Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises Again

We have reached the point where I must talk about Batman's resurrection to the streets of Gotham City, seen prominently in Christopher Nolan's final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. As we have explored in my Joker Rises, Batman Falls essay, Batman has taken the rap for Harvey Dent/Two-Face's  crimes at the end of The Dark Knight, therefore falling from what he once was and becoming a hated vigilante. Now, as a new threat marches into the now peaceful Gotham, Batman must come forward to stop the new threat and once again become the proclaimed hero. But it's not going to be an easy coming forward, for the gas breathing, painkiller addicted Bane may be Batman's biggest, most equal enemy yet, trained in similar combat and methods to Bruce Wayne himself. Luckily, Batman finds a slew of new, helpful allies to form a truce with, including the beat cop John Blake, his commissioner pal James Gordon, and the unexpected anti-herione, Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman.

It's been 8 long years since the Joker's downfall, Harvey Dent's rampage, and Batman's last sighting in the eyes of the public. Now, Gotham is a great metropolis of peace and prominency and no fears lie in the sight of the Gotham city folks. But Bruce Wayne and even Commissioner Gordon are still haunted by the haunting events of that terrible night 8 years ago, when Harvey Dent threatened to kill Gordon's family and Batman took up his atrocities. Gordon even considers coming forward with the truth, but it's all put on the pedestal with the arrival of the mighty Bane, a villain with more straight and sorted out ambitions than the Joker. Bane is the knife to Gotham's throat, the one that takes a man with good health and impales him with a long sword. He's the guy with big things in store, and like most of Batman's rogues gallery, he thinks of himself as some sort of savior, a visionary, a revolutionist. Unlike the Joker, Bane doesn't play games with anyone. If you toy with him only once, he could break your spinal column or even crack your skull in front of a large crowd of people. He's the perfect adversary for Batman, because he's a villain that could easily outmatch Batman, something he swiftly does in the beloved Knightfall series of comics, but we will get into that a bit more later. Villains like the Joker, the Scarecrow and even Ra's Al Ghul are villains Batman can put up quite a fight with, but Bane's the guy that could give him a run for his bat ears. As I stated before, he doesn't like to play games.

So Bruce Wayne must come out of exile after 8 years of shrouding himself from the public, and as he is ambitious to return to the black cape and batarangs, his trusty butler Alfred Pennyworth is against the idea, stating that he can not survive as Batman (he barely did before). It is then when we learn of a stunning revelation, something that plays in mind later in Bruce Wayne's final chapter. While Bruce was exploring the world throughout the first act of Batman Begins, so was Alfred as he went looking for Bruce. As Alfred entered many restaurants during his travels, he always saw a man in the restaurants that looked exactly like Bruce from the behind. As he went to approach the man, he would always turn around, and it turns out that it wasn't Bruce. This clearly harkens back to the man and the myth concept Ra's Al Ghul taught young Bruce in Batman Begins, that some men are mysterious yet very eminent in many ways. If Bruce makes himself more than just a man, he can do stupendous things no ordinary man can do. He becomes Batman to make himself more than just a man, and eventually becomes a great Gotham myth. And this ties in perfectly with the man in the restaurant. Alfred wonders  if the man in the restaurant is really Bruce, just like many Gotham citizens wonder on the whereabouts of Bruce's alter ego.

If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, you become something else entirely. Are you ready to begin ?

Bruce Wayne can be both the man and the myth. He can be an average ordinary man with average ordinary problems and yet still face the perils of the caped crusader. It all ties in with the concept that even the mythical can be crushed by even the slightest of occurrences. Even Batman can be periled by the problems of Bruce Wayne, although he doesn't show his feelings while he's within the Bat suit.

So Bruce returns to the skies as Batman, despite Alfred's resentment, and the butler is so upset that he leaves Wayne Manor after several years of service. But what appears to be Batman's ultimate reinssance is really a grotesque awakening. Batman gains the trust of Catwoman, a cat burglar who had recently stolen a necklace that belonged to Bruce's mother. As the two fight alongside one another, the two seem to get along fine, and Batman even takes Catwoman on a spin with his bat plane, aptly named "The Bat" (the Batwing of the Nolanverse). Batman even teams up alongside Officer John Blake while Commissioner Gordon recovers from an injury in the hospital. And John Blake helps Batman in a similar way to Robin in the comics and the previous movies, something that will be vital in the future after Bruce's story concludes. But Catwoman betrays Batman, leaving him to fight the mighty Bane, who will undeniable BREAK HIM.  Batman fights gallantly against Bane in his underground watery lair, but the macho wrestler like figure swiftly turns Batman in Bat chow. The Bane of the Nolanverse differs profoundly from the Bane of the comics, for the Bane of the Nolanverse doesn't sport the luchador mask or wield Venom filled tubes throughout his abdomen. But something similar the two Banes have is that they both BREAK Batman, and when I say break, I mean break his back like a toothpick. Just like in the comic Knightfall, Bane lifts Batman over his head and snaps his spine like a twig of a tree. Also, this almost happened in the Batman: TAS episode "Bane", in which Bane prepares to break Batman's back, just as Batman disarms Bane, overexposing him to the Venom drug throughout his tubes.

Batman is defeated terribly by Bane, and as punishment, Bane takes him to a far away prison, described  as an unescapable "hell on Earth" pit. He intends to make Batman stay there and suffer until he dies, as he returns to Gotham to overrun it as a great dictator. Although Batman has been torn to pieces by the all powerful Bane, he still has skyrocketing hopes and learns a few more things about life while dwelling in the underground prison. For example, he learns a little more about Ra's Al Ghul's backstory and his child, who escaped the awful prison with luck and will. Going back into the man and myth concept, Batman assumes the child was Bane, and that he is the lost son of Ra's Al Ghul, who taught Bruce Wayne everything he needed to know under the alias Henry Ducard (Bruce is also visited by the spirit of Ra's Al Ghul in the prison). It's a really interesting concept that has you wondering tremendously, just like it had you wondering tremendously about the asian grey haired Ra's Al Ghul decoy in the beginning of Batman Begins. We assume throughout the beginning that it's the real Ra's Al Ghul, but the tables turn later and it turns out it's really not. A similar thing would occur later in The Dark Knight Rises involving the true child of Ra's Al Ghul and the true plans of the enemy.

As Batman lies compromised, Bane cuts off Gotham from the rest of the world, destroying football fields and bridges so no one is able to escape. He also uses a failed Wayne Enterprises device as a threat, that if anyone tries to escape the city, he will set off the device and Gotham will be desecrated entirely. He also reveals the Harvey Dent coverup, putting Gordon's job at risk. Never before has Gotham City seen a mad man of this magnitude, and they realize that they need Batman now more than ever. It's a common story telling device, that in which the hero is temporarily defeated and the villain takes over as the new ruler. Comparing Batman again with Star Wars, it's very much how the jedi are defeated and the Emperor and his evil Empire sweeps over the galaxy. But there is a resistance, a fight back, a rebellion. Batman is the rebellion, and after several months at the horrible prison where he watched Gotham burn on a television screen, he retrains himself to go back and stop Bane. It's very much how Luke trains to become a jedi and defeat the Emperor as well as redeem his father. Many other heroes throughout film and literature also go through this complex. Remember in Superman 2 when Superman couldn't defeat Zod and his forces? He got his butt handed to him on a plate, but he eventually came back and tossed Zod and his men down the hatch. Or in the first Spider-Man film when Spider-Man got PWNED by the Green Goblin. He got beaten up and beaten up some more, but he finally worked up the strength to own the Goblin and crush him like a roach.

So like many heroes, Batman is taken down by the antagonist, but as we all come to suspect, he fights the battle and comes back to the antagonist for some more brawling. By this point, Gotham is a graveyard where several have died and several more will die. Bane is in charge and is not standing for any resistance, even a resistance from the Gotham Police Department. Gordon and Blake plan on taking things out on their own, not suspecting that Batman will return or even make a single comeback. The citizens of Gotham desperately need Batman and wonder if he will return to stop the evil within. But little do they know that Batman is on his way, and he will help lead the charge to finally take out Bane's forces. The good people never suspect the hero to come back after he is defeated by the villain, but as a grand surprise, and in an event that surely gets a lot of applause from the audience, Batman returns to the screen for the final confrontation. It's the moment where the hero finally gets off the crutches to stop the evil ones, and no matter what kind of shape he is in, he is ready to fight back with his biggest kick to the groan yet. Batman forms an alliance with Gordon, Blake, Catwoman, and the other members of the GPD to lead a battle against Bane's onsomble and Bruce's technological friend Lucius Fox helps out with his computer and tracking skills. An all out war occurs and Batman takes on Bane once again, this time, HE gets the upper hand. After damaging Bane's mask which causes him to feel extreme pain, Batman demands to know the location of the destructive device which he plans to use to annihilate the city. In a twist of events, Batman questions Bane of his relations to Ra's Al Ghul and it turns out that he is not the child of the mystical warrior and leader of the League of Shadows.

Just then, Bruce Wayne's associate Miranda Tate, who he has had a brief relationship with earlier in the film, reveals herself to be Talia Al Ghul, the true child of Ra's Al Ghul and the true child who escaped the prison years ago. It turns out that she was the true mastermind of Gotham's downfall all along, and that Bane was only following orders. It's a really clever twist and a perfect way to expand upon the origins and background of Ra's Al Ghul, making him much more like his comic book counterpart. It also plays into the "dramatic twist" element that is found perfectly in films like The Sixth Sense and Avatar, where something happens or someone realizes something or someone who was close to the protagonist turns out to be an all out enemy. That's what happens here, as Batman learns that a close friend, a person he trusted, a person he had feelings for, was the one true enemy. It's just like in Batman Begins, where we find out who the true Ra's Al Ghul is and what he wants to achieve. Eventually, as we all know, the hero works his rump off to stop the true enemy and the true enemy always falls in the end. Of course there is another confrontation with the true villain's servant, but in Batman's case, he's not the one to take out Bane as Catwoman gives him a good blast with the Batpod. Pretty interesting to think that the main hero doesn't defeat the prominent villain of the film, isn't it. But Batman and his crew and able to stop Talia, and it's then when he realizes he must do something drastic, something courageous. He's going to have to make the ultimate sacrifice he never had to make before.

The only way to stop the device from destroying Gotham is to take it out to the sea so it can detonate there. But how would it be done? Batman slowly realizes that he must use the Bat to drive the device out to sea. After kissing Catwoman and revealing his true identity to Gordon (and then seeing a heart wrenching flashback of him and young Bruce from Batman Begins), he takes the device miles and miles away to the ocean and the device goes off, making all of us think that Batman is dead and that we won't see Christian Bale's character for the rest of the film. But it's some powerful stuff when you "kill" off the main hero of a superhero flick, the hero we have got to know a bit throughout an entire trilogy spanning 7 years. Never before has Batman actually "died' in a Batman motion picture, and we are left wondering. HOW WILL THE FILM CONCLUDE? WHAT WILL GOTHAM CITY BE LIKE WITHOUT THE CAPED CRUSADER RUNNING ABOUT? WHO WILL TAKE ON THE BATSUIT?

Well Gotham, as it did before, gets back on it's feet and prospers as the city worships Batman as a great hero and dark avenger once more. Everyone is saddened by his sacrifice, but they know what he "died" for and they know that he "perished" doing what he felt was the best for his people. In Batsy's honor, the bat-signal is reconstructed, a huge Batman statue is crafted, and everyone is pleased as to how Gotham is regrowing due to Batman's contribution. It is assumed that Lucius Fox takes control of Wayne Enterprises and that Gordon is able to keep his job as commissioner of the GPD. Alfred is traveling the world again, and as he sits at a restaurant in Italy, he spots a man that looks exactly like Bruce, a man that could very well be Bruce, sitting across from a woman that looks just like Selina Kyle. This once again ties in with the man and the myth concept, for it could very well be the real Bruce Wayne and we are left wondering how he survived the destruction of the Bat and the "doomsday" device. In many ways, Batman has risen higher than he has ever risen before, leaving a legacy greater than the one he anticipated. Gotham is a better place because of him, and although he was immediately defeated by Bane when he returned to the public, he was able to dodge the hailstorm and come back in an extraordinarily epic way, kicking lots of baddy butts along the way. He rose at the end of Batman Begins, fell at the end of The Dark Knight, and rose again at the conclusion of The Dark Knight Rises, elevating higher and higher even if he was thought to be dead.

I could easily talk about how The Dark Knight Rises alone follows the rise and fall and rise again concept I have incepted, but that would be a bit slim in my eyes. I really wanted to talk about the Batman trilogy as a whole, for like the Star Wars saga, it's one solid story that brings up rising and falling and rising again. It has heroes and villains that we can relate to and understand, and we can learn from the protagonist what it takes to make an ultimate difference. Batman has had many ups and downs, but in the end, he's still the dark and silent guardian we love him as, always bringing on new interpretations and reimaginings down the rocky road. All I can wonder is what Bob Kane and Bill Finger would think of how far their brainchild has come over the past 73 years. It's certainly interesting comparing their Batman with the Batman of today's generation. Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is unique in a way that all the films compliment one another, and that they all correspond with each other, making the story more wholesome and understandable to the audience. The Dark Knight trilogy is not just about Batman, it's about Batman and the people who are related to him, how he relates to them and how he wishes to be excepted in the world. Like Gordon says, he is the hero that Gotham deserves, the one that really saves the day from powerful danger and makes things exciting and compelling at the same time. No other hero is like Batman. He's a crime fighter, a detective, A DARK KNIGHT.

By the way, at the end of TDKR, John Blake's real name is revealed to be Robin and he stumbles across Bruce Wayne's abandoned Batcave. Could this mean that he becomes the Boy Wonder after all? Or maybe he wonders into Bludhaven to beat down criminals as Nightwing. Who knows, maybe he teams up with Cyborg and Beast to form the Teen Titans.

Wouldn't that be a scrumptious cake! Not only has Batman risen spiritually, he has risen in the form of a new crusader of the night!

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