Nolan says his visual inspirations for the film reflect the themes of the movie. He looked to Metropolis, Fritz Lang's sci-fi classic about a utopian city rotting from the bottom up due to top-down economic injustice; several David Lean movies, most notably the revolutionary war epic Doctor Zhivago; and, as always, Blade Runner, a personal fave. Nolan says that developing Rises was ''tricky,'' and in fact after the critical and commercial success of The Dark Knight, he wasn't sure he wanted to do a third movie, or if he even could. ''The last thing I wanted was to engage in a project where we felt we couldn't make a film as good as the last,'' says the director. What gave him confidence? Locking in Rises' sure-to-be-talked-about climax; fleshing out the story with his writers, David S. Goyer and his brother Jonathan Nolan; and finding a tone that could blend the ''romanticism'' of Batman Begins with the ''relentless crime thriller'' of The Dark Knight. The director insists that Rises marks his final descent into the Batcave, and that he'd have no problem with Warner Bros. (which, like Entertainment Weekly, is a subsidiary of Time Warner) rebooting the franchise with another helmer. ''I loved doing these movies, but you can't be creatively greedy about it,'' says Nolan, who is one of the producers on director Zack Snyder's new Superman movie, Man of Steel. ''It's time to move on.''
Typically, when it comes to trilogies, the third film is the weakest. Why do you think that happens?
There are very few great third films. I think in some cases dissatisfaction with third films comes from the sheer exhaustion of the people making it. I can't really imagine sustaining your passion for anything in that kind of time without taking a break. So I made the decision to do one film at a time, put everything into that film, but with some eye to what a trilogy could be. There are certain third films that exist to fulfill a requirement for a sequel. I wanted a third film that had something to say, that was a conclusion to a larger story.
Did you look at any trilogies, or third films, for inspiration on what to do or not do?
I looked at different third films and I'm not going to mention any of them. I will cop to this: The Lord of the Rings trilogy was in the back of our minds the entire time we were making these. What Peter Jackson did was completely different. He had the whole story for all three films; he was physically capable of shooting it all at once. I can't imagine doing it myself. It's one of the great achievements in movies.