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Christopher Nolan on Tackling Batman Before Superhero Films Became ‘Engines of Commerce’

Studios control comic book movies in a way they didn't when Nolan mounted his "Dark Knight" trilogy.

"Batman Begins"

“Batman Begins”

Warner Bros.

Christopher Nolan’s promotional tour for Tom Shore’s new book “The Nolan Variations” continued this week with a lively virtual discussion presented by 92Y. The “Tenet” and “Inception” Oscar nominee sat down with Shore and Entertainment Weekly senior writer Clark Collis to chat about what it’s like having his career defined and examined on the pages of Shore’s book.

Among the chat’s most enlightening moments was when Nolan expressed relief in mounting his “Dark Knight” trilogy when he did. “Batman Begins” went into production in March 2004 and was released the follower year, three years before the MCU-launching “Iron Man” and Nolan’s own “The Dark Knight” turned the comic book genre into the studio system’s crown jewel.

“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.”

With no pre-existing template to follow and with comic book films not an established genre yet, Nolan said he was able to develop the “Dark Knight” trilogy “with a lot of creative freedom and show the studio this is what it can be.” As a result, developing the “Dark Knight” trilogy came without the studio interference that often meets comic book films these days.

“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.”

Tom Shore’s “The Nolan Variations” is now available for purchase.

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