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The Dark Knight Trilogy: The Complete Screenplays
(The Opus Screenplay)

Christopher Nolan
Opus Books, 592 words

The Dark Knight Trilogy: The Complete Screenplays (The Opus Screenplay)
Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan was born in 1970 in London, England. Nolan always had an attraction to filmmaking. As an eight-year-old living in Chicago, he would make Super 8 films with his friends. He went to the University College in London to study English and joined the institution's Film Society during his stay. His directorial debut, Following (1998), was inspired by a break-in at his flat in London. He then blew critics and viewers away with his second film, Memento (2001).

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A review by Trent Walters

The status of Batman -- the superhero who doesn't shoot and kill enemies -- has grown for decades, stepping beyond comics to TV, film, books, games, and action figures. Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, and David S. Goyer released a trilogy of movies that tried to create a realistic hero, asking, "How did Batman become a legend?"

This took a major risk. Although human, Batman is a superhero, or literally beyond human: a modern myth, not unlike Homeric heroes. A person is either human or not. Nolan, et al. go for the paradox. The superhero who is a human being like you or I. This rings in the theme, as well: Can we mere mortals be heroes?

  "Batman: A hero can be anyone. That was always the point."  

One of the trilogy's more fascinating aspects is how the public becomes an active and thematic character. In the first, the city is slated for destruction, but only a few heroes step up to the plate. In the second, the city, tempted, steps up to the plate and knocks it out of the ballpark (although one hero falls from grace). The people of the final film do fail (the bridge scene where the police work against those who flee), but superheroes save the day. Perhaps as a whole, this suggests there are things that ordinary mortals cannot do alone.

Reading these as screenplays makes me a more critical reader of the films. Early on, Nolan, et al. bluntly tell readers how to interpret characters, and some of the dialogue exchanges leap from one conversation -- realistic but hard for readers to follow (actors and directors make the dialogue flow). Although we must recall these are notes for a different kind of art -- not unlike reading a novel outline instead of the novel itself -- we do see a progression where the scripts become smoother over the trilogy.

The other progression is Batman's epic character. He begins flawed, lusting for justice or vengeance, searching for his place and purpose. In Batman Begins, Batman is even viewed as demonic by the good and the bad alike. In The Dark Knight, he votes to install a dead, flawed man (but a man) -- Harvey Dent -- instead of the true hero, the man who exchanges his own symbol for questionable justice to uphold a ordinary hero who fought corruption before becoming corrupt. Despite the sacrifice of his being a superhero, Batman does not emerge as epic/super-heroic until The Dark Knight Rises when his enemy appears to be stronger than Batman.

In scene after scene, Batman Begins cleverly and systematically reveals how the mythic figure came to be. To accomplish this, the dialogue in the first film occasionally veered from realism to the philosophical:

  "Rachel: Look beyond your pain, Bruce....Just another coward with a gun."  

Some are among the more striking speeches:

  "Bruce: People need dramatic examples to shake them out of their apathy. I can't do this as Bruce Wayne. A man is just flesh and blood and can be ignored or destroyed. But a symbol... as a symbol I can be incorruptible, everlasting..."  

Alfred, Bruce Wayne's butler, becomes Bruce's overprotective superego. His speeches could be awkward in the wrong mouth, but Nolan, et al. use these to powerful effects, particularly in the denouement, making it a satisfying conclusion.

The trilogy provokes thought and does the franchise name proud. The masterful story-telling makes up for minor deficits in dialogue. Likely, the trilogy will last a generation or two, perhaps as long as Batman and heroes have relevance to the viewing public. The screenplays document the triumph of story to win over viewers.

Copyright © 2013 Trent Walters

Trent Walters teaches science; lives in Honduras; edited poetry at Abyss & Apex; blogs science, SF, education, and literature, etc. at APB; co-instigated Mundane SF (with Geoff Ryman and Julian Todd) culminating in an issue for Interzone; studied SF writing with dozens of major writers and and editors in the field; and has published works in Daily Cabal, Electric Velocipede, Fantasy, Hadley Rille anthologies, LCRW, among others.

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