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Thursday, August 9, 2012

the dark knight rises

I’ll just go right ahead and stick a massive SPOILER ALERT at the beginning of this post. Spoiler alerts exist for people like me people who want to see the thing in its organic, unshaped, untouched element. People who believe that the power of a story in its first form is the power it has to surprise, to catch you off-guard to give you moments of shock and awe. People who want to get scared the first time they see the Joker kill a guy in a Batman costume and slam his body into a window interrupting the meeting Gordon has with the mayor. If you haven't watched the Dark Knight Rises yet don't read.

Right into it. In the last cold open we saw the madness of the joker, it introduced us to a character that was at once larger than life and ill deserving of it. This time we are thrown into a plane ride and an escape plan. We are introduced to Bane through one of his hilarious one liners “perhaps he is wondering why you would shoot a man and then throw him out of the airplane.” And then he moves, in this character we see strength, passion and belief in the same way we saw chaos in the joker. He walks on the screen and you can’t move, your eyes are glued on his because every move he makes promises to be someone’s last. And as they leave the airplane he tells one of his friends that they need a body in the crash, “has it began?” is all the man asks before he willingly embraces death. A madman who has people who would kill for him is scary a madman who has people that would die for him is worse.

Bruce Wayne is no more. The playboy billionaire hung up that mask as well as the batman one and he looks broken. He has imposed an exile on himself believing there is nothing more in the world for him; grief has haunted him since the beginning of his days. He has taught himself to smile as robin explains while telling him how he knew who batman was(Robin also curves a bullet later in the movie, curves a bullet, remember when this happened in wanted). He has lost his family and his love, he lost his reputation as he lost Harvey and none of us is so good, is so noble that they would be reviled and chased down the street for giving up so much of ourselves and be okay with it. He is back where batman begins a lost man with the capabilities of being more but none of the drive needed to channel the anger into action. Then he loses Rachel all over again as the truth about her letter comes out, he throws Alfred out and is truly alone, him and his demons are all he gets to come home to because soon he won’t even have his money. We see that taken away from him in spectacular fashion. With no electricity a fire is put to burn in his manor the comfort of this is all that’s promised him as all we have now is a man with a mission. For him and an invention of his to be the unwitting destroyer of Gotham  is a justice too exact to be right. It can’t be right can it that there is a billionaire living among people so poor all they needed was a little push. It can’t be right that he has enough money that he can throw it away on toys when there are better ways to fix failed states than dramatic examples to shake people out of apathy. A million dollars for schools here, a billion as an economic stimulus there and things begin to move. People aren’t usually criminals because they like to hurt, despair and desperation paint  people into  corners that they have no way out of. His dramatic example cost not just him but the city too and now he’s no longer even funding that orphanage.

Bane break: When attacking the stockbrokerage and the guy there tells him there's no money here Bane asks "so why are you all here?"

Children from the orphanage go missing, go into the sewers in such of work we are told. “What kind of work can you find in the sewers?” “More than you can find up here.” And that is the failed state of Gotham. As Harvey Dent day is celebrated and Gordon wrestles with whether or not the city is ready to hear the truth about Harvey,  the man who threatened to kill his son and the one who saved his life and the truth about them we see a man in conflict. The lie gave him a burning sword and institutions to put away organised criminals and now it is a city without organised crime but things built on a lie always fall away before the storm of the truth. The Dent act is  in force but there is still despair and desperation. The same that existed in a tale of two cities the same kind that has orphaned boys going down into the sewers to look for work, the same kind that tears Gotham in two the kind that makes craziness just a little push away. We see it in the characters introduced, in the sexy, sexy cat woman (Anne Hathaway blew that away, my God none of us is safe around that burglar) as she whispers to Bruce “did you think you could have so much and leave so little for the rest of us?” she gets it, she knows what’s going to happen a storm is coming. A revolution is awaiting its leader and when people are oppressed for long enough the only kind of justice they can dispense is like to live a man a head shorter. So the duality of life in Gotham continues. Organised crime went away making the city safer than it has been in decades but the despair, the underlying causes of the symptoms were unexamined and the body is sicker than it has ever been  breathing on fumes ready to die at any moment.
a map of Gotham's soul.

We have a city that refuses to listen to its war hero assuming his mind is addled as he talks about Bane and the underground army. We see Bruce led into a trap by the duplicitousness of Selina and we see him beaten. He is not the man he once was and wise man Bane tells him he fights like a young man, throwing everything into it. And he truly does, he is beaten, outmatched and thrown out. Alfred as usual has the best quote about any of these characters . “There is a prison in a more ancient part of the world, a pit where men are thrown to suffer and die. But sometimes a man rises from the darkness. Sometimes the pit sends something back” says Alfred. That was beautiful that truly was adaptation at its best. I have been a batman fan for a while and I always loved the Ras al Ghul episodes in the cartoon. He was so suave and self-assured and in those he was immortal not in the way an idea can be immortal but well and truly immortal unable to die, a man who lived forever. When he was ailing his body would be thrown into the Lazarus pits and by magic he would rise again. We can’t have magic in these Nolan movies but we still got the pits. Hell on earth “I was born in the shadow you merely adopted it” Bane says as he grabs batman out of darkness and proceeds to break his back(the ultimate Bane break). The story of the pit goes back and forth; we don’t truly see the full story until all those who have been spat out by it are gathered in the same room. The moment of betrayal in this movie is truly shocking. I can’t tell why I forgot that Ras al Ghul had a daughter but I did and when she stabbed batman and told her story of the pit, it was haunting. Nature does a lot for people but nurture can indelibly leave a much stronger mark than anything else. Lying in filth and dirt for years and being there as your mother is raped to death, fearing that it too is the fate promised to you is enough to make a young girl strong enough to pull herself out of the pit but it’s also enough to make her so angry and unable to forgive that she believes twelve million lives are worth the approval of the dead father who left his wife there to rot. She climbs out because she fears death and in the pit that’s the lesson Bruce is taught. It gives you a stake in the game something worth going hard for . The will power it takes to climb out of that pit, to survive it as a child and to somehow find her father is the reason I can buy her being the big baddie and Bane being relegated to the role of henchman. Strength and wit are important but will cuts through both like a hot knife through cheese. She like her father, like Bruce is something other, something more, something that’s not in our reach no matter how we try to lie to ourselves and Bane is just a tool. A fire hose that needs to be controlled otherwise he would go off as crazy as the Joker. She had found her Luca Brasi and taken the Don’s advice making herself “ the only person in the world who he hoped would not kill him” 

Bane break: When the stupidest guy in the world begins shouting at him and Bane lightly touches his shoulder immediately underscoring the physical inadequacy of this man "do you really feel like you are in charge?"

When experiencing a series of books, movies or a tv show we want to know there was a plan all along, that the same mind that brought itself to the beginning knew how that end would be and made it all one big story going back and forth, overlapping and intercrossing. It’s not always like that sometimes you jingle the ending as you go  I loved that this movie had trilogical aspects. The dark knight for all its greatness could be a stand alone movie the only connection between it and batman  begins being the characters. You could still experience the full power of that movie only slightly diminished if you hadn’t watched batman begins. The same cannot be said for this movie. It harks back to the league of shadows and Bruce’s search for himself. How much sadder is Ras al Ghul’s story when we see it in flashback as he talks about the woman he loved and lost and we know that she is the mother of his heir, someone he lost as he loses all his heirs. The vision of her father is what Talia holds out to achieve. A vision thwarted by the Wayne family twice before once in death when a senseless burglary inspired the elite to more and again when batman came to stop him.(the league of shadows used the same trick of having an impostor stand as leader that they did in the first movie yet another flashback) Even as Bruce climbs out of the Lazarus pit we see the well he fell into, we see his father in another flashback that has more emotional impact than when seen the first time in that movie “why do we fall? So we can climb up again.” It picks up the threads of the story of Bruce. It strips him of everything this time, his health, his money, even his anonymity as the number of people learning his identity pile on. It asks what this character needs for redemption and answers it as he hauls the bomb away from Gotham. Batman must die so that Gotham can rise.

It also follows forth from the dark knight. Picking up the threads of Gotham. A city tittering on the brink of insanity requiring “a little push” as that movies antagonist said. The tortured soul of the city is allowed to come out in this one as the push is given. Order is replaced by anarchy even as “structures became shackles.” Desperation gives rise to the worst of human nature. The citizens do take their city back using as an excuse nothing more than the justification of a hungry stomach. They throw the rich out of their houses and take up residence in them and in scenes reminiscent of a tale of two cities they hold the mock trials where the defendants are told its only for sentencing. Death or exile they ask. Playing the same game Harvey Dent played with his victims. They finally hear the truth about two face and a symbol is put in their faces. Justice to the quick. Why try when you can achieve? Sentence them immediately just like Dent did and then give them a chance that’s not really much of one. Have them walk across ice so thin you need to track a path as small as a coin to keep on it. What the Joker couldn’t achieve Bane and Talia did in all their glory. The dark side of the city comes out to face the light. Anarchy spreads like a tumour and this place may not be worth saving after all, but even in the novel it was the desperation and mistreatment that drove them to this. Dickens was able to tease out sympathy for the lovers of sweet sister guillotine just as he did for those who felt her embrace.

Bane break: He captures some guy and the guys promises to die before he talks, "i will oblige your schedule" as he rips the guy's tongue out.

Before Alfred leaves he tells Bruce that he wishes he had seen him in Florence because there is no happiness promised to him in Gotham. While in prison Bruce sees Ras al Ghul. He has a hallucination that his enemy is alive and well and when  Alfred believes he has seen Bruce and Selina after all the drama, after the ship blew up we may as well ask ourselves if this is another hallucination. This was a bleak movie. It was livened by humour but all through there was darkness and sadness and pain, struggle spiced every interaction seducing them all into nothing. I needed a happy ending. I needed Bruce to be alive. There are apparently plenty of logical reasons why he is but am more interested in the emotional one. In the end batman is about hope. Sacrifice yes. More sacrifice than one man should take upon himself but hope too is the promise of batman. “People deserve to have their faith rewarded” Bruce once told Lucius and for this alone Bruce Wayne deserved a happy ending just so that rising was worth it.