Thinking About The Dark Knight Rises [SPOILERS]

So, I went to see The Dark Knight Rises, and it was kinda good. But also kinda bad. There were moments, plot points, and entire settings which stretched credulity in a way that the previous two Nolan movies did not.

I’d recommend watching it, because it’s a good movie with excellent action sequences and memorable, interesting characters.

Now I’m going to talk about specifics, so there will be SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT DOWN…

Above : Intermission.

I think part of the reason these new movies have been so successful is the same reason The Dark Knight Rises was kind of bad in places. Christopher Nolan appears to be intent on ‘rescuing’ the Batman franchise.

It could be argued that the Batman franchise didn’t need rescuing. Sure, if you only read the comics and watched the cartoons, that’s true. Most people, though, haven’t done this. I mean, ever.

What people have done is seen the movies, or else picked up what they’re about through pop-cultural osmosis. So their view of the Batman universe contained until very recently a Catwoman who has mystic powers, cheesy Germanic scientists, tight Lycra, holy bat nipples, a series of seemingly-irrelevant baddies with bizarre powers and lame puns, and Adam West.

It’s this that I think Nolan was trying to save the series from.

So this is why we get a genuinely creepifying Scarecrow throughout the series, this is why we get no dubious science (well, less than we would expect from a series of comic book adaptations) and no ‘super powers’ in the traditional sense.

This article’s about The Dark Knight Rises though, so let’s get on that quickly.

Firstly, Bane is no longer a dumb thug in the employ of more sinister villains, as he was in Batman and Robin. Seriously, click that link, that video is horrible. He’s back to how he is in the comic books, an intelligent and sophisticated enemy as comfortable leading men as he is beating them mushy.

This was a real sore point with comic book fans, and I think Christopher Nolan did an excellent job in resurrecting Bane as a complex and intimidating villain…up to a point. The final twist, where it is revealed that (seriously, if you skipped all the spoiler warnings to this point you have no-one but yourself to blame) it was Tate, not Bane, who escaped from the pit, that he was cruelly treated by Tate’s father, and he cries a single tear, felt wrong in the context of Bane’s character before that.

Perhaps this is the point. Perhaps the idea is that we see Bane for what he is, just another human being rather than an unstoppable malevolent force, before Catwoman simply blasts the shit out of him with a cannon.

Personally, I think that the events are not close enough to drive this idea home. I feel that Bane is rounded enough as a character at this stage as he needs to be, and that trying to flesh him out further backfired badly in terms of the drama of the film.

Secondly, we have the bomb scene.

Batman running all over town trying to get rid of a huge round bomb in the ocean before time runs out? Remind you of anything?

Batman Bomb

Source: Know Your Meme.

That’s right, the scene frequently cited as a paragon of bat-cheese (ew, sorry) has been utterly redeemed, made awesome even, by Christopher Nolan. I find it hard to believe that it’s not a shout-out — just look how similar the descriptions of them are!

However, it also created problems, in my opinion.

Why weren’t the citizens of Gotham living on a bomb completely out of their control more interested in finding out something about the bomb, dealing brutally with the trigger-man in the process? They seemed unbelievably calm and content with their lot, all things considered.

Why doesn’t Bane simply crush the city with his huge and violent band of criminals? I know that this is explained as the military just being able to crush them, but he has just let the most dangerous killers and villains loose on a city. This would cause enough destruction on its own, even without the military & police showing up with gung-ho heavy weapons crews and letting loose on the city — I would consider whatever was left over to be pretty much mission accomplished.

Stealing this one from movieline.com:

Batman’s Superhuman Time Management
Before zooming off in the Bat with nuclear bomb in tow, and shortly after returning to the city after five months in the middle of nowhere prison with about a day to save the world, Batman somehow manages to put all of his legal affairs in order, leaves the pearl necklace for Selina (heh) and detailed instructions to Blake in a duffel bag at his lawyer’s office, sets a gasoline fire on the bridge in the shape of the Bat, saves Gordon in the nick of time, saves Blake in the nick of time, and fixes the Bat-symbol. I don’t know how he does it! Literally.

Best explanation: He’s Batman. Enough said?

Source: Movieline.

The time factor was pretty odd. Time stretched and slowed in this film like nobody’s business. And I blame the bomb for it.

Third, Catwoman.

Oh, Catwoman.

The best movie interpretation of your character so far has been essentially a shallow portrait of what the average person thinks an S&M fetishist looks like.

The worst has…has been…oh god, no. No, they can’t make me go back, they won’t!

Anne Hathaway, by contrast, portrays a hugely talented Catwoman with a suit that is actually functional (those cat ears are awesome!), a fairly well-developed character who saves the day despite her belief that she can’t really change anything. She is also less of a sex object (which has been her role in most other portrayals) than she is a skilled woman who happens to be sexy. Does she exploit her sexuality to take advantage of marks? Partly, when it’s easy, but equally she uses other skills such as fakery, deception, wit and charm.

She even redeemed one of the worst scenes in the Catwoman movie starring Halle Berry, making the line “Cat got your tongue?” sound sharp and sassy rather than…weird and psychopathic. Thank god there was no white russian scene, though, even Nolan and Hathaway couldn’t have saved that.

The scenes when she pretended to be crying in fear and shock were also excellent, both as send-ups of what Hollywood typically has expected of its women and as feats of acting.

The problem is that she’s too much of a well-rounded character. You’d have to be a real stereotype of a very particular sort to flee a city about to be destroyed when your friends (and every citizen in the city) needs your help, and Nolan’s Catwoman does not fit that stereotype. She’s too nice, too rational, and too smart. It’s not believable that she’d leave, so the scene where she comes back and shoots Bane is not really a surprise.

So, that’s my theory there. All the problems in The Dark Knight Rises were created by Nolan taking the worst parts of the Batman franchise, giving them a spin, and making them awesome.

On the one hand, slight problems that niggle if you think about them too hard. On the other hand…

AWESOME.

I think it was worth it.

Incidentally I found this quote on some right-wing individual’s site who appears convinced that one of the most right-wing movies (source: Forbes if you can stomach it) of recent years is leftist propaganda:

“Isn’t it fascinating that the villain, a brutal sadistic giant who talks through a voice box that makes Darth Vader seem positively cheerful by comparison, is named Bane. Gosh, what a coincidence. Sounds the same as Bain Capital that the president’s rival for the top office worked at. Oh, no, it’s spelled differently. Couldn’t possibly be any reference to Romney’s Bain.”

In case anyone was wondering, Bane in the comic books came a LONG time before Bain Capital was associated with Romney’s presidential campaign. Bane in the movie is a figure representing complete anarchy & populism as opposed to more moderate well-intentioned left- or right-wing individuals. Bane as a word meant something that causes ruin or woe in the 1570s.

Of course, the liberal reptile elite in Hollywood mean for us to become left-wing so that our blood will run sweeter and redder when the harvest finally comes, so there’s that too.

Correct me if I’m wrong about anything.

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