LOS ANGELES -- "The Dark Knight Rises," it's safe to say, is the most anticipated film of the year. It will certainly be the biggest.
It's the final film in the trilogy that opened with 2005's "Batman Begins" and continued in 2008's "The Dark Knight." Director Christopher Nolan rebooted the Batman franchise to wildly successful new heights. His series has been not only a commercial hit, but a critical one, too. It's unlikely it would have won over both audiences had it been just another comic book adaptation. Many felt "The Dark Knight" addressed our deepest post-9/11 fears. You might say "The Dark Knight Rises" imagines what would happen if Occupy Wall Street managed to occupy the whole of New York, the city with the same nickname as Batman's home: Gotham.
But Nolan, who co-wrote the film with his brother Jonathan, is quick to dismiss the notion that his work contains "grand themes" of the sort critics love to discover and discuss.
"To be perfectly honest, we really try to resist, at the script stage, being drawn into specific themes, specific messages," he says when I ask him about the ideas dramatized in the film. "Really, these films are about entertainment; really, they are about story and character. But what we do is we try and be very sincere in the things that frighten us or motivate us or would worry us when you're looking at, 'Okay, what's the threat to the civilization that we take for granted?' "
"The Dark Knight Rises" might be the most relevant film of our time. But Nolan practically insists it's just a coincidence.
"Resonances that people find or that happen to occur with what's going on in the real world, to me they come about really as a result of us just living in the same world that we all do and trying to construct scenarios that move us or terrify us, in the case of a villain like Bane and what he might do to the world."
This final film might seem to be inspired by Occupy Wall Street, but in fact, it seems the Nolans predicted the movement -- with the help of, if you can believe it, Charles Dickens.
"Chris and David [Goyer, who receives a story credit] started developing the story in 2008, right after the second film came out. Before the recession, before Occupy Wall Street, or any of that. Rather than being influenced by that, I was looking to old, good books and good movies," recalls Jonathan Nolan, who says he often looks to "good literature for inspiration."
The plot came out of a desire to take the trilogy down with a bang -- which happens to be exactly what most fans desire. Nolan explains, "What I always felt like we needed to do in a third film was, for lack of a better term, go there. All of these films have threatened to turn Gotham inside out and to collapse it on itself. None of them have actually achieved that until this film. 'A Tale of Two Cities' was, to me, one of the most harrowing portraits of a relatable, recognizable civilization that completely folded to pieces with the terrors in Paris, in France, in that period. It's hard to imagine that things can go that badly wrong."