I was going to write some such about political dogma and the baggage we carry when falling on any side of an issue… and then I saw The Dark Knight Rises trailer and didn’t care. Insert whatever obligatory comments about this being the article you deserve, but not… yadda yadda yadda.
This trailer allays some of my fears, chief among them that Batman won’t be interesting. I love The Dark Knight, but Bruce Wayne/Batman gets about a quarter of the screen time and is, sadly, one of the least dynamic characters. And I’m not just hot for the Joker. Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Gary Oldman carry some serious weight. Even Morgan Freeman’s brief appearances are more than satisfactory. This left the Batman (RACHEL!) rather bland compared to the character construction we saw from the first movie.
I was also worried that Catwoman’s costume would look dumb. Something about the set photos that came out a while ago just made me think Nolan had lost his edge. The heals seem a little cliche and the whole outfit just struck me as outlandish. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense when the main character is dressed like a Bat, but that’s where my head went.
I was also kind of worried that Bane was gonna suck. Well, not suck, but pale in comparison to villains past. Thankfully, this trailer allays a lot of my fears and gives me hope.
Is it possible that The Dark Knight Rises will be the best film in the trilogy? To my knowledge that has never happened. Spiderman Trilogy? No! The Matrix Trilogy? HAHAHA! Back To The Future Trilogy? Sorry. Either Star Wars Trilogy? Not unless you count Episode III as better than II. Lord of the Rings? Doesn’t count because it’s one movie in three parts. Seriously, I can’t think of a single trilogy that finished stronger than it’s beginning or middle act.
But we are talking about Chris Nolan. The guy who made The Prestige and f****** Inception! The guy who made a sequel so good everyone forgot Batman Begins is the first movie in the series! It remains long shot odds, but I’m ready to believe he can do it.
I’m ready to believe it because Mr. Nolan has amazing vision and, thus far, an unerring ability to execute that vision. A while back I said something about The Dark Knight being a different kind of comic book movie. It’s not a superhero movie. It’s a case study in the cost of becoming a symbol to buttress the state when the state can’t support itself. Unlike the typical superhero series that changes gears from film to film (and features powers), Nolan’s singular theme remains the overriding subject of study.
Have you ever wondered why Nolan’s Batman doesn’t just fight criminals?
He fights terrorists.
Yeah, this Batman digs into organized crime and police corruption, but his arch nemesis always ends up being the guy that thinks the system needs to be kicked over; someone looking to replace the foundation of society. More importantly, he’s the guy trying to force us to change the way we think about Justice. This isn’t by accident. Ra’s Al Ghul, The Joker, and Bane weren’t terrorists (in most instances) in the comics. They were master criminals and gangsters. Sparing Ra’s, they were largely dependent on cheating the system to thrive.
In Batman Begins, Liam Neeson’s Ra’s Al Ghul wants to implode Gotham to scare America and the world at large into a more justice-oriented, decadence-free mode of operation. Granted, production began a couple years after 9/11, but I think it also has a lot to do with what Nolan is saying about the cost of being Batman. Case in point, Bruce Wayne doesn’t get the girl. In almost every movie (not just superhero movies) the guy gets the girl, but it doesn’t happen here because that would have taken away from the purpose. And remember what Alfred said right before Ra’s burned down the manor? He said “For Thomas Wayne helping others wasn’t about proving anything to anyone, including himself… what you’re doing has to be beyond that. It can’t be personal, or you’re just a vigilante.”
The Dark Knight took it to the logical next step. Enter the Joker, another terrorist set to be Batman’s perfect opposite. And through this escalation, the intensity of Batman’s cost is increasingly clear. Instead of getting the girl, Bruce loses the girl and his best chance at a normal life. Batman almost destroys the system he embodies just to stop pure anarchy, and only just manages to cancel out the mayhem at the cost of his own reputation. Being the hero Gotham needs is about forgoing ego and even your own sense of values. The most heroic thing anyone can do is sacrifice their beliefs for the good of others.
Enter Bane. I don’t know what his deal is, but it’s clear he’s out to destroy with no care for profit. And the trailer flirts with how much Batman has left to give. While all three movies are distinct, the message is uniform. That in itself has me pretty excited.
Gordon: “I never said thank you.”
Batman: “And you’ll never have to.”
Or maybe I’m wrong and Batman represents the capitalist usurpation of democracy and Bane is the 99%. What do you think?