Chat Cave: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises. Welcome to the Chat Cave.

Hey, here’s the unfortunate reality: The Dark Knight Rises is going to be forever linked to the shootings in Aurora, Colorado. Unless you saw a midnight show, your theatre-experience was affected by the actions of one 24-year old with some guns and a gas mask. You had police officers wandering in before all the major action sequences, you looked twice at everyone that walked in. What happened was terrible and we’re going to be hearing and reading and writing and talking about it for a long time. And while we’re not in the habit of covering current events, we absolutely have to talk about the new Batman movie. No one’s trying to be crass, no one’s trying to be dismissive; our discussion is going to be about the movie we all saw this weekend. Let’s try to keep it that way in the comments.

Oh, and f’real: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW

Patrick: There’s obviously a lot to say about The Dark Knight Rises. The film’s a Christopher-Nolan-168 minutes, which in normal director time is like three days, so there’s a ton of incident to unpack. Because we try to limit our word-count in these things, I’m going to stick to one of the stronger threads: Detective Blake.

One of the things I’ve always loved about Batman is the way he’s able to inspire ordinary people to do extraordinary things. What is Batman, after all, but a normal guy putting his life on the line every night? Batman Begins really puts Bruce Wayne through the paces before letting him put on the cape and cowl, so it seemed unlikely that this series was ever going to give us a proper Robin story. Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Damian – all of these characters require that absurdly large leap in suspension of disbelief that occurs every time you see a child fighting crime. But Nolan’s series is too involved with the idea of Batman-as-symbol, so someone’s got to take up the mantle.

And not just in some abstract way. Oh, Commissioner Gordon is good for the city and the mayor seems like a good guy, but everyone perks up around rumors of Batman’s return. So I really dig that Detective Blake gets to have his own costumeless superhero moments in the movie. It was like an extended origin-prequel for a movie we’ll never see. The fact that he stumbles into the Batcave in the closing minutes of the film is just icing on that cake: this Batman lives on whether we’re watching him or not.

But revealing that his full first name is Robin? Ouch. That’s some corny, if inconsequential, bullshit right there.

Peter: I agree that the Robin name drop was bullshit. It almost ruined the entire rest of the movie. However, I don’t really want to talk about John Blake here. I want to talk about Bane. I really liked the Nolanverse reinterpretation of this character. Christopher Nolan’s Batman is wildly different from the comics, and I have come to except that over the years. After the Scarecrow, Ra’s, and the Joker being fairly realistic versions, it would stand to reason that Bane would be a bit more of a challenge.

First of all, he’s really the only one with superpowers. Sure, Ra’s had the pits, but the Joker was just crazy and Crane was smart. Bane had Venom. Surprise, surprise, it wasn’t in the movie. In the movie, he wore a mask to suppress his pain, probably through constant administration of some form of chemical agent. But, there’s no suggestion that his strength comes from anything other than lots of training. You know what though? It totally worked.

Nolanverse-Bane still had the scariest thing about Comic-Bane though; his criminal mastermind. Also, his ability to break the Batman. His history was also pretty close. In the books he was raised in a prison, and eventually escaped to become a crazy strong, crazy powerful guy. Heck, he was even involved with Talia and Ra’s for a time in the books. He is the only other person to be declared Ra’s heir other than Batman.

Tom Hardy did a phenomenal job with very limited facial expressions. He really embraced the character as a smart, strong, criminal mastermind. Many people have complained to me that they couldn’t understand him. I didn’t really get a lot of that, maybe like 1 sentence the entire movie. While I did like this movie, it wasn’t my favorite Nolan Batman, (that honor still goes to Batman Begins) but it does an incredible job of bring the trilogy to a close and making the overlying themes incredibly relevant and awesome.

Drew: It shouldn’t surprise any of our readers that we were excited for this movie, or that we would watch it with a critical eye, but I wasn’t exactly prepared for those two givens to be at odds. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the movie, but I’m not sure any movie could live up to the expectations I’d been setting for it since I first saw The Dark Knight four years ago. That film set an impossibly high standard for the franchise, and while I thought this movie was fantastic, my initial reaction was that it failed to be to The Dark Knight what The Dark Knight was to Batman Begins.

Then I watched it again. Suddenly, the parts that bothered me — the happy ending, the occasionally cliched dialogue (“not bad…not bad at all”), even the Robin reveal — stuck me less as general moviegoer service, and more as specific comic book fan service. While that’s not necessarily better, I certainly take solace in my Batman knowledge enhancing my experience. This means specific allusions, from Knightfall to No Man’s Land to The Dark Knight Returns, were put there for Batman fans, not just Nolanites. Sure, it also meant the Talia twist was broadcast as soon as anyone mentioned that Ra’s al Ghul had a child, but that was kind of spoiled by her casting, anyway.

My point is, recognizing the old cop with the brash young partner, or Batman tagging the bridge, or even the use of the name Dagget, were all fun thrills that us nerds are uniquely equipped to enjoy. It also allows me to justify that whole death fake-out as being loosely based on the ending of The Dark Knight Returns.

Shelby: It’s true, I don’t think this movie was as good as The Dark Knight. That movie had some magic to it, and I think if Nolan had tried to top it, or even duplicate it, it would have fallen flat on it’s bearded, shut-in face. This movie was exactly what it needed to be: a no-holds barred brawler to nicely wrap up this trilogy.

But I most want to talk about the ladies in this movie. Talia al’Ghul and Selina Kyle: two woman who, I feel, tend to walk the line between good guy and bad guy. Talia is more likely to fall on the bad side, and Selina on the good, but they are both slightly ambiguous characters. I was very impressed by Anne Hathaway, I did not go in to the movie with high expectations. But the first time she flawlessly transitioned from panicky damsel-in-distress to badass femme fatale, I was totally sold. I will admit, I suspected Marion Cotillard was secretly Talia, but I wasn’t so convinced to not be surprised at the reveal. I think my exact reaction was to turn to my friend and punch him in the arm, so good on ya, Nolan.

I love what Nolan has done with these ladies; after 2 disappointingly useless love interests (I know it’s technically one, but the difference between Holmes and Gyllenhaal is astounding), Nolan has given Bruce Wayne not one, but 2 strong and independent women. These two can actually give both Bruce and Batman a run for his money. True, one of them spent most of the movie stealing from him and got him thrown in a pit with a broken back, and the other tried to kill millions of people with a nuclear bomb, but love isn’t always easy.

26 comments on “Chat Cave: The Dark Knight Rises

  1. This Bruce character also reminded me quite a bit of the Bruce Wayne from the Elseworlds storyline Kingdom Come. Both have a cranky shut in Bruce. Both of their Batman’s need some sort of exoskeleton like shell to fully move. Nolan also took a direct quote when Selena disappeared off the roof, and Wayne said “So that’s what that feels like.” Superman does the exact same thing to Bruce in Kingdom Come.

  2. I saw all three movies at the theather marathon style, and it was awesome. It helped me notice so many lines of dialogue and camera shots that were throwbacks to the other movies. DKR did plenty of flashbacks to Batman Begins, but there were many more subtle things which really made it feel like the first and third movies were proper bookends to a great trilogy.

  3. Also you’re right about coming to accept that this is a different Batman than the one I love in the comic books. The biggest thing I had a problem with going into it was how on earth they could explain Batman taking 8 years off? Comic book Bruce would NEVER sit back and rest. But I waited to see and in accepting that this is a different Bruce, I could buy into his different motivations. Which turns out to be a good thing, because it takes this different Bruce to be able to have a happy ending.

    • Movie makers have a fine line to walk when it comes to comic books. How do you appease the rabid fanbase of the source material while still making a movie that a large part of the population can enjoy? There’s no way around it, you have to tweak that character to make him fit into a movie, and I think Nolan has done so very intelligently.

    • Yeah, I’d say the only time I felt a little nerd-rage swelling within me was near the end when Bruce’s happy ending is a life without Batman. “What!?” I nerd-screamed inside my own head, “Bruce prefers to be Batman – that’s who he really is!” Like a happy ending for the character is dying as Batman in battle. But these movies have really consistently painted “The Batman” as an obligation, and a destructive force on Bruce’s life. That may not jive with the comic book Batman, but it is consistent with the other movies and is damn compelling character psychology.

      • As I watch every comic book movie ever, I spend more of my time appreciating the movie for what it is, and less time comparing it to the books. As readers, we experience different storylines all the time, and will the Multiverse, literally any iteration of the characters can exist. If people are whining about this Batman and how he compares to the comic proper, that’s a waste of time. Look at it from the perspective that they can both exist simultaneously, and it becomes much more easier.

        • Yes Peter, and I’m obviously not whining about it. What I’m saying is that it ground up against my expectations and it took a second of rational thought for me to realize that this is what the movies have been doing all along.

      • I wouldn’t say I felt the same way but I totally understand where you are coming from. When I saw the happy ending I shocked and thrilled for the character of Bruce. It’s something I thought I’d never see for him. It actually kept me up for hours as my brain tried to come to grips with the fact that Bruce retired. But the conclusion I came to was that comic Bruce (and all Superheroes) are caught in a perpetual battle between good and evil. No matter how long they fight comics comics will just reboot them and make them fight all over again. (The only exception I can think of being Ted Knight/Starman and that’s because Robinson forced him into retirement specifically so that he would have a happy ending) I think that is kind of sad in a way. It brought up memories of Batman Beyond where Bruce ends up old and alone before Terry shows up. But at that point he’s forced back into the fight. And yeah, he’s happy about it, but that’s because its the only thing he has at this point. Everyone else has left him. I found myself feeling sorry for Batman while watching him in his prime during the Justice League show always thinking to myself “Sorry, Bruce, you end up old and alone.”

        • I kind of wished you didn’t see Bruce at the end, that you just saw Alfred look up and smile and nod.

          I was definitely crying by that point, as well.

        • The Alfred scene was a nice consequent of the (albeit non sequitur) antecedent story he told earlier in the film…but it still felt like a step too far. Aren’t his mother’s missing pearls AND the fact that he had programmed the autopilot AND the fact that he somehow left the coordinates to the Batcave for Blake enough for us to assume he’s still alive? I feel like showing us was totally unnecessary, and I suspect is the result of Nolan pulling his punches after everyone pitched a fit over the ending of Inception.

  4. In regards to the Robin thing, sure it might have been better fan service for him to say his legal name was Dick Grayson or Tim Drake, but I know a lot of people would hear that and not have a clue what it meant. I don’t think the name is as important as the character portrayal, and in my opinion they did a damn good job there. Blake was making jokes while the two of them were fighting; he said you have to learn to smile to cover your anger; and even when the whole city didn’t have a clue, a child could deduce that Bruce Wayne was Batman. I don’t think I would want to see a movie with JGL under the cowl but I was happy with what they did with the character.

    • I felt the same way. The Robin thing was kind of an eye-roll, but I got over it.

      If they were prepping for a Justice League movie, and made a new Batman universe with JGL as Bruce, I would watch the HELL out of that.

      • JGL as Dick as Batman would be fun to watch.

        I get that calling Blake “Drake” or “Grayson” or whatever might be too inside, but why bother doing it at all? This is clearly a new character – and aside from being slightly jokier than Batman (remember, Batman gets some zingers in this one: “so that’s what that feels like…”), JGL’s character is nothing like Robin. Just don’t put that line in the movie. I get it – he’s going to step up and take Batman’s place that’s the THE MOST obvious thing in the movie.

        • I think that if they made a JL movie it would have to be drastically different. It would DC a while to develop. With the Man of Steel stuff, we are seeing a push towards a Batman Begins-style of Superman. There is just no way either that Superman or Batman property would work inside of an overarching Justice League. I think it would require DC to do a complete reboot of everything, much in the same style as Marvel’s The Avengers property.

        • IMDB has a listing for an “untitled Batman reboot,” announced July 13th. So there you go.

        • My thinking is they shouldn’t bother with a solo-movie-build-up-to-team-movie business model, they’ll just be Marvel Studios copycats and people won’t respect it. I say their next movie should be called DC Universe and just plain start out with fantastic forces like The Spectre and Darkseid publicly known about… treat it like an urban LOTR. Of course you’d introduce the characters and situations deliberatly, but no need to ease us into the idea of a super-hero universe through slow and realistic world-building IMO… balls-out DC for me

        • I’d actually say he’s an interesting mix of Robins (albeit much older). He’s an orphan who likes to crack jokes and who figured out Batman’s identity on his own. That’s a solid riff that plays homage to a few different Robins. Sure, he’s a new character, but I don’t think the connection to “Robin” is all that strained. On-the-nose, sure, but not strained.

  5. Hey, I wanted to watch my DVD of Batman Begins last week, but when I opened up the case, the disc was missing. Which means one of you motherfuckers (non-specific, I don’t know where I lost it) has it somewhere. Just tell me where it is: I’m not mad. #somad.

  6. I’m not sure how I feel about Blake’s “progress” towards becoming Batman. We see him become a detective, which is mostly just a title, but they repeat the “not allowed to believe in coincidences” thing enough to make it feel like a change in outlook. We see him renounce guns after a suspect dies before he has a chance to question him (though we see him carrying a shotgun in the next scene). We see him receive the whole “why wear a mask” spiel from Batman (twice). We see him renounce his badge after he watches another cop follow orders blindly. These feel like they’re clearly laid-out stepping stones on his path to becoming the next Batman, but maybe I’m just seeing them that way. Do those moments feel more earned and integrated than I’m making them out to be here?

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