PART 2: DARK KNIGHT RISES - Did Christopher Nolan Get it Right?
by Vic Frederick.
In the second installment of his three-part in depth analysis of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, writer Vic Frederick shifts focuses on how the characters of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's John Blake and Anne Hathaway's Catwoman were utilized.
Elementary, my dear Batman
Besides “The Batman,” Bruce Wayne’s alter ego has been given many names. “The Dark Knight” and “The Caped Crusader” are common examples, but one that is lost in the shuffle of Christopher Nolan’s films is perhaps the most important name of all: “The World’s Greatest Detective.” Batman is known throughout the DC Comic universe for always being ten steps ahead of the crowd and having a contingency plan for every possible (and even impossible) situation that he may or may not encounter. This perhaps is best portrayed in the famous story arc Tower of Babel (2000), in which Batman makes a contingency plan for each member of the JLA (Justice League of America) on the off chance that one of them would ever get out of control. His brilliant mind is unsurpassed by any other character, and yet the Batman we see in the Dark Knight Trilogy is being outsmarted all the time.
Portraying Ra’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson) as the man that trained Bruce Wayne was a new and fascinating approach, given the facts that Ra’s had never been portrayed in film before and it offered a plausible explanation for Bruce’s abilities. In the origins of the comic character, however, Ra’s did not train Bruce, but rather respected him as a worthy adversary and possible successor to his throne. The relationship is paralleled well in the film, but has one large flaw. In all other depictions, Ra’s al Ghul’s exclusive way of addressing Batman is by calling him “Detective,” as he respects Batman’s superior sense of deduction and wit. This is lost in Nolan’s universe not only in Neeson’s character, but in Batman himself.
In the first film (Begins), we get to see Batman use his infamous interrogation skills as he hung a crooked cop up by his ankle five stories above the ground and scared him into talking. We see it again in The Dark Knight when he drops a mob boss far enough to break his leg, but not far enough to kill him. What we don’t see, however, is Bruce Wayne huddled over a table of forensic science equipment in the Batcave or doing undercover investigation from the rooftops. Batman’s first appearance was in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, making his detective skills paramount to his character from day 1.
Needless to say, this hole in Batman’s character shows in instances such as in The Dark Knight when Bruce Wayne spent millions of dollars of his company’s money to build a machine that violated the privacy of millions of citizens due to his own lack of ability to find the Joker. Bruce also lacked the wherewithal to realize the daughter of his ex-mentor was working with him for years, attempting to infiltrate Wayne Enterprises, which proved an almost fatal error. The climax of this character hole was indeed in DKR when Batman fails to find the triggerman to an atom bomb, so he delivers a savage beating to Bane while wailing “Where’s the trigger!? Where is it!? Where is it!?” and then being stabbed by Talia (the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul) as she reveals her true identity to him and holds the trigger in her hands.
Holy Falling Football Fields, Batman!
In 2008, when discussing the potential for a “Robin” role to surface in Nolan’s Batman films, Christian Bale said during an interview that he would refuse to take part in any such project (Fun Fact: Christian Bale auditioned for the role of Robin in Tim Burton’s film franchise and was turned down!). Fans and followers had no delusions about the Boy Wonder making an appearance on screen after seeing Bale’s vehement objection. This is understandable, given the background of the role. Robin is somewhat of a controversial character in the Batman universe and has only been adapted to film a few times, the most recent being considered an immense failure. The Nolan films created their own mythos in some ways, but they did have a general way of adhering to certain truths. This made Robin most unlikely by the third film, considering how early Robin is meant to come into Batman’s life.
In the comics, Robin was introduced as a ray of light in an otherwise abysmal and hopeless life Batman was leading. He wore bright red, yellow, and green colors and made wisecracks on every page. He humanized Batman by giving him a father-like responsibility and even a new sense of humor. Later on, the role became much more essential as Bruce Wayne learns how important the role of Robin is to Batman. Even after the first Robin quit and the second was murdered, Batman couldn’t deny that he needed a partner. When Tim Drake (the third Robin) deduced on his own that Batman was Bruce Wayne and Robin was dead, he approached him and insisted he hire him. Batman couldn’t refuse. “The Dynamic Duo,” as they came to be known, has been essential to Batman since the 1940’s.
Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon Levitt) made his debut in DKR and shocked viewers in many ways. Nolan’s Batman seldom needed or accepted help from anyone, as was made clear in the introduction to The Dark Knight when he apprehended “copycats” and proclaimed to them “I don’t need help!” The loner character of Batman comes to fruition in DKR when, after his retirement from crime-fighting, he becomes a shut-in that seldom shows his face to the world. It takes the words of a young man who still has faith in the Batman to shake Bruce back into the cape and cowl. This scene was a stroke of beauty in Nolan’s universe. Blake encompassed every Robin character at once and then filled the space in Batman’s character with perfect grace. He was an older orphan that believed in true justice, like Dick Grayson, the first Robin. He came from parents that made poor decisions in life that led to their deaths and his unfortunate childhood, like Jason Todd, the second Robin. And he deduced on his own that Bruce Wayne was Batman, recognized that he needed help, and took it upon himself to elbow his way into his world, just like Tim Drake, the third Robin. All three original characters came together to become Nolan’s very own Jonathan Blake, which was received very well by fans everywhere.
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