severity; hell, if it wasn’t obvious enough, notice that the book that Gordon is reading at Bruce Wayne’s “funeral” A Tale of Two Cities, specifically the famous final lines (“It is a far, far better thing I do now than I have ever done…”).
Even Bane’s frock coat is intended, on some level, as a no back to the romantic gear of a French revolutionary. According to Christopher Nolan, “What Dickens does in that book in terms of having all his characters come together in one unified story with all these thematic elements and all this great emotionalism and drama, it was exactly the tone we were looking for.”
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