Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Dark Knight Rises Debate: Improvements and the Future


C: After having a week or so to calm down, think through, and rampantly argue the ups and downs of the Dark Knight Rises, both by itself and in the light of the rest of the trilogy, we now find ourselves at the next logical step, a blog argument about it. Personally, I feel that what stopped DKR from being a suitable finish to a great trilogy was it's major shift away from both the Batman comic books, and the Batman himself, abandoning not only him, but also Bane and Catwoman in favour of superfluous 'real' characters like John Blake and John Daggett.

This week's webcomic has coincided very neatly with this argument. 

BB: You suck and are a little gimpy comic book fanboy nerdlinger. This is an apt argument overall, but please bear with me while I go into more details. I think the statement that The Dark Knight trilogy is different to the comic books if for the most part a moot point. Batman Begins  closely resembles the character and basic point behind Bruce Wayne and his motivations for becoming the Batman more than enough to be recognised as something Batman-like. From what I have heard, The Dark Knight trilogy does from that point on have a tendency to pretend that it isn't part of the Batman franchise and is ashamed of it in some way. There have been numerous comics and graphic novels that have gone down this more realistic route, and it is an interesting idea to explore as to how heroes and villains could work in a more realistic setting. If The Dark Knight trilogy had been a comic series, I don't think this would have been seen as a problem, but simply an original exploration, or reboot of the characters.

On the subject of the Dark Knight Rises having a problem juggling all of it's characters and making it's mind up on which characters are most interesting to explore, or actually vital to the plot, I'll let Aaron go into his problems with the film's successful and failed characterisation. With what I assume will be a shit ton of bitching of character differences between comic and film as well. Go on baby.

I wouldn't even call them brothers, let alone the same man.

C: This appears to be a fully operational reflexive Nolan Defence rant. My problems with this film go deeper than just it's disregard for the source material, and I think you demonise me too much when I bring it up, I appreciate you've got to make the story and characters your own, but I felt that as Nolan desperately tried to navigate the Batman mythos, he sacrificed quite a lot of dodges on what could have been legitimate interpretations of characters in his universe, rather than in name alone. But away from that, DKR isn't just flawed because it doesn't hit the credentials of a comic book pedant like myself. The pacing is all over the place, I know 'Rising' is as good as an empty, meaningless theme as this movie ever got, but we did not need to see Batman rise two consecutive times.

Speaking of incoherent messages, Bane's new, 'interpreted' message completely lacks direction. At the same time as apparently showing the 'Dark side' of Gotham, Joker style, he is also apparently trying to create some sort of revolutionary peasant uprising, akin to an idiotically idealised French Revolution. Not to mention legitimately interesting developments, like how Bane's rule for 5 months might have negatively impacted on Gotham more than just 'Winter Comes'. The message ultimately gets confused, is the destruction of Gotham via the bomb be the main thing? Is Batman mentally scarred by the peasant uprising? The two points are basically incompatible, surely torturing Batman wouldn't be the people destroying their own city, merely just, blowing it up straight away. There you go, how is that for leaving comic books in the dust.

BB: I agree that thematically the film is abit of a mess. Nolan describes the major theme of the film as 'Pain', which is such a vague theme that I struggle to see how it separate itself from the other two, which were both in their own ways also about pain. Bane's plan of torturing Gotham for 5 months in order to break Batman I agree is strange. It makes sense in the context that it is not about the torture of Gotham, as since they never know that the bomb is going to detonate and will ultimately not know that they are doomed makes the allegory of Bane's younger years spent in the pit, seeing hope of escape but knowing that ultimately he is trapped, as abit distorted. Similarly, the trouble he goes to in torturing Gotham, since it is in order to torture Batman suffers a similar problem, in that we never really get a feeling for why Bane desires to torture Batman in such a way, since they only meet once face to face, with Bane barely hearing from Batman before that, and so his obsessive quest to torture Batman is lost somewhat as we know nothing of why he feels so strongly against Batman. There is a light shed on his reasoning later as we learn that he works for Tahlia Al Ghul, who in fact is the one who wishes to torture Batman. But as I'm sure you'd agree, it does lend itself to the problem that Bane goes very quickly from being the main antagonist to more of a conduit for Tahlia's plan, and as swiftly as he revealed to not be the main villain, the film seemingly bores of him and he is killed off instantly by Catwoman, in what is a very anticlimactic scene, and steals Batman's victory over Bane.
However, I do think that aside from the problems of Bane, but his problems really only relate to his part in the overall story being diminished by his side kick nature. Bane himself as a character and a terrifying force throughout the film is one of the main strengths of the film's characterisation. You understand Bane and regardless of his part in the overall masterminding of the plot, you also understand what he wants and why he does what he does. His sidekick nature is a double edged sword as it makes him equally weaker as an antagonist, but much deeper as a character as we see that he is not as brutal and empty as he is first presented to be. He is loyal and far more complex than that.

The second rising I think is equally important in Bruce Wayne's story. Although I agree, due to time constraints what should be a much More emotional and painful journey is broken down into what is essentially a very refined montage of training, pseudo-philosophising and exposition. But it does on the surface do the important thing of having Bruce Wayne learn once more why he became Batman, and not in a superficial way of putting back on the suit and getting back in the game. The first rise isn't really a rise, as much as it simply a continuation after an eight year hiatus. Bruce Wayne needs to sink lower before he can finally rise and become the hero Gotham needs him to be. Without Bruce falling this low I don't think that the fall of Gotham would have been as hopeless, since Bruce would simply be waiting for a time to come out of hiding. Here both Bruce and Gotham having crumbled in unison, illustrating that their journey is one and the same, Batman is working for Gotham and runs in tangent with it. Regardless, even though it a basic exploration of it, it's still a cool location to set a scene, an interesting idea and one that is genuinely tense, although in a very manufactured and inevitable way, as to whether or not Bruce will rebuild himself physically and mentally in time to save Gotham. It is needed for Gotham and Bruce to fall equally as low and make the final instalment a dark final stand.

As I've mentioned earlier, there is a problem in that Catwoman near the end of the film is used as a plot device to randomly step in and help Bruce whenever he's in a sticky situation, even at one point sinking to the point of a love interest in one of the most forced kisses on screen that I've ever experienced. What did you think of her and whether or not she was well developed? She was definitely a presence but a part of me still felt she was underused. Did you like her, or wasn't her suit as tight as it was in the comics?

Even the posters refuse to call her Catwoman

C: Was Gotham supposed to be crumbling? I hardly noticed, those 5 months kept everything looking pretty neat and tidy, I guess Warlord Bane implemented a massive public works commission to keep the streets nice and clean of trash, probably the same commission who built that fucking massive wall of cars across the tunnel, maybe Batman hired them out as well to emblazon a massive christdamned Bat across the Gotham skyline. I never really felt like Gotham was falling apart, or Bane was implemented some sort of crazed rule, I mean why punish the upper class specifically if you are going to nuke them all in a designated time period anyway. Other than a few messy offices everyone looked immaculate, there was no harshness under Bane's rule, a kid Almost got beaten up for stealing an apple, that was about it. Even the damn police chief could live happily in his house with his wife and kids. The police underground as well, completely fine. It was the most apathetic take over ever, and completely wasted its potential meaning. As for Batman's fall and rise, that thing was a mess as well, you could see Nolan's pen strain to desperately hold in the 'big twist' of Talia by constantly referring to the child, but still messily referring to Bane as well, I know being a comic fan meant that that twist was revealed earlier to me by sheer knowledge, but it was so clumsy and fiddly, it literally felt like Bane had dropped him in the Magical pit of character growth, with two sidekick buddies to spare.

Comparatively I have little to bitch at Catwoman for...Oh wait, other than the fact she is never even called Catwoman, but yes, that aside, Selina Kyle is a good character, she conforms to the Nolan Tropes for Woman just loosely enough that she can carry scenes on her own, never feels incompetent, and her betrayal aspects keep the character dicey. She is also way more believable in a fight than Black Widow was in the Avengers this year. In credit to the film, the way it had been set up as 'the big end' worked in it's favour, as I was never sure what was going to happen next, it shook up the, sometimes slightly predictable world of comics by having an atmosphere akin to George RR Martin, where it didn't matter if the characters died, because this was the end of the line for them...If only he had actually capitalised on that, it could have been good.

BB: I suppose the ultimate problem of not having Gotham's takedown being harsher can only be blamed on the 12A rating, which for profit's sake had to be implemented. It's not as harrowing as it could have been, but for a social breakdown for kids, I think it held its own pretty well and had the illusion of anarchy at times.

The twist of Bane I think is still only a problem because of the manor in which it's dealt with, that being people speaking of a child who is stated very clearly as having escaped and yet in another sequence is told had a mask built for it. The film mixes it story which makes you think that the big reveal at the end is cleverer than it actually is, and was convoluted enough that you as the audience could've worked it out. But it's convoluted in such a forced way, with characters in the pit, especially that of the doctor, not simply being vague as to the nature and gender of the child, but seemingly at times even completely forgetting their own lives. If the doctor had been described as having Alzeheimers or being a lacky for Bane that would've been better explained as to why he was just making stuff up. But since he very happily helps Bruce Wayne escape the prison and seems pretty lucid and trustworthy, there doesn't really seem to be any reason as to why he was creating a twist for us.

The problem with the takeover being apathetic is that the characters clearly state that they are messing with Gotham and as such are making them believe there is still hope. The police underground survives because they want it to survive. Miranda Tate, or Tahlia Al Ghul is aware of their existence the whole time and it is assumed she has a reign on the whole thing and has it all under control. This is why as soon as some agents turn up to help, they are swiftly killed by a surprise task force. The main reason they fail is not because they let anything slide, but namely because they just completely underestimate Bruce Wayne and Batman. Bruce is a man of secrets and so it makes sense that his secret stash of Bat gadgets is all safely hidden in his lair from The Dark Knight. There are other questions with how Bruce keeps alot of his gadgets, namely the Bat, flying helicopter thing, which has apparently been parked on the Bat Roof for a few months while Bruce has been in prison, or holiday depending on how harrowing you find his rising. But these films, as well as all hero movies are built on underestimation of the hero as well unwavering competence of said hero, which few if any people would ever be able to actually achieve.

We seem to agree on the major plot holes, but differ mostly in how much leniency we want to give Nolan for working within the parameters of a 12A and a 2 and a half hour film, where he has tried to do far too much and has ended up with a dense, if still basic and at time oddly paced film, taking almost an hour for Batman to even appear. But mostly I'm giving it leeway because it impressed me in so many areas other than storytelling, which has been the weakest of the series in this film. What were your thoughts on the ending. I felt it wasn't as striking as it could have been, since with so many plot threads to sum up there wasn't any way to ever have a quick final, grand scene like in Inception. I thought it was certainly a strong ending though, which pulled everything together in the end and wasn't unfinished or vague in anyway. But did you find this lack of ambiguity frustrating, with Bruce Wayne's supposed death being wriggled out of in the last second, which shocked me as based on Nolan's previous films, I was expecting something far more open ended and in a way less vanilla than what this reveal ended up being. Was it an effective pullout in your opinion, or did it just end up splurging everywhere, directly in your eyes and leaving some forgotten residue within the vagina of Warner Bros pictures, which is ready now to shit out a whole army of bad Batman and Robin spin off films.

Robin and the bad Brooklyn accent (2014)

C: It seems when I went to bed, my mind began much more susceptible to being read by yours, I think depressingly you have justified your stance better in text. The 12a really does have a lot to answer for, I think it made Bane a less threatening character as well, and really reduced the elements of fear in key moments, like anything involving Selina Kyle, and the 'epic' 1st Batman versus Bane fight.

 Interestingly enough, Catwoman's comic is often one of the highest age rated, and I only really think her character thrives in that sort of environment. She also needs to be unnecessarily flamboyant, which could never really have worked in a Nolan film, but as I've already stated, I think she made one of the best transitions into the Gritiverse. I also definitely agree with you on the ending being pretty poor both in comparison to Batman, and Nolan films. I was really happy when I realised that Batman was going to have to nuke himself, and the fact that they ultimately robbed me of that moment, leaving myself to damningly repair the moment with 'well, he sacrificed the Batman, not himself" felt cheap. I think the Robin bit was solid, I really don't think Catwoman needed to be there, Bane's 'death' was stupid, Talia's was pretty lame as well, given that a 50 year old man survived that crash, but not her, the uber assassin's daughter. She was just generally a poor character.

But yeah, future Batman's, I know you aren't looking forward to it, but I personally cannot fucking wait until we get to see new shots of the next Batman, I'm kind of hoping the costume is Grey and Black, rather than just Black. I also wouldn't mind a Robin movie, probably starring Jason Todd. I don't think it should be an origin story, maybe have the mandatory shitty flashback to the night where he saw Zorro then his parents got murdered, but that is as far as it should go. The Batman isn't Flash, or Aquaman, the audience clearly knows his backstory, I think entering the Batman story full swing, like him, and the entire DC pantheon of characters has always existed is the best way to go about it. What about you? I know you don't like to imagine B-man beyond C-man, but what would you like to see...Bar Detective Chimp.

BB: Only had to hit D into my Google search bar and his name was already there. Look at this motherfucker, it's a chimp smoking cigarettes with genius levels of intelligence. Grittier than a badly tarmacked drive. He would've made a better inclusion to The Dark Knight franchise than even Catwoman.

We may disagree on how impressive The Dark Knight Rises was and how this affected our enjoyment of the film. But a Gotham with more super intelligent simians, possibly sprouting from the insane amount of neutron radiation still hanging around from that nuke, would be a damn fine Gotham indeed.

Get Nolan on the phone.

In conclusion:

Oh and Mexican wrestler Bane still sucks dick. If he even can with all that mask shit in the way.


I agree with your Detective Chimp point so much, I spent 10 minutes searching the web for an appropriate clip of Detective Chimp in Batman Brave and the Bold. A heart wrenching scene could of occurred as Detective Chimps comes to terms with the true price of super intelligence, isolating him in a world where he can be neither Monkey nor Man.

It depresses me we even need to distinguish between Bane and Bane, such is the gap betwixt characters. I've decided that if you wipe out the character of Talia, and mould the story around the idea that; Bane planned more of it, maybe that Ra's comes back and takes over, or that Scarecrow amassed power using the revolutionary method. At least something to create a third force in the 'epic finale' spice things up a bit, remove Miranda Tate as well and make Selina Kyle a high society cat burglar who does it for the thrill.

And of course, Detective Chimp takes the position of John Blake. Me and David S Goyer worked through the night making this script, you better appreciate it. I would even be fine with the Nolan Bane in this edition.
I think now is a time to look to the future, of a new Batman, who isn't the be all and end all of comic book heroes, but merely one cog in a bigger story, the guy who teams up with Flash, Detective Chimp, or Green Lantern to battle Kite-man, a Mexican wrestler souped up on steroids, or a living plant woman who wants to ecobomb the world.

And so concludes the first of many public 'debates'. There will be a web comic to accompany this soon enough, so until then, hope you've enjoyed the hatred. C has been me, Chapman, BB, Billy Bob. Enjoy.

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