Christopher Nolan is aiming for a dark and realistic portrayal of Batman, his friends and enemies and Gotham City itself while he works on The Dark Knight. In a recent set visit by The New York Times, Nolan revealed quite a few new details about the film.

In the article, Nolan discusses how his approach to filmmaking hasn't changed since his 2000 debut film, Memento. Nolan still doesn't use a second-unit director, and his longtime friend Wally Pfister is still the primary person behind the camera.

Nolan also believes that the film and characters must be treated respectfully. "If the people who make the film aren't taking it seriously," Mr. Nolan said, summarizing fans' view of the 1997 movie Batman & Robin, "why should we?"

It's an approach that worked well for Nolan in Batman Begins, and it's one that they hope will continue to serve for The Dark Knight - even as the death of Heath Ledger, who plays the Joker in this film, has added a morbid tone to what was already a very dark take on the Batman mythology.

With Batman Begins, Warner Brothers finally had a serious superhero film that could hold it's own next to Marvel Comic's Spider-Man and X-Men franchises.

Nolan doesn't shy away from any political subtext that people might see in the film:

As we looked through the comics, there was this fascinating idea that Batman's presence in Gotham actually attracts criminals to Gotham, attracts lunacy. When you're dealing with questionable notions like people taking the law into their own hands, you have to really ask, where does that lead? That's what makes the character so dark, because he expresses a vengeful desire.

Bale, who plays Bruce Wayne/Batman embraces the darker tone for this movie. His Bruce Wayne once thought that his mission would be a task that could be completed. "This escalation has now meant that he feels more of a duty to continue," he said. "And now you have not just a young man in pain attempting to find some kind of an answer, you have somebody who actually has power, who is burdened by that power, and is having to recognize the difference between attaining that power and holding on to it."

The article also discusses the unintended effects that Heath Ledger's death may have on the film. Rumors that Ledger's role in The Dark Knight may have led to his abuse of sleeping aids may lead to both a morbid fascination with the film, or it may keep people away. What will the response be? "We'll see," said Mr. Robinov, of Warner Brothers. Mr. Nolan, for his part, said he felt a "massive sense of responsibility" to do right by Mr. Ledger's "terrifying, amazing" performance.

"It's stunning, it's iconic," he said. "It's going to just blow people away."

For all of the darkness that TDK promises, in a surprising turn, Gotham is a bit cleaner than it had been in the earlier film. "I've tried to unclutter the Gotham we created on the last film," said Nathan Crowley, Mr. Nolan's production designer. "Gotham is in chaos. We keep blowing up stuff. So we can keep our images clean."

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The Dark Knight opens on July 18, 2008, and stars Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart and Maggie Gylenhall.