The Dark Knight Rising cast news/rumors are getting a bit much.

Last week there was big news from the world of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and I have absolutely no problem with any of it. First off, Tom Hardy is awesome and Bane is a really interesting villain. Think about it in the context of the Nolan Batman world. Bane is an amazingly strong super genius who is addicted to a military grade steroid. Oh, and he broke Batman’s spine.

I don’t really have an opinion on Catwoman/Selina Kyle. All I know about her is that she is a burglar, she dresses like a cat, and she was a slutty looking dominatrix in the Tim Burton version. It’s a safe bet that Nolan won’t be going in that direction with it, so that reduces my “list of things I know about Catwoman” to two. I’m also fine with Anne Hathaway. She’s a good actress and easy on the eyes, although, the relative attractiveness of actresses aren’t a factor in my movie watching habits. Not to be crass, but you can find nude shots of Hathaway on the internet for free, so why you would drop $10 to see her wearing something tight on screen is a mystery to me.

It was announced today that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was joining the cast. There hasn’t been any announcement about the part he will be playing, but the current speculation leans towards The Riddler. I’m a fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I think he’s a great actor and would be very interesting in this role, although my choice would have been David Tennant.

Now there are rumors of Robin Williams playing Dr. Hugo Strange. Now, I don’t have a problem with Williams in the part, although it SCREAMS of stunt casting, I am more surprised at the somewhat supportive fan reaction.

While I have ABSOLUTE FAITH in Nolan’s ability, he’s written and directed 9 good movies in a row and while past success does not guarantee future success this is as good an advanced indicator as you could hope for, I fear he may be painting himself into a corner.

Before I go on, let me be clear on one thing. I am glad that he is ignoring the desires of the fanboy set. Nothing against fanboys, but it is wise to avoid advice from that quadrant. Listening to them will either lead to horribly boring and cliche' casting choices or ludicrous plot lines that will only appeal to the most die hard fans who will hate whatever it is anyway. Don't attempt to appease those who cannot be appeased. Just make a good movie and it will be enjoyed by those who enjoy good movies.

I know there is a “third movie” curse in comic book films, and while I am no believer in curses, there is something interesting about the consistency of it. But the question is more complicated than that. Why do comic book franchises, the good ones anyways, always seem to fall apart after starting out strong?

Let’s look at the Burton era “Batman” films. The first one was an interesting take on the well established character. Although I am not a fan of it (Burton’s aesthetic gets on every inch of my last nerve) I can still see why it was so popular. Though it’s not one of my favorite films it is still one that I can find some enjoyment in.

I never saw “Batman Returns,” because in all honesty it looked fucking stupid and I could honestly not give less of a crap about Penguin or Catwoman. They just aren’t interesting. Yes, Pfeiffer was hot, but if I want to look at a hot woman I can buy a magazine. Her character didn’t interest me, so I opted out of seeing it.

Then you get into the “Hot Damned Mess” era of those films. This was such a rapid descent that I’m surprised the films didn’t burn up on re-entry.

Let’s walk through what I think was the problem.

“Batman”- Michael Keaton- Batman

Jack Nicholson- Joker

Kim Bassinger- Vicky Vale

Robert Whul- Someone who sadly didn’t die

“Batman Returns” – Michael Keaton- Batman

Danny DeVito- The Penguin

Michelle Pfeiffer- Catwoman

Chris Walken- Max Shreck

Batman Forever”- Val Kilmer- Batman

Jim Carrey- Riddler

Tommy Lee Jones- Two Face

Nicole Kidman- Dr. Chase Meridian

Chris O’Donnell- Robin

Drew Barrymore/Debi Mazar- Two chicks who were there for no reason.

A whole bunch of toys- as themselves

“Batman and Robin”- George Clooney- Batman

Chris O’Donnell- Robin

Arnold- Mr. Freeze

Uma Thurman- Poison Ivy

Alicia Silverstone- Batgirl

Jeep Swenson- Bane

A whole bunch more toys- as themselves

As this series went on the films got exponentially worse. I’ll even give “Batman Returns” to the fans as being good, but after that they went to shit, and quickly. Why? If you look closely you’ll see a pattern.

Let’s look at the Raimi “Spider-Man” movies.

Spider-Man- Tobey Maguire- Spider Man

Willem Dafoe- Green Goblin

Kristin Dunst- Mary Jane

Spider-Man 2- Tobey Maguire- Spider Man

Alfred Molina- Doc Ock

James Franco- Green Goblin 2

Kristin Dunst- Mary Jane

Spider-Man 3- Tobey Maguire- Spider Man

Kristin Dunst- Mary Jane

Bryce Dallas Howard- Gwen Stacy

Tom Hayden Church- Sandman

James Franco- Green Goblin 2

Roofing Tar- Symbiote

Topher Grace- Venom

On this we had a good, a great, and a terrible film. Why?

Let’s walk through it again.

Spider-Man- Tobey Maguire- Spider Man

Willem Dafoe- Green Goblin

Kristin Dunst- Mary Jane

Spider-Man 2- Tobey Maguire- Spider Man

Alfred Molina- Doc Ock

James Franco- Green Goblin 2

Kristin Dunst- Mary Jane

Spider-Man 3- Tobey Maguire- Spider Man

Kristin Dunst- Mary Jane

Bryce Dallas Howard- Gwen Stacy

Tom Hayden Church- Sandman

James Franco- Green Goblin 2

Roofing Tar- Symbiote

Topher Grace- Venom

Let me summarize all this information.

Batman- 3 main characters (good)

Batman Returns- 3 main characters (good)

Batman Forever- 5 main characters (bad)

Batman and Robin- 6 main characters (a hot damned mess)

Spider-Man- 3 main characters (good)

Spider-Man 2- 4 main characters (great)

Spider-Man 3- 7 main characters (a hot damned mess)

Strange, it seems as if there is some sort of direct correlation between how good the movie is and how many characters you are dealing with!

How can a film be good if it has to spend so much time on exposition and setting characters up? By adding so many characters you end up with a glut of back story that either forces you to make the movie overlong, first act heavy, and boring or you end up not getting enough information about the characters to make them interesting.

In addition to that, if you have 7 main characters in a relatively short film where is the focus? There isn’t any.

Let’s walk through Nolan’s.

Batman Begins- Christian Bale- Bruce Wayne/Batman

Cillian Murphy- Scarecrow

Liam Neeson- Henri Ducard/Ra's Al Ghul

I know that you could add Ken Watanabe and Katie Holmes and Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman and Tom Wilkinson and Rutger Hauer, but those are supporting characters, not central protagonists or antagonists.

The Dark Knight- Christian Bale- Bruce Wayne/Batman

Aaron Eckhart- Harvey Dent/ Two Face

Heath Ledger- Joker

Again, there are a lot of supporting players like Eric Roberts and Michael Jai White and Chin Han and Anthony Michael Hall, but again those are supporting, not central characters.

Now, let’s see the complete speculated cast.

The Dark Knight Rises- Bale- Wayne/Batman

Tom Hardy- Bane

Anne Hathaway- Selina Kyle/Catwoman

Joseph Gordon Levitt- Riddler

Robin Williams- Dr. Hugo Strange

Now, I realize that some of this may not happen, but I’m dealing with the reaction here, so let’s walk through it.

Batman Begins- 3 central characters

The Dark Knight- 3 central characters

The Dark Knight Rises- 5 central characters

If anyone on the planet can pull this off, Christopher Nolan can. But I have some concern now. I’m not even going to discuss the casting. If nothing else Chris has earned our blind faith in his ability to get brilliant performances out of his actors.

What does concern me is, as I’ve said above, how the sheer quantity of significant characters, half of them rather obscure, will impact the strength of the story. Because, face it, unless you are a pretty solid fan of the comics Bane and Dr. Strange are completely unknown quantities. You are going to have to deal with some level of back story, even if it’s just a scene or two of set up like he did with The Scarecrow, and that will slow things down a little. We’re talking about a potential 4th bad guy here. Two villains works, three is pushing it, four… well that’s just insane.

Unless you’re talking about relegating some of them to supporting status, but given the names we’re banding about here that probably isn’t going to happen. If you’re going to make The Riddler a bench player then why go with Gordon Levitt? What, was Lucas Hass already booked?

Let me be clear, I am not bitching about a movie that hasn’t even begun principal photography. What I am doing is issuing a “Please Calm Down,” statement to the fan community. The casting choices are almost a non issue. Nolan could probably make Pauly Shore passable as The Riddler. Even if he couldn’t he’s earned a pass on at least giving it a try. Bitching about casting is like complaining about the color of the Astin Martin someone just gave you as a gift. Just shut up and drive it man.

My concern is more fundamental. How will stacking a cast like this impact the overall narrative? Because in the end what makes the Nolan Batman films so great is the strength of his story and the interplay between the good and bad both between and within his characters. It is a delicate and subtle balance that takes a masterful touch to maintain and having too many characters risks upsetting that balance no matter how cool the idea may seem. It’s like being given an Astin Martin and then being told that it runs on orphan tears. Yes, it is an interesting idea, but is it something you really want to deal with?



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  • Rick

    Here’s the thing. Do we even know that Levitt is even going to play the Riddler? Williams as Hugo Strange is a perfect casting because Strange is obsessed with Batman and Williams can play creepy extremely well. Again, if that is in fact, the case. Do we know that Selina Kyle will become Catwoman in the movie? No. Fanboys need to shut up and let Nolan do his thing. He has yet to disappoint and there is no reason why he would do so know. I he does in fact screw this one up, then it’s because he is tired of the franchise but seeing as how he intended this to be a trilogy with a finite ending, I doubt that is the case. I trust Nolan and his filmmaking. There is no reason to not trust in his skill as of this point and I doubt there will be reason to doubt in him anytime soon.

    Feb 2, 2011 at 12:31 pm
  • Jim

    Exactly my point man. I’m more reacting to the reactions and am only concerned over the number of characters. I would hate to see it become too overloaded because that just makes the telling of the story that much harder to do well.

    Feb 2, 2011 at 1:18 pm