IMDb's Keith Simanton on The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, Justice League

It's been far too long since we brought you the first half of our monthly conversation with IMDb Managing Editor Keith Simanton. While we originally planned to bring it back early last week, we decided with Comic-Con looming and the movie we discussed still not out until Friday that it was possibly not the worst thing in the world to wait until we could actually take the time to breathe and make sure we got the quotes right. All that said, as you might imagine, we wrapped our conversation on The Amazing Spider-Man last time around and started in on The Dark Knight Rises, a conversation we'll bring you below.

The film, of course, comes out Friday and will be in theaters everywhere tomorrow at midnight; it's widely expected to make between $175 and $200 million in its opening weekend, making it the second highest-grossing opener of 2012 and possibly the second highest-grossing opening of all time.

A rarity in our conversations with Simanton, he had not yet seen The Dark Knight Rises when we spoke to him, since Warner Brothers was not allowing critics into screenings at that point. While the reviews are starting to flow now, ComicBook.com will bring you our official review early Friday.

Generally by now, we would know just about everything there is to know about the movie, wouldn't we?

Yeah, typically.

I think back to Avengers and the Thanos thing was already in the water at this time. It's really interesting to me because we were talking earlier about how the studios feel no loyalty to the directors and that the directors' art tends to get subjugated to this idea of a movie as a product...but it seems like Christopher Nolan has found a way around that, hasn't he?

Well, Christopher Nolan's movies make money--and they make an insane amount of money. They're in the Batman business for sure, but they're also in the Chris Nolan business. Inception ensured that they were in the Chris Nolan business.

Much like it would be very difficult to tease apart Joss Whedon's involvement with The Avengers, I think it would be very hard to tease apart Chris Nolan and what they've had happen with The Dark Knight.

It seems unprecedented, but Sony had that with Raimi as well, and you can argue that Warner had that with Tim Burton in the original Batman franchise, becuase they let him do Batman Returns and--"we're going to have penguins and we're gonna--whatever the heck you want!" Okay, sure...that's a bizarre film. [Laughs] The penguin threat of the penguins with the rocket launchers--you almost have to wonder if Burton was just having one off on everyone involved with that.

The problem with these films as well is you want to build in some idea of credibility--some way that these guys can exist in a world, and as you pile on "who's going to show up in the next one and the next one?", it gets harder to do that in any convincing fashion?

Do you think the next guy is pretty much screwed? I mean, if they're doing a Justice League film--or even probably if you aren't, since Batman is such a big tentpole for Warner--you need a new film in the next five years or so. And so the next guy is not only going to have to live in the shadow of Chris Nolan, but also presumably he'll have to have a version of Batman who could plausibly appear in Justice League.

I agree that whoever has got this next has got a mountainous--it's a horrifically tough gig. And it's not like Batman is a touchy-feely, entertaining creation. Matter of fact, I think the reason the whole Dark Knight series works is that it is so gothic and grim and--certainly with what Nolan did--about the duality of human nature and terrorism post-9/11. You're dealing with all that stuff and it seems like this next one's gonna be very much about the 99%, Occupy Wall Street movement with an air breather.

So I think you have a very tough time sticking that guy next to the Enlongated Man or Hawkman. It's just hard to do. But I had no idea how they were going to pull off The Avengers either. I think part of the genius of that is that they did.

When I go over in my head that kind of wish-list of who would I like to see take over Batman post-Nolan, almost none of them are a voice that I could see sounding natural next to Superman. Talk about putting Fincher or something on this film, and would that really work with the Flash wisecracking next to him?

[Laughs] Yeah, it's really tough. Then again, I had no idea how they were going to make a Thor film, and to me Kenneth Branagh really deserves a lot of props, and Tom Hiddleston as well, for creating this somehow Shakespearean, operatic Thor. Because I had no idea looking at it from the outside. "Okay, you're going to do the Norse god one? How does that work? And how does that work in The Avengers?" And I guess one just goes in 120% and does it.

I had the same reservations and they dissipated somewhat when they announced Branagh. I feel like Thor is the one that reminds you that some really smart people are working with a lot of resources and can make it work as long as people get out of their way. I think just becuase it's incredibly herculean trying to reinvent Batman post-Nolan, doesn't mean it can't work. But the guy has to be perfect becuase if it doesn't work or if it's perceived not to work and then you're going into a Justice League film with a bad Batman movie. Justice League hinges, I think, on Batman and Superman.

Zack Snyder? He can be really serious. He needs to loosen up, which he probably did--I think anytime that you take these things and make them just so ultra-serious...

Marvel went kind of the opposite way. They went and had fun with them, and I think that's the only way you get to a Justice League movie, is that you rebuild this stuff with an element of--not tongue in cheek but with very much a sense of playfulness.

And I think that while Snyder's resume might not necessariliy scream it, he can do that. His Watchmen, his 300--these are things that are very loyal to the source material almost before anything else. To me, I'm kind of willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves me wrong that he's smart enough to know that Superman can't look like Sucker Punch.

I felt he changed enough, but I don't think there's a moment of levity in Watchmen whatsoever, nor would it have worked. I think if they're going to go to a Justice League, you've got to go to a point where people are like, "Okay, Superman and Batman are good friends and they have a--I don't know if you do a spaceship orbiting above the earth or not--but you've got to go there with a sense of playfulness that I think Marvel managed to pull off.