Worldwide Gross: $373 million
- 8 – Actors who auditioned to be the new Batman: Joshua Jackson, Eion Bailey, Hugh Dancy, Billy Crudup, Cillian Murphy, Henry Cavill, Jake Gyllenhaal, and eventual winner Christian Bale. Nolan liked Murphy enough to cast him as The Scarecrow.
- 100 – Pounds Christian Bale gained in just a couple months to play Batman. Bale slimmed down to a waifish 120 pounds for his previous project, The Machinist, and spent two months with a trainer to bulk up for Batman Begins. Bale actually overdid it and became too bulky for they swift superhero, but lost the excess 20 pounds before filming.
- 3 – Number of times Bale lost his voice on set thanks to that growl. Basically, Bale is crazy devoted to this performance, to the point that he is more than willing to destroy his body for any role.
- 129 – Days of shooting. Nolan does not employ a second unit to shoot auxiliary footage, and so oversaw every frame shot.
- 250 x 120 x 40 – Dimensions of the Batcave set in feet. The waterfall that hides the Batcave was created with 14,000 gallons of water.
- $250,000 – Cost of each of the four street-ready Tumblers. Of course, the design and development process for this iteration of the Batmobile required several million dollars over 9 months. Designer Nathan Crowley faced the challenge of creating a massive car that could a) exceed 100 miles per hour, b) accelerate from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds, c) turn corners at speed, and d) jump 30 feet in the air and land without damage.
- 140 – Minutes of music in Batman Begins—essentially the entire movie. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard collaborated with a 90-piece orchestra and added some elements of electronic music. Zimmer took the reins on the action sequences, while Howard focused on the dramatic scenes. The track names on the soundtrack refer to bat species, and the first letters of tracks 4-9 spell out “B-A-T-M-A-N.”
- $3,365,449 – Cost Forbes estimated at the time of release to actually become Batman.
Batman Begins was not a smash hit, earning $40 million less than Batman did a decade and a half earlier. But what the movie lacked in raw earning power, it made up for by completely redirecting the public opinion of Batman on film. Batman Begins has become the standard-bearer for superhero reboots. Warner Bros. is happy to see their investment in Christopher Nolan’s vision has paid off handsomely after the phenomenal box office of The Dark Knight and the inevitable success of The Dark Knight Rises.
The Dark Knight
Worldwide Gross: $1.0 billion
- 15 – Years Christopher Nolan said he had wanted to shoot in the IMAX format prior to filming The Dark Knight. Nolan explained, “Everything about doing this in the IMAX format is trying to get that feeling back when I was a little kid when I’d sit in a movie theater and see images that were larger than life.”
- 1 – Month Heath ledger spent secluded in a hotel room to figure out the character. He said, “I sat around in a hotel room in London for about a month, locked myself away, formed a little diary and experimented with voices—it was important to try to find a somewhat iconic voice and laugh. I ended up landing more in the realm of a psychopath—someone with very little to no conscience towards his acts.”
- $45 million – Estimated boost to Chicago’s economy while the $185 million production was stationed there. This included 390 local hires and 6,000 extras.
- 120 – Computer-generated shots of Two-Face’s charred face created by visual effects company Framestore. CGI was used instead of makeup because makeup is necessarily additive, while the burns destroy so much of Harvey Dent’s face.
- 178 – Days before the release that Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose.
- $533,345,358 – Total domestic gross. At the time, that was good enough to put The Dark Knight at second on the all-time domestic grosses list. Since then, Avatar and The Avengers has passed it. The $158 million opening weekend set the record at the time (now in third place), and as of this writing remains the highest opening weekend for a 2D movie (The Dark Knight Rises will top it).
- 6 – Days it took for The Dark Knight to surpass the domestic box office Batman Begins earned over its entire 4-month run.
- 8 – Oscar nominations. The Dark Knight broke Dick Tracy’s record 7 nominations for a movie based on a comic book. Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor and Richard King won for sound editing. I don’t imagine another Batman film will top this any time soon.
There is a good chance that this will be the best Batman movie ever made. The ceiling for a superhero movie is determined by the villain, and Ledger’s Joker is the cream of the crop. Nolan eschewed the villain’s origin story so the Joker drops into Gotham out of nowhere. The result is a lived-in character that is equal parts entertaining and terrifying. The rest of the movie just barely keeps up with the Joker, so The Dark Knight is a classic with the critical raves and box office records to prove it. It set a really high standard for Nolan’s trilogy that The Dark Knight Rises could not possibly meet.
The Dark Knight Rises
Worldwide Gross: TBD
- $250 million – Listed production budget. Obviously the most expensive Batman movie. $250 million puts The Dark Knight Rises on the list of one of the top five most expensive movies of all time according to publically listed production budgets.
- 11,000 – Extras in the football stadium scene. That is a lot of extras. However, I was surprised that, given the purpose of the scene (Bane strikes fear into the heart of the city), the upper deck was mostly empty. To be fair, the capacity of the Pittsburgh Steeler’s Heinz Field (the shooting location) is nearly 65,000.
- 110 – Separate pieces that make up the Batsuit. The base layer is a polyester mesh designed for use by the military and athletes. Molded pieces of flexible urethane are then attached to the mesh to form the body armor plating. No major changes were made to the suit from The Dark Knight.
- 72 – Minutes of footage shot in IMAX. Cinematographer Wally Pfister wanted to shoot the entire movie in IMAX, but that is currently not feasible since the cumbersome setup of IMAX cameras does not allow for much mobility or audible dialogue. Still, this is an upgrade on The Dark Knight, which featured 28 minutes of IMAX footage.
- 8 – Years that have passed (within the movie) since The Dark Knight. Pretty much exactly, since a character references that 8 years ago to the day, Batman killed Harvey Dent. I have become fixated on what years the Nolanverse spans (is this the near future?) so please leave any hypotheses in the comments.
- 164 – Runtime in minutes. The longest Batman movie, topping The Dark Knight at 152 minutes. Nolan always runs long, as all the movies in his trilogy are longer than 2 hours and 20 minutes, The Burton/Schumacher movies all come in at just over 2 hours, ranging from 121 to 126 minutes.
- 12.5 million – Downloads of the trailer in the first 24 hours after its release on iTunes. This broke the iTunes record previously set by The Avengers, though The Avengers took back the record with 13.7 million views for its second trailer.
- 3 – Times Christian Bale has now played Batman. He is the first actor to assume the role more than twice.
- 5 – Films in a row that Christopher Nolan shot with Michael Caine: Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises.
The Dark Knight arrived on a perfect storm of hype and hope and somehow delivered. That turned up the expectations to eleven for The Dark Knight Rises, and unless Nolan and Co. could recapture lightning in a bottle, the conclusion to the trilogy would have to disappoint on some level. Indeed it does, but minimizes the letdowns in what is otherwise a very entertaining spectacle.
I had problems with the use of Catwoman. I should admit some bias against Anne Hathaway, since I have never liked the tics and affectations that plague her performances. Here, the point is for Hathaway to briefly step in to all kinds of mannered personalities as cat burglar/con artist Selina Kyle, and often be purposefully obnoxious to get rile Bruce Wayne. So credit to Hathaway for doing what was asked of her, but it was still a grating character who never quite fits with the rest of the story. Selina is often left on the fringes of the plot to carry the Haves vs. Have-Nots message of the movie that never quite sticks, and spends the remaining time on screen as a romantic foil for Batman.
I think the other primary villain, Bane, works much better. While the mask prohibits the endlessly charismatic Hardy from taking over the role in a way that might have been more fun to watch, it also gives the sound team an opportunity to play with the magnitude and effect of his voice. Bane is prone to witty yet soulless speeches, and his robotic voice is further separated from any remaining shred of humanity in the sound mix—his threats wash over the audience with disembodied menace. That chant (Deshay deshay basara basara) is a great and fitting theme for Bane, pounding with purpose whenever he is near.
The contrast between Bane and Batman is a ripe central conflict to propel the latter’s character arc toward its conclusion. Bane dresses like a post-apocalyptic rebel leader, but fights with the controlled discipline of a marine. Meanwhile Batman, suited up in thousands of dollars worth of armor, flails desperately at Bane in their first encounter. There is something inspiring in seeing our seemingly invincible hero broken and battered—both emotionally and physically—at the beginning of the story before he claws his way back into fighting shape to save Gotham one last time. Christian Bale has always been solid as Bruce Wayne/Batman, but The Dark Knight Rises gives him more opportunity than ever for occasional moments of greatness.
I have problems with the ending, specifically where some of the characters end up by the time the credits roll. But I understand why this route was chosen, and I have to admit it leaves me very curious where Warner Bros. will take the franchise from here. The studio drew a great trilogy (surely the most consistent superhero trilogy out there) with one classic bookended by two very good films. The Dark Knight Rises sufficiently concludes the tale of this Batman while leaving the door open just a crack for more stories in this universe, so Batman could go anywhere from here. When he does return, I think I speak for most of us when I say I’ll be there.