Episode 45: The Dark Knight Concludes

After vacation time with the family I gotta admit that I had a lot of fun but my productivity levels were not optimal to say the least. I have left the comforts of my parental home and back living the grad student life. Unfortunately I lost my glasses on the flight here so reading or laptop time beyond half an hour makes eyes go on strike. Anyway, O figure I should get back on the writing train and I figure that something as awesome as the new Batman movie would make for a good comeback post. As always, spoilers, oh so many spoilers, are ahead. Consider yourselves warned.

First off, I am looking at the film through the eyes of a fanboy/nerd so obvious bias is obvious towards the praising the film. I’ve gone through a handful of blogs that both spit on the movie and build altars to it, let’s see if I can try some sort of legit middle of the road direction on both perspectives. The most important thing to keep in mind storywise is that it is the finale of a trilogy so expect a lot of throwbacks to previous installments and a lot of closure with the ending. If you didn’t see Batman Begins or Dark Knight there a few plotholes and moments of confusion but the film provides some decent flashbacks and exposition throughout to help you out. Still, if you didn’t witness Rhas Al Ghul’s evil plan or Harvey Dent’s descent into evil then the main motivations for half the characters won’t make much sense.

Some would complain that Nolan’s Batman and the one from the comics are very different characters but I like to think that Gotham is the key element that is different. With limits on the supernatural and Bat accessories, Nolan’s Gotham is grittier but ultimately one that can change while in the comics Gotham will always fusion of Detroit, Chicago, and New York City from the 80s, whose only solace is that at least it’s not as bad as neighboring Bludhaven. How else could you explain the lull in crime that takes place over the eight years between the second and third movie? The Dent act could only work in that Gotham because that prison actually kept people indoors. Because Gotham is at peace Bruce doesn’t have to be Batman, let’s his knee go bad, and basically turns Wayne Manor into a more luxurious Fortress of Solitude. Many would say that “the real” Batman would never do that and they’re right; Batman would never stop fighting but Bruce does but can never let himself try except in this Gotham.

Speaking of comics, there are two storylines that serve as an inspiration for the film. The first is Knightfall, which was published soon after  the Death of Superman story arc. This is Bane’s introduction as a powerful villain who staged the escape of everyone in Arkham, waited until Batman was exhausted from rounding up everyone, and then beat the crap out of him and then broke his back. And i don’t mean the slipped disk from the movie, Bane severed Batman’s spinal chord. It took a dip in the Lazarus Pit and a Hell of a training montage in distant monasteries to get Bruce back in shape. The second story arc is No Man’s Land, where a huge earthquake severs Gotham from everything else and Batman basically declares Marshall law on his own because the country decides to basically forget about Gotham.. It wasn’t so much an expy of the Occupy Movement taken to its extreme as it was an everyone has no basic infrastructure and people have to join together just to survive and not let a mob mentality destroy their fragile coexistence.

There are a lot of things from Nolan’s Bane that aren’t exactly true to the original but at least it’s better than the awful Batman and Robin version.Here are some fun facts about not Nolan Bane. He was born in a prison in Santa Prisca, fictional Central American country/island in the DC Universe. He has nothing to do with Rhas Al Ghul, his dad was such an evil bastard that dictator in charge sentenced him and his pregnant wife to a jail that can best be summed up as Alcatraz in a sewer. Somewhere down the line they killed his parents, tortured him and somehow he made it out alive, with evil cunning and planning, develops the Venom serum that gives him even more super strength, and in some continuities actually takes over the whole country of Santa Prisca. Bane’s motivations aren’t well known besides following Ric Flair’s motto of: “If you wanna be the man, then you got to beat the Man”. (the Whoooooo!!!!!!!! is implied). So yeah, Bane beats up the biggest baddest guy around in Batman and made a name of himself. However there was no absence of Batman in Knightfall because the cowl was given to Jean Paul Valey aka Azrael, guy who had worked with Batman a few times, actually part of evil secret society. If you ever see a really spiky Batman, that’s probably Azbats. In the end he goes crazy, starts killing people, and it’s up to original Batman, Nightwing, and Robin (the third one) to take him out.

Speaking of Robin, let me take a moment to talk about Robin Blake aka Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character. Throughout the movie he is the one that the established heroes praise and the normal people hate/envy for no actual reason. You see him and he just screams Marty Stu (the male equivalent of Mary Sue, if you’re unfamiliar with this trope, stop by here when you get the chance http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MarySue). I think this perception is based mostly on how they had very little time for character development that they didn’t show any faults because you had to have him as a de facto hero. Had they at least mentioned that his hotheadedness actually caused problems or cost someone’s life then I could see why no one trusted him and how Gordon’s and Bruce’s decision to do so was a risky leap of faith. A lot of the backstory is based on Tim Drake, the third Robin, who actually did figure out who Batman really was when he was like ten and used that info to blackmail him into being Robin. He also made his own batarangs. Trust me he is pretty cool but there was just no way to pass that unto a new character in a fairly limited amount of narative time.

Another character that I’ve seen take a lot of heat is Alfred. Many fans just can’t imagine him actually leaving Batman and not show up to save him Chekov’s Gunman style like he did in Batman Begins. The best explanation for this last part is because he had left the city before the Bane became head honcho and couldn’t get back in but why did he leave in the first place? Well remember that Nolan’s Alfred isn’t the stoic quiet servant who wants what’s best for Bruce but an actual surrogate father that actively steps in to ask Bruce to change his mind. If you want to see Alfred being well Alfred, check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKpq1pdGR3c&feature=related Now that one is badass and would never leave Batman. But emotastic depressed Bruce Wayne, enough is enough, he was right to leave in order to get him out of his lethargic pity coma.

Another character from which I am seeing mixed reactions is Catwoman. A lot of my friends say that Anne Hathaway was awesome but many in the comics community say that it didn’t do the character justice (better than Halle Berry but that is a given). Part of the thing was that this portrayal never even called her Catwoman, ever. She was just Selina Kyle, the master cat burglar. In the comics she does a lot of outsmarting through cleverness, rather than just seduction. The movie also has her being the quintessential example of chaotic neutral, I hate authority,I do what I want, evil extremists turn place into anarchic wasteland and threaten destruction of homeland, must join the heroes to stop them. That or maybe people just missed the whip, I don’t know.

The big reveal of course was that Miranda Tate, the obvious good girl and soul mate to Bruce Wayne was actually Talia Al Ghul, Rha’s daughter. I unfortunately saw this coming a mile away because my nerd senses tingled when an attractive female with a peculiar accent shows up, it’s normally Talia. The relationship between her and her father is very interesting in the comics and the 90s cartoon so I recommend them to see how love, chauvinism, and big egos clash a lot. Comics Talia never stayed in prison, she trained with the League of Assassins, known as Shadows in the films and is a master startegist, even if Rhas will never accept her as a legitimate heir. In case you were wondering, Rhas actually does have a son before Talia, he fought Jonah Hex in the cowboy version of DC (long story, it makes a lot more sense with magical Lazarus pits). If you want to see just how crazy the Rhas and Talia situation can get, there’s an episode of Batman Beyond which is ridiculously creepy in that regard. (no link for this one, search on your own).

So yeah, that’s it for me on this one. The one big complaint is that time just works in weird ways throughout the film. If you ever want to know how much time has elapsed, measure Bruce Wayne’s facial hair, it’s a better indicator than anything else going on in the movie.

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