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Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises: Anticipation and Musings

Hello there Chaos Corner fans! welcome to another edition of this most "prestigious" blog. I am deciding to take a break from the usual 40K to do some musings on another perennial favorite of mine- Batman!

I have been a fan of Batman for as long as I can remember. As a young kid, I watched him in the various incarnations of the Super Friends. I had the action figures from the Superpowers team line and everything. Then, in 1989, I saw the Tim Burton Batman film. It is still an amazing film (flaws and all); but at the time, I was completely pulled in. Shortly thereafter, I began buying comics (A Death in the Family was the first... I bought it in trade paperback form). Batman started my whole interest in comics, which spanned years of collection and reading. Eventually, my interest in comics waned (then came back, then faded for good).

However, I still enjoy the occasional graphic novel (I can't read monthlies anymore), and I still enjoy a good comic book based movie. Of course, the Nolan Batman films have been among the very best comic adaptations put to film. Nolan haters be damned- Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are indeed the best adaptations ever. Don't get me wrong, I love X2, Iron Man, and the like. But, Nolan's Batman has been something SO different, so unique... and despite the liberties Nolan takes, he is respectful to the "core" of the Batman characters. Let's take a look at the previous 2 Batman movies, and then let's look at the possibilities for The Dark Knight Rises...

Batman Begins took me by surprise in 2005. The truth was, I didn't know that much about it going in. I had never seen a Nolan movie (though my brother swore by Memento at the time). I knew Bale from American Psycho, and I figured he'd be good. I knew that the guy from 28 Days Later was Scarecrow (weird casting at first glance), and that Liam Neeson was playing "Ducard", a mentor figure, and leader of the League of Shadows (though his mustache look like Ras Al Guhl- hehe! Ras was never a favorite of mine, though this movie went a long way to change that). So, I went to see it... and I was blown away. I loved it. The casting was pitch perfect (even Katie Holmes was good). The movie showed Bruce's journey from innocent rich boy to scarred teen to bitter adult. The theme of fear is prevalent- how fear (in various ways) has hurt Bruce, "Ducard", Gordon, Alfred, and Gotham itself. The film is about controlling your fear, and not letting it control you. This is absolutely clear as Bruce trains under "Ducard"- Bruce refuses to murder a criminal- Bruce wants to "get back" at criminals, but not by murder. Thus, Bruce breaks from the League of Shadows, determined to become symbol, Batman. The movie also does a great job of showing a Batman semi-grounded in reality. People think Nolan is "too realistic"... I think his world is like ours, but not quite... In any case, Batman Begins was great, and I was hoping for another from the same team...

Boy, did I get my wish. In 2008, The Dark Knight was released. Right from the title, you could tell that this was going to be special. If Batman Begins was a well told but ultimately "innocent" superhero story, The Dark Knight stripped that "innocence" away. It is a bleak story- Batman is on the cusp of accomplishing his vision- a Gotham free of crime. Helping him is Gordon, and DA Harvey Dent (played to perfection by Aaron Eckhart). Dent, in particular, can become a true leader, vital if Bruce is to save his city.

Of course, in this time of hope, the Joker emerges to ruin it all. I need not go into Heath Ledger's Joker- suffice to say that even though he's skin isn't scarred and he doesn't use "Joker-weapons" like in the books, his "core"- wanting to ruin or corrupt everything that is good and decent while creating enormous mayhem and suffering- is absolutely perfect. He is very much the vision of the Joker from The Killing Joke. In TDK, his "mission" is to stop Batman from saving Gotham, by corrupting it's heroes- pulling them down. What ensues is a deadly game of cat and mouse, with the clock ticking. You can literally feel the tension build with every scene. Batman makes incredible sacrifices here, both moral and physical, and Bale shines as Batman. The movie ends with the Joker SO nearly succeeding, with Batman and Gordon pulling a last ditch "trick" to save Gotham from disappointment and despair. The last lines of that movie gives me chills still. To save Gotham, Batman must give up the chance of being a heroic symbol. Batman is on an uncertain path, and so is the audience. A fantastic way to end a fantastic movie.

Of course, we knew we'd have another movie. They announced the third, and final movie. There was all kind of speculation as to who the villian(s) would be (I never thought Johnny Depp should be The Riddler. Not a chance). Then, they announced it would be Bane and Catwoman. I'm not thrilled on Catwoman, as she was never a favorite of mine.I loved Bane in the Knightfall storyline. It was one of my all time favorites years ago. I even have Vengeance of Bane and Batman #497 autographed. However, I was unsure how Nolan would bring Bane to life. 

Best. Poster. Ever

IMAX scene, and my knowledge of Bat-lore:

1. The League of Shadows is back, and Bane is their nominal leader. The way I figure it, Nolan has made Bane the "what if" guy... What if Bruce HAD killed that criminal in BB? Well, Bane is that answer. Bane is brilliant, strong, determined... all the things that Bruce is. If Bruce had given in and murdered that guy at "Ducard's" behest- he would have become something like Bane. Thus, I believe Bane is a dark image of Bruce... not an opposite (that's the Joker). Bane is Bruce gone to fanaticism. Extremism.

2. What does Bane want? The League was not destroyed in BB. Their leader Ras died (more on that in a moment), but they survived. Bane has taken over the League, and he has been watching and waiting. Planning for the day to purge Gotham, waiting until Batman was at his most vulnerable. The goal of the League of Shadows is to purge ALL crime/sin: restore "balance", as Ras said in BB.  The League wants to kill everyone in Gotham. Batman included. Partly for revenge, partly out of necessity. The fact that the League is back is a reminder of Bruce's only "sin"- letting Ras die. Yep- Batman's "original sin" will haunt all of Gotham now.

3. It's been 8 years since TDK. Batman and Gordon just barely saved Gotham from catastrophe. They built up Dent as a martyr for Gotham. Dent became the symbol, with Batman being in the shadows. For the past 8 years, Batman and Gordon (working secretly together), have managed to just about succeed in cleaning up Gotham. It's clear from the trailer, both with the mayor and Selina Kyle's words, that Gotham is about to enter into "peacetime". Just as this is about to happen, Bane strikes to ruin Batman's greatest achievement.

4. I notice Bruce with a cane in several scenes in the trailer. I don't think this is due to Bane breaking Batman's back at all. I think this is the physical price of being Batman. Bruce has given his all, breaking his body beyond repair. Listen to Alfred in the trailer for more on this point. I also think it has taken a mental toll- he is NOT a hero now... and despite his success, it's not enough. He has edged closer to desperation and fanaticism... fighting the good fight nearly alone, unloved, and unappreciated. Thematically, Bane will show Bruce the dangers of going too far to complete "the mission"... though how that will play out in the movie, I can't be sure.

5. HOW is Bane doing that? Looking at the trailers, you can see that Bane has tumblers (Batmobiles) of his won. Also, in the IMAX scene, Bane uses the same plane grappling trick that Batman used in TDK (albeit on  a larger scale). How is Bane using Batman's own tricks and technology? I believe that answer lies with one Miranda Tate, a member of Wayne Enterprises board of directors. She has access to Wayne files, and has given these ideas to Bane. Now, why would she do that? Well, it seems (unless Nolan is pulling an even faster one than this) that she is in fact Talia Al Guhl. She wants revenge for her father's death. Ultimately, SHE is the leader of the League of Shadows now. Bane serves the role that Bruce would have served if he had stayed with them. Now it all comes together...

6. I can't be sure where Catwoman fits in though. Of course, knowing Catwoman, its obvious that she is "independent" and can't be trusted. However, I think that in the end she will side with Batman against Bane. We haven't seen enough of her in the trailers to really see her role yet...

7. Bane will devastate Gotham, physically and morally (a theme of this series to be sure). Bane looks to blow up lots of things, like the football stadium. Bane also looks like he will try to destroy the symbol of Gotham- Harvey Dent. Did Bane figure out Gordon and Bats' lie? It looks that way from this pic, no doubt. If that's true, what will be the end game? Ah. Let's look at Dr. Pavel and what looks to be a big inspiration to Nolan in this film, Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. I suspect that the League intends to purge Gotham alright- with a nuclear device ("When Gotham is ashes... you have my permission to die" Bane says in the trailer). Nolan loves to have real world parallels. Pavel is a black market nuke scientist (AQ Khan- type). Bane kidnaps him in the IMAX prologue. Yes- Nolan is using (again) real world fears, but combining it with the comic.

How will it end? Ha. I can't imagine that Batman will die... but this series has broken the rules of comic book movies. I really don't know how it will END. However, I think it'll be a wild ride, no matter what happens... Let's come back to this blog in July and see how my predictions went!

Until next time Chaos fans...!

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