My Bat-ticipation has been kicked in to high gear since the announcement several months ago that Chris Nolan and his brother had completed the script for the third film in Nolan’s Batman Begins series. Stars are aligning, schedules are floating, and everyone and their dog thinks they have the inside scoop on the plot.
I can play that game, too.
Rumors and speculation, ahoy!
Rumor: The new film is titled The Dark Knight Rises. Potential truthiness: Total. The studio says yes, that’s the title, but Bale claimed while promoting his new film The Fighter that he wasn’t sure that would be the final title, saying that he’d wait until he “heard it from Chris.” The title is officially entered on IMDB as The Dark Knight Rises and I’d tend to think at this point will likely not change.
Rumor: Scripts will go to the actors in January, principal photography will begin in May, and the film will be in the can by November. Potential truthiness: This comes directly from Michael Caine, who is delightful and talented and a gift to generations of moviegoers, and who could still easily be completely wrong. Shooting will take place in New Orleans, which will give Gotham a seamier, heavier look than the crispy, boxy look of the grim Chicago Gotham we’ve seen in the last two films. The tragic poverty in the Ninth Ward would be a realistic backdrop for action in the Narrows, too.
Rumor: The Riddler will be the chief antagonist. Potential truthiness: Practically nil. This long shopped-around speculation has been pretty much permanently tabled due to some of the following rumors.
Rumor: Tom Hardy has been cast in the film. Potential truthiness: 100%, apparently. Awesome. The guy has great action chops and his looks are total female fan service. Aces in my book. The question of who he will play is where things get dicey for me.
Rumor: Tom Hardy will play Dr. Hugo Strange. Potential truthiness: Fair to middling — I’d say this rumor is at least on the right track, if not outright true. One of the first villains in the original DC comics, Dr. Strange is, in recent incarnations, a police psychologist who develops a bad case of bat-mania.
In the Legends of the Dark Knight comic series, in an arc which takes place roughly contemporaneous to the events of Year One, Long Halloween, etc., from whose stories the Nolans have taken inspiration in the first two films, Dr. Strange is employed by the Gotham City Police Department to help develop a profile of Batman in order to bring him to justice. The search is lead — and, of course, secretly hampered — by newly-promoted Commissioner James Gordon. The timing works out great and the plots match up well with where we left off in The Dark Knight. In fact …
Rumor: The Dark Knight Rises is based on the Prey arc from the Legends of the Dark Knight line. Potential truthiness: Somewhere between somewhat likely and “it would be a good idea if it is true.” This is a very recent rumor. Like, last week. It’s a plausible and good suggestion for the plot, but so was a fourth Spider-Man movie with Lizard as the villain and instead it’s back to high school like frigging chumps. I am cautiously optimistic about this rumor.
In the Prey story, Dr. Hugo Strange initially seeks to find Batman, who is Gotham’s Public Enemy No. 1 at this time, but grows to seek to be Batman, even successfully supplanting the vigilante and pulling some pretty whack shenanigans. He accomplishes this in part by brainwashing a fellow find-the-bat task force member, the mouthbreathing leg-breaker Sgt. Max Cort. Dr. Strange grooms Cort to become a vigilante, called Night Scourge, to flush Batman out of hiding.
This aspect of the plot dovetails very reasonably with the vigi-wanna-bes we saw plaguing Gotham City at the beginning of The Dark Knight. In the comic, Cort eventually kidnaps the mayor’s daughter under hynoptic suggestion from Strange. We met the mayor in the last film (Richard Alpert from Lost — that guy seriously gets around) so this, too, has conceivably got some decent groundwork already laid.
Rumor that I am starting: If the former rumor is true, and the plot is based on Prey, then Tom Hardy is likelier playing Sgt. Cort than Dr. Strange. Potential truthiness: Probably zero. What the heck do I know? It’s just how I’d do it. The guy’s hunky and action-star-looking. He just seems a better fit for young, fit Max Cort than Hugo Strange, who is older, has a bald egg head, a phatty beard, and weird sunglasses. I’m admittedly coming at this from a shallow place: I really hope not to watch handsome Tom Hardy’s good looks get hopelessly mutilated to play the puppetmaster part. I’d rather see him play a hot hypnotized mouthbreather than shave his head again like he did for Bronson. I’m very shallow.
Hardy as British criminal Charles Bronson in Bronson.
Rumor: Six actresses have been auditioned for two female roles. Reports are that one role is Bruce’s love interest and the other is a villain. The actresses are Natalie Portman, Anne Hathaway, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts, Kiera Knightly, and, for some implausible reason, Blake Lively. Potential truthiness: Pfft. These same names, except Lively, and sometimes Marion Cotillard and Angelina Jolie, have been getting tossed around since before the script was even finished. It’s just fantasy comic movie casting — we all do it, and until I see a picture of Anne Hathaway and Natalie Portman sitting beside Christopher Nolan holding folders that say “Top Secret Batman 3 Screen Test Script,” I have no reason to believe that those names should get any more credence than the ones I come up with myself in the car at long red lights.
Now, the rumors about the characters are new and much more interesting. Catwoman does enter the Prey story; tantalizingly, so does the Scarecrow in a later Strange arc in the Legends of the Dark Knight series (more Cillian Murphy? yes, please). And I’ve been saying for, like, three years that it’s time for some Talia Al-Ghul up in this piece. I even said she should be played by Rachel Weisz.
Besides old and easily wrong favorites like Catwoman and Talia, other potential female characters being floated around are Julie Madison, the Year One actress and early girlfriend of Bruce Wayne, which has a strong possibility of being true, and Detective Sarah Essen, who was not Bruce’s but Jim Gordon’s love interest (he cheats on his wife, Barbara, who we’ve seen a bit of in the last two films) at an earlier point in Batman: Year One. I don’t see it. First of all, Sarah popped up when Gordon was still a lieutenant, which ship has now sailed thanks to his promotion into Commisioner Loeb’s old spot — you need Loeb around and alive for the thing to work because it was his discovery of the affair and subsequent efforts to blackmail Essen and Gordon that lead to Essen ending the affair and leaving for New York — and the whole sad affair thing does not really fit with the Gordon we’ve been given so far in these films. Unless they are planning to change everything we think we know about Jim Dandy, or divorce or kill off Barbara (he did eventually marry Sarah after he and Barbara had been divorced), I don’t think that Ms. Essen will be appearing in the Nolanverse anytime soon.
Oh, man, I’m tired of doing this. I got more to say about the Scarecrow angle but I’ll have to come back to all of it later.