There is little world-building outside the logic of the immediate narrative. Nolan’s Batman isn’t a superhero in the gleeful, laws-of-physics-defying, action-figure sense, instead burdened by ethical rhetoric and villain complications. The movie is not “for the fans,” and yet it’s held as a blockbuster pinnacle by those who’d self-identify as such. Quality notwithstanding, The Dark Knight is singular.
The director and his collaborators, Olympians of their crafts, seize the opportunity to push the limits of what movies can do. The Dark Knight is elegantly excessive, a confluence of Nolan’s film-tech obsessions, philosophical puzzles and wealth of popcorn movie knowledge. Everything that can be explored — architecture, performance, film chemistry, noir tropes, screenwriting “rules,” practical special effects, Ethics 101, action geography, orchestral sound, the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale, pragmatic costuming, the spectrum of humor, truck mechanics — is explored. The DNA of The Dark Knight is geek in nearly every way, except for the fulfillment of page-to-screen recreation. Nolan co-opts Batman like so many revolutionaries have over the character’s 75-plus-year history, and burns cash like he’s The Clown Prince of Crime.
Despite monetary evidence to be argued otherwise, it’s hard to imagine any director in the future having the same indulgent opportunity as Nolan had on The Dark Knight. This is not for a lack of a talent pool; only now, under immense pressure, are studios waking up to the fact that directors of various genders, races and other marginalized factors possess Nolan’s ability to project their collective knowledge onto the canvas of a $185 million blockbuster. But in 2018, the “auteur” director has been replaced by the masterminding producer and committees that ensure there’s a game plan for the next five installments in the megafranchise. The films will be shot, and reshot, whether planned in advance — which is often is the case, and wisely so — or abruptly interjected into the proceedings, in case, say, a Star Wars movie needs to be “more Star Wars” than the director was able to deliver. In theory.[Polygon: We Will Never See a Movie Like 'The Dark Knight' Again]