Chris Nolan Talks 'TDKR' Ending & More in FSLC In-Depth Interview

November 29, 2012
Source: Film Comment, Indiewire

Christopher Nolan

Earlier this week, the Film Society of Lincoln Center hosted "A Conversation with Christopher Nolan", moderated by Scott Foundas, who talked in-depth with the filmmaker at the Walter Reade Theater in the Lincoln Center. In addition to a number of excellent quotes and highlights from that discussion, Foundas has also put up the entire discussion with Nolan online on Film Comment, and it covers many fascinating topics. Numerous readers have emailed me, urging that we mention some of his more intriguing quotes, like those about the ending of The Dark Knight Rises and Batman's origins. A few of the best quotes below.

It's a massive and impressive interview, worth reading in its entirety, so I suggest visiting Film Comment to see it. Here are a few of the quotes that intrigued me, starting Nolan's interest in Batman to begin with:

"I had in mind a sort of treatment of Batman that Richard Donner might have done in the late Seventies the way he did Superman. To me what that represented was firstly a detailed telling of the origin story, which wasn’t even really definitively addressed in the comics over the years, funnily enough. And secondly, tonally I was looking for an interpretation of that character that presented an extraordinary figure in an ordinary world. So I wanted the inhabitants of Gotham to view Batman as being as outlandish and extraordinary as we do."

Nolan talks about the theatricality of his movies, and how he interacts with the audience, using IMAX:

"Yeah, absolutely. And the theatricality of opera and the larger-than-life quality of the presentation of it, but also the emotions it generates, has always sat underneath my understanding of how to make these heightened realities work. Why am I working in this genre for the audience? What does it allow me to do as a filmmaker that I couldn’t do in a more everyday universe? The answer is this operatic quality. It’s this ability to blow things up into very large emotions that are accessible to a universal audience. And it’s a very privileged position that you’re in as a filmmaker with your audience. I felt that I wasn’t getting to experience that in mainstream commercial movies at the time, so I really wanted to enjoy that as a filmmaker. I’ve had a great time with these three films, really enjoying that relationship with the audience."

"I think you’ve put your finger on it. As blockbuster filmmakers, we’re all looking to try and open up the screen for the audience, throw the audience into the movie in a way that they forget they’re watching a film. The clarity of IMAX, and the size of the screen, to me is overwhelming in a very positive way. You’re able to create an overwhelming immersive experience for the audience, really take them on a hell of a roller-coaster ride. The issue for me with 3D is that even though it’s immersive with its stereoscopic illusion, your brain is performing an unnatural optical function, converging your eyes where you’re not focusing them, and there’s a feeling in your head that it’s hard. There’s literally a feeling in your head that’s a little bit different than what you’re used to feeling, and so I find myself unable to forget that I’m watching a movie. And for me that’s a bit of a barrier."

He takes a moment to mention Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master in 70mm, praising the format still:

"I recently saw a 70mm print of The Master and I realized that, other than my own films, it’s the first photochemically finished film I’ve seen in many years, and it looks the way a movie should look. To me, it’s just a superior form. In The Dark Knight Rises, we have about 430 effects shots out of 3,000, so the idea that the tail wags the dog and then you finish the film in the digital realm is illogical. We make the 430 shots fit in with the remaining 2,500 that we timed photochemically. For that reason, I’ve never done a film with more than 500 effects shots. These films have about a third or a quarter the number of CG shots of any other film on that scale. That allows me to keep working photochemically and to make the digital effects guys print out their negatives so we actually cut the effect with its background plate on film, and we can see whether it matches."

Discussing how they build intensity in The Dark Knight Rises after "The Star-Spangled Banner" scene:

"We tried with all three films, but in the most extreme way with The Dark Knight Rises, what I call this sort of snowballing approach to action and events. We experimented with this in The Dark Knight, where the action is not based on clean and clear set pieces the way Batman Begins was, but we pushed it much further in this film. The scope and scale of the action is built from smaller pieces that snowball together so you’re cross-cutting, which I love doing, and trying to find a rhythm in conjunction with the music and the sound effects, so you’re building and building tension continuously over a long sustained part of the film, and not releasing that until the very last frame. It’s a risky strategy because you risk exhausting your audience, but to me it’s the most invigorating way of approaching the action film. It’s an approach I applied with Inception as well, to have parallel strands of tension rising and rising and then coming together. In The Dark Knight Rises, from the moment the music and sound drop and the little boy starts singing 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' it’s kind of like the gloves are coming off. I’ve been amazed and delighted how people have accepted the extremity of where things go."

And finally, Nolan discussing the very end of TDKR and the end of Nolan's Batman saga as we know it:

"For me, The Dark Knight Rises is specifically and definitely the end of the Batman story as I wanted to tell it, and the open-ended nature of the film is simply a very important thematic idea that we wanted to get into the movie, which is that Batman is a symbol. He can be anybody, and that was very important to us. Not every Batman fan will necessarily agree with that interpretation of the philosophy of the character, but for me it all comes back to the scene between Bruce Wayne and Alfred in the private jet in Batman Begins, where the only way that I could find to make a credible characterization of a guy transforming himself into Batman is if it was as a necessary symbol, and he saw himself as a catalyst for change and therefore it was a temporary process, maybe a five-year plan that would be enforced for symbolically encouraging the good of Gotham to take back their city. To me, for that mission to succeed, it has to end, so this is the ending for me, and as I say, the open-ended elements are all to do with the thematic idea that Batman was not important as a man, he’s more than that. He’s a symbol, and the symbol lives on."

Ah, lots of mysteries, and big answers, to the many questions asked about the ending of The Dark Knight Rises and continuation of Batman. However, it is safe to say that Nolan definitely won't be doing another Batman movie -- for a while at least. So what about a Bond movie in the meantime, Mr. Nolan? During the Conversation with Christopher Nolan, there were a few discussions that IndieWire recorded at the event, and one of them touched a bit on Nolan's love of and influence by Agent 007, James Bond. Via Indiewire:

"The globe trotting elements of Batman Begins mostly came from the Bond films. One of the first films I remember seeing was The Spy Who Loved Me and at a certain point the Bond films fixed in my head as a great example of scope and scale in large scale images. That idea of getting you to other places, of getting you along for a ride if you can believe in it -- in The Spy Who Loved Me the Lotus Esprit turns into a submarine and its totally convincing, and it works and you go 'Wow that's incredible.' In The Dark Knight Rises we had to do a flying vehicle for Batman, which is very daunting, but that's the challenge. It's trying to take the audience for that ride, and that was sort of my job cinematically. To speak specifically to things that had been done: if you look at what Tim Burton did, a world was created which Batman fits into it. It's this great sort of Gothic vision that's very consistent with the character of Batman. What I felt I hadn't seen was the Gotham in the comics: Gotham as an ordinary world, a world which we could live in. And so when Gotham sees Batman he's as extraordinary as he would be in our world. So (what Tim did) is place an extraordinary character in an extraordinary world. Part of the fun making the film for me was explaining these elements in real terms: Why is he wearing this costume? What does it mean? How does he get the costume? Is it just him and Alfred and the Batcave? And we started to enjoy coming up with the answers to these questions."

Lots of juicy Batman and Chris Nolan material to chew over, especially as The Dark Knight Rises arrives on Blu-ray next week. Both of these interview pieces have a lot more from Christopher Nolan, so I recommend clicking to Film Comment and/or Indiewire for more entertaining reading. Nolan is a fascinating guy and always has amazing things to say in interviews. Thanks to Scott Foundas for asking such thought-provoking questions that resulted in wonderfully in-depth answers. Now I can't wait to get my hands on the Blu-Ray to rewatch The Dark Knight Rises and examine these kind of intricate details a bit more closely.

Find more posts: Discuss, Hype, Movie News, TDKR



I always told the "theres going to be a robin" people that exact thing about the ending, now they cant dare try to argue.

Cody W on Nov 29, 2012


And people complained that Skyfall imitated Dark Knight, did anyone see Inception? That thing was 100% mind tripping James Bond fetishism. If Christopher Nolan isn't directing a Bond film in the next couple of years I'll sell you my first child.

Lincoln Smith on Nov 29, 2012


I never got the "SKYFALL imitating DARK KNIGHT" nonsense. Okay, maybe some of the effects people worked on both movies, but that's about it!

Scopedog on Dec 2, 2012


I loved the fight scenes at the end of the film between Bane and Batman, it was the most hilarious thing ever. The contrast was way turned up though and they really turned down the brightness, so that made it better. Youz stabbed Batman? You nuked up? Yeahz so whats baby ahm a da baaatmaaaaaaaaaaaan. Best filmz eva.

Carpola on Nov 29, 2012


Such a great article, even if its really just a mention of a larger one. Quote below is my favorite. "...symbolically encouraging the good of Gotham to take back their city. To me, for that mission to succeed, it has to end, so this is the ending for me, and as I say, the open-ended elements are all to do with the thematic idea that Batman was not important as a man, he’s more than that. He’s a symbol, and the symbol lives on."

Nick Sears on Nov 29, 2012


Dear Nolan, Dark Knight Rises sucked! As for what you call Visual Effects monkeys, there are plenty of digitally film features that are equal to if not better than film. All you have to do is watch David Fincher's recent films. Don't touch any more super hero films. You're not that good.

DJ on Nov 29, 2012


I'm very sorry you didn't like it. I guess everyone has their opinions...even if they're a bit slow minded.

Raymond on Nov 30, 2012


Wow...that was dumb.

Joe on Nov 30, 2012


Yes I know, I'm afraid DJ was dropped as a child so we can't blame him for his comment.

Raymond on Nov 30, 2012


Yeah. Another spew head who thinks he's working for ILM or something.... TDKR had some impressive VFX. Maybe he needs new glasses or something.....

Scopedog on Dec 2, 2012


Don't post about anymore films. You're not that good.

McMacBack on Nov 30, 2012


I love all his films including this trilogy but I agree no more comic book films. Leave the ungrateful Batfans in the past and look forward to more great films with great ideas in the future.

Maria on Nov 30, 2012


The Dark Knight Rises has received mostly positive reviews from critics. The film received an 87% approval rating from critics on aggregate site. So it is a good Movie to watch.

wewatchmoviesfree on Nov 30, 2012


Don't care what everyone says (just typical internet backlash), TDKR is a great film. And Nolan an amazing director.

Isildur_of_Numenor on Nov 30, 2012


It was shit for any immature person. Someone who doesn't watch news and politics. But I'm rather sure you fit into that group of childish people of the first waters. One day you'll understand little day. Maybe.

Raymond on Nov 30, 2012


well he did it in BB and actually he had supplies for his journey as mentioned by the other prisoner. Not too far fetched to believe the other prisoners helped him out. Use your imagination.

Maria on Nov 30, 2012


Really? Those are your hangups? You have no problem believing a man can act as a lone vigilante while dressed as a bat, but you have trouble believing someone can fix a dislocated back over the course of a couple months? Or better yet, Bruce Wayne traveling around the world without them blatantly explaining it to you? Take a step back child, and realize you are watching BATMAN. Really sad that is what you took away from the film. I think once you enter high school, and maybe graduate, you will be able to understand THEMES and better appreciate films for what they are instead of what you want. Oh wait, that is the theme of the Nolan's Batman, getting something you need, instead of something you want... go figure.

McMacBack on Nov 30, 2012


Hey, haters gotta hate....not much one can do about that.

Scopedog on Dec 2, 2012


There's nothing to accept. I loved the movie, that's it.

Isildur_of_Numenor on Nov 30, 2012


I have the same opinion, Isildur, TDKR is a great film, the Batman trilogy has a pretty well done ending. And for the people who actually didn't like the movie, I'm sorry for you guys, but you're dead inside.

Manuel on Nov 30, 2012


Indeed. The whole story comes full circle with TDKR, which elevates this particular trilogy from most franchises out there. It has an origin story, a middle based on a lie and an ending in which the truth rises. And 3 extremely memorable villains, which is always a plus 🙂

Isildur_of_Numenor on Nov 30, 2012


Yep. Nolan actually pulls off having more than one villain in both BB and TDKR, and that's not an easy thing to do.

Scopedog on Dec 2, 2012


That's true. I don't know if I want Nolan to make more Batman movies (he already said he won't anyway) because I prefer to see more original movies from him. I just hope I won't miss it too much.

Isildur_of_Numenor on Dec 3, 2012


I accept... I accept that you're dead inside.

Manuel on Nov 30, 2012


Just die already.

Raymond on Dec 2, 2012



Scopedog on Dec 2, 2012


Liked the first two Nolan-Bats movies, but TDK was disappointing. Too grim and full of holes. Anne Hathaway was good though, and I don't usually like her in anything.

castingcouch on Dec 1, 2012


I agree TDKR is a brilliant film but the ending confuses me a little. Did Nolan intend the ending to be Robin becoming Batman? if that's true then that is just f**ked up Robin can not be Batman I don't care if Batman is a symbol or not now Nightwing that's different, it would have been better if the ending carried on for an extra 2 minutes were we see John Blake stood on a rooftop in costume he hears something he jumps off the roof and that's it at least then we would have known who he would have been Batman, Robin or Nightwing.

carl on Dec 1, 2012


Rises was good but not great , no way this movie was great when Michael Caine gets cut off 25 min in the movie and supporting actors like John Blake get more screen time than batman himself

Wavychips on Dec 2, 2012


I understand that Batman can be anybody, and that John Blake is who took over, but I don't get one thing: Bruce quitting Batman is fine by me, but why do you show him in the Bat with a 5 to go countdown with an Atom Bomb aboard, with no real proof he wasn't in the Bat (because you can clearly see him in it) and then just say, with a few added hints, that he made it? Why was his sacrifice needed if all he did was just get up and leave the scene with Selina? And one of the points in the movie was Alfred asking why they couldn't "let the truth have its stay". Bruce (as Batman) faking his death and then running off isn't exactly the truth is it? Jonathan Nolan said that the ending being open (as in he is there at the end, but is also with a Atom Bomb with 5 to go; hinting a death and ultimate happiness ending) is how it was intended, but most people seem convinced he lived. I don't understand that, and I want proof from the directors and writers. Does this interview seem to confirm how that happened? The symbol living on part definitely makes sense; Batman kept on going no matter what Bruce was up to wasn't hard to get, and I caught that the entire series that Bruce wanted out. It just doesn't make sense to me that he was with the Bomb and then suddenly is just fine at the end.

Daniel Curtis on Dec 5, 2012


Yes, but in Batman Begins they train him to cheat people, to dissapear in the shadows. I know that they didn't train him to escape nuclear bombs, but he is trained to dissapear without nobody knowing about it and that is what he did in the end. He escaped the impossible, again, because he is Batman.

Francis Reed on Dec 24, 2012

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