*Note: The following was written four years ago but for some reason I never posted it… most of this is probably said and done already but… after a little polish… here it is now.*
This reflection is on: THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and, by extension, the Dark Knight trilogy.
This post started with one idea and it kept leading to another. Call this post, an unloading of instantaneous thoughts. Obviously there are spoilers so… yeah, you know the drill.
You don’t have to worry about a thing
Just come on up, come on up
Just come on up, baby
And have a good time.
– The Rascals
After seeing the film once, it feels like the perfect way to end the series. It restates the major themes and ends the journey of Bruce Wayne.
My interest of writing this post comes from this overwhelming joy of watching the film and the fact that the character is one I have grown up on since I was a kid. The focus isn’t to review the film but to try to provide some commentary on the deeper ideas that the series presented.
My focus: Batman’s journey, how would one finish this the Batman story, influences, story techniques we’ve seen before, and quasi-philosophical musings. I find the personal journey and struggles more resonating so you will see a void of socio-political musing. Perhaps another day.
Make sure you have some eye-drops handy.
1.) CATER TO THE MASSES:
Christopher Nolan has a great look. Cool accent and classy clothes. But that’s just the surface. Deep down, he’s a movie geek at heart.
Years ago, he wanted to do a movie about Howard Hughes but Martin Scorsese beat him to the punch. So what did he do? He injected what he could into the TDKR to give Bruce that next level of depth. And it worked due to the elements the Nolans extracted from existing source material that fans are familiar with:
1. The Dark Knight Returns – after a long absence, Old ass Bruce dons the cape and cowl to save the day.
2. No Man’s Land – I read the 2000 novelization when I was like 12. Gotham suffers an earthquake, all hell breaks loose, and the city gets quarantined. Details are different in TDKR but elements are there.
3. Knightfall – nuff said.
Here is an interesting quote that I came across from my own quest on learning about screenwriting:
“The rule in the art world is: you cater to the masses or you kowtow to the elite; you can’t have both.” — Ben Hecht a.k.a. “the Shakespeare of Hollywood” (screenwriter, director, producer, playwright, and novelist)
So the story’s development was something that had to appeal to die hard fans but, at the same time, be rewarding for fans who are strictly movie fans. To me, these are the masses. Plus, to combine those three source materials into one story will have some elements very diluted.
The elite — who would that be? I am assuming the non-commercial film lovers who go for the obscure and thought provoking stuff. Or, what William Goldman said, films that make you feel unsettled.
For me, the experience I have with Batman is limited to the previous feature film adaptations and the animated series back in the 90s. I am only starting to get into the comics in the recent years. Despite that, I know enough about the character and his story that to introduce Ra’s al Ghul into the first movie… you have to somehow bring in his daughter, Talia al Ghul, for the last movie.
2. TDK vs. TDKR:
The question that is asked by many, “Is it better than The Dark Knight?”
Now, most philosophical debates have those cheeky people who debate against the question itself. Particularly addressing the limitations of our language. What constitutes as “better”? Action? Set pieces? Story? Atmosphere? Characters?
I sort of remember when Batman Begins was released. Many praised it did the impossible and resurrected a dead movie franchise. The movie also gave us the first live-action version of Batman’s origin story. Criticisms were still made by people. Many focused on the weak female character or lack of. Fight scenes were too Bourne Identity style. The villain was “boring” and the master plan seemed a little on the… WTF side.
You have to realize this is a realistic take on Batman. So many of the fantastical elements of the Scarecrow and old Ra’s were transformed into real world possibilities. In that context, it works. But if you look at the movie with the previous feature film adaptations, TV shows, and source material… there are a few strokes of colour missing.
The Dark Knight provided the majority of bright colors FOR the series. The main theme of the second movie is: ESCALATION. Here Batman is at his fullest form. At his absolute prime. He represents the hope for the people and it’s spreading… take Harvey Dent’s role for instance. It’s that talk about symbols again. But since the world requires a natural balance… the villains have their answer to Batman and he appears in his fullest form too.
ENTER THE JOKER.
For this series, I believe he’s the embodiment of evil. He’s a guy without a plan. He’s a dog chasing cars. He’s in the moment of his actions. The challenger to the faith of the people. He just wants to watch the world burn.
Like what he tells Harvey Dent:
Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair!
The Joker appears to be supernatural. He, like Batman, dedicates himself to becoming something more than flesh and blood. And his purpose is to test the people of Gotham in a social experiment. To test human nature itself: are we essentially good or essentially bad? Which half would we strive for… in that moment of temptation?
The film shows us, when it comes to the masses… perhaps, the goodness will win.
The encounter with The Joker ultimately fucked over the system. Bruce lost Rachel (but at the time he didn’t know he was going to lose her anyway — oh shit, Alfred). Harvey Dent, the center of the struggle, is modified by the baddies into the villain, Two-Face.
The goodies couldn’t afford to lose their shining symbol of hope, so Batman had to take the fall and have his symbol temporarily modified. Thus, The Dark Knight echoed a “The Empire Strikes Back” kind of ending (Nolan, a STAR WARS fan): the villains hitting the heroes hardcore and the downer ending.
If you had to pick one movie and only one out of the three… a lot of people will point toward the middle installment. There will be a few pointing to the beginning and others probably the end. The second movie not only provided the colour of the trilogy, but it represents what most people think as the superhero movie.
What do I mean by that?
Most superhero movies are like a beat ’em up side-scrolling video game. Especially when the sequels start churning out. Enter a new baddie. Fight. Win. Enter a new baddie. Fight. Win. Enter a new baddie. Fight. WINNNNNNNNNN…
To compensate, the filmmakers either add personal conflicts usually dealing with their powers, their lover(s), juggling a double life, etc. It’s a matter of how well the filmmakers do it. Putting the familiar in a package that is authentic will make us feel that the creators actually care for the source material.
The only reason why some people may say shit about TDKR is that it does not resemble the typical superhero movie sequel.This is because this sequel also happens to be the series finale.
THIS IS THE FINAL LEVEL. THE FINAL BOSS FIGHT.
So is it better than TDK? If you automatically say that, then you’re expecting a lot on action, colorful villains, and less on character. TDK will still probably be your favorite one then. If you’re into the story and how the first movie started the legend… then you’re probably going to love TDKR a lot more than TDK.
This is Bruce Wayne’s last hurrah as The Goddamn Batman.
And, if you step back and look at the big picture… you will see what this trilogy truly is: the beginning and end of Bruce Wayne as the Batman. It’s one of the rare times you will see a complete story of a superhero put on screen. Sure, there’s that ambiguous and open-ended ending… but that was more for the sake of appearing that way. Studios always want more because they want more money… so whatever Nolan did to get a final story off his chest before he left the Batman franchise, kudos to him.
Plus, studios are all into the reboots so they don’t really give two shits as long as they make money. If we were in a different era… perhaps the ending wouldn’t be as satisfying.
3. HOW TO FINISH THE BATMAN STORY:
Before TDKR, a lot of fans had doubts. How the fuck do you follow TDK?! Is it better to have a one-two punch combo? Look what happened to other trilogies or series. They either mess up the third movie or managed to make more installments than required and cause the series to turn into complete utter shit. Fellow movie buffs and fans, you know what I’m talking about.
Here is a neat little excerpt from an interview (link apparently pooped itself) back in October 2008.
GEOFF BOUCHER: After the massive, military-level operation of making “Dark Knight,” is there part of you leaning toward a smaller, more nimble sort of production next?
CHRISTOPHER NOLAN: After “Batman Begins,” I certainly felt like taking on something smaller, but one of the things I got such a thrill from on “The Dark Knight” was shooting on IMAX and creating that massive scale and achieving that larger-than-life quality. So that’s a lot of fun. I’m drawn in both directions now. So maybe what I need to do next is a very intimate, small story that happens to be photographed on a ridiculously large scale. Or vice versa [laughs].
BOUCHER: I’m not sure I even know what that means.
NOLAN: Yes, I don’t know what it means either [laughter]. But really what I know is that it’s about story at the end of the day. … But I do feel there is this tug to do big scale and small scale, so I don’t know. …
BOUCHER: Maybe you need to make a small story in a huge place. “My Dinner With Andre” at the top of Mt. Everest.
NOLAN: Or in outer space. That might work.
BOUCHER: Could you see actually yourself not making the third Batman film?
NOLAN: Well… let me think how to put this. There are two things to be said. One is the emphasis on story. What’s the story? Is there a story that’s going to keep me emotionally invested for the couple of years that it will take to make another one? That’s the overriding question. On a more superficial level, I have to ask the question: How many good third movies in a franchise can people name? [LAUGHS.] At the same time, in taking on the second one, we had the challenge of trying to make a great second movie, and there haven’t been too many of those either. It’s all about the story really. If the story is there, everything is possible. I hope that was a suitably slippery answer.
What a question and what an answer. It feels like he could be talking about his next film two years later (I N C E P T I O N) but I also get that eerie feeling that he’s thinking about how the third movie will be.
With that in mind and the fact that one has to appeal to the masses, YOU HAVE TO BRING IN TALIA AL GHUL. It is the only way to create a satisfying ending for this three-parter. Either you bring back Ra’s al Ghul from the dead and show that he is literally immortal or you find a different way to bring that immortality in.
The only difficulty for this last film is this: everyone knew this was going to happen. The Nolans knew it. We knew it. And the number one rule you have to remember is that the audience is collectively smarter than you think. You dumb shit down and try to shit on them, they will collectively shit back on you.
When Marion Cotillard was cast as Miranda Tate, fans roared, “Ohhhh, hell yeah, we know it’s Talia! We just know it!” This is how shitty today is for secrecy. It doesn’t exist, especially with the Internet. Information travels too fast and many people get greedy and use the technology to betray other people.
Now the ultimate test. You can’t make this film overly complicated. Appeal to the masses, says Ben Hecht. So they obviously used all the marketing tactics to throw you off the trial: they made you focus on the happy-go-lucky guy named Bane.
Think about it. First two movies. Scarecrow dances for us as Ra’s al Ghul prepares his reveal. The Joker tap dances as Harvey Dent transforms into Two-Face. In this aspect, it’s only logical that BANE is beating his chest as the pretty but vengeance seeking Talia is hiding in front of our faces.
NO WONDER BATMAN COULDN’T SEE THE TRUTH.
4. HOW TO BE INVISIBLE AND OTHER SKILLS:
“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” — Sun Tzu, Chinese general & military strategist (~400 BC)
The Art of War is perhaps the greatest known manual for war strategy/tactics in existence. And if there is one thing I wish to believe, the members of League of Shadows/League of Assassins will know it by heart. And the fact that they’re badass ninjas.
But, Bruce also trained in the league so we can go back to the first movie to find our answers.
FLASHBACK TO BATMAN BEGINS:
HENRI DUCARD a.k.a. RA’S AL GHUL: You have learned to bury your guilt with anger. I will teach you to confront it, and to face the truth. You know how to fight six men. We can teach you how to engage six hundred. You know how to disappear. We can teach you to become truly invisible.
BRUCE WAYNE: Invisible?
*DUCARD shouts in a different language and 2 people dressed in black flip down from the ceiling*
So for the third movie, and in the context of the story they presented, they hid her in plain sight. They could easily make her disappear from the main drive of the story but it wouldn’t feel fulfilling. They had to make her invisible… make us forget as we enjoy the ride. Sleeper agent. Ninja Master. Ra’s al Ghul 2.0 — you’re immortal if you’re bloodline continues.
What is also important is to keep in mind the love of magic that Christopher Nolan has. He even made a tribute to his love by making the movie about two rival magicians called The Prestige (2006).
Another clue that we can learn from Batman Begins.
HENRI DUCARD a.k.a. RA’S AL GHUL: Theatricality and deception are powerful agents.
The Nolans played the expectation of Talia al Ghul to their strengths. What they had to do was tell the best possible story they could for the masses.
5. A TALE OF TWO BROTHERS:
WE HAVE THE SAME SHOE SIZE.
>>>This is how I imagined their conversation on preparing TDKR<<<
CHRIS: Hey, bro. We need to figure out a good plan.
JONAH: Do I really look like a guy with a plan?
CHRIS: Wait. Did you just —
JONAH: I think. *coughs* We should continue the sleight of hand deception.
CHRIS: No, duh.
JONAH: So same drill? Bait them into believing one thing and finish it off with the reveal?
CHRIS: Yes but we need to drop visual clues… just so it feels satisfying and not completely out of left field. But we have to bait Bruce. It has to be more shocking to Bruce than to the audience, especially when they know the history of the characters. Fans like that… remember what Hitchcock said about SUSPENSE vs. SURPRISE?
JONAH: Bomb under the table… if the characters don’t know it’s under there and audience doesn’t know it’s under there… a sudden BOOM is a SURPRISE. No tension. No suspense. Just a shocking surprise for like… five seconds.
CHRIS: Since they already know about the history of the characters, the audience must know more about what’s happening in the movie than the characters themselves. That way, the suspense will be a given.
*They high five.*
JONAH: You got me thinking… it’s got to be an inevitable conclusion. We have to go CHEKHOV’S GUN on this story. And there’s only one way to end this thing. Let’s literally put a bomb in this movie.
CHRIS: Really, bombs again?
JONAH: Yes, but not drums of gasoline rigged to blow… we’ll still have some of that… but we need something more. The films have escalated to this point, therefore we need the best kind of bomb there is —
CHRIS: Oh my god… we have to go nuclear. It’s the only way.
JONAH: But we can’t have random nukes like a fucking Michael Bay movie. Fuck that shit. It has to be plausible… and I got just the thing.
CHRIS: I trust you. But it can’t be a plain old nuke laying there like some flaccid thing… IT HAS TO BE A HITCHCOCK TICKING TIME BOMB. Lots of references to what it is…
JONAH: Fusion power for clean energy… that’s the only way to bring it in. And with fans expecting Talia to show up… let’s use the deception: have her disguised as the person who wants to develop it with Wayne Enterprises investing. More shock for our boy, Bruce.
CHRIS: When shit goes to hell… we have to have it unstable — the fusion bomb — that way there’s a time window for the audience and characters to follow. And since we’re going to break the Bat…
JONAH: I see what you did there. And I like it…. we just need Bane interesting enough so that the audience will focus on that character more.
CHRIS: Don’t worry — Tom Hardy is our Ace in the hole.
*They high five.*
JONAH: Also, I was doing some light reading. You’re going to love what I’m going to do to this script. It’s going to have “A Tale of Two Cities” epicness.
*JONAH simply nods*
CHRIS: I’m glad you’re my brother… what about Batman’s ending?
JONAH: Well, since it’s a nuclear bomb and we’re doing the sleight of hand deception… with tons of characters to draw the attention away from the ending… Gordon… Fox.. Alfred… Bane… Selina… Talia… Robin…
CHRIS: WAIT, ROBIN? WTF?
JONAH: You’ll see — just don’t tell Christian. Anyway, there is only one ending if we’re going Hitchcock and Houdini on this.
CHRIS: We have to nuke the Bat.
JONAH: But we can’t nuke him like nuking… a fridge with him inside —
CHRIS: Bruce is a ninja at this point. If the villains can play deception on Bruce, then he must play the ultimate deception: on the audience itself. He’s the world’s greatest detective but he’s also the world’s greatest ninja… therefore, he can easily be the world’s greatest escape artist. He’s going to cheat death. There will be a suggestion of how the blood and flesh escapes death but —
TOGETHER: WE DON’T SHOW IT.
*They high five… FREEZE FRAME and CUE music:*
6. FURTHER NOTES ON EXECUTION:
This ending works when it is implied that the majority of the fans will know what will happen. They just don’t know how it will be done. Or maybe we did know… since this RUSSIAN NUCLEAR PHYSICIST was used in viral marketing and how the prologue was screened before the release date.
The idea of how the movie will end was already being inceptioned from the very beginning… the Nolans just continued to play with expectations and how to deceive you like a ninja magician. So when the movie starts, the suspense begins to trickle.
The goodies do their own thing, dealing with the aftermath of the second movie. The baddies slowly get closer with their plan. And when things finally intertwine, the ticking time bomb starts the countdown to the inevitable conclusion:
Epic struggles. Final confrontations. A twist here. And a push to the finish. Baddies are stopped but the actions set in motion cannot. The goodies cannot stabilize the bomb because the precautions have been made in the dying moments of Talia’s life. It’s going to blow after all.
This is a familiar plot device. This isn’t new. Heck, bombs were used in the second movie too but for different purposes. Still, the Nolans gave us the familiar in a new package… again! They told the best story they could and… yes that’s right, it appeals to the masses.
7. THE DEATH OF BATMAN AND BEYOND:
I bet a lot of critics are circling this point as if they came up with it first. If you have been reading a lot of reviews, you’ll probably find theories why Batman had to die. People talked about it before July 20th and now more people will be talking about it like they knew about it the whole time.
So let’s review.
The bomb went off. But, Hitchcock Suspense says that the bomb MUST NEVER GO OFF.
Let’s take a break and watch this clip:
The bomb must never go off because you need to provide the audience relief of the tension built. Yet, the Batman story had to end and it is already stated of how it will end in the first movie:
FLASHBACK TO BATMAN BEGINS:
Bruce and Alfred are flying back to Gotham.
AL: Are you coming back to Gotham for long, sir?
BRUCE: As long as it takes. I’m gonna show the people of Gotham their city doesn’t belong to the criminals and the corrupt.
AL: In the depression, your father nearly bankrupted Wayne Enterprises combating poverty. He believed that his example could inspire the wealthy of Gotham to save their city.
BRUCE: Did it?
AL: In a way. Their murders shocked the wealthy and the powerful into action.
BRUCE: People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne, as a man I’m flesh and blood I can be ignored I can be destroyed but as a symbol, as a symbol I can be incorruptible, I can be everlasting.
That’s what happened to this Batman. He flew the bomb away from Gotham to save the people. But to become this symbol, this true symbol… he had to become a martyr. Batman’s flesh and blood was destroyed and he was transcended to the level of a pure symbol. Batman had finally become everlasting. Even the Bruce Wayne name became a symbol after his death, turning his own home into an orphanage.
But what about the relief of the audience?
Talia’s “ace in the hole” was when she destroyed the option of stabilizing the fusion bomb by flooding the housing chamber. There was no other way to stop the bomb, especially with the final five minutes on the timer. And the fact that the Bat had no apparent autopilot made things more dreary.
At this point in the movie, I was cheering inside: “YES! They’re going to do it! They’re going to kill Batman! YEEPPIE! Wait… what am I saying… NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! … Batman… don’t die.”
I got teary and even the aftermath of Alfred talking to the tombstones pushed my limits of control. (Michael Caine is one hell of an actor.)
Also, this was a superhero I grew up on. My parents couldn’t afford for the family to go to the theatres so everything was seen on VHS or if you were really lucky, on TV. I had a few toys, one poster from Batman Returns, and watched the animated series whenever I could. Only in recent years, I’m beginning to discover the true gems of the comics but I didn’t need to read them to understand who this character was.
So to see this character die was the most heartbreaking moment of the kid in my heart. Then sorrow hung there for the last few sequences to the conclusion… and now we needed relief.
Seeing how deception and sleight of hand tricks is a trusted technique of Christopher Nolan, he had this one last trick to show off.
To make it more fulfilling he sets it all up earlier in the film where Alfred explains during the time Bruce was away, he would go on a vacation to his favorite hot spot. At a cafe in Italy, he imagines that he will spot Bruce sitting a few tables away, enjoying himself with a wife and possibly children. They make eye contact but they never say anything. It’s that realization and satisfaction of knowing that Bruce didn’t return to the tragedy of his life back in Gotham… that he knew Bruce made it.
This important story plays to the core of Alfred’s role. He provides the father figure that Bruce is missing. And what parents want the most is to know that their child made it to a good life. They don’t want to see their child go far but return home to live at the same level as their parents. They wish for their children to transcend to the next level.
So Bruce got inceptioned by Alfred with this vision and sought it out. He shed his identity of Batman and Bruce (but as a bonus, made them everlasting symbols for Gotham). He moved on and made it to a place where he could live a simple happy life but with someone he loved.
Returning to that quote by Christopher Nolan:
“After “Batman Begins,” I certainly felt like taking on something smaller, but one of the things I got such a thrill from on “The Dark Knight” was shooting on IMAX and creating that massive scale and achieving that larger-than-life quality. So that’s a lot of fun. I’m drawn in both directions now. So maybe what I need to do next is a very intimate, small story that happens to be photographed on a ridiculously large scale. Or vice versa.”
I think Nolan successfully finished this story about a boy who fell and learned to pick himself up again. He was a boy filled with fear, guilt, and anger. He learn how to not be afraid and be angry but in the end it almost destroys him, as stated by the unlikely of characters:
FLASHBACK TO BATMAN BEGINS:
HENRI DUCARD a.k.a. RA’S AL GHUL: Your anger gives you great power. But if you let it, it will destroy you. As it almost did me.
BRUCE WAYNE: What stopped it?
HENRI DUCARD: Vengeance.
I think in the end, it was not anger or vengeance that helped get Bruce out of the Pit. It was finding that fear again and learning to be brave so he could rise. Picking yourself up is one thing but to rise sounds badass. And seeing what we saw, I think he achieved it.
8. MAN VS. MACHINE:
There were a lot of winks for the fanboys. There was a joke about finding a giant crocodile in the sewers. The name drop of Robin. And that final scene of the film… my friend made the mention that since the title rose upward and declared THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – it could also mean that we, as the audience, could rise out of our seats and be the successor to the Batman Legend.
Another thing I would like to mention is the design of Bane. (DARTH VADER?) He has this mask over his mouth so Tom Hardy acted purely through voice, eyes, and body. Bane even chokes people out but with his bare hands rather than using the Force. He has the same training as Bruce but fights for the other side. And even the Bane one liners are epic.
Besides Star Wars, Nolan also has a love for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). I think he was influenced enough to provide a social commentary on our human nature in regards to technology.
First, 2001. If you haven’t seen this brilliant film by one of my cinematic heroes, STANLEY KUBRICK, go see it right now. I don’t care if you find it hard to endure. Just do it.
2001 is at a point in our human history where we finally became the Masters of Earth. We did this with our intelligence. It is our greatest asset. With our intelligence we created tools and this eventually lead to the advancement of our tools and technology.
The peak of our human brilliance is when we finally achieve ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE.
So in 2001, as we humans venture off into the universe, we are thrown back to an unfamiliar ground and realization: we are the NOOBS of the universe. We are limited by our biological form and species. Even as we use our greatest tool to help us, even it begins to turn against us.
Hence one of the greatest battles we will ever face as a human species is: Humans vs. Artificial Intelligence.
Before we reach that point in time, we still have ourselves to bicker over about. Humans vs Humans. It’s all because of our flaw as a species… our human nature. And in our human nature we have one big problem.
“Greed is the root of all evil”
And it’s because of this flaw we see the characters in the trilogy fight over the technology we created — a wrestling match between using it for good actions or bad actions.
BATMAN BEGINS: the microwave emitter that was created to vapourize an enemy’s water supply. This invention echoes something from Sun Tzu’s “Art of War”:
Chapter Three: Planning Attack.
“Generally in warefare, keeping a nation intact is best, destroying a nation second best; keeping an army intact is best, destroying an army second best; keeping a battalion intact is best, destroying a battalion second best; keeping a company intact is best, destroying a company second best; keeping a squad intact is best, destroying a squad second best. Therefore, to gain a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence; to subjugate the enemy’s army without doing battle is the highest of excellence.”
“Laying siege to a city is only done when other options are not available.”
This microwave emitter essentially disables the enemy’s supply and tries to ruin the enemy through dehydration. You simply die faster through dehydration compared to starving.
The enemy will surrender and you win.
This plan is not what the League of Shadows want. Their plan is not to take over but to send Gotham into a chaos that will destroy itself. This is when a technology that simply defeats an enemy through the most humane way is turned into a more lethal weapon: lace the city’s water supply with Scarecrow’s Fear Toxin that is only dangerous if inhaled.
THE DARK KNIGHT: the cell phone sonar is transformed/enhanced to help “burn the forest down” and capture the bandit — The Joker. This time Bruce is the one who tampers with technology and creates a computer system that can spy on the whole city. Ethical issues are raised and Lucius Fox is pissed. Knowing what this technology could due, the machine was ultimately destroyed after capturing the Joker…
(Side note: Jonathan Nolan revisits this machine for a favorite guilty pleasure show — PERSON OF INTEREST. This show is basically Bruce Wayne and Batman split into two people… and this version, there is no costume and rules against killing… do not exist.)
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES: as mentioned already — fusion power technology that can give us plenty of clean energy. This time it was made by both the goodies and the baddies: Miranda Tate’s project and Bruce’s investment. As part of the suspense and plot device, we know that this technology can be turned into a nuclear weapon.
No matter what happens, as long as our technology gets better, the escalation between the good and the bad will continue. All because of the seed of greed. There are essentially three poisons that tempt us: greed, hatred, and delusion. Let one grow, the rest are bound to follow.
If we return to 2001, we will see that the only way to even begin to master the universe is to move beyond our human form. That way we can shed our technology and our human nature. This way we can become something more than flesh and blood…
For now, the only thing we could do is cancel bad out with good. There is a natural order that balances everything, so it only made sense that the worst of all villains in Nolan’s Batman Universe must perish along side with Batman (Joker is captured / Batman takes the blame and retires). Escalation will lead to a breaking point where there is no victor. The cycle then begins again.
Bruce cheating death and leaving his identities behind was the only way to satisfy the character. The Wayne name is left in good honor. The Batman Legend lives on. And the hint of a successor is suggested. What makes it more wonderful is that anyone can become Batman.
9. FINAL THOUGHTS: ON FEAR
Some people say there are essentially a finite amount of basic stories we could tell. Some say it’s ten. Others can say eight. There’s also thirty-six dramatic situations by Georges Polti to consider… and what about the hero’s journey? The circles! Think about the circles!
Lorenzo Semple Jr. (best known for the 1960s BATMAN TV series) says there were only two basic stories: Fish Out of Water and The Odd Couple. Or you can follow what screenwriting guru Michael Hauge observed:
All stories can be reduced down to one: David and Goliath story — the individual against impossible odds.
BATMAN: “Where is the trigger? Where is it? You never gave it to an ordinary citizen! Tell me where the trigger is, then, you’ll have my permission to die!”
In The Pit sequences, Bruce learned that no one had ever escaped… except for a child. At this point, part of the magician’s deception of Nolan, Bruce believes this is Bane. And he gets angry. At this point in his life, Bruce does not fear death. He is truly fearless. But when he is broken physically and mentally and tossed into the Pit to watch Gotham burn… fear comes back.
He does not fear death, but he fears dying in that place. Hence the anger and the desire to overcome the impossible feat of rising out of the Pit. He heals and rebuilds his strength. He tries to climb and fails twice. Only then he learns the secret of the child who escaped.
Prisoners have this safety rope as they attempt the climb.
The child escape without one.
This was out of necessity and the fear drove the child to meet the limits of the human desire.
At this point, anger can easily destroy Bruce. So he learns what it feels like to feel fear again and climbs without the rope. This is his final obstacle before coming back to save his city: he has to learn how to rise rather than simply pick himself after he has fallen. He has to transcend to the next level.
But, at that vital moment, fear leads to bravery.
Being fearless can be reckless and careless. You can accidentally fall into the ignorant belief of invincibility and expect automatic victory.
Being brave, you feel the fear in every part of your being and your mind screams to retreat. Despite that, you bring forth the courage to forge on. There is no expectations of winning or losing, there is only the moment. It’s okay to have fear but we have to learn how to face it so we can confront the challenges in life. It can help us push our limits and strive for something more rewarding and fulfilling.
Maybe the first time, we have that rope to bring us out of a dark pit of hell.
But, eventually, we have to learn how to rise out of it without one.
That’s all I have to say for The Dark Knight Rises and the basically the Dark Knight trilogy presented to us by Christopher Nolan and company. There are plenty of other aspects you can reflect on but for me, the personal story and struggle is what clicked with me.
I hope you enjoyed reading and take away something. I also hope your eyeballs are still functional. Please feel free to comment and share your own thoughts.