Take two on The Dark Knight Rises: The Failure of Ideals


Here I was writing a long, rambling piece on TDKR when I stumbled onto Genevieve Valentine’s review, which is broken up by movie stills every couple of paragraphs like a Cracked.com article, and I realized that no one would want to read 2000 rambling words on a Batman movie without even any pics to break up the text.

Batman: ^-_-^

Spoilers, naturally.

Let me see if I can shorten this up a bit: The way I see this movie (and the other two parts of the trilogy) is that it would have been an interesting story on the way people’s ideals fail them, if I had any faith that he understood that was the story he was telling.

Oh, there’s a lot of talk about tough choices and impossible situations, but it’s all rather incoherent. At the end of Batman Begins, Batman tells Ducard that he won’t kill him, but he doesn’t have to save him, either, which is complete bullshit in contrast to the way he treats The Joker at the end the The Dark Knight.

At the end of The Dark Knight, Wayne and Gordon drum up a complete lie about Harvey Dent because the people of Gotham City need Dent as a symbol. Nevermind the way they tried to kill the fellow who planned to reveal Batman’s secret identity; apparently, Dent-as-symbol wasn’t operational yet, or something. And nevermind that the scene on the two ferries had already demonstrated the Gotham’s citizens–even the criminal class–were basically decent people. No, we had to watch Gordon and Batman spackle over Dent’s crimes for the so-called good of the city.

One of the best things about these three movies has been the way Gotham has been handled. It has a very real sense of place and a character all to its own. In the first film, when Gordon, Batman, and Dawes all work outside the system, it’s because the system is the enemy. The system in Gotham is so corrupt and dangerous that they have to move very carefully in taking it down.

In TDK, Gotham is still only partly cleaned up. There are cops selling information to the mob, or are being coerced in other ways. The struggle that Dent, Dawes, and Gordon face is that they are trying to make use of a system that sometimes betrays them.

But in TDKR, Gordon and his new protege Blake are still talking about working outside the system. Gotham is pretty much cleaned up. It’s “peacetime”. And they’re still not willing to do their policing with the law.

It’s one thing for a vigilante like Batman to operate outside the law (and kudos to THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN for addressing this nicely). In BB the cops were the enemies. In TDK, the cops had an uneasy alliance with Batman. In TDKR, they’re enemies again thanks to the lie Gordon and Wayne cooked up. It’s not until the power structure of Gotham has been stripped away by Bane that he can return again as a hero.

But you know what? There’s a point at which heroes who dedicating themselves with overthrowing a corrupt power structure has to replace it with something just. They have to work within that new power structure, or what is it worth? These three Batman movies want out authority figures to be eternal insurgents.

Let me transition to something else that might seem trivial: Batman operates outside the legal structures of law and order, but he has limits for himself. He doesn’t punish criminals. He stops them and turns them over to the police for arrest or he pushes them out of their place of power. He doesn’t execute them.

It’s a refreshing change to hear Batman tell Selena Kyle “No guns. No killing.” midway through TDKR, especially after all the lethal violence the Marvel pre-Avengers movies have doled out.

But how does Bane finally taken out? Not by Batman’s non-lethal methods; Kyle drives up in the batcycle and shoots him (along with a quip).

It’s similar to that scene in TDK where Batman refrains from killing the Joker on the street and ends up at his mercy, only to be saved by Gordon. In the comics, Batman’s idealism might make his life harder, but it doesn’t make him fail. In TDKR, if Kyle hadn’t violated his ideals, Gotham City becomes a smoking crater.

There’s an interesting story to be told about violating your ideals for a greater good mixed in with all this talk about masks, symbols, trust, etc, but since Bane’s final defeat is played off like standard Hollywood gun heroism, I don’t even know if Nolan recognizes that it’s there.