Batman: The Dark Knight Rises part 15
So, in eleven minutes, Gotham City is going to blow up. A lot can happen in eleven minutes, in a movie, when a nuclear explosion is imminent.
First, we have Blake leading the orphans (and some other citizens) on an exodus out of the city. Depending on where they are in relationship to the bomb, they’ll all die in the explosion regardless of whether they get across the bridge or not, but let’s say that somehow crossing the bridge will magically get them out of harm’s way. Blake gets them halfway across the bridge and runs into another police force (Newark?), whose job it is to keep people from trying to escape (for the public good). As at the top of the sequence, it’s a confrontation between civilians and police, but the positions are reversed. No civilians were in the fight against Bane’s army, because they’re all here with Blake confronting another police force. (The police, don’t forget, are the “thin blue line” separating civilians from criminals — it’s their job to confront thugs, they’re urban warriors. It’s appropriate that the police don’t enlist civilian aide in their attack on Bane’s HQ, just as it seem garishly inappropriate for a police force to threaten to fire upon civilians whose only crime is to wish to escape a nuclear blast.)
Talia, meanwhile, says a tender good-bye to Bane while she leaves Bruce alive (to witness the blast) and goes off to see what happened to the bomb. She plows through the remaining cops attacking Bane’s HQ, killing them all, including Foley, who, as unlikely as it sounds, goes down shooting like a rebel hero, dying for a cause, in his dress blues, ready for his funeral. Bane, on the other hand, suddenly loses faith in his cause, and, in his final moments on Earth, says to Bruce “You know that I have to kill you now, you’ll just have to imagine the fire.” He, in a small way, betrays Talia, I assume because he’s decided to high-tail it out of there before the bomb goes off. [A number of readers comment that Bane may also be taking the moment to kill Batman himself, which also makes sense, but which paints him as a "bad guy" rather than a tragic figure, a man who must kill his enemy before they are both vaporized or else he just can't live with himself.] How fitting, that, in the end, he really was just a mercenary, in love with his mistress but not a fanatic, not a true believer, not willing to die for a belief, not after Bruce has reintroduced him to pain, the same kind of pain that made Bruce change his mind about wanting to die for his cause. No sooner does he reveal himself to be a common hired thug than Catwoman shows up on the Bat-Pod and unceremoniously shoots him, killing him — offscreen. Bane, when he was broken, was tragic, but Bane when he’s a chicken doesn’t even get a close-up.
Gordon, stuck on the truck with the bomb, is joined by Talia, who commandeers the truck but is soon set upon by Batman in The Bat. Lucius, waiting at Reactor Central to plug in the core, announces that he has “ten minutes” to get the bomb back, which means that Talia’s cruel speech to Batman, her tender good-bye to Bane, her slaughter of the cops, Bane’s good-bye to Bruce and murder by Catwoman, Batman’s finding The Bat, climbing into it, starting it up and locating the bomb truck has all taken (according to the timer on the bomb) 58 seconds. Given all that Batman was able to accomplish the night before, that sounds utterly plausible.
Blake, on the bridge with the orphans, is understanably upset with the Newark police officer who blows the bridge rather than let him and his charges pass, although, again, it seems like if the bomb is going to go off, being on one end of the bridge instead of the other doesn’t seem like it would make that much of a difference. Meanwhile, Batman and Catwoman pursue Talia in the bomb truck through the streets of Gotham. Talia’s goal is only “to make sure the bomb goes off,” while Batman’s goal is “to get the bomb back to the reactor, although, with less than six minutes left now, that sounds wildly implausible, even for lightning-fast Batman.
Talia’s goons shoot guided missiles at Batman, who takes the missiles all around the city on a merry chase (sorry, property values) before leading them straight back to their owners, a literal case of “blowback.” He kills Talia’s driver (with a gun!) which causes the truck to dive onto a lower street level and crash. (It’s great to watch this sequence with a knowledge of all the different places it was shot; some beats begin in New York, continue through Pittsburgh and end in Los Angeles — Gotham City is All America.)
Jim Gordon, loose in the back of the truck with a nuclear bomb, comes out of the crash with a hurt arm, but Talia is not so lucky. She is mortally wounded, but not so far gone that she’s incapable of remotely flooding the reactor before she dies, scotching any possibility of plugging the core back in. (Why she didn’t do that ages ago I’m not sure. She certainly has a grasp of the theatrical.) Like Bane, she doesn’t get a glorious death, and Batman doesn’t even get to trade quips or gaze into the eyes of the woman who plotted for years to take over his business, gain his trust, act as his lover and finally stab him in the back.
“You could have gone anywhere, did anything, but you came back here,” says Catwoman to Batman. “So did you,” he says. Which, come to think of it, we never saw the streams of people escaping via the tunnel Catwoman opened, never saw many civilians anywhere this day really, but the point is, Batman and Catwoman, the wealthy autocrat and the marginal master thief, the odd couple who bonded through a common desire to escape their identities, have both elected to not escape after all, but to come back and fight for the city they love.
Batman, before he takes off with the bomb, stops to finally tell Gordon who he is — or rather, he tells Gordon who he is. He reminds Gordon that it was he, all those years ago, who put his jacket on the young Bruce’s shoulders, who showed kindness to a stranger, a wealthy, privileged boy whose parents had just died, making him an instant billionaire. Batman is Gordon’s hero, but Gordon was always Bruce’s hero, the man he could never be — an ordinary hero, a Daytime Batman, unfamous, brave, kind, a man doing his job and protecting his family in a dangerous world.
Batman takes the bomb out over the ocean, over the heads of Blake and the orphans. Blake is, theoretically anyway, the last major character to see Batman alive, the last witness to his commitment to Gotham.
As Gotham rises from its own pit, Gordon ponders the future at Bruce Wayne’s grave. He sees that Bane’s and Talia’s attack on Gotham will have the opposite effect as intended, that Gotham will gain new purpose and new glory because of the work and sacrifice of Bruce, and ends with a quote from — not Hugo, oddly, but Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, lending, finally, a reference to the French Revolution to Bane’s folly. Loyal Alfred, also at the graveside, sobs openly, feeling that he’s failed his charge. Such hurt needs to be answered, of course, which the narrative supplies: Bruce, in his own way, was kidding as much as Bane was — his commitment to his cause was strong but not absolute — he pulled a fast one — somehow — and got out of the Bat before it went kablooey over the bay. He loves his city but he’s not a martyr, not Bruce Wayne. Earlier in the movie, Selina cracked to him “The rich don’t even go broke like the rest of us,” and that’s true, as it’s true that the rich don’t die for a cause the way ordinary people do. Ironic that the most spineless member of the cast, Foley, truly did die for the cause of defending Gotham, while Gordon somehow survived and flourished, Blake was put in charge of the orphans, Selina squeaked by and Bruce, at the last moment, pulled a fast one with the Bat’s autopilot — Alfred finds him, and Selina, the young couple in love, in that sunlit Florence cafe, just as he dreamed he would. Yet it’s Bruce, or, rather, Batman, Bruce’s mask, that ends up with the big statue in City Hall, while no one remembers Foley.
Inspired by Batman’s commitment and Gordon’s compromise over the Dent lie, Blake quits the police force and, with a bag of clues left to him by Bruce (what a day Bruce had coming back to Gotham, he had to pack a bag of clues for Blake too!) that leads him to the Batcave, and, as we learn Blake’s given name is “Robin,” to becoming a new Batman. Will he be a better Batman than Bruce? He does not fall into the Batcave, it is not his pit, not his deepest fears, rather he swings into the Batcave like Robin Hood. He has the edge of an orphan but is of the streets, not the manse, he had no Alfred growing up, he had Father Reilly, the leader of the boy’s home (so that’s why that guy has so many scenes, he’s Blake’s low-budge Alfred). His stated purpose is to find a way to help the city from outside the system, because institutions come with shackles, although, now that Batman has a statue downtown, he himself has become an institution. Maybe that’s why Gordon looks so uncomfortable during the dedication, while he looks much happier when he finds a new Batsignal waiting for him. Bruce bets that Batman cannot become an institution as long as there is an ordinary men behind the mask. Bruce leaves Gotham Batman as his legacy, finally absenting himself, and his neuroses, from the equation, leaving Gotham to, finally, be its own city.