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.