A chapter has officially closed in the Batman mythology. Christian Bale retired the cowl, Ben Affleck now inherits the suit and will next fight Superman, and Christopher Nolan may be playing a diminished role in the hero’s future as Warner Bros. and DC Comics set the table for a Justice League movie. So it’s the perfect time to look back and celebrate what Bale and Nolan did with their Batman trilogy, resurrecting the character from neon-saturated camp after Joel Schumacher and George Clooney’s 1997 debacle, Batman & Robin. Beginning with Batman Begins in 2005 and punctuated by The Dark Knight in 2008, Nolan literally reinvented the superhero genre, planting a flawed hero in a recognizable physical and moral landscape that made room for ambiguity, political commentary, and literary subtext.
On Tuesday, Warner Bros. puts a bow on its Dark Knight Trilogy with an Ultimate Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set. There’s 90 minutes of new special features, including a conversation between Nolan and the godfather of superhero epics, Superman‘s Richard Donner, and a special featurette about the creation and the impact of the series. In an exclusive video from the latter video, titled “The Fire Rises,” Nolan explains his obvious-only-in-hindsight take on the material and how it took only 15 minutes to get a “Yes” from the Warner Bros brass.
The Dark Knight is rightfully revered as a modern masterpiece that transcends its genre, but fans should revisit Batman Begins to see how the seeds for the trilogy were so brilliantly planted. In particular, there was one early scene in that film that was a wake-up call for what the filmmakers intended: young Bruce Wayne confronts Tom Wilkinson’s ruthless underworld boss in a shady Gotham City nightclub. It’s a tense scene and both actors are marvelous, but what jumps out now, perhaps more than when Begins was first released, is the “haves” versus “have-nots” theme that Nolan would make the centerpiece of The Dark Knight Rises. In Falcone’s cold soliloquy, you can hear the first draft of Anne Hathaway’s later threat to Bruce Wayne (“… you and your friends better batten down the hatches…”), a diatribe that was later credited to the influence of the Occupy Wall Street crowd and the financial cratering that followed the Wall Street meltdown. Turns out, it was all there from the very beginning.