This article originally ran in 2014 and has been updated.
Welcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection in the abstract. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. This time, we sort through the best and worst of Hollywood’s greatest hope for original blockbuster filmmaking.
I saw Memento twice in theaters. The first was due to the great reviews it was getting early on and the fact that it starred the great Guy Pearce. The second was after walking out of Pearl Harbor about 10 minutes in — just after the dogfight scene, if I recall correctly — and into the theater next door to revisit the work of a young genius named Christopher Nolan. I thought to myself, I hope this guy sticks around.
And he has. In just over two decades, his movies have featured cops, magicians, thieves, and Jokers. He’s shot in both black and white and color (sometimes in the same movie), showed us dreams and death, and given us a whole lot of Michael Caine. He not only resurrected a franchise from the depths of a nippled-batsuit-hell, but also created the greatest comic book movie of all time.
Critics agree that Christopher Nolan is one of the great modern filmmakers — and you’ll see why ahead.
— Justin Gerber
11. Following (1998)
Runtime: 1 hr. 9 min.
Press Release: A young London writer, Bill, starts following people around to see if he can drum up inspiration for his fledgling writing, learn about human behavior, and, more importantly, characterization.
Cast: Jeremy Theobald, Alex Haw, Lucy Russell, John Nolan
“Yeah, but is Michael Caine in it?”: Well, the budget of Following was an estimated $6,000 bucks. According to IMDB, Caine was paid $250,000 for Gambit, in 1966. Taking inflation into account, I suppose I understand why Caine couldn’t make an appearance in this micro-budget brain-buster.
Career Charge: Considering Theobald, Haw, and Russell barely had careers beyond this film, it’s a safe bet (approximately $3 billion and counting in box office) to say that this film launched the career of the young Brit who handled the shooting, editing, producing, writing, and directing behind Following, Christopher Jonathan James Nolan.
Best Shot: Is it fair game to talk about the last shot of a film that came out 16 years ago when many still haven’t seen it? Read the next bits, but we’ll just throw up the ol’ SPOILER: After tricking poor Bill (Theobald) into being his rube, murdering the blonde, and basically getting away with everything, Nolan frames an ace long shot of Cobb (Haw), standing alone in the crowd by himself, and as just enough people appear in the foreground, poof, he disappears. Sneaky, competent stuff right there.
Non-Linear Notes: Nolan took a chance by employing a non-linear structure to his tiny film (an editing style that he’d later use in Memento, Batman Begins, and The Prestige), which reveal his interests in withholding information, subjectively playing with his characters and forcing audiences to evaluate his work a little harder than usual. Nolan allegedly became interested in non-normative, parallel structures in storytelling after reading Graham Swift’s Waterland at age 16, and he never looked back. The old DVD and new Criterion allows for viewing the movie in chronological order, which really amplifies how impressive the film actually is. Instead of clear definitions for characters and stories, you get to follow arcs into legitimate surprises.
Bat-Fan? It’s blink or you’ll miss it moment, but as Bill and Cobb leave one of the apartments they’re raiding, a nice Batman emblem can be seen. It’s likely not career foreshadowing for Nolan, everybody likes The Dark Knight, but how cool of a connection is that?
“Nah. Look at the books. They’re college educated.”: After graduating from University College London, Nolan made Following over the course of a year on weekends. He personally financed the film, and made it with friends after getting zero traction with UK financiers for projects he pitched in the late ‘90s. Nolan came up with the concept for Following after his apartment was burgled, and he began to wonder what could be going through the minds of home intruders while they rummage through people’s personal, private spaces. It shows in some of the film’s more casual and crackling dialogue. When Cobb explains to Bill why he breaks into people’s homes, he asserts that it’s not for the money, but “for the adrenalin, and because, like you, I’m interested in people.” Nolan’s literally explaining what goes through the minds of people, a concept that would be a staple of his talkative filmography.
Analysis: Following is primarily a heady little doodle; an exercise in process and likely just learning how to make a movie. That said, as far as first features go, Nolan showed infinite potential, and his own particular interests, what with the film’s curious themes, attention to detail, and early mastery of non-linear narrative. It’s unpolished and raw and hungry and it makes for great indie viewing.
— Blake Goble
10. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Runtime: 2 hr. 45 min.
Press Release: The epic conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Dark Knight Trilogy.
Cast: Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
“Yeah, but is Michael Caine in it?”: Hardly. Bruce Wayne’s trusty protector, Alfred Pennyworth, appears for maybe 15 whole minutes. Still, you get to see the ol’ bird shed some tears, and that’s a priceless if not heartbreaking moment.
Career Charge: Mr. Matthew Modine, come on down! Up until this point, the Full Metal Jacket and Bye Bye Love star had been swimming in mediocrity, with the exception of a recurring role on Weeds and an appearance in HBO’s forgettable film, Too Big to Fail. As Deputy Commissioner Peter Foley, Modine does what he can with the underwritten character, injecting enough comic skepticism towards Commissioner Gordon for audiences to hate the guy.
Regardless of his weak arc, he does manage to find his own redemption by the film’s final act, leading a charge against Bane’s henchmen in what might be the most ludicrous scene in the entire Dark Knight trilogy. “There’s only one police in this town,” he declares before succumbing to one lame send-off. How could Nolan do that to Private Joker? …. Ah, I see what he did there.
Best Shot: It’s hard to shake off the brutal confrontation between Bane and Batman. Nolan keeps things claustrophobic with plenty of close shots, which really heightens the stakes at hand. One iconic shot, used rather liberally in the trailers, pops up when a soaked Batman raises his fists at a lingering Bane. It’s easy to miss because the scene itself is littered with multiple background-worthy images, from the painful shattering of Batman’s mask to the way Bane hoists his crumpled body over his head. The film revolves around these tense few minutes and Nolan truly used his magic here. Watch it again, if you dare.
“Hey, can we get some girls in here!?”
Look What the Cat Dragged In: Though she’s never officially referred to as Catwoman in the film — despite the onslaught of marketing prior — Anne Hathaway rises above the title by embracing the role of Selina Kyle, instead. She’s resourceful, curious, aggressive, and feisty, scratching up each scene with feral nihilism. The chemistry she has with Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne is quite palpable, too, which is intriguing given how little screen time the two share with one another. While Michelle Pfeiffer will always be the definitive Catwoman, Hathaway certainly lived up to the hype as Ms. Kyle. So much so that Warner Bros. would champion her performance (albeit meekly) come awards season.
“Some men just want to watch the world burn”: As the nation’s obsessed raced to midnight showings across the country, 24-year-old James Eagan Holmes walked into the Century 16 cinema in Aurora, CO and opened fire. He killed 12 people, injured 70 others, and identified himself as “the Joker” to the authorities when he was apprehended. In response, Bale visited the survivors while Nolan issued an emotional statement, which contained a line that pretty much said it all: “The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.” Not surprisingly, there were at least five other loosely-related incidents across America in the days following, from alleged vocal threats to armed theatergoers.
“I won’t bury another Batman”: No, Batman doesn’t die. Prior to the film’s release, rumors circulated online that Bats would bite the dust, especially when the screenplay was revealed to be sourcing material from 1993’s “Knightfall” storyline, Frank Miller’s grim The Dark Knight Returns, and the semi post-apocalyptic “No Man’s Land.” Still, things are quite dire throughout the film’s near-three hour experience: Bane breaks Batman’s back, Gotham is nearly destroyed, and both Gordon and Alfred wind up “burying” Bruce Wayne, making Rises the rare unforgiving third entry in a trilogy. Despite all that, however, the tension never comes close to matching its predecessor, The Dark Knight…
Analysis: …which was always going to be a problem, right? The 2008 critical and commercial beast shattered every filmgoer’s expectations of what a Batman movie or a sequel in general could be. It came at a time when Nolan was just starting to realize the world was his oyster, and that expansive scope explains why he can get away with shifting the action between Gotham City and somewhere far out like Hong Kong.
By comparison, Rises attempts the same tricks — look no further than its 007-inspired opening aboard a plane — but ultimately loses its grasp, tackling larger-than-life action sequences that shatter any sense of realism established in The Dark Knight. What’s worse, Tom Hardy is simply an agreeable villain rather than a haunting figure like the late Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance as the iconic Joker.
There’s also a breakneck pace to the film, as if Nolan couldn’t wait to sign off from the beloved franchise, which might explain why there’s little logic from beginning to end. Not surprisingly, he’s since expressed his elation to be finished with superhero movies, distancing himself further and further from Warner Bros.’ grand design for DC.
Here’s hoping he one day revisits the series and we can see Mr. Gordon-Levitt don the cape. But don’t hold your breath.
— Michael Roffman
09. Insomnia (2002)
Runtime: 1 hr. 58 min.
Press Release: A shady cop begins to lose it as he investigates a murder in a small Alaskan town, thanks to a combination of remorse and the summer solstice.
Cast: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank
“Yeah, but is Michael Caine in it?”: Believe it or not, Michael Caine is nowhere to be found in Insomnia. He is not under any snowbanks. He is not hiding under the bridge where Pacino and Williams meet. If he had been cast in the film, I imagine it would have been as Chief Nyback, who was instead portrayed by the great Paul Dooley. Have you seen him in Breaking Away? Let me sabotage this feature by suggesting you go watch Breaking Away.
Career Charge: Since his Oscar win for Good Will Hunting, the late Robin Williams had been toiling away in weepie fare like Bicentennial Man, Patch Adams, and What Dreams May Come. This movie not only took him away from such, but showed another depth to his possibilities as an actor. His darkly comedic turn in Death to Smoochy is stripped of any humor here in his performance of Walter Finch, a novelist-turned-killer. One-Hour Photo was released the same year, which also featured the funnyman in creep mode. Insomnia is the better film, but Williams’ performance in Photo is not to be dismissed.
Best Shot: Simply put, the very beginning. We see a microscopic shot of a red substance spreading across fabric. This isn’t done simply for the sake of an inventive visual — it ends up being a major part of the film.
Re-Make/Re-Model: Nolan’s 2002 film is a remake of a 1997 Norwegian film with the same title. While the main plot remains the same, Nolan’s version paints his protagonist Dormer (Pacino) in a slightly darker shade, with Internal Affairs investigating him back home. We’re wondering whether or not he’s a dirty cop before he even lands in Alaska. The original film stars Stellan Skarsgård in the role of Engström, and had he reprised his role in the American version, we could have seen another showdown between him and Williams (Good Will Hunting). This movie needs some Lambeau/Sean action!:
Lambeau: “Oh, God. Is this about the Field Medal? I’ll go home and get it for you. You can have it.”
Sean: “You know what? You can shove your medal up your fucking ass!”
Okay. Maybe not.
Working With a Bunch of Non No-Names: From a Nolan interview with DVDTalk: “It’s certainly very daunting to work with actors you’ve grown up watching your whole life. Certainly in the case of Pacino you’re talking about The Godfather, Scarface, Serpico, and all these movies. It was certainly daunting in theory. What I found with Al and Robin and Hillary Swank is you realize very early on in the process the reason these actors have achieved what they’ve achieved is because they’re tremendously talented, but they’re also very professional. They understand more than anybody about the process of filmmaking and what your job is as a director. I found it actually to be really, tremendously exciting once we started working.”
Before Zimmer, There Was Julyan: The great thing about composer David Julyan’s scores for early Nolan films is how minimalistic they are. Take the opening and closing of Insomnia for example. These pieces of music don’t knock you over the head. They’re always present without changing too much, much like the ever-present sunlight that is slowly breaking down Will Dormer. Hans Zimmer’s contributions to the Nolan filmography are great, but hopefully the director will reteam with Julyan one of these days.
Analysis: This was Nolan’s big break for a big studio with big-name actors, and he passes with flying colors. The key to his success is found in the casting of, and ultimately the performances by, his two leads. Williams and Pacino had become more than a little comfortable playing it for the back row, but Insomnia demands them to play it a bit more muted. Pacino deliberately sleepwalks through his performance while his enemy Williams relishes playing the observer. Nolan sacrificed nothing by making the leap, and Warner Bros. wouldn’t forget when looking for a director to help re-launch their Batman franchise.
08. Interstellar (2014)
Runtime: 2 hr. 49 min.
Press Release: In the near future, when globally destructive dust storms push Earth closer to uninhabitable status by the day, a skilled ex-astronaut is enlisted as part of a secret task force to explore the depths of space and time, in hopes of finding another planet in the galaxy which could allow humanity to continue.
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Mackenzie Foy, David Gyasi, Michael Caine, Timothee Chalamet, Bill Irwin, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, John Lithgow
“Yeah, but is Michael Caine in it?” Interstellar offers a Nolan-Caine twofer; not only does the venerable actor play a key role as the scientist behind the ambitious (and dangerous) expedition, but he also plays what may be his most unlikable character in any of their actor-director collaborations. His eventual conclusion that Earth and most of its inhabitants will die, and that only an ark of embryos can sustain the species, is as horrifying as it is brutally practical.
Career Charge: Aside from the fact that Chastain will likely find herself beset by loud invocations of “MUUUUUUURPH” for the rest of her career, Interstellar was the end cap to a major year for McConaughey, who won an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club and delivered an unforgettable, chest-beating turn in The Wolf of Wall Street before cementing his return to the A-list with his powerful work here.
Best Shot: There are a number of devastating images throughout the film, from McConaughey’s famously sobbing face as he watches his children grow through 23 years in a series of videotapes to that haunting final image of Hathaway alone on a solitary planet, waiting for salvation or the release of death. But the one that lasts the longest for us arrives when the Endurance passes through the wormhole, dragging its crew out of anything that might ever be familiar again and into previously uncharted corners of the unknown universe. (Or at least they believe so.)
Non-Linear Notes: For as strange as Interstellar ends up being by the end of its near-three hour runtime, in a storytelling sense, it may be one of Nolan’s more straightforward films until around twenty or so more minutes from the end. The abstract horrors of the greater universe are distilled down into something an audience can at least follow, if not fully understand. At least, that is, until Nolan breaks the boundaries of quantum physics by suspending Cooper and TARS in a gigantic time paradox, at which point all of those strange occurrences and dust lines in the film’s early scenes finally come full circle. It’s only when the film untethers itself from all known boundaries of science that it finally comes to resemble the disorienting narrative manipulations for which Nolan has become known.
Bourne on the Waves of Time: Much has been made of the close proximity of two very different Matt Damon performances as astronauts; where his stranded Mars explorer in The Martian is a far more sympathetic figure, he more or less shows up to ruin everything around the middle point of Interstellar. But to have his appearance even be such a surprise is remarkable in and of itself, particularly in an era where spoilers and set-photo leaks are something of an Internet currency. But thanks to Nolan’s tight-lipped methods of film production, only one Variety article ever so much as teased that the star would play a pivotal role in how the film ends up playing out. And he ends up being such an incorrigible shit that it’s hard to feel bad for him, even after all of his isolation and suffering, when he zealously ejects himself into the vacuum of space.
Extra-terrestrials: Although the film’s dramatic, paradoxical climax cements the presence of other intelligent life, we can’t help but wonder how Interstellar might have been presented if left in the hands originally meant to bring it to life: Steven Spielberg. As far back as 2006, Spielberg was attached to the project with Jonathan Nolan still writing the screenplay. But when the director left to pursue other interests, it was Christopher who took over. You can still see some of the director’s DNA in the finished film, from the emotional family dynamics at its center to the presence of a highly divisive ending.
Analysis: Interstellar offers a version of Earth’s future that pulls off the difficult balance of at once being practical enough to exist within the realm of plausibility, but surreal enough to sustain Nolan’s grand ambitions. Though the filmmaker has worked on an increasingly large scale for years, here is the first film where he takes a true swing at the heady overwhelm of a true epic, for better and worse. From Hans Zimmer’s deafening, overwhelming score to the broad emotional scale of the film’s take on far-flung worlds, there isn’t a single aspect of Interstellar that aims anywhere short of the absolute heights of cinema. This is a big part of why the film’s expository screenplay (one that’s sometimes clunkily so) has become a matter of major debate in the years since its release. For every scene on the level of Cooper’s realization that he missed a sizable portion of his children’s lives in an instant, there’s a lead-footed line in the vein of the early mention that “You were a great scientist and a great pilot, Cooper!”
Yet what makes Interstellar such an essential and well-loved modern film is the way in which it takes some of sci-fi’s oldest and most difficult concepts (time paradoxes, worlds beyond comprehension, humanity in places it was never meant to exist) and tethers them to one of the simplest and oldest stories of them all: love as a force of absolute transcendence. It’s easy to roll one’s eyes at, but it’s also arguably lazy to do so. What Nolan accomplishes with the film only grows more staggering upon reflection, when you realize that the director made the kind of movie that most studios won’t even touch, with as big a budget as any summer blockbuster, and made it accessible to audiences who might never otherwise watch such a thing. It stands as definitive proof that Nolan can accomplish pretty much anything he sets his mind to, no matter how jagged the edges.
— Dominick Suzanne-Mayer
07. Tenet (2020)
Runtime: 2 hr. 30 min.
Press Release: When artifacts from a future World War make their way to the present, a secret agent is sent on a time-bending mission to save the world.
Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Brannagh, Dimple Kapadia
“Yeah, but is Michael Caine in it?”: Just barely, but oh, is it good while it lasts. Caine plays British intelligence officer Sir Michael Crosby, who meets with The Protagonist (Washington) to discuss post-nuclear arms dealer Andrei Sator (Brannagh) over a spot of lunch. The whole scene runs for under three minutes, but it’s more than enough to get a good dose of the ever-delightful Caine. It’s also bookended by two hilarious clashes between American wit and British snobbery…or perhaps it’s British high-class and American vulgarity?
Career Charge: Maybe career recharge would be more fitting. Ever since he finished his role as the teenage-vampire heartthrob Edward Cullen, Robert Pattinson has been working hard to keep his Twilight years from becoming his… twilight years (sorry). Possibly in an effort to escape the trap of a boring, typecast Hollywood career, Pattinson has starred in a string of well-received independent films over the years, including the Safdie brother’s Good Time (2017) and Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse (2018). He’s completely transformed and revitalized his resume, demonstrating his exceptional range as an actor beyond his devilishly good looks.
Furthermore, Tenet marks Pattinson’s full-form return to blockbusters. His performance as the charming, mysterious handler Neil is easily a highlight of the entire film, and it puts him in an excellent position to take on the demanding role of Bruce Wayne in the upcoming Batman reboot.
Best Shot: As is to be expected of a Nolan film about time literally moving backwards, there are a lot of mind-boggling shots in Tenet. But there’s one scene early on, long before any of Nolan’s entropy-inverting, time-reversing hijinks are revealed, that is just absolutely stunning: After The Protagonist and a fellow CIA member are captured by Russian mercenaries during a botched extraction operation, they are taken to a railyard to be tortured and interrogated. When the mercenaries finish with his partner, they turn their attention to The Protagonist and take out the cyanide pill hidden in his mouth.
At this point, we’re given a close-up shot of the bruised-and-abused Protagonist, framed between two trains moving in opposite directions, as he tries to think of an alternative to the pill. It’s already dizzying enough watching a man try so desperately to find a way to end his own life, but the trains really add to the whirling visual spectacle. Of course, the movement of the trains also foreshadow the film’s fundamental temporal premise.
AREPO TENET OPERA: Many of the most important names in Tenet are taken from a palindromic Latin word square known as the SATOR square. The square can be read the same way left-to-right, right-to-left, top-to-bottom, and bottom-to-top. It looks something like this:
S A T O R
A R E P O
T E N E T
O P E R A
R O T A S
The film begins in the Kiev Opera house, the main antagonist is Andrei Sator, the freeport settings are protected by Rotas Security, there is an offscreen art forger known as Arepo, and everything in the film seems to tie back to the shadowy titular organization Tenet. In real life, the SATOR square has appeared all throughout history and all over the world. The earliest known instance of it was found in the ruins of Pompeii. Over the centuries, the square has carried Christian, magical, and other pre-Christian associations. The SATOR square is certainly a cool thing to draw inspiration from, and it’s palindromic nature mirrors the temporal action of the film. Whether or not there’s some deeper meaning remains to be known. (Of course, Nolan has been known to include allusions to mythical and religious figures in his films, such as the 12 astronauts — 12 Apostles — in Interstellar.)
You might need a little extra help: Tenet is seriously hard to follow at times. While it’s more than enjoyable without fully understanding what’s going on temporally, it’ll take multiple viewings to really start to understand the intricacies of it’s time-bending action. Thankfully, a YouTuber by the name of Welby CoffeeSpill has created a series of 3D animations that help break down some of the most complex sequences. Check them out — your brain will really thank you for it:
Even the music plays with time: The team behind Tenet really committed to the whole forwards-in-time, backwards-in-time thematic device, even down to the music. While composing the film’s soundtrack, Ludwig Göransson studied and played around with retrograde composition, the technique of writing melodic lines that are the reverse of other melodic lines played previously or simultaneously. He also experimented with digitally reversing instruments and sound effects, and would sometimes ask his musicians to read and play music backwards as well. Pretty cool stuff. Oh, and Travis Scott shows up for the end credits, and that’s pretty cool, too.
Analysis: Tenet is a highly entertaining blockbuster, but it also has quite a bit to say about the human condition. After successfully saving the world from the big bad, The Protagonist and his partner Neil are only able to celebrate briefly, as it is revealed that Neil must reverse himself, go back in time, and ultimately sacrifice himself in order for everything that just happened to actually happen (it’s confusing, I know). Neil explains that it was actually The Protagonist who recruited him in the past, and that what he sees as the ending of a long friendship is only just the beginning for The Protagonist.
It’s a heart-wrenching predicament, wherein each of the two only knows the extent of their friendship and love for half of their total time together. But before he marches towards his inevitable demise, Neil describes his sacrifice as an “expression of faith in the mechanics of the world.” This line seems to be the thesis statement for the film, and it was made all the more resonant by the COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed Tenet three times. As the pandemic continues to change the world as we know it, we could all use a little faith.
— Curtis Sun
06. Batman Begins (2005)
Runtime: 2 hr. 21 min.
Press Release: The origin story of The Dark Knight.
Cast: Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Gary Oldman, Katie Holmes
Yeah, but is Michael Caine in it? Yes! ‘Ello, Alfred.
Career Charge: Rutger Hauer is a Dutch character actor whom you might remember as the gravelly-voiced villain in Blade Runner, Nighthawks, and Sin City. His role in Batman Begins is a small but crucial one; as Wayne Enterprises CEO William Earle, he’s basically the Miranda Priestley of the joint, plotting a company takeover from rightful heir Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) and firing Board member Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) with the delicious line, “Didn’t you get the memo?” Memo to Hollywood: Keep casting this guy.
Best Shot: The introductory installment of Nolan’s inspired franchise reboot is full of thrilling “firsts,” with Bruce scaling a snow-covered mountain in Tibet (actually Iceland), discovering the Batcave and debuting the Batmobile in Gotham City (hey there, Chicago!) being just a few of the highlights. But the most spine-tingly shot comes in the final scene, when Detective Gordon (Gary Oldman) shows Batman the “calling card” of the Joker. It’s a subtle and fleeting moment, but also one of the most exciting teasers for a comic book film sequel in recent memory. My theatre erupted in applause when Gordon turned the card over, having no idea at the time how immensely gratifying The Dark Knight would be. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it.
Alternate History: Although Bale was the first actor to meet with Nolan, he still faced some stiff competition to play the caped crusader. Jake Gyllenhaal, Billy Crudup, Hugh Dancy, Eion Bailey, Cillian Murphy (whose audition Nolan liked so much, he cast him as Dr. Jonathon Crane/Scarecrow), Joshua Jackson, Henry Cavill (now Superman in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel and upcoming Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice), Keanu Reeves and Ashton Kutcher (the studio favorite) were also strong contenders, with Angel’s David Boreanez being the original first choice and Josh Hartnett reportedly turning down the role when the project was in early development.
#ByeKatie: Interestingly, the role of Rachel Dawes, a character that does not exist in Batman or any other DC Comics’ series, was written expressly for Katie Holmes, with Claire Danes and Reese Witherspoon being the backup considerations. Rachel McAdams and Sarah Michelle Gellar also auditioned for the part, while Amy Adams, who would go on to play Lois Lane in Man of Steel, read opposite Bale in his screen test. Sticking with Holmes may not have been the best idea, however, as most critics were unimpressed by her performance and audiences didn’t bat an eye when she skipped The Dark Knight due to “scheduling conflicts” and Maggie Gyllenhaal stepped in to replace her. And yes, that is a #ByeFelicia reference.
The Blade Runner Connection: Before shooting began, Nolan invited his entire film crew to a private screening of Blade Runner. Afterwards he told them, “This is how we’re going to make Batman.”
Analysis: Begins marked the dawn of a new era for superhero films, and in terms of adding Oscar-worthy gravitas to what could just have easily been another silly popcorn flick, revitalized the genre. While previous franchises (Burton and Schumacher’s Batman series, Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy) were more flashy and cartoonish, and eventually sputtered to embarrassing ends—remember Batman & Robin and Spiderman 3?—Nolan’s spin on The Dark Knight’s origin story signaled the start of something darker, grittier, and more compelling, narratively and visually, than anything that had come before.
— Leah Pickett