Dan Ingram of Fear the Cacti and Crossover Appeal is our Friday columnist! You can read some of his previous posts here, here, and here.
“The Dark Knight Rises”: The Batman movie we needed? Or the Batman movie we deserved?
I wish I could say that title was mine, but it isn’t, a friend posted it on Facebook and it was just too good not to use. Thanks Justin Tatro. Also it was entirely the inspiration for this article, so that’s a good thing in my book. Might as well attribute the quote to the thought process right?
Also: SPOILERS ABOUND
This was the first movie that I saw at a midnight showing since 2009. It was a big deal to me to see this movie as soon as it came out, because I love the previous two films and to be honest, it’s a part of cinema history. One of the biggest franchises ever is coming to a close, how could I NOT go see this movie at midnight?
During the first viewing, my visceral response was not what I’d expected it to be. Initially I was just kind of coasting along and accepting what was shown to me without feeling particularly blown away by the story. This was in part because through discussions with several friends, I’d basically figured out the plot line of the whole movie in my head before I ever saw it.
The first question I have to ask: “Is that bad?”
I don’t think so. Christopher Nolan delivered everything I wanted from this movie in one form or another. And he did it in a way that was realistic but still held on to a lot of canon from the comic books. By viewing certain trailers upwards of a dozen times, I got where I knew pretty much what was going to happen and when. Anyone with a cursory understanding of Blake Snyder’s screenwriting books and general outlines of plot arcs would be able to do the same.
But like I said, I was satisfied that I got what I’d predicted; I wasn’t let down.
And even though I know the rule of three inside and out, Bruce Wayne leaving the pit is a great “f*ck yeah” fist pump moment.
The second question I have to ask: Is this the best of the trilogy?
Again, I don’t think so. “Batman Begins” is a solid movie, and “The Dark Knight” is the mother effing “Dark Knight”. But this is far and away the greatest Batman trilogy ever made.
Said Captain Obvious.
There are flaws to this movie, and if you read a lot of the reviews that have been released since the debut, a lot of people are aware of these flaws. But when the major arguments center around “how did Bruce get back to Gotham so quickly after he left the prison?” or “why wasn’t the person on the belay line holding the slack as Bruce climbed?” I feel like there are some straw graspers out there.
Most of the substantial argument stems from thin character motivations, and trust me I was right there with everyone on that one. For most of the movie I was thinking, “Well Bane is terrifying, but why is he here again?”
Nolan gave us Bane in all his horrifying glory; a masked madman that comes to Gotham to break Batman and take over a city. Then we got the added joy of seeing semi-villain Catwoman join the fray. And I have to say that I enjoyed this version of Catwoman much more than a lot of other versions, including Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance in “Batman Returns”. Want to know why?
Because she actually has a f*cking character arc.
In every other incarnation of Catwoman we see the same crap over and over again. They flirt…sometimes they have sex, either in costume or not in costume…
I’m just gonna say this…sometimes comic books are really effing weird.
I think the notion of these characters actually having arcs makes this the best comic book movie I’ve ever seen.
Unfortunately because of the format, characters aren’t allowed to grow or change a whole lot over the course of a series. Usually the only change that happens is they die or become the bad guy. (See Green Lanterns sordid history for evidence on this paraphrase of the Harvey Dent quote)
What I admire so much about Nolan’s take on this series is that it was actually going someplace. It had a message throughout and they didn’t let go of it and they made sure to follow through with it when they got to the ending.
And something that I think people need to realize: these were Bruce Wayne’s movies, not Batman’s.
“How many more visual representations of this do we need? One more? How bout a dozen?” – Christopher Nolan
While there is an argument to say (from a psychological standpoint) that Bruce Wayne and Batman are inseparable; I mean it is literally the same guy just in a suit, I think even Christian Bale refuses to blend the two characters because they are different people. Hell, the screenwriters even have Bale refer to Batman in the third person 90% of the time that he’s not in the suit.
The best piece of evidence is probably the one thing that will haunt Christian Bale for the rest of his acting career.
This one scene ruined his voice for a little bit. Not kidding. He lost his voice after this one scene.
Though the voice does change over the course of the films, becoming increasingly gravely as it goes along, Bruce Wayne REFUSES to use his own voice in the suit even when he’s alone or talking to people who know his secret identity.
Batman is a tool that Bruce Wayne uses, and this trilogy is about how Bruce Wayne decides to use that tool to fix his city, suffer the consequences because of it, and then close that chapter in his life by arcing fully at the end of The Dark Knight Rises and moving past Rachel’s death by letting someone else take over the tools he’s amassed, something he clearly struggles with earlier in the film.
The third question: Will anyone be able to top Christopher Nolan’s version of Batman?
There may be plot holes in this movie, and there may be issues with the amount of time that was covered or how Gotham didn’t feel as Gotham-y in this final installment of the Nolan-verse Batman, but we’re three movies in at this point, if you haven’t committed to being on the ride at this point, then you’re just not going to be able to accept the film. And I think Christopher Nolan, his brother Jonathan and David Goyer went into this movie with that idea in their head.
Basically saying: “You’ve come this far, so that must mean you trust us, so we trust you to fill in some of the gaps on your own.”
And to me, that’s the best kind of filmmaker, one that trusts me enough to not hold my hand through 2 hours and 47 minutes of film, because I’ve trusted him to take me this far. And I wasn’t disappointed.
I’m still nerdgasming over literally the last 10 seconds of the film.
Dan Ingram works in television and has his Master's in Screenwriting from New York Film Academy. He wishes and JGL could have a sleepover and paint each others nails while they talk about boys. True story.