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While there are cases where a director is able to tackle a movie with complete creative control, when it comes to blockbusters, all too often we hear about studio executives pushing for the story to go in a different direction than what the director or the other creative minds wanted. For Batman Begins, the movie that brought the Caped Crusader back to the big screen seven years after Batman & Robin critically flopped, Christopher Nolan wanted to take a different approach with adapting Bruce Wayne’s mythology, and he turned to 1978’s Superman: The Movie to help convince the Warner Bros bigwigs that he was taking the right course of action.
Although Batman Begins opted to take a more realistic approach to Batman’s crimefighting capers in Gotham City, Christopher Nolan nonetheless used Superman: The Movie as inspiration. One of the things Nolan studied when preparing to make Batman Begins was at what point superheroes ‘put on their capes’ in movies, i.e. when they officially become defenders of justice. As anyone who’s seen Batman Begins knows, Bruce Wayne doesn’t actually become Batman until around the halfway point, and when Warner Bros executives came to Nolan concerned that Bruce wasn’t donning the cape and cowl until much later in the story, Nolan backed this move by pointing to Superman: The Movie, though he slightly fibbed in the process. As Nolan recalled:
I was able to say ‘Well, Christopher Reeve didn’t put on the suit until 53 minutes in… That statistic is not true by the way. It’s actually a little earlier.
Christoper Nolan told this story recently during a Q&A session held during an IMAX 70mm screening of the Dark Knight trilogy (via THR), which concluded seven years ago with The Dark Knight Rises. Although the superhero movie genre had started to become popular in the late ’90s and early 2000s with offerings like Blade and X-Men, when Nolan boarded Batman Begins, the landscape was definitely a lot different than how it looks now. The director wanted to give Batman Begins the weight of “event cinema” so that it wouldn’t be dismissed like many superhero movies had before, and while ultimately Bruce Wayne would have to put on the Batsuit, Nolan successfully used Superman: The Movie to back up his choice to have it happen later. If it worked for Christopher Reeve’s Man of Steel, it would work for Christian Bale’s iteration of the Dark Knight.
Batman Begins was definitely quite different from the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher cinematic Batman era, and that paid off for Warner Bros, with the movie earning critical acclaim and making over $375 million worldwide. Its successors would both go on to gross more than $1 billion, and The Dark Knight in particular is not only considered to be one of the best superhero movies of all time, but one of the best films of the 21st century. Had the Warner Bros brass forced Nolan to have Bruce Wayne suit up earlier, perhaps Batman Begins wouldn’t have been as successful. Fortunately for Nolan, arguably the most famous on-screen version of Superman was in his corner, and while the director did have to fudge the truth a little to get his point across, it all worked out in his favor.
Christopher Nolan’s time in the superhero genre is done, but he’s now moving forward with his Dunkirk follow-up, which is currently untitled, but will be released on July 17, 2020 and star John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Elizabeth Debicki. Don’t forget to look through our 2019 release schedule to find out what movies are being released in theaters later this year.