The Morning Read: What do Catwoman and Bane mean for Nolan’s ‘Dark Knight Rises’?

Welcome to The Morning Read.

Well, here we go.

As we already reported this morning, Warner Bros. has just issued a press release that pretty much blows months of speculation out of the water on the villains and the cast of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and in the process, we’ve gotten our first real glimpse at what Christopher Nolan has in mind for the wrap-up to his trilogy of Batman movies.  According to the press release, Anne Hathaway will play Selina Kyle in the film, and Tom Hardy is signed on to play Bane, and not Hugo Strange as many sites have been reporting. 

This is one of those reasons I always, on every Batman film, tune out rumors during the early days of development.  So much of what you hear is fanboys wishing with all their might, determined to make their favorite rumor fact, that it’s not worth investing in any of what you hear.  Think of how confident so many outlets have been in printing the Hugo Strange story.  Think of how long they’ve been treating that like confirmed fact.

I’m surprised by the choices of both of these villains, and not just because both of them have appeared in Batman movies before.  Catwoman is an enduring Batman villain because she represents what Bruce Wayne could become with just the slightest push in the wrong direction.  One of the things I loved about “Batman Returns” was the way each of the villains in that movie reflected back some part of Bruce Wayne’s fractured personality, and Catwoman always seems to me to be the part of Bruce that actually loves wearing the costume and beating holy hell out of people.  That catharsis, several times a night, has got to be one of the reasons he keeps doing what he does, and I think adding her to the film finally gives Nolan’s series the strong female presence to bounce off of his version of Batman.  Of course, the press release only refers to her as Selina Kyle and never mentions Catwoman, but surely Nolan wouldn’t play that sort of bait and switch… right?  I mean, he wouldn’t do something crazy like have Selina serve as a new Dark Knight when Batman ends up broken beyond repair… would he?

And speaking of broken beyond repair… Bane?  Really?  Look, I trust Nolan, but this is a character I’ve never really understood beyond “big brutal slab of beef,” which is hardly something you sign someone like Tom Hardy to play.  I’m going to bet that this version of Bane will not just be a giant steroid-soaked gorilla like in the comics, and that they’ll find some way to make him more thematically interesting.  I know… in the “Knightfall” storyline that introduced the character, he also figured out ways to break Batman’s spirit and not just his spine, and I hope that’s how Nolan uses him, as a psychological opponent that can take all of the weakness that Nolan and Bale have already introduced into the character and use it to destroy him.  That sort of game can be wild fun if done properly.

So now that we have these confirmations, it’s time to start thinking in terms of theme and not plot.  We know which bad guys Nolan is using, and we know where the last movie wrapped up.  So now, with that information, what theme do we believe Nolan will be exploring in this film that those particular bad guys will illuminate?  Is Bruce, hated by Gotham and hunted by everyone except Commissioner Gordon, starting to feel like maybe he is the bad guy everyone sees him as?  If so, Catwoman would make for a solid enticement to cross that line for good.  Or if Nolan chooses to emphasize Selina as a force of grey in Batman’s black and white world, someone whose ideas about morality challenge the things that Batman has always accepted as fact, that could also be an interesting challenge.  And if public disapproval can’t break Batman, what about a physical opponent he can’t beat?  When the irresistible force meets the immovable object, what’s going to happen?

I’m sure we’re still a long way from understanding exactly what Nolan has in mind for these very well-known villains at this point, but today’s announcement finally clears up some rumors, while I’m sure it will kickstart many, many more.

So what else is going on out there this morning?  Let’s see.  

Well, it looks like Neill Blomkamp is making the rounds to the studios today to find a distributor for “Elysium,” his next SF film starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, and Sharlto Copley.  That can only be a good thing.

And it looks like Disney’s moving some release dates around.  I’m very curious about both “Frankenweenie” and “John Carter Of Mars,” and it sounds like Disney’s going to go head to head with Fox, SF versus SF.  Fox already announced that they’re going to release Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” on March 9, 2012, and now it appears that “John Carter” will head to space the same day.  Interesting.  I’m not sure that makes any sense on a business level, but it’ll sure be one hell of a weekend for SF nerds.  And “Frankenweenie,” which was set for that March 9 release date, is being pushed back now to October 5, 2012.  I’m still not sure what else there is to say aside from what Tim Burton already said in his “Frankenweenie” short film, but I sure do love that short film, and I’ll certainly give this feature version a chance.

Curious about “X-Men: First Class” after that underwhelming piece of promo art that got leaked early yesterday?  Well, Geoff Boucher has some more information on the film, which is still shooting as they prep for that May release date.  They’ve also got three new photos of the cast in character, and they’re interesting.  I’m hoping for the best on this one.

I really like this piece over at Film School Rejects about the cinematic obsessions that each of us have that our friends don’t understand.  This has been a lifelong phenomenon to me, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve ranted and raved about something only to have a friend totally miss the appeal and question my sanity as a result.

I’ve said it before and I mean it… I hate awards season.  I hate having to listen to months of people debating why something “deserves” to win, and I hate the smear campaigns and backbiting.  I am amused by the frenzy with which Richard Rushfield seems determined that he is going to change people’s minds about “The Social Network,” when I think anyone with half a brain already knows that is a fictional version of events as filtered through Sorkin and Fincher for very specific thematic goals.  It is hardly the most egregious repurposing of truth in cinema history, but man, it’s up his nose right now.  And the whole issue of the whisper campaign to harpoon “The King’s Speech” by bringing up some nasty and uncomfortable truths about the oh-so-charming film version of “Bertie” is another non-starter.  Either it bothers you that the film whitewashes history and radically misrepresents some rather important events in the lives of the characters, or it doesn’t, and for most audiences, the film is what matters, not the history of appeasement between England and Nazi Germany in the early days of WWII.  Voters are obviously free to be swayed by these things, but this is exactly why I think awards are ridiculous.  All the externals end up deciding the race, not the movies themselves, and so none of it means a thing.

Richard Kelly and I are going to have to sit down and talk about “Brazil” for ten straight hours sometime.  I knew I liked that guy for a reason.

I suddenly have a burning, almost all-consuming hatred for Dennis Cozzalio, and I’m trying to figure out why.  Oh, that’s right, it’s because he got to meet John Belushi.  At least I can read an amazingly well-written piece about it.  Sigh.

Keith Calder, who I plan to report to the TSA on false pretenses tonight at LAX since we’re both on the same flight to Sundance and there’s nothing funnier than an undeserved full body cavity search, directed my attention to this anecdote about Bruce Lee that I hadn’t read before, and it makes me love Lee all the more.  There’s not a single action hero in film today with the soul that Bruce Lee had, and we are all poorer for it.

Okay, this guy went online and just asked for a million dollars, and someone gave it to him?  I think I’ve been doing the Internet wrong for 14 years now.  Obviously.

I’d never heard of the Science and Entertainment Exchange until now, but I will be using them as a resource from this point forward.  I just wish more people would take advantage of something like this instead of getting almost all of the science in every movie released wrong.  In the meantime, I’ll take solace in the notion that we’ve just discovered quantum teleportation in time.  Hitler should be disappearing from the timeline any moment now…

Eric D. Snider frequently makes me laugh so hard when I read his work that I have to pause mid-article, but he’s also a very sharp analyst of the business, and his piece on the five best and worst purchases from Sundance is a really good one.

According to IGN, J. Jonah Jameson will be played by… no one.  Evidently, the character won’t appear in the new “Spider-Man” film that Marc Webb is currently directing.  That seems sort of crazy to me, but I’m more curious the more I hear about the choices they’re making with this one.

I hope George Lucas stories just keep getting crazier over the years until the day they make a biopic about him during his long hair and fingernails/saving his urine in bottles phase.

I haven’t had a chance to see Reginald Hudlin’s animated “Black Panther” yet, but I love the guy’s passion for the property.

Amy Poehler, you rock.

Awe.  Some.

This guy has bigger balls than anyone I know.

Finally, I’d like to remind everyone that Rush Limbaugh isn’t just a disgusting blowhard, he’s also a stunning racist:

Keep it up, Rush!

I’m off to Sundance tonight, and following that, I have a full week of vacation to hang out with my kids, including the very first Film Nerd 2.0 set visit, and once we’re done with all of that, I’ll be back, so this is the last Morning Read until February.  Looking forward to that, but believe me… I’ll enjoy the time off, too.  Stay tuned for all the news from Park City, and we’ll see you back here soon.

The Morning Read appears here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Except when it doesn’t.