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This week marks the release of not only the summer's most anticipated film, but very likely one of the year's most anticipated films - and for good reason. Without giving anything away, we'll just let our thoughts be known, "The Dark Knight" is an amazing film. Well worth the wait AND the price of an IMAX ticket.

Heath Ledger As BatmanFans of 2005’s "Batman Begins" will be happy to learn that “The Dark Knight” continues in the same intense, serious tone created by director Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale and Co. and picks up right where the first film left off. Christian Bale returns as the conflicted Bruce Wayne/Batman character, who sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham, with the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and eager and ambitious new district attorney, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). The only thing stopping the powerful trio is a mysteriously dark and rising criminal power, The Joker (Heath Ledger), whose anarchic ways wreak havoc on Gotham and force The Dark Knight to face the fine line between hero and vigilante. Nolan says the biggest challenge with "Knight" was building upon the accomplishments from the first film without abandoning the characters, tone and logic that made his first installment such a success.

“There are elements the audience will expect you to bring back that you need to bring back,” he told us at the film’s press day. “You also have to balance that with the need to see something new and to see something different and that's been the challenge through the whole of making the film.”

The Black KnightAnother challenge for Nolan, who also co-wrote the screenplay, was dealing with the film’s decidedly darker tone. Those who have seen the film, this writer included, contend that “The Dark Knight” is the most disturbing of any of the previous Batman films (the tragedy of soon-to-be Oscar contender Heath Ledger’s death notwithstanding).

"You certainly can push it too far," Nolan says of deciding where to draw the darker lines. "But interestingly there are different ways to be disturbing. I mean, I don't talk a lot about the previous films because I didn’t make them and they're not mine to talk about. But certainly if you look at “Batman Returns” with Danny DeVito as The Penguin, eating the fish and everything, there are some extraordinarily disturbing images in that movie. But they're coming it at from a surreal point of view."

Nolan adds that the film's disturbing nature, depending on and if that is how one receives it, could be due to the fact he tried to ground the story in reality. "The ways in which this film is disturbing are different," he says. "I suppose there's a sense there that might get under your skin a little more if it relates to the world that we live in. As I say though, there are different tones that can be taken with adapting this character to the movies. Indeed, in the comics, one of the things that Paul Levitz at DC Comics first talked about when I first came onboard for “Batman Begins” is that Batman is a character who traditionally is interpreted in very different ways by the different artists and writers who've worked on it over the years. So there's a freedom and an expectation even that you will actually put something new into it, that it'll be interpreted in some different way. I think of any of the superheroes Batman is the darkest. There is an expectation that you're going to be dealing with more disturbing elements of the psyche. That's the place that he comes from as a character. So it feels appropriate to this character."

The Black Knight

Christian Bale, known for being rather serious himself, both in his work and personal life, says Nolan's exploration of the darkness that surrounds the caped crusader is a large part of the appeal in getting back in the Batsuit.

"I sat and read the script and felt like he had really nailed just kind of exploding all of the clichés of genre movies," he says. "That this was no longer an action movie. This was no longer a superhero movie. This was a movie that can stand shoulder to shoulder with any genre of movie."

Bale says "The Dark Knight" differs from previous films in the Batman canon because it is not as theatrical. "These were, with all due respect to them, and Tim Burton is a wonderful filmmaker, but ultimately these were men walking around dressed up like a bat. These were not people who became a different creature when they donned that and I'd never seen that done before." And it, the reality-based drama and darkness, was something he was itching to take further in "Knight."

"I was misunderstood a number of times after “Batman Begins” when I'd mentioned about the possibility of making an R rated Batman," he says. "A number of people came to me and said, 'You wanna put sex scenes into Batman?' I said, 'No, no, no, that's not at all what I was talking about.' What I was meaning is if you look at the more recent graphic novels, there is such a darkness to it and such an internal human conflict and such questioning of the shadow side and the good motivation and good versus evil and the violence and his capability and propensity for violence, that it could very easily become an R rated movie. I feel like the reinvention [in "Knight"]... this version has certainly never been seen before, not in a movie."

Heath Ledger in the Black Knight

So does Bale want to continue to explore Batman beyond this second film?

"I do definitely. Again, that's Chris Nolan's decision. I finished this movie and I want to see what is going to happen next."

Depending on what Nolan decides, because we are sure he will be offered another installment, probably the Sunday of opening weekend even, we'll have to wait until Bale's schedule opens up - his next project is another intense and physical role in the Terminator franchise. We wondered, with his extreme transformations for characters over the years, does he ever just want to take a break and relax for awhile? Or at least sign up for something less intense?

"Absolutely," he says. "Maybe there's a temptation to find a role where preparation involves drinking a lot of wine and eating a lot of pasta and just putting on a lot of weight or something, and taking it easy. I think I put my body through enough transformation in the past few years that at my age now, getting to mid-30s, I'm starting to think, 'Yeah, I might start to have consequences if I keep doing this to myself too much.' I'm starting not to quite feel as invulnerable as I always have. But I enjoy the notion of strenuous work. I like it. I like to know I really worked at something. I don't like particularly taking it easy."

"The Dark Knight" opens July 18.


CLICK HERE to read what Heath Ledger's co-star's have to say about Heath.

 

www.Dishmag.com / Issue 87 - September 2018
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