“For me, the better the film the more different ways it can live in your mind. The more ways you can remember it or re-interpret it. When you come back to that film the second time you feel surprised by what you see because it has taken a new format in your brain.”
— modern master filmmaker Christopher Nolan while describing his favorite movies like Blade Runner, Star Wars – A New Hope, 2001 : A Space Odyssey. These are the movies that he feels bled off the reel, movies which created a different universe on celluloid. The director also confesses his love for movies that demand a second viewing which makes a viewer to notice different aspects that had gone unnoticed the first time. Sounds familiar? It’s no surprise that almost all of his films so far have been sharing this particular favorite film trait of Nolan. Many would like to call it a trademark of him. I would like to call it his way of giving homage to his favorite movies.
Christopher Nolan’s films have always carried tributes to Cinema in one way or another. They might not be as clear to the eye as homages in Tarantino movies but they are there, subtly acknowledging love for films. Was it a coincidence that there was a rotating hallway and zero gravity sequence in Inception? Doesn’t femme fatale, film noir atmosphere and certain aspects of the story in Following ring a bell to you? Film noir films like Double Indemnity are among Nolan’s favorite films. No surprise there, right?
So where does Nolan’s Batman Trilogy fit in? Recently, I developed this theory (or whatever you may call it) which makes me think that there has always been one particular film that largely influenced Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and now, The Dark Knight Rises. Not sure whether this has been brought up before. I’m sure it has, noticing the wildfire of theories about these films on internet these days. So here are some of my few extra cents.
Influence – Blade Runner
Christopher Nolan has always been a worshiper of Ridley Scott’s vision of creating extremely detailed universes, more particularly Blade Runner and Alien. Blade Runner was painted with extra ordinary cinematography by Jordan Cronenweth who cleverly used lights-shadows and smokes to create an immersive cyberpunk future reality. There might not be heavy traits of Blade Runner in Batman Begins but the way Wally Pfister uses smokes to create a fearful atmosphere in Gotham gives a visual echo of Blade Runner to me.
There is also a ridiculous but interesting aspect to this theory. Batman Begins has an actor in a small but significant role who was also one of main characters in Blade Runner – Rutger Hauer. Now I know that it might just be a coincidence OR as if, Nolan was acknowledging the influence and homage to Blade Runner in Batman Begins! Like I told you – uncanny but interesting!
2. The Dark Knight
Influence – Heat
This one is pretty much out there. Everyone (almost every TDK fan, at least!) knows that TDK’s Bank Robbery Prologue was inspired by heist scene from Heat. The brutality, the way Joker’s men make all the moves and warnings while the robbery, the use of masks — it’s pretty much clear to the eye. And what a brilliant homage it was! This is the way tributes should be set. Without distracting the consistency and flow of the film, it served the purpose. Not a gimmicky homage but a perfect blend-in with the original story.
But that’s not all there’s to TDK about influence of Heat. The central theme about the dilemma and duality between Batman and Joker is reminiscent of the way Vincent and Neil’s crossing paths in Heat. You know what I’m talking about, if you’ve seen Heat. There is even a scene where Vincent and Neil sit at a bar or something, chats and make realize themselves how much they need each other. No matter what side of the law they are on, there is a sense of similar grey shades in both of them. That scene effortlessly reminds me of Batman-Joker interrogation scene, and vice versa.
Now coming to uncannily interesting aspect to this theory–guess who shares the screen presence in both of these films? Ah, I know that you know!
You think I’m kidding? Well, here ‘s a fun fact/trivia for you. For the first four days of production, Christopher Nolan put cast and crew under a movie boot camp comprising eight films whose tone he wanted to emulate. In chronological order, these were: King Kong, Citizen Kane, Cat People, Stalag 17, Black Sunday, A Clockwork Orange, Heat and Batman Begins. Not surprising that Nolan found Heat’s tone and theme somewhat more parallel to that of TDK!
Coming to our final and yet to be watched conclusion to the epic trilogy is-
3. The Dark Knight Rises
Influence – (Just a guess!) Full Metal Jacket
Now I know I’m just jumping the gun here. Nolan hasn’t said a word about Kubrick’s FMJ in any interviews so far. But how good are theories if they don’t seem uncanny and crazy, that’s what they are for, right? Wait! I also have some things to back my guess up.
Just a while ago, Concept Artist of TDKR — Tully Summers shed some lights about how TDKR’s atmosphere is going to be. Guess what she said!
“The difference for me was Christopher Nolan’s visual style. One of the things that makes his Batman movies so compelling is their tone of plausibility. He will often prefer a raw, grittier design over one that is very sleek and product design pretty. It’s sort of a practical military aesthetic. This stuff is made to work, not impress shoppers. The Dark Knight Rises is a war film.”
And well, set photos, Bane’s costume-mercenaries they all hint positively to the above statement actually!
Like I pointed out previously, the references are subtle in Nolan’s films, blending in with the story. While I look at FMJ, I can’t think how it can influence TDKR but then I think about the final haunting shot in Full Metal Jacket (Not gonna spoil it here! Relax!) which set the entire tone of the film. It raised a giant question mark asking “Why War? Why?” TDKR might use that tone in same way. We know how Nolan set a moral dilemma in TDK. TDKR might question the basic morality between War and Peace. Oh yes! “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne!”
Guess who is “fighting” for peace in both of these movies? *Drum Roll*
I tried to ask Matthew Modine himself about this.
I forgot how Nolan is secretive about things. Or maybe, Matthew Modine just doesn’t know about overall tone and theme of TDKR, being in comparatively small role. From what I’ve read, so far inspirations for TDKR have been Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and Sidney Lumet’s Prince of the City. We may know more after having seen the movie.
Speak up your views and thought on this in comments. Thanks for reading.