Monday, June 04, 2012

Exactly What Is "Dark Knight Rises" ABOUT?

I actually didn't even realize they were still doing The MTV Movie Awards, let alone that it was tonight. Apparently, the show climaxed with yet another arrangement of footage from "The Dark Knight Rises" - mostly showing off longer takes of stuff we've seen before, but now with perhaps a little more context...

The most interesting thing, obviously, is what seems to be definitive confirmation that Catwoman ends up as a good guy (or, at least, working on Batman's side at some point) which is... whatever, let's see what they do with that. The big stack of junk blocking the tunnel, alongside the previously-seen exploding bridges, implies that Gotham City (or a portion of it) is being deliberately cut-off/"contained" from the mainland; either by Bane or maybe by the authorities in response to Bane? Now I'm wondering if some of this is being taken from the "No Man's Land" story-arc from the comics, where an Earthquake turned Gotham into an isolated, lawless island for awhile. "Escape From New York" wiht Batman? That'd work.

What continues to intrigue me (and possibly put me a bit "on edge,") is what exactly Bane is "about." He's obviously an in-name-only adaptation of the character, so there's really no way to say what his story/motivation/etc. are supposed to be. What we can tell, moreso from some earlier trailers, is that there's a heavy "class war" theme at play in the film - as far back as the first trailer we saw scruffy-looking hordes ransacking mansions, dragging well-dressed people out of hiding places and trashing what looks like a stock-exchange. In this one it looks like Bane is leading (or at least "directing") the mobs; which sets up some troubling subtext when you consider the filmmakers' (scrapped) plans to incorporate real footage of the Occupy Wall Street protests into the film.

Is that the idea? Bane/whoever else using a villainized version of OWS as a tool of societal-destruction? If so, that plus Batman as the "good" side of this starts to feel a little "iffy" to me: Batman - the ultimate one-percenter/status-quo/order-as-justice superhero - swooping in to save us from a villainized version of the Discontented Poor? Are we following up TDK's "shut up and let Bat-Rumsfeld's surveillance network protect you from The Terrorists!" with "shut up and let Bat-Trump protect you from yourselves!"?

Maybe, maybe not. It does strike me that there's something oddly "feudal" about Nolan and company's conception of Batman. It's comic book tradition for superhero's to mainly focus on a single city, both because of logistics and... well, just because; but in this series Bruce Wayne's Gotham-fixation feels a little bit less like focused-benevolence and more like protective-ownership - Gotham City as a modern-day medieval castle-town, Bruce Wayne as the Landed Noble in charge. Hell, he's even an inheritor-by-birthright of his throne; "Batman Begins" having introduced the idea that the Wayne Family has long taken up maintanence of Gotham as a pet-project.

This isn't to say that it's necessarily "wrong" for this particular film to (possibly) be working from an anti-OWS (or, at least, "cut the upper-class some slack, kids!") angle; or that it's somehow ill-advised - being pegged in some quarters as a tacit endorsement of Patriot Act overreach certainly didn't hurt it's predecessor. But it's interesting, and this being an election year you can bet it'll come up.


Lido said...

So does Bane give anyone else Lord Humongous flash backs or is that just me? Also this is the only trailer where Bane has a well delivered line which is neither inaudible nor hilarious, only took them like half a dozen tries to get it right but whatever

Anonymous said...

I don't know. Even in DK, Nolan made sure to really establish a sort of gray morality to Batman's surveillance of Gotham, what with Freeman's character more-or-less threatening to step away.

I'd be interested to take a look back at Nolan's previous films (besides DK) and see if he has any other subtle pro-feudal, pro-right, pro-etcetera subtext.

I am however much more excited knowing this is potentially lifting elements from the No Man's Land arc. It seems Nolan's movies are slowly getting a bit more fantastical rather than realistic with each successive project. They never truly were devoted to ultra-gritty realism in my opinion. Something like The Prestige has great elements of fantasy/sci-fi, and I'd be interested to see if Nolan pulls a rug from under us with any certain element here.

J_Tracey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J_Tracey said...

I don't know. TDK certainly had elements of the Patriot Act in place, but it wasn't clear cut about it. TDK clearly makes the case that the P.A. was only to be used to the most dire of circumstances, never to be touched again after the those circumstances were resolved. The film really captured the society's feelings towards a post-9/11 world and how Right and Wrong became very different things that were difficult to sort out.

To make the film so obviously anti-OWS seems like a much too simple look at the economic crisis. If I had to guess, Batman will be symbolizing the government once again, Bane will be the main problem with society this time around (Joker was terrorism; Bane is the economic crisis) Catwoman seems to be the OWS movement (Supports Batman i.e. the government; hates Bruce Wayne who without the mask who may symbolize the 1%). Maybe Marion Cottiliard's character represents the support for Bruce Wayne (i.e. Tea Party) And Bane's criminal army are those who caused the economic crisis who still control the city(i.e. economy).

That's just my interpretation. That would seem up more Nolan's ally I think.

TheDVDGrouch said...

Its kind of interesting/scary to think moving forward as Superhero movies grow & mature they may take strong political stances, ones that I might not completely agree with.

I guess I haven't seen the movie & shouldn't pass judgement just yet. But I agree with you Bob I am a little iffy on this in particular.

Sam Hanley said...

If TDKR indeed does take some sort of "pro-right" stance, it will be interesting to see how media and the critics (predominantly left-leaning), who have thus far been very high on Nolan, react.

In my opinion, it would be a bold choice for Nolan, not many would attempt something that goes against the prevailing wisdom of Hollywood.

Wendy said...

True, bob, this feels a bit class war-ish in some aspects, but they already established this class issue in Begins, didn't they?

Daniel R said...

I'm mostly interested in how the comic geek audience is set to react.

If this really is going to be a critical portrayal of the Occupy movement then I wonder how the ever present fervor of the Nolanites holds up. Will this be enough of an "offense" to that cross section of Occupiers and Nolanites to turn on Nolan or will they stay true to their idol's cause?

As it is currently, I haven't quite been able to accurately predict the overall comic geek audience's impending reaction in any political sense.

The general vibe I reckon it has towards the OWS is largely positive, amiright?
But then again, just recently DC announced Alan Scott's new sexuality and the vibe I got was one of timid dismissal, along with a lot of suggestions that the very idea of suggesting gay people *exist* was "shoving homosexuality down our throats".

Maybe I just haven't been around the internet or fandom enough to get a pulse on its overall standing socio-politically

I wonder exactly how subtle Nolan plays this. If I remember, TDK was pretty nuanced when it came to its Right wing support.

This on the other hand features an evil rag tag gang of lower class rebels smashing up the stock exchange, fighting riot cops in the street, gathering up business men in suits for apparent execution, and possibly even leading up to the collapse of Gotham. Err... not so subtle.

Anonymous said...

As someone who considers both himself (hell, I was called an "Obama fanboy" recently) and The Dark Knight as a left-wing film, I kinda of find Bob's views of both films a little over simplified.

It's easy to see The Dark Knight as a Pro-Bush War on Terror film. However in my eyes the film spoke more against than anything...Lucious' blatant comment about Bruce crossing lines the least of it.

First of all...the "Authorities" from The Cops, to Dent, to Batman, all of whom were forced to make impossible moral choices, ultimately FAIL, that fact hidden only through their cover ups. Meanwhile "the people" chose the humane way in the final without any intervention of figureheads.

I always saw the film sending a left-wing, war on terror merely forced evil to fight back harder, don't lose yourself in fighting evil by crossing lines, type of message not through the common "Look, the hero did what we SHOULD have done", but rather by holding up a mirror to society and saying "THIS is what we ARE doing, and chaos ensues!". The film doesn't even end on a Bat-Rumsfeld saved the day and everything was ok kind of ending. The "powers that be" cause innocent lives to be lost, fail to stand up to corruption within their own ranks, and even fall from grace themselves.

Which brings me to The Dark Knight Rises. While I accept that the film could very well end up being, anti-OWS. I feel the film will present a more complicated examination of current times, like its predecessor.

Bruce as a "one percenter" may be true. Yet isn't he what we the common folk as for? Someone who contributes his wealth to the community rather than keep it to himself? If Marion Cotillard's character does indeed try to help Bruce further his philanthropy as hinted, couldn't that be a message more left-leaning than right? Could Bruce learn to listen to the 99%?

As for Bane...first of all I'm not entirely sure he has "the poor" in his army as everyone in the footage and images seem dressed like his goons featured in the prologue, suggesting they've been with him from the get go. However motives aside, Bane does appear to want to wealthy to suffer for their sins. But he could very easily be using an ideal supported by the majority to sway them his way, while some sinister plot that's horrible for all lays in wait.

More probable...Batman himself could learn that Bane's message of the power figures being too greedy/lying to the common people, while being delivered by an extremest, has truth to it. If the legacy of Dent is explored and Bane does indeed want to 'liberate' the people from the lies of the powerful...could Bruce go through a learning journey that leads him to realize some of his actions that crossed the line and forced him to lie to the citizens were misguided? Could he learn the 1% were wrong?

It's all speculation but again, I feel the film will explore what IS going on now like its predecessor, instead of just showing us what we should be doing.

Anonymous said...

Well of course it all seems feudal, he is the Dark Knight. He is the protector of the city, much like the feudal knights of old, and must bare the burdens with it. When I first realized that my mind was completely blown, and now I'm excited to see how Nolan might play that.

Anonymous said...

Bruce being part of the 1% will push the people of Gotham to take back their city. It links back to what Wayne's father was and what his parents murder did to the people, as mentioned in Begins.

In combination with Cotillard's role in the film and the line of dialogue in trailer 2 about how he hasn't given the people everything yet, it points to something very obvious that will happen at some point in the film.

Anonymous said...

The new Batman movie is based on a Tale of Two Cities, and was conceived as a project three years ago.

Sam Robards, Comic Fan said...

I could see how the OWS stuff could tie into this movie's plot, but wasn't Bane rumored to be a disciple of Ra's Al Ghul in the Nolan-verse?

If so, Ra's admitted in Batman Begins to trying to use economics to destroy Gotham. Bane appears to be taking a far more radical approach to that same idea: all-out class-based rioting/warfare. Seems like a good way to destroy a city to me.

In terms of the broader "message" potentially being sent out, we'll just have to wait and see.

Personally, I think OWS is full of crap and could go to be taken down a peg (even if it is just in a Batman movie).

And no, I'm by no means anywhere close to wealthy.

Peace out!

Dominic said...

Bane sounds to me like an old man, made young and burly again by whatever's being fed to him through that gaudy, Death-like mask of his. He strikes me as a dapper gentleman; the same kind of wealthy aristocrat that becomes self-conscious of his own failings and throws himself into the depths of human experience to understand himself and the world better... kinda like Bruce Wayne. After all, the one quote that stood out to me in the IMAX prologue all those months ago was "No one cared who I was until I put on the mask." Or something to that effect.

I reckon there's an impending irony here, and while I'm not sure how that'll amend the skew-wiff thesis Bob presents (assuming that holds true, of course), I'm hopeful Nolan will make a solid case by the film's end. In other words: yes, in Nolan I trust. Trite as hell and somewhat lazy, I know, but still.

Sanunes said...

Its not the possible political bias or even Bane himself that has me considering not seeing the movie, its that Bane is the figurehead for everything I disliked about the KnightFall saga and what it represents to me. If I can get by that bias I probably will go see the film, no matter what political view the movie is going to take.

Nixou said...

"Batman - the ultimate one-percenter/status-quo/order-as-justice superhero -"

Don't forget that Bat graduated from the same school of archetypal characters than Zorro, Robin Hood, et all: the aristocrat/upper-class dude who's so disgusted by the corruption of his own social class that he literally takes arms against the worst of them.

But keep in mind that in the first Batnolan movie, Bruce was as disgusted by Gotham's corruption as Ra's al Ghul but opposed his extreme "let's purge this babylon, colateral dammage does not matter" approach.

Also, the Bat-Rumsfeld moment was one of my favorite part of the movies so far: not because I agree with what he does, but on the contrary because it does not follow the Hollywood implicit rule of making sure that characters are either right or punished:
TDK shows that Bruce is torn between his idealism (he wants to believe that a populist procurator will do a better job than him at keeping Gotham safe) and a more agressive/cynical/egoistic streak. It was a smart way to show the protagonist always on the verge of falling on the villainous side, and the surveillance system was a very well done implementation of this concept:

Bruce has the choice of using his surveillance tool to become the benevolent dictator of Gotham or to allow the Joker to succesfully slaughter hundreds of people. By giving the power to another man who immediatelly decide to destroy it, he shows that he is aware that no dictator is really benevolent, yet the temptation to abuse his power to do something which will be universally praised (saved the lives of innocents, put a dangerous criminal away) proves to be too strong to resist, so he uses Lucius Fox both as his failsafe (the idealist in him decided to put a check and balance on himself) and his accomplice (that way he has an excuse to use this excessive power): personally I see this as Batman starting t"fall to the dark side" while trying very hard to convince himself that he has not.

That being said, Bane could be the embodiement of Bruce's failures: he tried to make Gotham a better place, failed, and its going back to bite him in the ass, Or he could be the trigger of Bruce messing things up badly while trying to fight him; any hypothesis leading to Bruce some sort of epiphany setting the pessimistic or even fatalistic tone of the movie.

On the other hand, I may be seeing subtelty where there is none and the movie was specifically created to please the "I wish I was a billionnaire too" crowd.


«"the people" chose the humane way in the final without any intervention of figureheads.»

This part is also interesting: the inmates implicitely approve the one who throw the detonator through the window, while the "honest people" vote in favor of killing the inmates, but no one dares to push the button. While is strain the suspension of disbelief (it would take one sociopath on either boat to jump on the button to blow up the ships), I'd say that the idea is that sometimes people are willing to vote in favor of commiting criminal deeds even if themselves are not really willing to commit them. You can see it both as a misanthropic argument (people are both wicked -they voted for slaughter- and cowardly -no one dared to dirty their own hands-) or a humanistic one (in the end, our better nature win)

B.L.C. Agnew said...

Oh goodie, the "Bush Endorsement Myth" again. Never get tired of that. At least it's easily debunked:

Seriously, it's an oversimplification of the highest order. Hell, even the way Bob talks about Nolan and co.'s feudal approach to Batman is pretty wrong-headed. Not that it's totally wrong (Batman is very much the Dark KNIGHT) but as others have said, he goes out of his way to protect the people of Gotham at the expense of everything a man born into privilege should command.

For one, the nobility of medieval Europe did not take kindly to being publicly demonized. It was sort of against the law. And by "sort of" I mean, "A LOT" and by "against the law" I mean "you'd be killed for doing it." Batman, in stark contrast, is perfectly fine with everyone hating him so long as they support something (Dent's legacy) that can keep the city safe.

As someone said earlier, Batman is cut from the same cloth as Robin Hood and Zorro (hell, he's so much like the Masked Fox that DC name-checks Zorro in Batman's origin) - a noble fighting against the CORRUPTION of nobility.

Who's Batman fighting in Batman Begins and TDK, discounting the guys in masks? Judges, politicians, rich mob bosses, etc. In other words, people with enough power and wealth to BUY THE CITY.

Yeah, that sure sounds like the defender of the 1% to me. I especially liked how the final act of Begins was Batman racing to defend a bank. . . or was it a country club. . . or a glamorous hotel. . .

No, wait, it was a PUBLIC UTILITY.

Do I honestly have to spell that out?

And since we're on the subject, honestly Bob, what are you basing Bane's OWS "connection" on anyway? The fact that he targets the stock market and is kidnapping rich people? The fact that the League of Shadows (who's all but confirmed to be back in this film) did almost EXACTLY THAT in Begins makes them seem a FAR likelier culprit.

But then, that doesn't play nearly as well in your "Comic Book Movie Showdown" narrative of the year, does it?

Smashmatt202 said...

Summation: Batman beats up people who are poorer and less fortunate then him.

Isn't that what he always was about?

Anonymous said...

Can we save the judging of the movie's take on class until after it's released? k'thanks.

biomechanical923 said...

[Quick disclaimer: This is all speculation for the sake of having a fun conversation. Actual judgment of the film will be postponed until after release.]

There are several different ways that nolan could go with the whole OWS theme.

One possibility is that Nolanverse Batman realizes that he's really not a very good guy at all, and sacrifices himself for the greater good. At the death/retirement of the Dark Knight, the people of gotham pull a "V for Vendetta" or "Spartacus" and realize "we all need to be Batman a little bit and do our part to clean up the city". Ok that's really cheesy and I hope it doesnt go down like that. (Bruce did buy like 20,000 masks for some reason though)

Another interesting possibility is that Bane (or the Big Baddie) organized the OWS protests to show Batman the flaw in his ways. Batman has always existed in a moral gray area as a vigilante who operates outside the law. Maybe the messages to batman is "your morality is flawed, because THIS is what happens if everybody did what you do"

Joe said...

The new Batman movie is based on a Tale of Two Cities, and was conceived as a project three years ago.

The French Revolution is what we'll end up with again if the oligarchs push the masses too far. So maybe it's not such a stretch.

Don't forget that Bat graduated from the same school of archetypal characters than Zorro, Robin Hood, et all: the aristocrat/upper-class dude who's so disgusted by the corruption of his own social class that he literally takes arms against the worst of them.

Sigh. In the earliest tales, Robin Hood was a free commoner. It was in the Renaissance when the whole nobleman thing was pinned to his legend, because clearly no commoner could be Robin Hood.

Also, the Bat-Rumsfeld moment was one of my favorite part of the movies so far:

It might be mine too, because much like Rumsfeld/Ashcroft/Bush/etc., Batman massively abuse of power and ended up not actually solving the problem it was invoked to deal with.

Summation: Batman beats up people who are poorer and less fortunate then him.

Isn't that what he always was about?

Notice the criminals at the beginning of the Dark Knight represent multiple ethnic groups but not WASPs? It's a recurring element of his character throughout incarnations that really rubs me the wrong way, even though I know not every writer falls back on that lazy crutch.

B.L.C. Agnew said...

@ Joe

Actually, the beginnings of the Robin Hood myths were - like the first King Arthur legends - firmly rooted in Pagan mythology (much of which still bleeds through into modern re-tellings and adaptations). Hood originally didn't have anything to do with the Norman/Saxon issues or the Crusades whatsoever.

But that's not what it became, which is the point. Regardless of "well, it STARTED this way" it morphed into something else, and has for centuries had these elements woven into the narrative. Sometimes Robin is a saxon noble, sometimes he's a commoner, sometimes he's a disillusioned Crusader - but ALL versions play him the hero because of his chastisement of the nobility and ruling class.

Though I'll admit a sense of satisfaction when seeing that come from a member of said class. RESPONSIBILITY!

James said...

Bob, I thought you supported the Patriot Act. You didn't have a problem when Obama renewed it.

Nathan said...

Y'know, I honestly don't care what this movie is based on or what can be read into it by other people. I'm excited for this movie to come out because I believe it's going to be a good movie and, in the end, that's all I'm looking for.

So, on the whole, "what is this movie REALLY about" issue, let me sum up by saying, "Who gives a shit". Also, what does it matter what Bob's personal politics are? This is a movie/nerd blog. Come here for that. If you want politics, go read a political blog.

Anonymous said...

You know I've tried not to let Bob's comments on the film enrage me. We're all entitled to our own thoughts after all. What gets to me is how on twitter he goes for the cheap "Nolanite" label whenever he sees arguments in favor on the film. For someone who gets enraged whenever people dismiss his views on gaming by calling him a nostalgia/Nintendo fanboy, he can dish it pretty easily on the other side.

James said...

Anonymous: Bob's a hypocrite. That's all you need to know.

Gordy said...

I liked the "we're in for a show" lift from 'The Dark Knight Returns'. Makes me wonder what other references there'll be to keep an eye out for.

Anonymous said...

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