The Dark Knight Rises trilogy is one of the largest scale movie undertakings in history. In every sense of the word the three Nolan Batman films were all about scale. The story, the characters, the action, the music – everything was done a grandiose level. It’s humbling then to read the films in original screenplay form. When an idea, or piece of dialogue is simple a string of words on a page, you suddenly become much more appreciative of the effort it takes to get those words realised on the silver screen.
As a screenwriter myself I can fully appreciate the skill the Nolan brothers (Chris and Jon) and David Goyer each possess in crafting a script that is both easy to visualise whilst being economical in its descriptive elements; action beats that involve multiple characters and locations are written deftly and with a great understanding of what needs to be said, so that the reader can understand what is happening without any unnecessary rambling (unlike this paragraph).
Upon reading this book I found myself mainly in awe of the actors that brought these characters to life. It’s certainly true that a lot of dialogue in any script can seem cheesy, cliche or even boring when viewed on a page. But reading the words as written and then remembering that moment in the film really brings home the amount of work good actors do to make a film what it is.
Obviously the greatest example of this in the Dark Knight trilogy is Heath Ledger’s world beating performance as the Joker. Granted he is given great lines to work with, but still it takes an actor working on another level to create what he did with that character.
Even something so simple as the line “why so serious?” which could easily have become a simple case of a call sign kind of line, in Ledger’s capable hands became terrifying; all part of his unhinged and unpredictable demeanour which, ironically, makes him one of the most serious threats in all of cinema.
Aside from the scripts themselves you also get some great storyboard excerpts and an introductory interview with all three writers, both of which provide even further insight into the mammoth task of taking these projects from conception to finished film.
As a whole this book is a great read. If you find yourself thinking you would be turned off by reading a screenplay, or even that you feel it’s pointless because you know what happens then please give it a try; knowing what’s coming is half the fun. I found myself thinking of moments in the films and wondering how they possibly managed to write them down (which they did with aplomb). It therefore acts as both a great education in screenwriting and a great geek companion to the films.