Batman: The Dark Knight Rises part 10

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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?


22 Responses to “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises part 10”
  1. glumpish says:

    > not only the most mundane piece of detective work done in The Dark Knight Rises, it is the only detective work done.

    Well, Blake also found Selina because he went back to where he’d dropped off Bruce. So he got lucky, but at least he was following up on a clue. I quite liked the fact that we see Blake do basic detective work since, as you say, Bruce never does.

    >Bane reads the speech that Gordon wrote but didn’t deliver at the beginning of the movie, and the crowd listening believes him.

    It seemed to me that Bane’s speeches aren’t really for the people of Gotham, but it’s quite possible that I’m imposing sense where there isn’t any. Still, this is how I understood things:

    Ra’s Al Ghul wanted to destroy Gotham because of its corruption, and he wanted to send a message. “Tomorrow the world will watch in horror as its greatest city destroys itself. The movement back to harmony will be unstoppable this time.”

    This is Bane’s inherited goal. And because Gotham appears to be reformed now, he can’t just walk in and blow the place up; first he has to tell a story and convince the world that Gotham’s fate is self-inflicted. Otherwise there’s no moral.

    So Bane’s speeches are directed to the world, not the citizens of Gotham. Why start with a football game? Because it’s televised. His speech at Blackgate sounds like he’s addressing a big crowd – but we see that his entire audience is a small group of reporters. (I do think the Blackgate scene evokes Firdos Square, for what it’s worth.) Even the part about how a random citizen has the trigger — this is all part of making an invasion look like a revolution. The people in the city know it isn’t… but that’s not important since they’ll all be dead in a few months.

    • Todd says:

      Well, they don’t know they’ll be dead in a few months, the decay of the reactor core is a secret, the bomb isn’t meant as a threat to the people of Gotham, it’s a threat to the army that might invade otherwise, it’s a gun to Gotham’s head.

      Firdos Square is an interesting point of comparison. Yes there was all kinds of looting and destruction after the toppling of Saddam, but that was a city that had been under the rule of a dictator for decades, not an open society with elected officials (no matter how corrupt they may be). Also, there was concern even at the time that the toppling of Saddam’s statue in Firdos Square wasn’t an act of public outrage but a carefully staged-for-the-cameras stunt by the US Army, which makes the Blackgate comparison even more interesting.

      • glumpish says:

        Oh, that’s exactly what I mean. Er, for both points, I think, but particularly Firdos Square being a PR stunt. I’m not saying Gotham is Baghdad. (Although… well, I’m undecided about how deliberate this is, but it’s at least amusing that the villain’s motive is “I’m doing this because it’s what my father tried and failed to do.”)

        After it came out last summer I spent a while trying to find reviews of TDKR in other countries, without much luck. I am still curious how it was interpreted though.

  2. I presume Bruce checked out Miranda’s background way back when they started working together. For him to do so now would be so late as to be useless.

    • Todd says:

      Then it’s sad that the world’s greatest detective, the man who understood that Lau was a banker for the mob and would be the linchpin in ending organized crime in Gotham based on the stability of his corporate payouts, failed to note that Miranda is the daughter of his mentor.

      • Well, it would massively undercut Talia and the League of Shadows as any kind of threat if Bruce could sniff her out so easily. I’m okay with him missing her real identity; it’s a prerequisite to her being a villain worth her salt.

        • Colin Smith says:

          The problem with Talia is that a reasonable percentage of the audience has probably caught on to her being a secret villain by that point, given that her character is wholly undeveloped and her plot functions could easily be tackled by other characters already on the field, and yet she’s still there and she’s being played the “Inception” woman. Of course Wayne can’t use story structure as evidence against her; but if I can get one over on the villain who got one over on Batman, that sorta undercuts everything.

    • The Bruce Wayne in DKR is consistently beaten by everything and everyone (including himself), because he thinks he is the same man he once was, when he clearly is not. Even at the end, he “defeats” Bane by sheer happenstance (surely “The World’s Greatest Detective,” with all the information (wrong or not) he’s been given on Bane, would have gone after the guy’s mask from the very beginning) and underestimates Miranda to the very end. It all goes to show that the Batman fails while his legend lives on.

      • Todd says:

        And the next costumed freak who comes along is going to be mighty surprised when he gets a fistful of Blakebat in his face.

  3. Bryan Pick says:

    Todd, you remarked how movie presidents are still always white, but two black actors from the Nolan Batman movies have played presidents: Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact, and Tommy “Tiny” Lister in The Fifth Element.

    • Todd says:

      Those movie presidents were attempts to tell a post-conservative future, which has now come true. Now that it has, it’s odd to me that it’s not considered the status quo.

      • Bryan Pick says:

        Right now, a black male president would be widely treated as an Obama analogue even if the intention was to show that the new status quo isn’t about Obama personally but about America. So I’d guess you won’t see another President Palmer of 24 or the like in the next few years. But with all the talk about Rubio, I wonder if Hollywood could bring itself to portray a Hispanic Republican president.

        • Todd says:

          I imagine that’s the reason. Still when I saw the billboards for the TV show 1600, the first thing I thought was “Wait, who are they saying is President?” Then my kids, who never thought about presidents before Obama, saw the same billboards and said “What is that supposed to be about?”

      • Curt Holman says:

        Don’t forget ‘2012,’ released in 2009, which featured Danny Glover as the POTUS.

        • Todd says:

          That turned out well.

          • Marco says:

            Notably on 2012 they blew that one (although I’m not sure the movie makers would see it that way). Glover seems to be painted / cast as a heroic character going “down with the ship” (although not literally–as there were actual ships he could get on, right?)

            Then … all hell breaks loose on the ship’s bridge because there is no formal chain of command. If Glover was there he could make some calls, right? I mean, the country is not a ship–even if it gets wrecked there are still survivors who need a leader.

  4. Curt Holman says:

    When Bane put Bruce Wayne in the prison and then held the entirety of Gotham City hostage marks the point where TDKR started going off the rails for me. First, it’s just too convenient that the time it takes to convert the nuclear reactor to a nuclear bomb is (in movie terms at least) the same amount of time it takes Bruce Wayne to recover from his spinal injury.

    (Given Bane and Talia’s resources, it seems that they could acquire a black market “loose nuke” with much less effort and complication compared to the Wayne reactor business, which involved kidnapping a nuclear physicist, taking over a big company and then waiting five months. But their motivation to discredit and torture Bruce Wayne on public and personal levels makes this justifiable, I guess.)

    Like you discuss here, I’m extremely confused by what Bane wants to accomplish by holding Gotham hostage — in the eyes of the world, no less — for five months. The script scores a political point by showing how quickly a “people’s revolutionary movement” (even though Bane’s organization is nothing like that) can turn into tyranny, a la the French and Cuban Revolutions. Like you, I’m not convinced that even with the nuclear threat and his team of mercenaries and released convicts, that Bane could hold the city for five months. Couldn’t the U.S. government flood Gotham with Seal Team Six guys under the cover of night? Then, since Gotham probably doesn’t have enough food to support the population, ship in drugged foodstuffs to put at least some of the bad guys asleep?

    We know Bane and Talia plan to eventually blow up the city — do the rest of Bane’s followers know this? Bane’s followers prove willing to lay down their lives for their goals (although I’m not sure they subscribe to Bane’ s public goal or the League of Shadows goal), but surely the escaped prisoners don’t know — do they think Bane plans to hold Gotham City for YEARS? Is Gotham supposed to be The People’s Republic of Bane, an independent nation on American soil? It’s a remarkable feat of imaginary terrorism, exponentially greater than the Iranian Hostage Crisis and 9/11. I don’t know that all this fits very well with everything else in the Nolan Bat-universe.

    I think the bomb placement suggests that Bane intended to trap the police force, but I can’t explain why he thought that plan would work.

    • Todd says:

      Bane seems to want to make a point about Western Civilization. It’s not just Bruce he wants to torture, although that’s certainly the linchpin in his plan, and it contradicts my point about Bruce’s Ra’s Al Ghul hallucination telling him that it’s not all about him, because, well, obviously it is all about him. Bane wants to show that Bruce’s city is a powder keg of dissent and unhappiness, but mostly the citizens, like Selina, just want to get by, they don’t hate the rich, they just don’t want to be killed. I lived in New York for 22 years, believe me, I know the feeling.

      • Colin Smith says:

        I think that was one of my central disappointments with “Rises”. Ra’s Al Ghul wanted to tear a city apart with fear because he thought it would scare the rest of civilization into changing. The Joker wanted to destroy anything he could get his hands on because he loved the sound it made when it shattered. Bane & Talia want to do a bunch of stuff because of revenge and loyalty and sacrifice and order and chaos and truth and pain and nihilism and legacy and whatever. It’s amazing they accomplish so much with such lack of focus.

  5. Glenn Peters says:

    “Gordon, whinging, explains to Bane”

    You mean Blake, right? It’s been a while.

  6. Marco says:

    I’m late to the party here–but as to the white-president issue, I think the commentary is good. Here’s my take.

    1. Pre-Obama: A black president indicated an enlightened leader in a time of trouble. The casting of a black guy (and no one better than Morgan Freeman) actually (and this is comical now) projected an image of *unity*–hey, we Americans got our act together to elect a black guy! This sense was, it turns out, a pretty strong driving force for people who voted for Obama in 2008.

    2. Obama-Era: Today if you have a black president (and note: Scandal–white guy, House of Cards–white guy) it is an Obama-analogue–but even worse, as divided as we are, you come down in either camp decidedly if you have him do anything–or not do anything. If “Obama” sees Gotham get taken over by terrorists and is ineffective? The movie is right-wing. If he saves the day? Left-wing. If he sleeps with a white girl who isn’t his wife (Scandal): Right Wing. If he screws over Kevin Spacey … well, the jury is still out–but that’s because Spacey’s character in House of Cards is a pretty dark shade of gray.

    3. Post-Obama: I suspect that we will start seeing female presidents in movies playing *strong* presidents IF Hillary is not elected in 2016 (and it’s a guy). Why? Because (a) if she runs she will presumably come close enough to be believable and (b) we have an analogue for her: Thatcher. So it’ll carry some weight AND straddle a partisan-line comfortably.

    Considering how divided we are right now with Obama in the White House I suspect it’ll be a while before we see black presidents again.