March 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Watch and Read-Spotlight on Media Tie-ins: Batman: Movie Reads for Teens

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Despite the awful tragedy that occurred in Aurora, CO on the movie’s opening night, fans continue to flock to theaters to see The Dark Knight Rises. Suggest these tantalizing titles to YA lovers of Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking film trilogy.

Movie Novelization

Greg Cox’s The Dark Knight Rises (Titan, 2012; Gr 9 Up) provides a gripping recounting of the movie’s plot. The story unfolds on a scale both epic and intimate, as the citizens of Gotham are threatened by a ruthless terrorist named Bane and his army of followers, and Bruce Wayne struggles for balance between his own existence and that of his alter ego. Written with a sense of gritty realism, the accessible narrative has a pared-down quality that keeps the pages turning quickly. Action scenes, large-scale skirmishes, and fist-to-fist confrontations are described with suspenseful rat-a-tat pacing, while dialogue exchanges and moments of introspection reveal the characters’ back stories and personal motivations.

Though violence is an integral part of the telling (and there is some strong language), it is not gratuitous, and malicious schemes are countered by the actions of altruistic individuals and the emergence of unexpected heroes. The point of view shifts among the players, providing readers with a broad IMAX-style perspective as the various story lines develop and intersect; plot twists are foreshadowed but kept tightly shrouded until the appropriate time, building toward a thrilling conclusion. Teens will be drawn in by the movie-poster cover—the enigmatic Caped Crusader silhouetted against the fiery profile of a bat emblazoned in the Gotham sky—and satisfied by the book’s explosive action and solid storytelling.

Tools of the Trade

DarkKnightRises-teens2(Original Import)The Dark Knight Manual (Insight Editions, 2012; Gr 6 Up) reveals the inner workings of Batman’s clandestine world with full-color photos from the film trilogy, plentiful illustrations and diagrams, and a vault-load of “classified” documents. Purportedly compiled by Bruce Wayne, this scrapbook-style volume fittingly opens with the police case file on his parents’ murder, followed by a Gotham Post front page featuring a “Chaos Sweeps Gotham” headline and photo of a triumphant Bane. In subsequent sections, Batman describes his training in various fighting techniques (under the tutelage of the nefarious Rā’s al Ghul), the secrets of his subterranean base (including detailed blueprints and a removable map), his suit (illustrated with design sketches and a flip-through progression of its multiple layers), weaponry (there’s even an inset manual for his trademark grappling gun), and state-of-the-art vehicles (plans, diagrams, schematics, and cock-pit views).

The book ends with dossiers about Harvey Dent, the Scarecrow, and the Joker, and brief bios of other villains and allies. Hand-written Post-it notes are scattered throughout, and a large fold-out map of Gotham City completes the package. Movie plot elements, character relationships, and plenty of Batman background are woven into the first-person text, and the “official” materials are carefully detailed and believably designed. Though keeping track of the removable items might be a challenge for libraries, this is great browser for movie fans.

A Look Behind the Scenes

DarkKnightRises-teens3(Original Import)Jody Duncan Jesser and Janine Pourroy provide an opulently illustrated and insightfully written overview of The Art and Making of the Dark Knight Trilogy (Abrams, 2012; Gr 8 Up). This handsome oversize volume details the creative process for all three movies-Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012)-focusing on the challenges unique to each film, making contrasts and comparisons, and tracing the evolution of both the story and the behind-the-camera artistry. A prologue sets the scene, delineating the inspirations for a film franchise envisioned to be “more classical drama than super hero fluff” and a Batman who is not “a one-dimensional comic book hero in black tights, cape, and bat ears, but rather a complex, multidimensional human being, a real man struggling to overcome life’s tragedies and his own inner demons.”

Filled with commentary from movie creators, the well-organized chapters provide an insider’s view of the complete creative process from screenplay, casting, and production design to on-set filming and the final touches of post-production. Readers get the skinny on all manner of movie marvels, including the creation of the villainous Two-Face’s half-burned visage, the shooting of an action sequence showing an 18-wheeler truck flipping over (end to end) on a city street, and the filming of the final movie’s football stadium sequence on location at Heinz Field with nearly 12,000 extras and the Pittsburgh Steelers. They also get a clear idea of Christopher Nolan’s vision for the trilogy (every element, from the smallest detail of costume to major plot points, was required to fit into the realistic world that he has conceptualized), his hands-on style of directing, and his determination to push beyond the traditional limits of filmmaking.

The spectacular large-size photos include dramatic movie stills, on-set images of cast and crew, close-ups of costumes and props, and more. Concept artwork, storyboards, costume designs, set plans, and reproductions of referenced comic book illustrations also adorn the pages. Whether thumbed through or consumed cover to cover, this volume is a must-read for Dark Knight devotees and also deserves a place in collections focused on the history of film and filmmaking.

Batman’s Wheels

DarkKnightRises-teens4(Original Import)Mark Cotta Vaz shines the spotlight on one of the Caped Crusader’s most defining aspects, the Batmobile (Insight Editions, 2012; Gr 8 Up). From its first appearance as a cherry-red sedan in the 1940s comics, through its numerous incarnations on comic-book pages and in media formats (TV and movies), to the tough-looking Tumbler of Nolan’s film trilogy, the evolution of Batman’s crime-fighting vehicle is clearly recounted, revealing how the “Batmobile has changed with the times and reflects the times, like the Dark Knight himself.” The well-written text places this icon in the broader context of the Batman universe and in popular culture, while also zooming in on the specifics of the design concepts and challenges behind creating particular incarnations, such as the familiar convertible with the double-bubble windshield from the 1960s TV show, or the elegantly streamlined yet menacing-looking machine for Tim Burton’s Batman. Commentary from comics creators, movie directors and producers, and even stuntman drivers add interest and behind-the-wheel insights. Abundant and stunning, illustrations include reproductions from comic books, film photos, blue prints, concept artwork, and even a fold-out image of the Tumbler. A fascinating read.

See also round up of Batman graphic novels sure to entice teen movie viewers.

Publication Information

COX, Greg. The Dark Knight Rises: The Official Movie Novelization. Based on the screenplay by Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan. Titan. 2012. pap. $7.99. ISBN 978-1781161067.

The Dark Knight Manual: Tools, Weapons, Vehicles & Documents from the Batcave. Text by Brandon T. Snider. Insight Editions. 2012. Tr $40. ISBN 978-1-60887-104-9.

JESSER, Jody Duncan & Janine Pourroy. The Art and Making of The Dark Knight Trilogy. Abrams. 2012. Tr $40. ISBN 978-1-4197-0369-0.

COTTA VAZ, Mark. Batmobile: The Complete History. Insight Editions. 2012. Tr $35. ISBN 978-1-60887-103-2.

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Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.