“The Dark Knight Rises” is coming out next month, which means that, for a month, we all have to wait. There is nothing else we are waiting on but this movie. Nothing else is as interesting or as important. Well, I guess our health is important. Sort of. And paying the bills. For me, there is something inherently pure and lovely about waiting for a movie like TDKR. I had this same feeling when I first saw the trailer for “That Matrix.” I told everyone about it, and waited six months for a movie that no one cared about and then everyone cared about. The last movie I was this excited about was “Inception,” which is my favorite film. Christopher Nolan can tell a grand story, and I have a sense that his last Batman movie will be his best movie ever.
A lot of people who are going to see Batman have no idea what the movie is going to be about, who Bane is, why Catwoman plays a role, nothing. I admire you people. Where you see a blank canvas, I see an unmade puzzle. I recognize the pieces, but I really don’t see how it’s all going to come together. This post is going to show you the pieces. SPOILER ALERT: I haven’t seen the movie, obviously, so all this is stuff I know and stuff I think will happen in the movie. If I’m even a little right, I might spoiler the movie for you, so be careful.
Bane: Bane is a creature of the mid-90s. Around the time that Superman was killed, DC comics was looking for a way to kick-start the Batman books. They couldn’t kill Batman, because they killed Superman. So, instead, they broke Batman’s back. And Bane did the breaking. Bane came into town, broke all of Gotham’s bad guys out of prison, and watched as Batman spent days trying to catch them all. Once Batman was tired of fighting, Bane kicked his ass and snapped his back like a 2X4. Don’t get it twisted. Bane has never, ever been a good comic book character. DC has tried for years to make Bane something more than just “The guy who broke the Batman.” Bane’s just not that interesting. He’s big, he takes some sort of drugs, he is smart or something and whatever. Christopher Nolan has a complete blank slate when it comes to Bane, and anything that Bane the movie villain does will be much cooler than anything that Bane the comic book character does.
In TDKR, Bane will be portrayed as some sort of revolutionary, a guy who wants to tilt the balance of power from one group to another. In both “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”, the villains tried to destroy the illusion of safety that the citizens of Gotham had, especially the elite class. Ra’s Al Ghul believed that Gotham was rooted in decay and waste, while the Joker viewed himself as an engine of chaos. Bane will be the same way. In the trailer, Bane says he’s “Gotham’s Reckoning.” That pretty much sums him up. One thing you should be prepared for is Bane beating the shit out of Batman. That’s obviously going to happen.
Catwoman: This one is a bit trickier. In the comics, Catwoman was a thief, at first. She was a villain. She was a wonderful villain because Batman had feelings for her. Later in the comics, in the more recent comics (Before the DC Universe reboot. I know. I know. I get confused, too) Catwoman became something like a hero. She became a champion, which was odd. She even had her own book. If you’ll notice, her costume for TDKR looks like the one she wore doing her heroic time in the comics.
Having Catwoman in TDKR is an obvious choice. She’s attractive. She’s sexual. She’s overtly sexual, actually. She’s a villain when she wants to be and a hero when she wants to be. The audience won’t know whether to trust her or hate her, feel sorry for her or wish she were dead. That uncertainty will make for great tension. But, I mean, it might also be annoying. This might seem like a simple comic book movie, but Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies are on another level, and Anne Hathaway is going to have to bring the same passion, intelligence and skill to this performance that Heath Ledge brought to The Joker character. She can’t be a pretty face in skintight leather. No one that is going to see TDKR is going to see the movie for that. Well, not just that.
What the Catwoman character does in TDKR is still open for discussion. The trailers haven’t ruined much of her story. I know she steals something, which is like saying that I know the sun is going to come up tomorrow. I predict she pulls a move like “The Hulk” did in “The Avengers” and completely steals the show. No pun intended.
Gotham: In the comics, around in the early 00s, Gotham was hit with an earthquake that pretty much destroyed the city. The federal government refused to send aid and they blew up the bridges and tunnels connecting Gotham to the rest of the country, claiming that Gotham City was a “No Mans Land.” No one could go in. No one could go out. The Batman, of course, stayed. What were produced in those comic stories were probably the most interesting and powerful comic story telling I’ve ever read. They were utterly fantastic. Batman was alone against an army of bad guys. The city was grouped into cults. There was danger all over the place and the rule of law was a myth. I think that same energy is going to come into play with “The Dark Knight Rises.” The city will be taken under siege. Batman will have to leave, then he’ll come back and save the day. That’s being very simplistic and almost too specific at the same time. But, think about it. What is more scary than one of our cities, one of the biggest cities in the country, being taken over by a criminal element? I’m not talking about a city with a high crime rate. I’m talking about a group of men with guns taking over a city completely from the people and saying, “This is ours now.” Remember the LA riots? Remember Katrina? The Great New York black-out? The London riots? It’s a tangible fear. We are one bad news cycle away from complete chaos. That’s how you tell a story. You show the audience a vision of something truly terrifying and heartbreaking and then you show them a hero struggle beyond all odds to stop it.
Batman: “Batman Begins” was about overcoming fear and leaving behind guilt. “The Dark Knight” was about the consequences of that action, of the counter-balance. “The Dark Knight Rises” is shaping up to be about the Batman’s end. I didn’t say “death.” I said end. In the comics, the Bane story line allowed Batman to be replaced. Someone else took over the role. One of the classic comic book stories of all time “The Dark Knight Returns” is about Batman being old and aged after an extended retirement. Killing a character off is a cheap trick, an easy way to get fans to scream in horror, to have that emotional reaction you are consistently trying to pull out of them. The better trick, and the more interesting one, is to punish and punish the main character until there is nothing left to punish, and then keep punishing them. The audience wants to see the punishment. They also want to see the character preserve and prevail.
The Batman franchise is already set for a reboot in 2015. Nolan isn’t making any more of these, so he can pretty much do whatever he feels like. How far will he go? That’s any one’s guess. If I were him, I’d go all the way and I wouldn’t care about backlash or letting the fans down. Everyone, all of us, are going to see this movie twice no matter how it ends.