On October 29, Christopher Nolan’s next Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” will begin shooting in New York City. The production, under the masked title “Magnus Rex,” is scheduled for 14 days of shooting in the Big Apple, and some of this filming could involve the Occupy Wall Street protesters. According to Stephen Zeitchik of the LA Times, an anonymous source associated with the film claims casting notices mention the possibility of shooting “a city besieged by crime and corruption,” amidst the OWS crowd, but the purpose is unknown. As are details on whether or not they’d be paid for their work as extras. Some are saying it could be good publicity for the movement, yet it could also be seen as exploitation by a corporate power.
If this is true, it could be a great tribute, unintentionally or not, to Haskell Wexler’s classic doc/drama hybrid “Medium Cool,” in which fictional characters and narrative are integrated into the actual demonstrations occurring during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The obviously part-improvised feature includes footage of rioting, which Wexler had anticipated, and the film’s actors were really arrested, while the filmmaker suffered being shot with teargas. This is a film that has greatly influenced my appreciations of both documentary and fiction films, and I’d love if “TDKR” featured similar use of nonfiction within its story, though I’m sure Warner Bros. wouldn’t be okay with any violence or incarceration.
Mimicking Wexler’s film will get my attention and interest but this isn’t necessarily an easy way to garner my favor. A sort of remake of “Medium Cool” was attempted in 2004, when documentarian Stephen Marshall shot “This Revolution” during the Republican National Convention in NYC. And while I appreciated the intent, the scripted elements and some of the acting from the likes of Rosario Dawson and Brendan Sexton III, did not fit with the nonfiction parts. It’s not just that unknown actors and non-actors are better suited for this kind of integration, but generally a greater talent for realism is necessary for mixing with actual reality.
That said, something as completely fantastic as a superhero movie might actually work well with documentary material. Not that a Batman movie could be as confused for straight documentary as much of “Medium Cool” can be, even if Nolan’s version of the comic book franchise is supposed to be more on the realistic side. I’m anxious to see if this goes down, how the protesters will respond and what the finished scene will look like when the movie hits theaters next summer.
Now all we need is for Frank Zappa to return and perform with Mothers of Invention in “The Dark Knight Rises” too.