Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Snippets From Around The Web: Dark Knight Rises

Before this blog was created, I frequently used internet discussion forums as pulpits from which to belabor my observations on films.  These would usually be a more in-depth treatment of certain aspects as part of an argument, dialogue or detailed discussion.  What follows are my thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises, re-assembled from various forum posts around the web. Keep in mind that these are simple cut/paste jobs, and have not received much by way of editing for grammar.  

Also, there may be spoilers ahead.

On the difference between Nolan's Batman and the Batman of DC Comics, and what that means to fans of either:

"I think a lot of the criticism from the comics community (of which I am a member) stems from the fact that Nolan's Batman takes different elements from the essence of the character and forgoes some of the others from the comics. This is done to make the character more grounded in a world a little closer to the one we live in. Nolan's Batman is, at his core, a driven man who seeks to undo criminals by his own actions and to motivate others through the symbol he creates. He's smart (Princeton, wasn't it?) and he's strong, having trained himself to fight even before he met the league of shadows. What he's not, as opposed to the comics, is simultaneously the World's Greatest Detective, the World's Greatest Martial Artist, the World's Greatest Tactician, the World's Most Dilligent Crimefighter, and the World's Most Prepared Man. As opposed to the comics, Nolan's Batman cannot ride around town every night in the Batmobile and not expect thousands of 911 calls from concerned citizens along with police and press helicopters to follow him everywhere he goes. As opposed to the comics, Nolan's Batman cannot engage in year after year of nightly bare-knuckle boxing against armed thugs and jumping from 3-story parking garages and rooftops onto cars without quickly extracting a toll on his body. As opposed to the comics, Nolan's Batman is not given free reign to swing around the city on his grapple like Spiderman, going from rooftop to rooftop and crossing town parkour-style as if all building roofs are connected and Batman is not subject to permanent injury or exhaustion. Nolan's Batman has an actual story arc (with an end) as a character, and he is not frozen in the same place for decades at a pop as he is in the comics. In the movies, Batman is a symbol and the man behind him is exceptional...in the comics, Bruce Wayne is the one who is "more than a man", with such a check-box of abilities that the combination in any one human being borders on "super", even without x-ray vision and flight. The comics Batman is everything he needs to be to win, the movie Batman has a certain and defined skill set. The comics delve deeply into science fiction and fantasy at times, where Nolan's Batman barely scrapes science fiction. Superman and Green Lantern do not, nor can they, exist in Nolan's world.

So, to some comics fans, Batman isn't "super" enough in various aspects. He's a good detective, not a great one. His weapons are slightly sci-fi, not killer satellites and moon bases. His friends are cops and prosecutors, not aliens and Greek godesses. His enemies are people with resources, determination, and guile, not people who can command plants to do their bidding or open portals to ruined worlds at the other side of the galaxy. And, perhaps most impactful of all, and the root of most of the criticism from comics fans, imho...the story of Nolan's Batman has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Some comics fans cannot fathom that Nolan's Batman would actually seek retirement ("Batman never quits!"), that he might see that his duty to his parents and to his friends is to enjoy some semblance of life after sacrificing so much ("Batman can never get old!"), or that he might honor their memory by pursuing projects that could unite the city in ways other than putting criminals in jail ("Batman can never let go!"). They cannot stomach a Batman that doesn't scrape molecular samples off his batarang and trace them to the criminal's lair with the bat-computer all CSI-style ("Batman is the World's Greatest Detective!"), or a Batman that can't quote Shakespeare and recite the constitution of Yemen word-for-word, you know, just in case it becomes useful to solve a riddle ("Batman is always one step ahead!"). I think if some of those people would stop in the middle of a few "Batman wouldn't"'s and just let the story unfold, they would find it a compelling story of a batman...just not the one they expect."

On the portrayal of class struggle in the film (response to previous post):

"Okay, so that makes sense, if you want the movie to be more about the redemption of Gotham than about Bruce Wayne coming full circle and giving Gotham the hero it needs. I think your ideas on the class warfare and struggle taking more of a center stage might work, except that the premise is cheapened by the emptying of the prisons, the isolation inflicted on the city, the means of supply being fully under the control of a terrorist army, the "courts" led by a madman, and the police being trapped underground...in other words, you can't really do a convincing treatment on the class struggle if you illustrate one side of that struggle as being forced and whipped along by fantastic duress from outside forces. Any beliefs they have are moot as the deck is too stacked in the favor of "revolution". And remember, this is a city being portrayed as largely having fixed itself, where the people were given the sense of hope necessary thanks to the efforts of Batman and Harvey Dent's deified persona. To give Batman a reason to return, you had to have the threat be clear, fantastic, and outside the power of the citizens to handle without asking for heroism on the part of a few. I think as important as it is for the movie to show the basis for the class struggle, more important is the notion that people can choose to behave as heroes, even when the compulsion to destroy and despoil is inflamed beyond reason. As Gotham's disposition was dragged into hell, they needed such heroes to answer the call to greatness, rather than succumb to chaos. As far as "fighting the people, not the police force"...I think you missed one of the main points of the last two movies when it comes to the police: They are the people, just like the DA, the judges, the lawyers, the psychiatrists, the mobsters...They can be susceptible to corruption as anyone else, and choose as individuals to either uphold the ideals of the badge or not."

On the apparent anti-occupy lean in DKR:

"The first thing I would say is, I assume Nolan is somewhat intelligent based on his ability to helm various multi-million dollar projects to success. So let's postulate he's got his anti-occupy agenda, and he wants to illustrate that it's this and that using a parable as an aside to a movie about Batman. Well, if that's the case, I think he picked the worst possible way to generate ill feelings toward the occupy movement. I mean, Gotham is clearly illustrated as a city under siege, not by occupy, but by armed outside forces in a military organization. Food supplies and medical supplies trickle in. Power is a luxury, as is heating fuel. Prisoners have been released into the streets en masse. Bane got the response he wanted out of Gotham at the point of a gun. So, how do you illustrate citizens under such extreme duress and try to make a point on their behavior? Just going by the thematic elements of Nolan's various scripts, I think he is a complex enough writer and thinker that if he were to try to make such a point, he would realize the flaws in trying to draw a parallel using this story...the circumstances just don't match up. I think the point Nolan was trying to make revolved around the character of Bruce Wayne more than it did around any current political movement. Meaning, Bruce was willing, even as a figure of some privilege, to put his fortune and his life on the line for the people of the city at many opportunities. If you were to broaden the scope, and I don't necessarily think he would look at it this way, I would say the point is more about the need for civic responsibility and selflessness on the part of one of the 1%, rather than the mob mentality on the part of the 99%. On the flip side, there is clear mention of the draconian and freedom-stifling measures the city took to fill the prisons to begin with, which just doesn't jibe with some sort of conservative agenda. Sure, you could look at the thing on a very shallow level and conclude that it's anti-occupy, but nothing I've seen in Nolan's vast inventory of writing techniques suggests to me that he's trying to write parables with simplistic political bent."

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