The world is currently discussing the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Christopher Nolan's influence on the superhero genre is undisputable. The director recently spoke at the Cannes Film Festival where he looked back at his Dark Knight trilogy and revealed that each of the movies is a different film genre, which is defined by the particular villain. Batman Begins started off the trilogy and Nolan admits that at the time, they didn't realize that there was going to be more than one movie.
For some, Christopher Nolan's gritty take on the story of Batman is the definitive cinematic version of the iconic character. There are some that will argue that point, but for the most part, Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is arguably the high water mark for the superhero genre. Before talking about the different genres within the trilogy, Nolan first commented on what attracted him to the Batman character in the first place. He had this to say.
"Yes, it's a superhero, but it's based on ideas of guilt, fear, these strong impulses that the character has. Bruce Wayne doesn't have any super powers other than extraordinary wealth. But really, he's just someone who does a lot of push-ups. In that sense, he's very relatable and human. I think that's why I gravitated towards it."
Christopher Nolan than went on to explain that Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises are all based off of different genres of film that are defined by the villain in each particular movie. As previously noted, Nolan didn't expect to make more than one Batman movie, so he feels that it was necessary to base each installment after a different genre to take the audience on a journey with the characters. For the most part, it all worked out exactly as the director intended. He explains.
"To me, each film is a different genre. They tend to be defined by the villain... We hadn't planned on doing a sequel. So shifting genres and the nature of the antagonist felt the way to take the audience on a journey and tell them something different about Bruce Wayne."
Christopher Nolan explained that he envisioned 2005's Batman Begins as a straightforward Batman origin story which makes perfect sense. He said, "The villain (Liam Neeson's Henri Ducard) is an appropriate adversary... He's a mentor-turned-enemy." For 2008's The Dark Knight, the director says, "for me was always a crime drama in the mold of a Michael Mann film. The Joker was a terrorist, an agent of chaos set loose." Lastly, in 2012's finale, The Dark Knight Rises, Nolan sees, "this historical epic. Bane as a militarist foe helped that."
The origin story and crime drama of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy are easy to spot, but the historical epic might need some more digging. However, Nolan made the movies and he would know better than anyone else what each of the films was based off of. Maybe he'll go into more detail about the different genres in the trilogy at some point down the line. You can read more of what Christopher Nolan had to say about his Dark Knight trilogy over at Variety.