I have talked about Mr. Nolan’s vision of Batman on my old blog; the gist of it is, he gets a lot of things right, but some things bug me. For the most part, I do really enjoy the movies.
When I sent to see The Avengers, I was actually more excited about seeing the extended trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, and it revealed a lot thematically that I had not seen in the original trailer.
Here is the trailer I am referring to:
Besides obviously borrowing from the Knightfall arc where Bane breaks Batman’s back, I definitely got a No Man’s Land vibe from the isolation of Gotham with the bridges collapsing and the bat chalk marks. I actually re-read these two arcs before seeing the movie to see if there was anything else taken from them.
SPOILER ALERT: The rest of this post discusses specifics from the new movie. Do not read on if you have not seen it!
First, I was surprised to see that the continuity had jumped forward eight years of inactivity for Batman, and there are definitely ideas borrowed from The Dark Knight Returns, such as his failing body and the questionable state of his abilities and his mind. More interesting was his slack willpower, which has been called Batman’s ultimate superpower. The Batman/Bane showdown reminded me a lot of Rocky III. This was a bit disappointing to me, because it downplays Bane. In the movie, it seems like Bane beat Batman not because he was better than Batman, but just that Batman has gone soft. In Knightfall, Batman is at the top of his game physically, he is just on tilt mentally, and Bane capitalizes on this by releasing all of Arkham to observe and tire him. In the movie, he releases all of Blackgate Prison, which are the dangerous but not crazy criminals in Gotham, and Batman is already out of commission by this time. It is merely to torture him from afar.
Having Gotham isolated and descend into anarchy was a nice “motivational tool” for Batman, but there has so much more that could have been done with the No Man’s Land aspect. I feel like the bat chalk marks and “gang territory” idea in general could have been played up a lot more. Having the entire police force locked up underground for three months seems a bit ridiculous to me. I would have liked to see Gordon pull strong like in the comics and have the GCPD or at least the MCU toughen up and be less Batman-dependent. Of course, since Batman has not been around for eight years in this continuity, I suppose they never became Batman-dependent in the first place.
I do like that Mr. Nolan played on our foreknowledge of Bane’s background for his “twist” near the end. For a while during the movie, I was thinking, “Are Bane and Talia pulling a Luke and Leia?”
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the movie, though, is that Bane is motivated only by love for Talia. In fact, he is willing to die for her by staying in Gotham with his own nuclear bomb about to go off. I am not sure Talia would want to die with Gotham, and the Bane of Knightfall definitely would not. In the comics, Bane is driven by ambition – he wants to become the best by taking down the best. I feel like the forest was missed for the trees with movie-Bane’s desire to “own” Gotham. He wants it not as a prize or as a gift, but as a status symbol of being large and in charge. This is very reminiscent of Bane from the disastrous Batman & Robin movie, in which he is a mindless thug henchman for Poison Ivy. It should be noted that in the comics, Bane meets Ra’s Al Ghul and impresses him so much that Ra’s wants Bane to be his heir instead of Batman.
Something else I noticed about the movies as a whole – in the first movie, Batman/Bruce Wayne is given center stage. In The Dark Knight, Joker is clearly a scene-stealer, and in Dark Knight Rises, Blake is the scene-stealer. (Bane might have been more of one if he did more. Seems like he mostly just stands around holding his lapels and being hard to understand.) Not sure if this is intentional, but Batman goes through some serious Badass Decay. Is this inevitable for a superhero franchise?
Final note about the movies – for the love of God, stop giving your secret identity away to everyone you meet, Batman!