Batman: The Dark Knight Rises part 10
John Blake, new detective, Daytime Batman, is trying to solve the murder of John Daggett. To solve the murder of John Daggett, he’s chasing down leads in construction jobs because of a number of odd construction permits Daggett applied for before his death. If I’m not mistaken, this is not only the most mundane piece of detective work done in The Dark Knight Rises, it is the only detective work done. All of Batman’s detective work in the narrative consists of “getting told things by people.” The Dark Knight had him create his own high-tech ballistic range in his basement so that could find a fingerprint on a shattered bullet, but Rises has him not even bothering to check the background of Miranda Tate before handing over control of his company to her.
Blake asks a couple of construction workers about their work with Daggett, and recognizes one from the stock-exchange heist. A scuffle ensues, leading to Blake accidentally shooting his suspect to death. Blake is greatly upset by this shooting death, but it doesn’t prevent him from first interrogating his suspect in prime Batman style, grabbing the man by the lapels and screaming in his face. So already Blake has taken a step towards Batman-hood, he’s traumatized by a shooting death (except this time he’s the shooter, and not a mugger but a detective) and he’s a brutal interrogator. He also learns that a huge bomb has been constructed, too late to stop the entire police force from stepping into a trap.
Which raises the question: does Bane intend to trap the entire police force, or is that an unexpected surprise to him? I can’t see how he could have planned it, Gordon himself is the one who ordered the mass investigation. If Bane had planned to trap the entire police force, wouldn’t he have invited them in craftily instead of blocking their attempts to find him? He’s been up to no good, it’s true, which suggests that some police would be looking for him, but with Foley in charge and Gordon hospitalized, how could he be sure the police, the entire police force, would be in the sewers, trapped like a multi-headed Javert whilst their Valjean emerges from a tunnel under the football stadium to address the masses?
(Side note: Gotham City, emphatically presented as an island in the movie, and portrayed in long shots by Manhattan, has both a football stadium and a prison — a prison, not a jail — within its city limits. That’s some piece of zoning — if you’ve ever lived in Manhattan, you know that real estate is far too valuable to augur for either of those institutions. Not to mention the parking nightmares, the UN is bad enough.)
But emerge Bane does, waiting for the National Anthem to finish before he brings down holy hell on Gotham. The emphasis on “The Star Spangled Banner” indicates that, yes, the narrative of Rises wishes to take some kind of measure of our national temperature. The people in the stadium are true Masses, dead-eyed, fleshy-faced yobs aching, screaming for the violent release of gladitorial combat. Rome goes unmentioned in Rises, but Bane’s choice of venues cannot be coincidence. He doesn’t mount the stage at an opera house or the local newscast, he goes to a football game, where the masses cry for red meat and the players line up for the national anthem exactly like the gladiators of old saluting the emperor before their deaths. Bane’s goal is eyeballs, but he chooses a venue where the eyeballs already look for conflict when he seals the city off from the world and buries its police force.
Blake, one of the few policemen still above ground, races to get Gordon out of the hospital (the same hospital the Joker blew up in The Dark Knight, according to the signage — they rebuilt that place faster than Wayne Manor, construction permits really are a snap in Gotham City) before Bane’s thugs can kill him. He’s too late — not too late to save Gordon, but too late to save the thugs sent to kill him; Gordon has already shot them dead. Gordon, it seems, doesn’t share Blake’s squeamishness about guns.
Bane addresses the masses, in the most confusing inspirational speech ever written. He says he’s come to free Gotham, after murdering untold hundreds with a series of citywide explosions and two football teams before the eyes of the spectators, not to mention the Mayor in his skybox, and adds that he’s got an un-defusable nuclear bomb. His big “sell” is that, with Gotham sealed off, the masses are free to pillage the fortresses of the rich. We can see by the looks on the crowd’s faces that this is not news they were prepared for when they came to the stadium. (For what it’s worth, Dr. Pavel’s last words are to mention that the bomb has a blast radius of six miles. Manhattan is 2.3 miles across and 13.4 miles long, for those keeping score.)
The President (played by William Devane, who, the older set will recall, played Kennedy in the made-for-TV Cuban Missile Crisis drama The Missiles of October) breaks the news on TV, allowing broken Bruce to feel his city’s pain, pain he has given so much to prevent but which he’s ended up contributing to. (Funny how TV and movie presidents are still always white.) Meanwhile, Bane busts open Blackgate Prison to free the men imprisoned under the Dent Act. Bane tells Gotham that the bill for the lie that has held the peace in Gotham has come due. This, too, remember, was Bruce’s doing — instead of simply telling Gotham the truth, he and Gordon conspired to make Batman the fall guy in Dent’s death, specifically to pass the Dent Act, which would enable Gordon to imprison criminals with greater fervor. Bane reads the speech that Gordon wrote but didn’t deliver at the beginning of the movie, and the crowd listening believes him. After all, this is a homicidal maniac in a mask — why would he lie?
Selina listens to Bane’s speech with trepidation, but Blake is outraged. Gordon, whinging, explains to Blake that the Dent lie was necessary to ensure order — a teeny bit of fascism, a teeny loss of rights, to ensure greater freedom. Freedom for who? If Bane has a cogent point within his bizarre, Mussolini-meets-Luchador public appearances, it is that the big lie in society is that the police are there to protect the people, when they are really there only to protect the interests of the wealthy.
It’s unclear to me whether or not the prisoners let out of Blackgate (“a thousand men,” says Bane) are the only masses who join Bane and loot the temples of the wealthy. One thousand men, assuming all of them are bloodthirsty maniacs looking for a masked freak to follow, don’t sound like enough people to get the job done. Manhattan has 1.6 million people on it, we can assume Gotham likewise, and it’s hard to believe that a sizable percentage of them would think “Well, I’ll throw in with the thousand-man army of criminals with the masked maniac who has the nuclear bomb.” Through all of this, Bane assures us, “This great city will endure.” And yes, I suppose it would, in the way that Rome has endured — there is, after all, still a place called Rome, but it would be barely recognizable to the Caesars — which I guess is also Bane’s point.
So Bane seems to be suggesting to Gotham that his devastating takeover of the city, and a new municipal policy of pillaging and rapine, all under the threat of a nuclear explosion, is merely a kind of high-minded social experiment. Who wouldn’t do his or her best to enjoy themselves under those perameters?