With The Dark Knight Rises, the concluding chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Saga, just around the corner something has occurred to Filmjuice. For years, Christopher Nolan has been telling anyone who will listen that he is a die-hard James Bond fan – see the opening of Inception as pure Nolan Bond reverence. With this in mind, could it be that Nolan has been secretly making Bond movies dressed as Batman? Editor, Alex Moss takes a look into the murky world of Gotham to see how the man who reinvented Batman may have is own 007 agenda.
Let’s be honest: part of the appeal of both Bond and Batman is their wheels. The ladies swoon over them, the guys want to take them for a spin. But in most Batman movies, the car was just a status symbol, something to look cool in. Bond’s Aston Martins (and countless other manufacturers when the commercial rights called for it) always served a purpose. Part of Nolan’s remit for his Batman was to place him in a believable reality – one that a modern audience could identify with. With this is mind, Batman Begins’ introduction of The Tumbler, aka the new Batmobile, owes a great deal to Bond’s flash mode of transportation. It’s laden with practical but believable gadgets. The Tumbler is armored to within an inch of its tank-like ability but also has a slew of weapons which Bond would give a wry accepting nod to. Hell, it even has the ability to purge itself and become the stunning Bat-Pod. At this point even Bond would be drooling with jealousy.
Yes, Batman always had his utility belt. He’s always had those ‘wonderful toys, as Jack Nicholson’s Joker put it. But in Nolan’s, hands they became something more. Again, Nolan’s Bat-Toys are routed in a James Bond-like realm of reality and practicality. From the memory-cloth, that allows Bats to fly round Gotham, to the sticky bombs used to infiltrate villains’ hide-outs in The Dark Knight, Batman’s gadgets suddenly had a distinctly Bond like quality to them. Rather than just having a utility belt chock full of everything the Dark Knight could ever possibly need, Nolan ensured that each new gizmo served a purpose, which was clearly explained and introduced via a Q like expert. Which brings us on to …
As part of grounding Batman’s gadgets in a believable world, Christopher Nolan needed someone to explain how all those ‘toys’ worked. Bond always had his trusty Q on hand to make him ‘pay attention’. While Lucius Fox, played by the ever-brilliant Morgan Freeman, was a presence in the Batman comics, in Nolan’s hands he takes on a much greater role. It is through Fox’s Applied Science Division of Wayne Enterprise that Batman is able to gain access to all the apparatus a Caped Crusader needs to fight crime. Fox became, under Nolan’s watchful eye, the Bats equivalent to Q. A man who can help him function in a dangerous role by adding extra spice to your run of the mill guns and ammo.
James Bond has a habit of being a bit of a naughty boy at the best of times. Thankfully he always had M to keep him in check. But Bruce Wayne was always a free spirit, his guidance coming more from his determination to make Gotham a better place. Nolan, though, decided that Batman needed a mentor, a father figure to keep him on the straight and narrow. In previous Batman incarnations, Alfred was little more than Bruce Wayne’s trusty manservant. You know, fetching him tea, putting petrol in the Batmobile and other superhero house chores that Batman simply didn’t have time for. Nolan’s casting of Michael Caine (an actor Nolan now refers to as his good luck charm having starred in no less than five of his movies) proved a stroke of genius. Not only did it allow us to see the lighter side of the brooding Bruce Wayne – the scenes between Bale and Caine are the most heartfelt and entertaining of the franchise so far – but it also gave Batman an anchor, a tangible truth to hold onto while battling the scum of Gotham’s underworld. Indeed Caine’s Alfred and Judi Dench’s M would make for the ultimate movie parents, or maybe grandparents, given their respective ages.
This isn’t about the mask that Wayne wears to become the Dark Knight. It’s about the public persona of Bruce Wayne that Nolan intelligently snuck under the radar in Batman Begins. Like Bond, Wayne has to be seen to behave in a particular manner. Long before Robert Downey Jr made playing the millionaire playboy fashionable, Alfred suggested that Bruce be seen out and about enjoying himself. So, while Bond walks into a casino, flirts with the ladies and sips on his Martinis, Nolan’s Bruce Wayne cavorts with supermodels, swims in hotel fountains and whisks the Russian Ballet off on his yacht. Never before had Bruce Wayne had such a public persona that differed from his normal everyday businessman approach. By introducing this element Nolan added another layer to his Batman mythology, one which owes more than a tip of the tuxedo to 007.
A bit obvious you may say, but it’s a case of the execution rather than the action itself. Batman has, of course, always included extravagant set-pieces, but in Nolan’s hands they take on a much grander scale. Look at many of the action scenes in Nolan’s films and you begin to see certain Bond-like staples. The Tumbler barreling its way over roof-tops in Batman Begins is immediately familiar to James Bond escapades such as the car chase down a hill top in For Your Eyes Only. Then there is Batman’s daring escape from a high-rise building in The Dark Knight; releasing a cable and letting it float up to the heavens before a plane grapples it, hoisting the Caped Crusader away into the distance. The device in question is referred to as ‘Skyhook’ something which a certain Mr. Bond utilises in the climax of Thunderballwhile stranded at sea. In the upcoming Dark Knight Rises, we see a plane transporting the mysterious Bane, trapped by a bigger, more powerful aircraft, and transporting its villainous passenger from one aircraft to the next. WatchLicense To Kill again and in the opening sequence you’ll see Timothy Dalton’s 007 hang from beneath a helicopter and latch onto the escaping villain’s plane in much the same way. Of course Nolan puts his own spin on things (watch as the wings rip off the sprawling plane in The Dark Knight Rises trailer) but the inspiration is surely Bond.
Bond made his name jet-setting all over the globe. Wherever there is trouble Bond its there. Batman, however, was traditionally, a more stay at home kind of fellow. Almost never in his history, certainly his film history, has he strayed from his beloved Gotham City. That is, until Nolan got his hands on the franchise. In Batman Begins he takes us to such places as the Tibetan Himalayas, before Bruce Wayne has even donned the iconic cowl. But it was in The Dark Knight that Nolan truly took Batman out of his comfort zone. With the Gotham’s under-world accountant fleeing back toHong Kong, Bats had no choice but to head there himself, via a brief boat trip with the Russian Ballet. For the first time in cinematic Batman law, Bruce Wayne showed that he wasn’t afraid to venture further afield. It’s something of a break from tradition for the Caped Crusader but Nolan pulls it of in style, effortlessly tying it all into the sprawling plot of the film and, in doing so, bringing his own sense of Bond to proceedings. The trailers for The Dark Knight Rises also hint at Wayne leaving Gotham and venturing perhaps back to that Tibetan prison we saw in Begins.
Batman has a vast back catalogue of villains Nolan could have used for his films. The likes of The Riddler, The Penguin and Black Mask were all muted at one point or other. But the reality is that Nolan always had a specific archetype of villain in mind. Ra’s al Ghul, The Joker and now Bane are all agents of chaos, who want to reign terror and destruction on Gotham. Indeed Ghul and Bane seem to work for the all powerful League of Shadows, something which could easily be seen in a Bond movie in the form of Blofeld and Spectre. Ra’s al Ghul in particular was a former friend and mentor to Bruce Wayne not dissimilar to Alec Trevelyan in GoldenEye.
Bond is famous for his way with the ladies. Batman, for the most part, has always been a bit of a one-at-a-time kind of guy. But Nolan’s incarnation of Bruce Wayne has seen him flirt more and more with the fairer of the species. His dalliances with the models in the pool in Begins, his flirtatious ways with the Russian Ballerina in The Dark Knight, both hint at a man firmly looking to sow his wild oats. Indeed, in The Dark Knight Rises Nolan seems to have upped the female ante further with the introduction of the femme fatale, in the form of Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman andMarion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate – something Bond is all too familiar with. But what about Rachel Dawes (as played first by Katie Holmes and then by Maggie Gyllenhaal) you cry? Yes, for the first two films Bruce Wayne had a whole flawed love thing going on. But what could be more James Bond that flirting with an unobtainable girl, only to get her and find that, in doing so, you sign her death certificate? Think any number of Bond girls and Rachel Dawes could easily fit the bill. Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale, Jill Masterson in Gold Finger and of course Tracy Bond, 007’s ill-fated wife in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. On the one hand Nolan has made Batman a womanizer similar to Bond, but both men also have damaged love lives which drive them to clean up the streets, or the world. You get the idea.
Any man who dresses as a bat and wanders around the place beating up criminals clearly has one or two unresolved issues at hand. But in Nolan’s Batman for the first time, we were given a character who was struggling with some very real, deep-rooted issues. Bond, after the loss of his parents and later his wife, has always been a man at odds with himself. The inclusion of a more detailed look into Bruce Wayne’s psychology allowed Nolan to bring that brooding Bond quality to Batman. He was no longer just a masked vigilante. Now he wore numerous masks, something Her Majesty’s finest knows a little about himself.
Bond inspiring Nolan’s Batman has turned out to be a two way street. With the Bond franchise rapidly stalling, in no small part due to a certain Jason Bourne, the 007 producers looked to Nolan’s Batman Begins as inspiration. Having seen the success one could have rebooting a franchise and taking a beloved character back to his genesis, we were given one of the best James Bond adventures in recent memory in the form of Casino Royale. So for all Nolan bringing Bond to Batman, what goes around comes around.
There are of course many more parallels between Bond and Batman, but they were arguably been there long before Nolan got his hands on the franchise. Such things as both being orphans, having lost their parents at a young age. Both have a penchant for sharp tailors. And both are driven towards unearthing the conspiracies that threaten their worlds. While the two characters have a lot in common, it’s hard to deny Nolan’s obvious Bond-inspired inclusions in his Dark Knight Saga. Having completed, arguably, the most in depth and coherent superhero franchise of all time, could Nolan one day find his vast talents aimed at Bond’s cross-hairs? Who knows? All we do know is that, with a hint of Bond influence, Nolan as created a character that even 007 would be enthralled by.
The Dark Knight Rises is in cinemas Friday 20th July.
James Bond will return in Skyfall in cinemas 26th October.