Batman: The Dark Knight Rises part 9
Act IV of The Dark Knight Rises begins by checking in with Selina, who is being held at Blackgate Prison for kidnapping the congressman back in Act I. The screenplay takes care to note that Selina, despite her seeming vulnerability amidst a population of convicted criminals, can take care of herself in the worst of circumstances. The script presents this as a physical gag, but it’s important to keep in mind that Selina, as an anti-Batman (and anti-Bruce) (they’re both in prisons at this point), is still at her physical peak compared to Bruce. Bruce is in prison at Bane’s hand, but Selina is in hers by her own hand. One could ask if either character “deserves” his or her imprisonment, and do well to do so, it’s kind of the question of the moment as the narrative moves forward. “Deserves” is that most moveable of moral ends, especially in regards to crime and punishment, and it exists always in relation to its society. Does Bruce “deserve” to lie, broken, in a foreign prison while Bane plots to destroy his own city with the fruits of his own wealth? How many men lie in Blackgate on this day as a result of Bruce’s actions, and how many of them consider themselves innocent or misunderstood? Does Selina “deserve” to be in prison, when she has hurt no one who couldn’t afford it, and only wants to get by in a society that won’t let her forget her past? (Fantine! Although Selina has it much better than Fantine, she doesn’t have to cut her hair, pull her teeth or die of tuberculosis, and she’s developed keen fighting skills to deal with the men who might brutalize her.) “The Dent Act” is mentioned as covering a woman placed in Blackgate (why Selina is in a prison instead of a jail, when she has been convicted of nothing, is another question), and we are meant to understand that the Dent Act has been perhaps overreaching in its efforts to clean up Gotham, which raises all kinds of uncomfortable questions of the authority we grant to the police (and the army) to deal with the people we don’t want to deal with. The Thin Blue Line, we remember, exists primarily to keep property in the hands that have it. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, the police are attack dogs of the possessors. (Funny how the wealthiest wish to avoid paying taxes to the government that keeps their wealth safe and growing.)
Over at Wayne Enterprises, Miranda shows up for her first day at work to find that Bane has taken over the boardroom. The first step to his revolution, he knows, is not to storm the Bastille (that comes later) but to storm the boardroom. And yes, the screenplay works the drama of this situation — who has not wanted to storm a corporate boardroom to hold the fatcats accountable for their sins? The screenplay suggests, again, for the purposes of drama, that the viewer has been rooting for the wrong people all along. And we remember Lucius gloating over his latest top-secret weapons project, secure that his boss, Bruce, will keep all his toys to himself, for the sake of the public good. Bane takes Miranda, Lucius and another board member (who might as well be wearing a red shirt) down to the sewers.
Over at the hospital, Foley reports to Gordon (and Blake, who seems to outrank Foley at this point — Foley can barely look him in the eye) about the Wayne Enterprises situation (talk about a hostile takeover!) and Gordon gives him marching orders to mobilize the entire police force — the entire police force — to protect the interests of Wayne Enterprises (and, parenthetically, to catch Bane). (Foley is played by Matthew Modine, who, the viewer will recall, played Pvt Joker in Full Metal Jacket. Pvt Joker (Joker!) tracked a tricky moral course through that morally ambiguous movie and emerged hardened but no wiser. Foley, on the other hand, seems to never have been hardened, morally or otherwise. He’s a pure example of a governmetal bureaucrat, a man born to take orders and cover his ass.) (Surely he is unrelated to Axel Foley of Beverly Hills Cop, a rulebreaker if there ever was one. He’s more probably related to Mark Foley, the congressman who got ousted for flirting with under-age pages.)
Meanwhile, Bruce lies in agony in the pit and we meet two new characters, “Prisoner” and “Blind Prisoner,” a Beckettian pseudocouple for this Beckettian set, who will act as a kind of two-man Yoda team to coach Bruce back to the surface. They tell Bruce that there is one who long ago escaped the pit (Bruce assumes they mean Bane) but that the escapee is merely a legend. There’s that word again — Bruce wished to trascend mortality by becoming a legend as Batman, Bane also has put on a mask to that end. Ra’s Al Ghul did more than put on a mask, he subsumed his entire identity to his League of Shadows, letting another man carry his name while he presented himself as just another cog in the machine.
The entire Gotham police force, headed by Foley but ordered by Gordon, head into the sewers to look for Bane. (Javert went alone, but then Javert was only after a broken old man.) Bane, meanwhile, takes his prisoners to Bruce’s fusion reactor (he’s also got Dr. Pavel along) in order to turn Bruce’s power source (source of power?) into a weapon. He needs a Wayne Enterprises board-member’s handprint to start the machine. The red-shirt board member, whose name we never learn, is there not to lend his handprint to the proceedings but to be a hostage, he is there for Bane to point a gun at so that Miranda can step up and turn on the machine in order to save the poor anonymous board member his life (and thus deflect suspicion from herself). Dr. Pavel takes no time at all to turn the reactor into a bomb, and Bane takes out the core, which sets into being a ticking clock — the bomb (for reasons I’m sure are absolutely solid scientifically) will blow up in x amount of time — five months, something of an anomaly in ticking-clock standards. Generally speaking, narratives, especially action narratives, speed up as they reach their conclusion, but The Dark Knight Rises suddenly slows down with over an hour left to go in its runtime. It’s got a lot on its mind, an entire city to lay waste before it’s done.