Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Nolan Universe?

My friend from TrekWeb posted some news/rumors about the Justice League movie:

Warner Bros., not content to let us wait for the return of the Dark Knight in his own rebooted franchise, or the even more anticipated (if that’s possible) Justice League movie, are moving forward with plans to continue Nolan’s universe ASAP.
We already know that Christopher Nolan is working with Zack Snyder and the creators of the upcoming Superman movie as a producer, but now it seems like Warner Bros. want more than just his guiding hand on their Man of Steel. They and DC are looking to bring at least 2 of his Dark Knight universe characters into theirJustice League/Man of Steel continuity. 

First, it is clear the Nolan has created a distinct Universe. It is more vivid and comprehensive than even Tim Burton's dreamscape, and one that will not be so easily dispensed with by future hack directors who wish to take over the franchise. No, Nolan's visual and storytelling aesthetic will challenge, bedevil, confound--and hopefully improve--all the comic book filmmakers that come after him. Prime evidence of this will be the almost assured success of the up-comming Man of Steal, compared to the failure of Super Man Returns to achieve cultural relevance. While Nolan is not directing, he is credited with the re-boot concept. No one knows exactly what this concept is, but we know it will be of a piece with his Batman trilogy. In an interview with Details, the new Superman actor Henry Cavill said that the movie is "positively Christopher Nolan-esque." His main evidence is that the character has been updated. He described previous versions of the character as "a bit chocolate box" (got to love the Brits) but this his version will be "reflective of life today."

That has always been Nolan's interest. His Batman movies can be viewed as post 9/11 morality plays. The Dark Knight Rises reflects on the nature of democracy and the alternating roles of citizenry and the mob (which I will explore in a future post). He wants us to see ourselves in his movies, instead of presenting purely escapist fantasies. In order to achieve this goal, he needs to cover everything we see happen on screen with a patina of realism. This necessity infuses every aspect of the film, from set design, costume, makeup, but especially story and script. 

So, about this so-called Justice League. When Batman Begins came out, Nolan or one of his lieutenants said they made a conscious decision that the world of this Batman would not have other super heroes in it. It was because of this structured realism that I assumed back then we would not see a Robin paired up with Bale's Batman. (It is instructive that even though we now have a Robin character, we still aren't likely to see this paring up on screen--even if Levitt does reprise the character in a future spinoff).     

Pairing up two or more super heroes, even Nolan-esque ones, ala The Avengers, will result in a movie that is escapist fantasy and not the hyper-real story world that Nolan has crafted. Even if Nolan moves on to original projects and leaves Batman to others (hacks or not), they will find it nearly impossible to maintain Nolan's vision and aesthetic while cramming in Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, etc. It may be a fun movie. It may even be a good movie. But it won't reside in Nolan's Universe. It will necessarily be a comic-booky universe. 

Besides, Nolan's Universe has always been within Gotham City Limits. That is the end of the line. It is part of his realism. He wants you, dear viewer, to think Gotham as a city in your America. It is a place from which, for two and a half hours, you look out and reflect on your actual country and the real world. If a character leaves Gotham, taking you on a visit to a fictional Washington DC or Los Angeles or Metropolis, then you can no longer have the perspective to reflect on the real America. Nolan doesn't want you to leave Gotham, and he will blow up the bridges to keep you there.  


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