Nearly a decade after the release of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” which completed his ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy, fans and critics still hold those films up as the gold standard for superhero filmmaking. And while there’s no denying that Nolan brought something unique to the storytelling and style of his superhero films, the filmmaker doesn’t necessarily believe that the success of the franchise is due to just the content on the screen.
Speaking to 92Y (via IndieWire), Nolan explained why he feels “Batman Begins” and its subsequent sequels are as good as they are and received the fan and critical support they did when they were released. Surprisingly, he doesn’t necessarily chalk it up to superior filmmaking. Instead, he feels it was a mixture of a lot of things, including perfect timing.
“It was the right moment in time for the telling of the story I wanted to do,” Nolan explained. “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.”
He added, “The other advantage we had was back then you could take more time between sequels. 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.”
Of course, Nolan isn’t wrong. Nowadays, if you have a superhero film (or any franchise film) that does surprisingly well at the box office, studios immediately greenlight a sequel and rush it into production with a release date already in mind. Some franchises (such as a few of the Marvel Studios series like ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Thor’) do take more time between films, but in the case of the Marvel films, the characters live on in other non-franchise appearances. Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy had the benefit of being completely singular and focused on itself without any continuity issues. And the studio wasn’t breathing down the filmmaker’s neck asking for a sequel turnaround of one or two years.
All that to say, Nolan recognizes the benefits he received releasing superhero films before 2012 and understands why he might not be afforded that luxury if he worked on them today.