EDITORIAL: The Dark Knight Rises: What Could Have Been
What if The Dark Knight Rises had been two films instead of just one? Hit the jump to find out.
Everybody's a filmmaker. Of course this isn't literally the case, but I've read some rants (one quite rude) from established website critics about what they didn't like about The Dark Knight Rises. It's easy to slam movies. It's harder - much harder - to actually make them. I think it’s okay to offer criticism of comic book films, but it should be done while showing the proper respect to a man that has given us the single greatest interpretation of Batman on film.
Obviously, I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan. But I am also a huge fan of Batman.
I am a fanboy of both. So when these two inner fanboys come into conflict with one another, it's kind of a weird thing. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked The Dark Knight Rises.
Still, when I first saw the film, I left the theater excited but conflicted. There were moments in the film I absolutely loved. I was emotionally satisfied, yet... There were these nagging issues. If you're reading this editorial, you know what many of these issues are. They've been talked about and debated at great length. Rather than revisit these issues yet again, I would like to talk about what I wish could have been.
I wish The Dark Knight Rises had been two films: Part One and Part Two. I will expand on this later.
Part One opens exactly as Christopher Nolan envisioned and filmed it, and ends with Bane defeating the Batman, and ultimately taking over Gotham. But Bane’s strategy for defeating the Batman would be more similar to what it was in the comics. Bane strategically deploys different villains to orchestrate his taking over Gotham, while simultaneously keeping the Batman very busy. We could have then seen glimpses of Nolanized versions of Killer Croc (I loved his depiction in the graphic novel Joker, as a big guy with a scaly sort of skin condition), Riddler (man in a green suit, with maybe a question mark tie pin), and so on. Maybe Bane could have used a Russian arms dealer named Oswald Cobblepot to smuggle the armaments necessary to establish his martial law in Gotham (I know this concept of the Penguin is not original, but I’ve always loved it). I would love to see the Scarecrow in action (not simply a cameo of Jonathan Crane playing a judge, but the masked Scarecrow doing his thing). These characters do not have to be main villains, just nods (a la Victor Zsasz in Batman Begins) to some of the classic rogues we will now never see in a Nolan Bat-film. And of course, Catwoman. Her story is pretty much the same. She is one of these many agents used by Bane to accomplish his purpose in Gotham, and she would still ultimately be the one to initially betray a now exhausted Batman into the hands of Bane. Batman is beaten brutally into unconsciousness, and Bane begins taking over Gotham, just as he did in the film. Except Bane doesn’t simply (and a little too conveniently) trap all the police underground, he buries them all alive under the streets of Gotham. Hundreds of poline are now dead. And the credits roll on Part One.
Part Two opens months after the events of Part One. This is one of the reasons I feel that TDKR should have been two films. The gap between the two would’ve done a lot towards conveying the passage of time. Gotham is in real decay. This is one of the problems I had with TDKR. All these criminals are released into the streets armed and angry, and Gotham just seems downright serene. There was an opportunity to give Selina Kyle even more motivation for switching sides: the rape and murder of her friend, Jen, at the hands of some of the criminals released by Bane. This does not need to happen on screen. We could see her being dragged into an alley and then cut to Selina finding her body later. Selina, realizing that her actions in aiding Bane led to her dear friend’s demise, then goes completely vigilante rogue in Gotham. But she would not be alone. The young police officer we are introduced to in Part One (whose name is Richard Grayson, for the love of god), has gone vigilante also, in the absence of Batman. The necessity of his doing this is now perfectly realized, as he is one of the last surviving police officers in the city. He does not have a name (like Nightwing), but simply dresses in body armor and a face mask, much as Bruce first did in Batman Begins.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is enjoying his “hell on earth” imprisonment in India. Only this time, the prison really is hell on earth. Upon his arrival, in his already weakened state, he is even beaten briefly by some of the inmates, and ultimately put in solitary for is own protection (this would have played nicely opposite Batman Begins opening sequence, where Bruce is put into solitary for the protection of the other inmates). Over time, Bruce heals and begins preparing for his escape and return to Gotham. “You’re not the devil... You’re practice.” This great line from Batman Begins would take on even more meaning in this scenario. Bruce protects some of the weaker inmates in the prison, and gains a following, who ultimately aid him in his escape. He escapes the prison, but we would also see some glimpses of his journey back to Gotham.
The last act of the film basically plays out the same, with the epic final battle at the end. This time, though, it is not a miraculously well-nourished and spry police force who rise up after being trapped underground for five months, but the people of Gotham who rise up to take back their city. And what inspires them to rise up? A few dozen weakened police officers whose vow to serve and protect compels them to fight, along side the vigilante Grayson (again, NOT Blake, for the love of god), Selina Kyle, and of course, the risen and returned Dark Knight himself. I love the idea of continuing a theme introduced in Batman Begins and continued in The Dark Knight. In Batman Begins, Rachel says to Bruce “what chance does Gotham have when the good people do nothing?” This theme is echoed in TDK with a line from Harvey Dent, “Gotham is proud of an ordinary citizen...” As all of Gotham rises up against Bane, Bruce sees that he has finally succeeded in inspiring the people of Gotham. He is the symbol that has shaken the people out of apathy. His mission is finally accomplished.
That’s what I would have liked to see in the final installments of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise: A two-film epic that goes out even bigger than what we saw in theaters. But these are just my creative preferences. What are yours? What would you have liked to see? Sound off in the usual place.
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