Awards Profile: The Dark Knight Rises

Directed by:  Christopher Nolan
Written by:  Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan; Story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer, based on characters created by Bob Kane.

Cast: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Liam Neeson, Josh Pence, Juno Temple, Matthew Modine, Nestor Carbonelli, Christopher Judge, several noteworthy Pittsburgh Steelers players including Mike Wallace, Maurkice Pouncey, Ben Roethlisberger, and Troy Polamalu, and a rumored cameo from Cillian Murphy.

Synopsis: Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise continues with this Warner Bros. release, the third in the series. The story will pick up after the events of The Dark Knight, with David Goyer once again working on the script.

Why It Could Succeed
There is some hesitancy floating around regarding Christopher Nolan’s final entry in the Batman rebooted trilogy.  After the extraordinary success and acclaim that The Dark Knight received in 2008, many still believe that its failure to land a Best Picture nomination that year resulted in the Academy overhauling their entire Best Picture voting practices.  Nolan has vowed that this is the end of his reinvention of this incarnation of the Batman story.  The anticipation for this film hangs in the air, almost as if it were visible, and no film has this much across-the-board interest and appeal in 2012.

From a financial standpoint, the film is absolutely going to turn a profit and many feel that this will echo the previous film’s distinction as being the year’s highest grossing film.  By the time the film arrives, The Avengers will likely be coming to rest with its box office take, The Hunger Games will have likely had a home video date announced and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Finale will be 3+ months away.  Some do not anticipate this film exceeding the $1.0 billion gross of the previous entry in the series, but if any film in 2012 is going to eclipse that mark on a worldwide scale, this is likely the one.

From a critical standpoint, the film arrives after near unanimous praise for The Dark Knight and a rabid critical audience for Batman BeginsThe Dark Knight Rises is one of the few films which has a parallel level of excitement between the critical community and ticket-buying public.

Elsewhere, the cast looks impressive boasting a wealth of former Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated actors and while rightful concerns have been raised on the cast being too large, almost to the point of there being too many big name talents involved, Nolan’s expert handling of ensembles may prove him right once again.

Why It Could Fail:
The film is faced with an unenviable task of trying to live up to the hype and while Christopher Nolan has always been in the favor of most moviegoers and the critical community, a lot is riding on how he brings this trilogy to completion.  He will likely let people down, almost an inevitable reality, and he simply cannot win with some viewers.  How many and who they are are certainly to be determined, but Nolan has never had this much at stake for a film in his career.

Tom Hardy has the difficult, and some say insurmountable, task of playing the next Batman villain after the iconic Oscar-winning turn by the late Heath Ledger as The Joker.  Hardy added more than 30 pounds of muscle for the role of Bane and will be limited somewhat by his having to wear a gas mask, which has become almost a character in and of itself.  How Nolan manages Bane, and Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle (a/k/a Catwoman), and whether or not Warner Bros. imposes upon Nolan the desire to write them in such a manner which may beg for spinoff opportunities waits to be seen.

The involvement of the Pittsburgh Steelers has raised some eyebrows as a possible “Jump The Shark” moment, although their involvement is reportedly minor and not “in the way of the story to be told.”  Essentially the Nolan Batman films have been epic and yet rather humble, despite the opulence and grandeur the films have been staged on.  They provide grit and grime and do not tend to pander, so the only thing holding this back from being a success will be whether Nolan can close the deal.  The bar is high, perhaps he will not be able to reach it.

Awards Speculation:
Always a contender for Best Picture, The Dark Knight Rises will benefit from the “As Many As 10” rule, which many will expect to remedy the oversight of The Dark Knight in 2008.  The Academy are notably resistant to nominating giant blockbuster, crowd-galvanizing epics for its Best Picture prize.  At least when not made by James Cameron, that is.  Already a groundswell of support is in place for the Academy to “Right the Wrong” of the snub of The Dark Knight, but even the most rabid of fans of these films must admit, we have to see it first.

Already a venerable lock in numerous technical categories for a nomination, The Dark Knight landed 7 technical nominations in 2008 (and an 8th nomination for Heath Ledger).  It is easy to presume, at this point, repeat nominations for Art Direction, Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, and Editing.  Where it goes from there is anyone’s guess.  Hans Zimmer could contend for Best Original Score and when you toss in a possible Best Picture nod and the longshot possibility of a Director, Screenplay, or Supporting Actor nod, this could be a double-digit nominee next January 2013.

The film opens in theaters on July 20, 2012 and will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

Oscar Potential:
Best Picture – always a potential, with many believing that The Dark Knight was #6 on the Academy’s last 5-film nomination list.
Best Director (Christopher Nolan) – if the film delivers, he may finally score his first (?) Best Director nomination.
Best Supporting Actor (Tom Hardy) – a stretch considering both Ledger’s work and the prestige performances arriving in the fall.
Best Adapted Screenplay (Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan; Story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer) – The Dark Knight missed in 2008.
Best Art Direction (TBD)
Best Cinematography (Wally Pfister)
Best Film Editing (Lee Harris)
Best Original Score (Hans Zimmer) – Zimmer was overlooked in 2008, but scored with Inception in 2010.
Best Sound Editing (TBD)
Best Sound Mixing (TBD)
Best Visual Effects (TBD)

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