More Thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises
This is a response to Tim Jr.’s Dark Knight Rises article, submitted by guest writer Harrison Soebroto.
I’m hardly a champion of Christopher Nolan’s work, and I definitely do not know enough about film to have majored in it. I do, however, believe that Tim may have been crueler to the film’s minutiae than the movie warrants him to be. I won’t refute point by point, but I will opine in response to a few of Tim’s observations. Let us begin with the topic of Bane. A friend of mine has a similar issue with Bane’s restrictive mask and the difficulties that it would provide in terms of eating (particularly from a gustatory standpoint). I, too, posited that his character likely consumes his calories intravenously. Why, you ask, would the filmmaker choose to omit such a seemingly crucial detail?
Bane’s character is surrounded in mystery. When he first appears on screen he is one of a trio of thugs, each one with a bag over his head. His history is saturated with myth and hearsay. The audience is led to believe that Bane is the child who climbs out of the pit, but he is not. The audience is also led to believe that Bane’s character is fueled only by hatred and a desire to destroy, but as his protecting young Miranda (Talia al Ghul) reveals, he is not. I would argue that more explicit development of Bane’s character, in the form of an explanation of how he eats, would take away from his mysterious allure and worse, humanize him in a way that detracts from his villainy. Tom Hardy’s Bane is strong because of his eccentricity, part of which is fueled by the audience’s attraction to the unknown.
Bane’s origin is properly explained towards the film’s end, after his role as primary antagonist has been played out. Within minutes of the Batman’s discovering the truth, Bane is unceremoniously blasted out of the movie. When Bane is not the overpowering and inhuman villain, he is useless in the story. Revealing how he eats wouldn’t exactly crush his status as head honcho bad guy, but it would detract from it. One might say that showing how Bane eats makes him a more believable character. A more believable character in the Batman universe, you say? Sure, Christopher Nolan has taken a tremendous number of liberties in his interpretation of the comic book series, but I certainly don’t believe that believability is a defining hallmark of the franchise to-date. Gritty, yes. Intimate, yes. Realistic? No. Look at Batman’s helicopter “The Bat,” and tell me that the audience is enraptured by the movie’s realism.
That’s not to say that a more humanistic and “weaker” villain (think the scene in Star Wars V when we see Darth Vader in his pod-thing) is out of place in a fantasy film. Character development is always crucial, and I’d be a fool to say otherwise. I simply aver that Bane’s humanity is not a necessarily integral facet of the film or his character, and therefore does not need to be explicitly depicted. In a movie that already suffers from severe pacing issues, a two-second cut of Bane receiving an IV-drip or sneaking in paste through a silly straw doesn’t seem to be obligatory. I would have loved an explanation of just how Selina Kyle becomes so good at what she does, or just what exactly Alfred does after he leaves the manor, but I would leave Bane’s eating patterns alone.
On the reverse side of the argumentative spectrum, a namedrop of Metropolis in the second film does not delineate the existence of Superman in Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe. Since the upcoming Man of Steel did not present itself to Nolan until 2010, it seems highly unlikely that Nolan would have deliberately plugged his own future work while making The Dark Knight in 2006-2008. It is feasible, however, that Nolan anticipated such a film from Warner Bros. and therefore demonstrated wishful thinking in The Dark Knight’s script. Or, even more likely, one of the writers knowingly dropped the plug in anticipation of the Superman franchise’s rebooting.
If Superhero lore really is a main topic of dissent for this movie’s detractors, it would be better to focus on the fact that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character is not named Dick Grayson, or that Marion Cotillard does not inflect a more Persian or Arab accent (as Tim indeed highlights in his post). Relating a namedrop in a previous film to a potential deus ex machina does not point out a logical fallacy, but rather recognizes a filmmaker’s propensity for profit making. Alluding to Metropolis gets dorks excited, but does not state that there is an easy solution to any bad guy problem. If it did, couldn’t that reference alone render any of Batman’s actions practically inconsequential in the presence of an omnipotent hero mere minutes away? The willing suspension of disbelief occasionally requires ignorance of minutiae.
Lastly, there is the topic of Batman’s early exit from Gotham. Why leave when the city is still in need? Bruce Wayne’s decision to martyr himself is fueled by a bizarre narcissism that Alfred’s character clearly seeks to ameliorate earlier in the film. Batman definitely could have decided to stay and help clean up the city, but Nolan’s Wayne is obviously obsessed with the public image of his alter ego. What more grandiose way to indenture Gothamites to Batman is there than by sacrificially exploding himself on the extremely visible horizon? The city definitely needs Batman’s mettle on the streets after the dystopian reign of Bane, but Wayne—as evidenced by his sentiments in The Dark Knight—thinks that the city needs an idol more than a crime-fighting brawler. That perspective may be flawed; Wayne and his Batman are hardly omniscient or even prescient, but it is a defensible decision for his character. Plus, if he didn’t bail right away, how could he be sure that he’d be able to boink Anne Hathaway off in Europe?