I kind of love that Christopher Nolan exists off in his own little world. Like when people tell you you’re a genius and your movies make billions of dollars, you can kind of say whatever you want, and people will just kind of nod and smile and accept it no matter how off-base those comments may be.
Take for instance a recent conversation Nolan had as part of a virtual discussion presented by 92Y (via Indiewire) as part of the promotional tour for Tom Shore’s new book The Nolan Variations. In the conversation, Nolan said that Batman Begins was well-timed because no one had really addressed Batman’s origins before:
“It was the right moment in time for the telling of the story I wanted to do,” Nolan said. “The origin story for Batman had never been addressed in film or fully in the comics. There wasn’t a particular or exact thing we had to follow. There was a gap in movie history. Superman had a very definitive telling with Christopher Reeve and Richard Donner. The version of that with Batman had never been told. We were looking at this telling of an extraordinary figure in an ordinary world.”
On a macro level, this is kind of true because there hadn’t been a Batman movie to that point that had delved deeply into Batman’s origin story beyond “parents murdered in alleyway.” But that being said, it’s absolutely false that it had never been addressed “fully in the comics.” At the very least, you have Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, which was released in 1987, almost 20 years before Batman Begins arrived. You can take credit for putting Batman’s origin on film without erasing everyone else’s contribution.
In another bit of historical revisionism, Nolan goes on to say that he was allowed to take more time between his Batman movies because studios weren’t rushing out new installments:
“The other advantage we had was back then you could take more time between sequels,” Nolan added. “When we did ‘Batman Begins,’ we didn’t know we’d do one and it took three years to do it and then four years before the next one. We had the luxury of time. It didn’t feel like a machine, an engine of commerce for the studio. As the genre becomes so successful, those pressures become greater and greater. It was the right time.”
This will come as a shock to the people who worked on three Batman movies that came out before Batman Begins, each spaced three years apart (Batman – 1989, Batman Returns – 1992, Batman Forever – 1995). Also, while Nolan made two very good Batman movies and also The Dark Knight Rises, these movies have always been “engines of commerce”. They’re studio tentpoles! They create massive merchandising lines! Maybe it didn’t “feel” that way at the time they were making them, but they were absolutely an “engine of commerce.” No one at Warner Bros. wanted to make Batman movies just because they liked Batman.
Again, I kind of get what he’s saying here in that his Batman movies are a separate entity from the deluge of Marvel movies, but to hold them apart as if they weren’t also product comes off as pretty arrogant. The reason Nolan’s movies are successful is because they take the Hollywood machine and managed to turn them towards artistic ends, not that the machine didn’t exist until after he was finished making his Dark Knight trilogy.
Shawn Levy did admit that things were “massively delayed,” but a silver lining came of it …
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