I love Batman, I really do. My dad used to own a comic book shop and I cannot remember a time I didn’t know of and appreciate Batman. In fact, I found my appreciation for his character only grew with age. See, the thing about Batman is that he could be anyone. He has no powers, no magical devices or incredible power suits; he’s just a guy. True, he is a billionaire, but that’s not as important as some people seem to think. The years of training, both physically and mentally, his sheer determination in the face of adversity and his hatred of crime are what define the character.
Batman, at his core, is a victim of tragedy, who saw his parents die in a senseless act of violence and swore to keep this from ever happening to another child. It’s even been pointed out in the comics (by Alfred I believe, the best fictional butler ever) just how impossible this vow is. There’s no way he can ever hope to achieve it, but that never stops him. Nothing stops him.
With The Dark Knight Rises, the latest and last of The Dark Knight trilogy by Christopher Nolan, Batman has vanished from Gotham City after taking the blame for Harvey Dent’s crime spree and death, which leads to several problems in itself for me. Despite my own preference of the comic book universe Batman and even the old animated series, to Nolan’s supposedly ultra-realistic movies, I will try to keep these points as unbiased as I can. Mostly.
Problem 1: Batman Vanishes for 8 Years
So Batman truly gave up after The Dark Knight and after the events of that movie it sort of makes sense if there’s no organised crime anymore, but when I heard about this before seeing the movie I had a very hard time accepting it. Batman, give up? So Bruce Wayne trained for years and years to have a vigilante career of maybe 2 years? Fair enough, that doesn’t fit the character I know. What about street crime though? Bruce Wayne’s parents were just shot down by some mugger and Batman taking on the mob in Batman Begins always felt like his way of telling every criminal that no one was too big or too small for him, and then now, to forget the little guy kind of defeats the point in avenging his parents, doesn’t it?
Problem 2: Bruce Wayne’s Injuries
In Rises, Bruce Wayne has a very bad limp from the start. He can’t walk without a cane and when he goes to a doctor he’s given a large list of physical problems and told there’s no cartilage in his knees. I suppose frequent use could wear down cartilage, maybe? Do real athletes get this problem? I can’t say I’ve ever heard of it before. I mean, he was only Batman for 2 years, is that really that much stress on the knees? Maybe the armour made it hard to bend or something. I’ll get back to this in a bit.
Worse yet is that Bruce just straps on a leg brace when he decides to get off the couch and suddenly his leg is good as new. Why not do this years ago if only for personal comfort? You don’t have to be jumping off rooftops to enjoy the freedom of walking without a stick.
Of course, by the last act of the film Bruce is fighting fit, despite having a serious back problem that heals up extremely quickly once a prison doctor has a look at it; something like two months, I believe, which is just long enough to seem like a long time in fiction I suppose. Still, it beats the comic’s method of spine healing, which was… uh, magic I believe. So I’m not going to complain too much about that detail.
Problem 3: Daughter of the Demon
I didn’t pay much mind to this issue while I was actually watching the movie, but after a week of seeing it, it started to bug me. So the ‘Hell’ that Bane raised is a pit-like prison in the ground, with a single route of escape; a hole in the ceiling that challenges prisoners to climb out and escape. This cruel and unusual punishment is what gives Bane his philosophy – there is no despair without hope, a key point as it’s all that keeps him from killing Bruce after their fight.
Now we’re led to believe that Bane was the only prisoner to ever escape through this hole. It seems believable; the guy is huge and tough and has all the training Bruce had, so why wouldn’t he be able to climb out of Hell?
Then – plot twist! – It turns out it wasn’t Bane who climbed out at all, it was a seven/eight year old little girl, the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, the villain of Batman Begins. As nice as it was to have another character from the comics mythos put into the film, and although at the time I didn’t question it, looking back I really have to ask: how can a child make that climb when grown, desperate men can’t?
It’s strongly hinted in the film that she made the jump because she didn’t use a rope and this whole thing didn’t sit right with me. The rope is too short to make the jump, right? I got that impression, it certainly looked that way, but if that were the case anybody making the jump would be able to realise this. If a person knew the rope was too short after just one attempt, a genius like Bruce Wayne should have realised this before his first try. Am I missing something? It really feels like I might be.
Problem 4: Being a Symbol
So for two years, Gotham City puts up with Batman and Batman zooms about taking down the mob and the lunatics like the Joker and Scarecrow – that would immediately set him up as a big icon for justice… if he hadn’t been condemned as a murderer by everyone 8 years ago. 8 years is a long time to forget. There’s a teenager in the movie who talks to John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) about Batman coming back and all I could do was wonder just how this kid, who would have been 7 years old or younger when Batman quit even knew about him or even cared.
The papers would have him down as a murderer like the Joker and he would have been demonsised, so I find it hard to imagine that anyone would be left thinking of the man as a hero or a symbol of good at all, which is a shame because it takes away from the impact of Bane coming from nowhere and destroying him so efficiently.
In my opinion it would have been a much more powerful event if, say, Batman had been working for those 8 years. He had taken down and locked up countless villains (he has enough in his rogues gallery, believe me) and that was why he was so injured; it had taken its toll on him and he’d grown cocky. He would see Bane as just another criminal to take out and that’s why he would go down so hard.
It would have been even more impacting if Bane had done it in front of a crowd, like at the stadium where it’s televised for all to see, that would certainly cement his status as Gotham’s Reckoning. He would have actually shattered a symbol in front of everyone and I think that could have been a very powerful moment. It’s a shame that things were planned out differently.
There are a lot of other problems with the film that I won’t go into, like the stock market robbery seemingly lasting 12 hours somehow. Whilst I did enjoy the film a lot, especially its take on Bane, I’ve seen so much praise for it I felt it might be nice to point out that it’s really not as flawless, and certainly not as “realistic”, as everybody may think.
Realism in itself always seems like a very shallow grounding point for a movie about superheroes, and now with Marvel doing so well with Avengers I do hope to see less of it. Maybe the next take on Batman will be able to have some fun with the Caped Crusader, so long as it’s not the Adam West kind of fun. Honestly, if I wanted reality I would go outside. And why would anybody want to do that?