The Dark Knight Rises is a 2012 superhero film directed by Christopher Nolan, who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Jonathan Nolan, and the story with David S. Goyer. Based on the DC Comics character Batman, it is the final installment in Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, and the sequel to The Dark Knight (2008). The film stars Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman, alongside Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Morgan Freeman. Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the terrorist Bane forces Bruce Wayne to resume his role as Batman and save Gotham City from nuclear destruction.
Christopher Nolan was hesitant about returning to the series for a third film, but agreed after developing a story with his brother and Goyer that he felt would conclude the series on a satisfactory note. Nolan drew inspiration from Bane’s comic book debut in the 1993 “Knightfall” storyline, the 1986 series The Dark Knight Returns, and the 1999 storyline “No Man’s Land”. Filming took place from May to November 2011 in locations including Jodhpur, London, Nottingham, Glasgow, Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, and Pittsburgh. Nolan used IMAX 70 mm film cameras for much of the filming, including the first six minutes of the film, to optimize the quality of the picture. A vehicle variation of the Batplane and Batcopter termed the “Bat”, an underground prison set, and a new Batcave set were created specifically for the film. As with The Dark Knight, viral marketing campaigns began early during production. When filming concluded, Warner Bros. refocused its campaign, developing promotional websites, releasing the first six minutes of the film, screening theatrical trailers, and sending out information regarding the film’s plot.
The Dark Knight Rises premiered in New York City on July 16, 2012. The film was released in the United States and the United Kingdom on July 20, 2012. The film received positive reviews from critics who deemed it a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. The film grossed over $1 billion worldwide, making it the second film in the Batman film series to earn $1 billion, and the highest-grossing Batman film to date. In addition to being Nolan’s highest-grossing film, it became the seventh-highest-grossing film of all time at the time of its release, as well as the third-highest-grossing film of 2012. It was named one of the top 10 films of 2012 by the American Film Institute.
In 2005, David S. Goyer confirmed that he wrote treatments for two Batman Begins sequels involving the Joker; the first would involve Batman, Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon hunting the Joker, while the second would have the Joker scarring Dent and turning him into Two-Face during his trial. The third treatment ended in the same way as the final version of The Dark Knight Rises. Other aspects of the third treatment were incorporated into The Dark Knight. However, Heath Ledger’s family stated that he was planning on reprising his role as the Joker before his death, a notion supported by Ledger’s co-star Aaron Eckhart, who portrayed Two-Face in that film. A deleted subplot from The Dark Knight involved Michael Jai White’s Gambol surviving his encounter with the Joker to enable Jai White’s character to return in a future film to try to take Gotham City over, but these plans were scrapped after Ledger’s death and the film was edited to delete Gambol’s subplot and have him killed off in the scene where the Joker originally simply mutilated him. After Ledger’s death, Christopher Nolan decided not to recast the role out of respect for his performance, and initially was hesitant to make a third film.
Warner Bros. president of production Jeff Robinov had hoped a third film would be released in 2011 or 2012. Nolan wanted the story for the third installment to keep him emotionally invested. “On a more superficial level, I have to ask the question,” he reasoned, “how many good third movies in a franchise can people name?” Nolan said that he never even thought a third film was possible in the foreword for his book The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy. Nolan only agreed to a third film on the basis of finding a worthwhile story, fearing that he would become bored halfway through production if he discovered the film to be unnecessary. By December 2008, Nolan completed a rough story outline, before he committed himself to Inception. Later in December, Alan F. Horn confirmed that while discussions with Nolan about a third film were ongoing, no casting had been done, and Horn denied all such rumors. Before Nolan confirmed his involvement, Gary Oldman had said he was confident Nolan would return.
Following the success of the Joker in The Dark Knight, studio executives wished for the Riddler to be included as the primary villain as he was considered a similar character and encouraged the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio. However, Nolan wanted the antagonist to be vastly different from the previous incarnations and committed to using Bane instead, citing the need for a character with a physical presence within the film. He was initially unfamiliar with the character’s back-story, but pointed out the appeal of an archetype, labeling it as “the extreme of some type of villainy”. When comparing the choice of Bane with the Joker, Nolan highlighted the Joker as an example of “diabolical, chaotic anarchy and has a devilish sense of humor”, juxtaposing him against Bane, whom he likened to “a classic movie monster with a terrific brain.” Nolan has said that his draft of the script was inspired by Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities, which centers around the French Revolution. This homage to Dickens was briefly illustrated by having Bane inconspicuously finger knit paracord in the film, symbolizing Madame Defarge, the villain of A Tale of Two Cities, and more overtly by Commissioner Gordon’s eulogy for Bruce Wayne, which is taken directly from Dickens’ novel.
On February 9, 2010, it was announced that Nolan had “cracked” the story and was committed to returning to the project. Shortly afterward, it was announced David S. Goyer and Jonathan Nolan were working on a screenplay. Goyer would leave the project during pre-production to begin work on Man of Steel; Jonathan continued writing the script based on the story by his brother Chris and Goyer. Nolan said that his brother’s original draft was about 400 pages. The film’s storyline has been compared with the Batman comic book series’ story arc “Knightfall” (1993), which showcases Bane; the miniseries The Dark Knight Returns (1986), in which Batman returns to Gotham City after a ten-year absence; and the story arc “No Man’s Land” (1999), which depicts a Gotham cut off from the rest of the world and overrun by gangs. The nickname “the Dark Knight” was first applied to Batman in Batman #1 (1940), in a story written by Bill Finger.
Nolan confirmed the Joker would not return in the third film, and dismissed rumors that he considered using unused footage of Ledger from The Dark Knight. The Dark Knight Rises reunited Nolan with many of his past collaborators, including cinematographer Wally Pfister, production designer Nathan Crowley, editor Lee Smith, costume designer Lindy Hemming, special effects supervisors Paul Franklin and Chris Corbould, and composer Hans Zimmer.
- Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman:
A billionaire socialite who dedicates himself to protecting Gotham City from its criminal underworld, as a feared vigilante. Nolan has stated that, due to the eight-year gap between The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, “he’s an older Bruce Wayne; he’s not in a great state.” Bale employed a martial arts discipline called the Keysi Fighting Method, now modified for Wayne’s current state and Bane’s style. Bale has stated that The Dark Knight Rises will be his final Batman film. Bale acknowledged that Batman is “not a healthy individual, this is somebody that is doing good, but he’s right on the verge of doing bad”. Bale clarifies that “He doesn’t want to forget [his parents’ deaths]. He wants to maintain that anger he felt at that injustice”. Bale felt bittersweet about leaving the franchise, saying that it was like “saying goodbye to an old friend.”
- Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth:
Bruce’s trusted butler and confidant, who acts as a father figure to Wayne but is unable to accept Wayne’s desire to revive his Batman persona, even resigning from his position to impress the seriousness of his position upon him. Christopher Nolan emphasized the emotional bond between Pennyworth and Wayne, stressing its importance in the previous films and predicting that the relationship will be strained as it never has before.
- Gary Oldman as James Gordon:
The Commissioner of the Gotham City Police Department, and one of the city’s few honest police officers. Oldman described the character’s work in cleaning up Gotham City as having left him world-weary and slightly bored, likening Gordon to a soldier who leaps at the chance to be on the front lines. His life has taken a turn for the worse since The Dark Knight; his wife has left him and taken their children, and the mayor is planning to dismiss him from his job. Gordon feels guilty over his role in covering up Harvey Dent’s crimes and is prepared to resign from his position as Commissioner over it, but then senses that Gotham is about to come under threat.
- Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle / Catwoman:
A professional cat burglar, grifter, and femme fatale who establishes a playful, teasing relationship with Wayne that “takes some of the somberness away from his character”, and pursues a “clean slate” (a computer program rumored to be able to erase a person’s criminal history) when she crosses paths with both Wayne and Batman. Hathaway auditioned not knowing what role she was being considered for. Hathaway described the role as being the most physically demanding she had ever played, and confessed that while she thought of herself as being fit, she had to redouble her efforts in the gym to keep up with the demands of the role. Hathaway trained extensively in martial arts for the role, and looked to Hedy Lamarr—who was the initial inspiration for the comic book character—in developing her own performance. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight writer David S. Goyer had previously ruled out in 2008 including Catwoman in a third film for having already appeared in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer.
- Tom Hardy as Bane:
A mysterious and physically imposing revolutionary villain who was excommunicated from the League of Shadows and portrays himself as a “liberator of pain”. He is desperate to continue Ra’s al Ghul’s legacy by destroying Gotham. The character was chosen by Christopher Nolan because of his desire to see Batman tested on both a physical and mental level. According to costume designer Lindy Hemming, the character wears a mask that supplies him with an analgesic gas to relieve pain he suffers from an injury sustained “early in his story”. Hardy intended to portray the character as “more menacing” than Robert Swenson’s version of the character in Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin and that in order to do so, his portrayal entailed creating a contradiction between his voice and body. Hardy gained 30 pounds (14 kg) for the role, increasing his weight to 200 pounds (90 kg). Hardy based Bane’s voice on several influences, which include Bartley Gorman and the character’s comic book heritage. Bane claims that his revolution’s enemies are the rich and the corrupt, who he contends are oppressing “the people”, when in reality this was a ruse in order to exploit the citizens of Gotham City for the League of Shadows’ ultimate goal in destroying Gotham City.
- Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate / Talia al Ghul:
The current CEO of Wayne Enterprises who encourages a still-grieving Bruce to rejoin society and continue his father’s philanthropic works but is later revealed to be the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul and Bane’s accomplice. Cotillard also does her own dub-over voice in both the European and Canadian French dubs of the film.
- Joey King as young Talia al Ghul
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake:
A young police officer whose instincts lead him to believe that there is trouble on the horizon and is promoted to detective by Gordon when the elder cop saw something of himself within the younger. Blake represents the idealism that Gordon and Bruce Wayne once held, but soon lost in their battle against crime in the city. The film reveals his legal name to be Robin John Blake, an homage to Batman’s sidekick in the comics, Robin.
- Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox:
The ex-CEO turned executive vice president of Wayne Enterprises, who runs the company on Wayne’s behalf and serves as his armorer for the Batsuit, providing him with high-tech equipment and discreetly developing cutting-edge technology and weaponry, even as Wayne Enterprises starts losing money.
- Matthew Modine as Peter Foley: Gordon’s second-in-command who disdains Batman.
- Ben Mendelsohn as John Daggett: A rival billionaire socialite who employs Bane in his plan to take control of Wayne Enterprises.
- Burn Gorman as Philip Stryver: Daggett’s assistant and senior executive vice president of Daggett Industries. Philip Stryver is named after Stryver from A Tale of Two Cities, the novel that The Dark Knight Rises directly drew influence from.
- Nestor Carbonell as Anthony Garcia: Gotham City’s mayor. Carbonell reprises his role from The Dark Knight.
- Juno Temple as Jen: Selina Kyle’s friend and accomplice.
- Josh Stewart as Barsad: Bane’s right-hand man.
- Alon Aboutboul as Dr. Leonid Pavel: A Russian nuclear physicist who is kidnapped by Bane and the League of Shadows in order to convert a fusion reactor funded by Bruce Wayne and Miranda Tate into a weapon to be used for the destruction of Gotham City.
- Aidan Gillen as Bill Wilson: A CIA operative who was tasked with extracting Pavel from Uzbekistan and tracking down Bane for terrorist activities before his appearance in Gotham City. (Bill is referred to solely as “CIA” in the film’s dialogue; the character’s name is revealed in the film’s novelization.)
- Brett Cullen portrays Byron Gilley, a U.S. congressman who is kidnapped by Kyle. Brett Cullen would go on to portray Thomas Wayne in the 2019 DC Comics adaptation Joker.
- Chris Ellis as Father Reilly, a priest at the orphanage that Blake grew up in.
- Tom Conti as Prisoner: An unnamed prisoner who serves as Bruce Wayne’s caretaker in Bane’s underground prison, The Pit.
- Daniel Sunjata as Mark Jones, a U.S. Special Ops officer who leads a task force into Gotham to assist Gordon and the GCPD in freeing the city from Bane’s rule.
- Liam Neeson as Ra’s al Ghul: Liam Neeson reprises his role from Batman Begins in a cameo appearance; he also appears in a brief flashback.
- Josh Pence as young Ra’s al Ghul. He appears in scenes set thirty years before the events of Batman Begins.
- Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane: Cillian Murphy reprises his role from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
- India Wadsworth as the wife of Ra’s al Ghul and the mother of Talia al Ghul.
- John Nolan as Douglas Fredericks, a board member of Wayne Enterprises. John Nolan is Christopher Nolan’s uncle and he reprises his role from Batman Begins.
- William Devane as the President of the United States.
July 20, 2012
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