Dark knight, dark sight
So last week I finally rewatched the first of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, namely Batman Begins. Many hailed the trilogy as the monumental example of superhero films, but I stand unconvinced, and by the time the credits rolled for Batman Begins, I didn’t stand being unconvinced no more — I ran over to the land of the unconvinced and built a civilization overnight. It was one huge murk of a storytelling, no matter how astronomical the production value was.
But still, the trilogy didn’t rake in millions for nothing. The costumes were amazing without being too frivolous. Gotham was made in great, convincing detail. The automobiles weren’t overpowered and almost sensible to drive in. What makes the whole trilogy crumbles into tiny pieces of irrelevance is solely the susceptible storyline that stands somewhere between trying out the “gritty realism” style and the standard superhero story. First, let’s recognize his good intention of bringing the more humanly, realistic side of superheroes that many films in the past had failed to do. Nolan’s Wayne, as in the comics, became a vigilante for good reasons: his parents were killed, no justice in Gotham, the criminals should have something to fear, etc. But then this becomes a problem in itself (and the whole Batmanverse ever), as a superpowerless superhero would make more sense fighting crime without a costume. I can relate with an overpowered alien from Krypton that has to become more humanly to find his place among humans. Aliens and human mutations don’t exist (yet), so whatever the mutants and metahumans do is acceptable for us viewers because it never happened. A man donning a costume to fight crime on the streets, however, is less so, because we have cops that can even get killed without having to flap around an intrusive cape while fighting crime, not to mention without GUNS! The whole “don’t bring a knife to a gun fight” wisdom doesn’t apply to Batman, and throughout the movies I cross my fingers waiting for a stray bullet to get through his unprotected mouth. Hell, if I were Bane, I would have my henchmen around him to start a Wayne bulletfest, game over. If in the comics one of Batman’s true powers are his high intelligence and super-preparedness, Bale’s Wayne game plan seems to be stealth jumping next to people and chat/smash them right away, wait until they turn their head, and cue a cool stealth exit.
Crimefighting aspect is one point. Above the motif, Nolan tries to give us what seems to be a complex storyline based around the theme of fear of criminals and the corruptible nature of society and humanity in general. Rachel drove Bruce through the slum of Gotham so he could see what he has been missing above his mighty Wayne Tower, and this leads to Bruce spending the next decade fighting various chumps and big-name villains. Yet at the end of it, why did he left to some dreamy holiday with a former burglar, leaving the city he loved so in cold turkey, totally believing the cops will now do their job properly? This is just one of the many plot holes and contradictory plot points that the trilogy left us with. Sometimes Nolan can get away with not explaining anything, and that’s probably why The Dark Knight is arguably the best of the three. When did Joker get all the time to plant bombs in buildings? How did the explosives work? How can a lunatic gain the sufficient money to do everything? In this case, Joker stands as the typical unreliable narrator archetype, so whatever background story he gave the viewer is acceptable and need not to be explained further. Acceptable since it happened on the right scale: not too small to be a dismissable petty crime, and not too big to be a matter of national security.
The Dark Knight Rises is another story. The movie has been contradicting itself right from the first act. As many others in the internet had mentioned, Bane’s assault on the stock market is both an allusion and an insult to the real-world Occupy movement against the very rich, which instead put the likes of these protesters in the same light as the bad guys as both are fighting against the rich. And Bruce is a billionaire himself. That’s almost like saying that being rich and good is awesome, but being poor most likely will convert you into a criminal — an allusion maintained since the first movie. Next is the scale of the crime. Unlike Joker who operates solely with his henchmen, Bane is stirring up the society and almost created a post-apocalyptic dystopia inside Gotham. The problem is that this all happened within a sane and normal United States of America, a country known for having the number one army in the world. Would it be likely for the President to let a city being held up for months by a bunch of henchmen, with only the leader known as highly intelligent, without commanding any SWAT team or secret intelligence to infiltrate the city? The movie tried to operate on the grandest scale possible, yet there is no mention of the political and economical implication of the city holdup to the USA and the outside world. Wathing TDKR requires the audience to suspend their disbelief to the next solar system. It’s like offering a wonderfully decorated wedding cake with a horrendous taste — everyone will be amazed only until they eat it.