Bat-Mortem: The End Of Nolan's Trilogy, The Balls That Were Dropped And The Psychology Behind The Devotion

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* I'll play this close to the vest, but If you haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises and want to go in totally pure, maybe don't read this right now? 

I liked The Dark Knight Rises. I didn't love The Dark Knight Rises. A cursory glance at Facebook says I'm in a very small club on that. 

I'm not a huge fan of Batman Begins. Nolan did a lot of things right (Applied Sciences division, Batman is a ninja, Gary Oldman), but a lot of things didn't fly for me. See: The bat-growl, Katie Holmes, Nolan's inability to shoot a fight scene, Ra's al Ghul's dumb plan (which amounted to the League of Shadows destroying Gotham because they didn't like it, or something). I also have one other huge problem with the movie, which I'll get to in a bit. 

I'm also in a very small minority of people who doesn't worship at the throne of The Dark Knight. Sometimes it's a very good movie, but it's never truly great. I don't buy Harvey Dent's turn to the dark side, the end is heavy-handed, there's a lot of bloat, and Rachel Dawes is less a character, and more a plot device. Yes, Heath Ledger is iconic, but the mystique of his performance and death did that film a very big favor. 

I liked The Dark Knight Rises. I didn't love The Dark Knight Rises. A cursory glance at Facebook says I'm in a very small club on that.

Then, the final installment. Right off the bat (ha), The Dark Knight Rises starts on an absurd notion--that a city as corrupt as Gotham is crime-free for eight years because of some vague law. And Bruce Wayne as a mopey recluse?! Given the drive that they established for this character, the events at the end of the second film don't seem like enough to make him quit.

There are other problems. Bane's plan is dumb; it's an awful lot of effort to make Batman sad. The bat-growl is still ridiculous. There's still a lot of bloat (Matthew Modine, why were you in this movie?). The fight scenes are still incoherent. The movie reaches for a political statement that it never grasps. The ending is a cop out that jettisons theme and character arc in favor of crowd-pleasing nonsense.   

Not to say I didn't enjoy it (crazy, right?). There were a lot of good things: Nolan built an incredible cast, and nobody disappoints. Despite the incoherence of the plan and the stupid countdown clock, I really enjoyed the siege of Gotham. Nolan has created a universe that feels oddly comfortable. I like that they played with the idea of Batman as a symbol. The first fight between Bane and Batman was delightfully brutal. Bane sounded like Sean Connery talking through a box fan, but coupled with his size and ferocity, there was a creepy cognitive dissonance to his voice. Anne Hathaway was great. And there was a cameo by Thomas Lennon!

So it wasn't a bad movie, but The Avengers still wins my vote as the best comic-to-film experience of this year. And I was a DC guy growing up. But as a longtime fan of Batman, I'm not satisfied. Nolan's trilogy was a better-than-average interpretation of the character, and miles better than the Schumacher debacle, but with two huge missteps that I can't get past. 

Batman doesn't quit, doesn't kill

As the movie opens Batman is out of the game for eight years. Which is bullshit. My Batman, the one I know from the comics and the animated series and Dennis O'Neil's novelization of the Knightfall storyline (yes, I am a threat-level nerd) wouldn't quit. His drive is so intense that Bruce Wayne ceases to exist, except as a mask to facilitate Batman. To take eight whole years off doesn't sit right. 

Within the realm of Nolan's trilogy, it doesn't even feel earned. Nolan is clearly playing with the psychological implications that drive Bruce Wayne to be Batman. So this whole "we told a lie and now we're sad" thing with him and Gordon doesn't feel organic. It's more a point of storytelling convenience.

The other thing, a problem created in Batman Begins that continues to bother me, is that Batman lets Ra's al Ghul die. 

Batman doesn't kill, and he doesn't let people die. The Batman from the comics, from nearly any other piece of source material, would have saved Ra's. He would have paid for it down the line, but he would have done it. It's a quality written into his DNA. Batman has refused to kill the Joker a million times, even when any rational human being would consider it necessary. The Joker killed Jason Todd and paralyzed Barbara Gordon and committed so many other terrible acts that if Batman snapped his neck, we wouldn't really blame him for it.

But Batman has a code. And for a man who dresses up like a bat and jumps out of shadows and beats the shit out of people, for a man with that much darkness inside him, a code is important. It's not just something that keeps him human, it's something we, as the readers and viewers, can admire. Because the darkness doesn't win. There's a reason Batman is beloved and characters like The Punisher aren't.  

So yes, one of the reasons I'm not gaga over Nolan's trilogy is because I feel like he dropped the ball on two major aspects of the character.

But, writing this and hashing out my feelings does bring up an interesting point, and I think it's one worth discussing: Is there such a thing as a correct interpretation? 

Who has the best Batman? 

We've established that Nolan's Batman isn't my Batman. But Bob Kane created Batman in 1939, which means nearly everyone alive has grown up with some iteration of the character. For someone who grew up during the 60s, maybe their ideal interpretation is the Adam West show, and they bemoan the loss of Shark Repellent Bat-Spray. 

Who decides on the ultimate interpretation of a character with such rich and diverse source material? Batman is widely applauded and recognized for being anti-gun, but in his early adventures he carried a gun. If we equate true authenticity with character's roots, does that mean the most appropriate interpretation of Batman would have him carrying a gun? 

Bob Kane created Batman in 1939, which means nearly everyone alive has grown up with some iteration of the character. For someone who grew up during the 60s, maybe their ideal interpretation is the Adam West show, and they bemoan the loss of Shark Repellent Bat-Spray.

Look at Superman. What's his most iconic ability? Certainly not his ability to throw a cellophane shield off his chest. It's his ability to fly. But Superman couldn't fly in his first appearance. He just jumped really, really high. So would a more legitimate interpretation of Superman involve him hopping around everywhere? 

When there were rumors that the newest Spider-man movie would muck with Uncle Ben's death, I was very wary. That's a big risk (as it turns out, they didn't do anything drastic). But Spider-man isn't Spider-man unless Uncle Ben dies as a result of his inaction.

There are certain points that need to be hit to maintain the qualities that have made these characters so enduring. Superman isn't Superman unless he flies. Batman isn't Batman if he's letting people die. 

At the same time, I would have loved to see Donald Glover cast as Spider-man, so I'm not a complete stickler for cannon. The reason for that is, Peter Parker being white has nothing to do with the character or his journey--the only requirement is that Peter Parker needs to be a kid who comes to learn that with great power comes great responsibility. If he's black or white or Asian, it's the message that matters.

Just like Batman's "no killing, never give up" quality matters to that character. 

I thought maybe being a card-carrying comic nerd boxed me in on my expectations, but the more I think about it, the less I think that's true. The complaints I have about Nolan's trilogy are storytelling complaints--things that aren't earned within the world he created. 

At the same time, there are spots where I'm willing to overlook the flaws, and give Nolan credit for committing to a vision of the character and using it to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. Despite the crowd-pleasing stuff at the end, there is a feeling of completion to this story

So, at the end of things, that's my ultimate assessment. They're good films, they're not great, and while they're an interesting take on the Batman mythos, and much better than previous takes, it still doesn't get all the way there for me. 

And yet, I'm in a minority. Leading up to the film's release, it was amazing watching people talk on Facebook and Twitter like the release of The Dark Knight Rises was going to be some kind of landmark achievement in cinema. My eyes still hurt from rolling them so much. And I just don't get it.

Crazy town

What is it about these movies that's so appealing? Sure, Batman is a badass, and we all love a badass, but he's the 1 percent of heroes. He may not have any powers, but being a billionaire is essentially a superpower. Just like I can't be bitten by a radioactive spider and do anything other than probably die, I will never have enough money to buy a tank and paint it black and keep it in the cave under my mansion. 

And yet, people treated these movies as something so intensely personal, to a point of fundamentalism. People were verbally harassing critics who dared to express lukewarm views on the movie. Some people made death threats. This is before these people even saw the film. Rotten Tomatoes had to shut down comments, because they didn't have the resources to moderate them.

I don't believe anyone was actually drafting a kill-list of internet critics, because anonymity makes people feel like they're wearing big-boy pants, but the discourse around this film got pretty scary. 

A few weeks ago I wrote a column about fan ownership, in relation to George R.R. Martin. I believe a lot of people feel a level of ownership over his characters, and that's why they get so pissed off about having to wait between books. I think people feel ownership over Batman, too. But the vitriol on display when the reviews started rolling out went deeper than that.

Batman was created when Bruce Wayne's parents were murdered in front of him, so maybe there's something to be said about empathy. Many of us have experienced loss. Maybe not on that scale, but everyone feels powerless at some point, and the feeling can go a very long way toward shaping our views. Batman is the ultimate response to that feeling of powerlessness. But it's more than that, I think.

Devin Faraci over at Badass Digest has taken a huge amount of flack, both before and after his review of the film. He's also an authority on film and comics, so I asked him about what it is that inspires this kind of crazy passion: 

Comic books and comic book characters have historically been children's entertainment. For fans this is frustrating, because since the 1980s we have seen very mature, very smart takes on the medium and on established characters. Nolan's films are seen as 'serious' takes on the Batman character, and they tend to be respected by the larger establishment in a way that THE AVENGERS or SPIDER-MAN are not. As a result, the hardcore fan's self-worth gets wrapped up in the thing - 'Here is a property that validates my enthusiasm for these characters/comics/sorts of movies, and any assault on that - however slight - is an assault on me personally. By saying THE DARK KNIGHT RISES isn't that good you're saying I'M not that good.'

We are, after all, defined by the things we like. At least, that's how we like to define ourselves. Otherwise we wouldn't spend so much time curating our Facebook profiles.  

One of the greatest things about being a fan of something is sharing that feeling with other people. When that happens, you are validated--the thing you like is liked by other people, so it must be good. That's especially true with comic book fans. When I was a kid, my comic book collection didn't win me friends. So when I met someone who also read comics, it was exciting. And it was also disappointing when said person didn't like the same comics I did.

It's natural to want to defend the things we love, and to put on our armor when those things are attacked.

Equally important, something I think earned the film way more credit than it deserved (which Devin also alluded to), is the fact that these films took a character considered to be in the realm of children and gritted it up for an adult audience.

Gritty doesn't equal good

Let's talk about the Harry Potter books for a hot second. As they progressed, people would praise them because they were getting so much more dark and gritty. I heard this all the time. But just because something's dark and gritty doesn't mean it's good, right? Prometheus is a dark and gritty movie. It's also terrible. The Avengers, meanwhile, is the antithesis of the "dark and gritty" ideal--and it was fantastic.

These films are not just a reflection on us and our own self-worth, but they're something we've earned, something that we're allowed to enjoy because they're "for adults".

Still, many people seem to equate gritty to good. That something needs to be dark so that we can enjoy it and still feel like fancy adults. 

Batman has never seen this realistic a take in film. The Bruce Timm/Paul Dini animated series (for my money, the quintessential take on Batman), while dark at times, was still a cartoon. The Schumacher movies were a neon disco fever dream, carrying zero thematic weight, impossible to be taken seriously.

But Nolan's films touches on politics and psychology and philosophy. The cast has something like 900 Oscars between them. Everyone is very serious all the time. The ideas on display are more complex than good versus evil. (Those are all good things, but it also, at times, made the movies feel self-important and confused about their own themes.)  

These films are not just a reflection on us and our own self-worth, but they're something we've earned, something that we're allowed to enjoy because they're "for adults".

For a generation living in a state of arrested development, this is an exciting proposition. Most of us probably met Batman as kids, and through these movies, we can hold tight to him without feeling immature, like we're giving too much weight to childish things.

Which is fine. It's nice to see Batman treated seriously. But when it comes to comic books on film, I am totally in the tank for Marvel right now, and not very interested in anything DC has coming up. 

Although, actually, that Superman trailer does look kinda cool...

What do you think? 

Let's discuss. Tell us what you thought of The Dark Knight Rises. What are your thoughts on Nolan's trilogy, and his interpretation of Batman?  

And what do you make of the fervor surrounding these movies, and the idea of validation?  

* I'm hesitant to include this note, but I feel like it'll save us a lot of frustration: The shooting in Aurora, while tragic, has nothing to do with a critical discussion of the film and the trilogy. Let's save that discussion for a more appropriate venue.

Rob Hart

Column by Rob Hart

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor, as well as the publisher at MysteriousPress.com. He's the author of New Yorked, nominated for the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, as well as City of Rose and South Village. Short stories have appeared in publications like Shotgun Honey, Thuglit, Needle, Joyland, All Due Respect, and Helix Literary Magazine. Non-fiction has appeared at Salon, The Daily Beast, Birth.Movies.Death, The Literary Hub, Electric Literature, and Nailed. He lives in New York City. Find him online at www.robwhart.com

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Michael J. Riser's picture
Michael J. Riser from El Cerrito, CA (originally), now Fort Worth, TX is reading The San Veneficio Canon - Michael Cisco, The Croning - Laird Barron, By the Time We Leave Here, We'll Be Friends - J. David Osborne July 24, 2012 - 11:36am

You can always—always—boil this down to opinion. I didn't think Prometheus was terrible, though it was far from perfect. I have less than zero interest in ever seeing The Avengers. Being gritty doesn't mean being better, but I do prefer gritty. I like dark. I like hard-boiled. The Avengers seems like a colorful romp through a world of one-liners and spandex crotch-bulge to me, based on what advertising I saw, thus I simply do not care. I don't like popcorn movies, I like movies that make me feel something or speak to me via art and atmosphere. And yeah, I could give two fucks what anyone thinks about Batman, just as I'm sure you don't care if anyone disagrees with your opinion that Batman should never let anyone die.

Batman's been around for over 70 years, has seen so many incarnations it's impossible to keep track, and they aren't consistent. You already asked the question, really: what's canon, the original version or the most popular version?

When something goes out there, it's out there, and especially when you turn that into a huge movie or series of movies that makes lots of money and appeals to a wider audience than the original material, you have to expect something different. You're going to have rabid fans comingling with people who have absolutely zero relationship with the source but love the movies.

I'm one of those. I love comics, but in general I've never cared about superhero comics. I like these movies. They provide everything I generally want from the character and what I want from Gotham, much like the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games. So you're invested in this character from a rather different perspective than I am, and which of us is right? I thought a lot of prior presentations of Batman were really cheesy and wanting. Nolan's Batman may not be perfect (what ever is?), but he's good enough for me, stupid Bat-voice notwithstanding. Nolan's movies were infinitely—and I mean infinitely—better than all the shit-shoveling films that came before them.

But that's my opinion, and no surprise, there are still people who prefer one or more of those incarnations to what we've got now, just like there are people who liked a cheesier, more superhero-y Batman more than they did Frank Miller's Dark Knight.

Most people who read fiction read it because it speaks to them, makes them think, makes them feel. It's largely what we build from the fiction we read and watch that makes it special to us, not merely what's presented. That personal relationship is important to everyone, and everyone is going to want to defend their own personal vision of what that thing should be. People do this with everything, from religion to relationships to tech platforms to favorite pornstars. But instead of getting pissed off, we'd probably all do better to just stop caring so much what anyone else thinks.

I'm looking forward to this film, though I've not yet seen it. I know it will be a little self-absorbed and a little too serious for its own good, because so were the first two films. But at least these are improvements, steps in the right direction away from the schlock that came before them. At least Prometheus was a step in the right direction when compared to Alien 3 and Resurrection. Hell, I think it was a good step away from the throw-away nature of Aliens. Everyone worships that movie, and it's great as an action film, but as a story it offers virtually nothing, and the reason almost all the characters died is because none of them were worth caring about. And yeah, I've gotten flamed pretty badly for saying so in the past.

Maybe we're all hopeless once we get invested. Maybe we should work to be less invested.

Mike Bise's picture
Mike Bise July 24, 2012 - 11:49am

What self-important drivel. Simply put: you settle for mindless Marvel quips and one-liners.

iBronco's picture
iBronco from New Jersey is reading White Noise July 24, 2012 - 11:53am

**Spoiler Warning*** The Avengers was a movie packed with action but did little to attend the heart of the characters. The scene where Nick Fury told them to put their differences aside and work together was entirely forced by the death of a character I had no investment in, it was more of a joke when and how he died. The only redeeming quality of the movie was Tony Stark (his character quips) and The Hulk. When people who have nothing else to argue about the movie other than it was good and it was action packed, they revert to, "wasn't Scarlet Johanson hot?"  Plus, the bow and arrow guy...what?

It was a fun movie, nothing more.

**Spoiler Warning*** Nolan's Batman, however, whether true to the comics or not, always made me question my day to day morals. What is good, and is bad the absence of good or a different way of doing good? The death of Ghul was Batman's downfall, it instilled a sense of purpose within Ghul's daughter to "finish what her father started." If Ghul had lived, things would have been different, and it only proves to Batman (and to us) how important his rules are. He has broken his no killing rule, and his quitting rule. When he quit, in letting Gotham live under a lie, it only made things worse for everyone. What's great about Batman is his humanity, he is human, like us, and makes mistakes, like us. But he learns from those mistakes, and if nothing else proves his ways are great to live by: don't kill, don't quit. Nolan's stories may not make everyone weak at the knees, but they are real. He has made a world where good and bad are ideas, a mirror of our own. 

It is a thought provoking series, and so much more.

Kevin Miller's picture
Kevin Miller July 24, 2012 - 11:58am

If Nolan just made three films about a brand new fictional character no one ever heard about, couple things.  1) Less people would see those movies. 2) They might be better movies because it appears to me a lot of the disatisfaction with his Batman movies come from comic book fans who think Batman is different than what Nolan made him out to be.

Then again, a lot of the overly-aggressive defense of the movie is also from Comic fans doing exactly what this post says, basically saying "When you criticize a Batman movie, you are criticizing me, personally."

I liked THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. I mean it is not a perfect movie, but I'd say it is better than a great number of movies that are made, I am certain it would make my top 10 list of the year. Better than AVENGERS, I can't say.  But I don't read, and have never read, a Batman comic book.  I saw the movie, not judging it good or bad based on how it rendered an iconic character, but within the context of Nolan's other work, notably INCEPTION.

 

Paul Anderson's picture
Paul Anderson from Michigan is reading Fight Club and The Shipping News July 24, 2012 - 11:59am

I agree that The Dark Knight Rises wasn't great. I enjoyed it, but I was disappointed by the "twists." I felt a bit cheated (and, yes, these "twists" lent the film a self-important kind of feel).

But, honestly, this trilogy represents three of my top 63 favorite movies ever (I made that number up). There are two things that appeal to my pathos: the character of Alfred, whom I believe to be the most important character - aside from Batman/Bruce Wayne - and the fact that Bruce Wayne never really seems to care that he has a ridiculous amount of money.

Alfred is the heart of the trilogy. He is "us." He is the closest thing to "middle-class" in the entire trilogy, if we except Gordon, as well, whom I see as heroic in his own right. What I mean is, Alfred represents the majority of us in that he doesn't have the ability to fight, or shoot people, or whatever. We talk often about how Batman is "bound by certain rules," but that really isn't true. Batman has money, cool equipment, the ability to beat the hell out of people, and the ability to be both the hero and "something more." Alfred is human. He connects our humanity to the other characters (including Joker and Bane), who are easy to deify.

Also, Batman can't be Batman without money. He can't have a cool-looking, effective suit. He can't have a "Batmobile" or "Batwing," if those are what we choose to call them. And, perhaps most importantly, he can't have a "Bruce Wayne mask" to put on during the day-time. Bruce doesn't abuse us with his money. He doesn't rub it in our faces. He acts snobbish at times in order to avoid suspicion, and to live up to a certain stereotype. But he uses his money in a battle for "good." He uses is productively - to change the world. Part of the allure of his character is that he's the profoundly rich guy who can be one of "the guys." He cares about people, and standing up for what's "right" or "good," more than he cares about his money. That's why, although it's painful for us viewers to watch him lose his mansion in Batman Begins and lose his fortune in The Dark Knight Rises, neither destroys his character, or his will to fight on.

Final note - it bothers me, as well, that he simply let Ra's al Ghul die. Because of this, it bothers me that Nolan's only option in Rises was to let The Cat kill Bane. If Batman hadn't already broken his code, it would have been acceptable for him to break it during his final battle with Bane. It was disappointing, for me at least, that The Cat simply shot Bane, and Batman didn't really get to exact his revenge. Batman's threat ("...then you have my permission to die"), which was awesome, was therefore rendered moot and anti-climactic. Oh, and the "twists," as I said, really irked me. I felt cheated somewhat that Miranda was the "brains" of the operation simply because she was Ra's al Ghul's daughter. I did like how it tied back in with Begins, but it really took something away from what was otherwise a fantastic villain in Bane. Also, the whole Robin thing seemed kind of...off. I can't really explain why, though. I thought it was cool, but I felt like I was playing a guessing game throughout the film that I shouldn't have had to.

I give the film 3.5/5 stars. The Dark Knight is one of the only films I've ever given 5.

Pietro Filipponi's picture
Pietro Filipponi July 24, 2012 - 12:02pm

Thanks for this. I think we see eye to eye on every point, especially the gritty isn't always good mentality (that's why my expectations for Man of Steel are bottomed out). The Dark Knight Rises was a good movie but by no stretch of the imagination great. I'd go as far as to say it's Nolan's biggest miss.

The Avengers truly is the best adapted comic book film to be released recently, and it had more to do with maintaining the spirit of the property than strictly following a specific comic book storyline. Obviously personal bias won't let some people see that but the writing is clearly on the wall.

As far as Nolan apologists go -- I don't even consider them fanboys anymore, they've gone way past that stigma -- best thing to do is smile and nod, leaving them in their own world of reality avoidance.

Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading Stories of YOUR Life July 24, 2012 - 12:10pm

I'm not a comic book guy, like Rob, but some of our opinions overlap.

I did not like Batman Begins at all. It was boring, Scarecrow was wasted/underused, and the action is horribly directed.

The Dark Knight is WAY overrated. The only interesting thing about that film is Heath Ledger's performance. And Eric Roberts. Again, the action is horribly directed. The end bit with the boats and the big black dude from Friday was silly and obvious. His casting was too obvious. "Let's get that tough guy who always plays a con." The climax between Batman and The Joker was boring as shit.

I haven't seem Rises yet, and I'm not in any rush. Everything I hear, positive and negative, leads me to believe I won't really like it.

My opinions have nothing to do with what I expect from the Batman character. They are based on what I expect from a good movie.

Oh, and the bat-voice. THE WORST.

T.j. Hotlips Taylor's picture
T.j. Hotlips Taylor July 24, 2012 - 12:10pm

You say that Bruce quitting being Batman is bullshit, and that that would never happen in the comics. Well, it totally does happen in the Dark Knight Returns (one of the books Rises is based on), and in that he quits for 20+ years. In that same section, you mention that he'd never kill (or let someone die). While Begins wasn't based on Returns necessarily, in Returns, Batman does allow someone to kill himself right in front of him. I'd be more specific, but I don't want to spoil anything, because it's really really awesome.

 

I thought it was great, but I like to think I'm not one of the whiny fanboys who get upset at every negative review, so (takes deep breath, wipes away tears)... I'm okay. Hopefully I didn't sound like too much of a dick. I tried to avoid inputting my opinion against yours and just stuck to mentioning those occurences. Also to mention the Dark Knight Returns. If you haven't read that, check it out, fo reelz.

 

Also, you used the term "arrested development", which made me read Batman as "Bateman" in the next sentence... just thought I'd mention that.

Kevin Miller's picture
Kevin Miller July 24, 2012 - 12:16pm

I can wear the "Nolan Apologist" badge but I think it's important to again point out the distinction previously suggested above. There's a difference between liking the movie because it's about Batman and liking the movie cause it was made by Christopher Nolan.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this July 24, 2012 - 12:21pm

Thanks for all the intelligent responses, folks (well, thanks to everyone except Mike Bise--you're a tool). 

@Michael J. Riser, this is a very good point: Maybe we're all hopeless once we get invested. Maybe we should work to be less invested. Thanks for making it.

@iBronco, to be fair, I think trying to hash out whether The Avengers or TDKR is a better movie is a much different conversation. I only felt like it was a better comic to film experience. I was more satisfied after seeing The Avengers. 

@T.j. Hotlips Taylor, yes, Bruce hasn't been Batman for years in The Dark Knight Returns. But that was after a very long career as a crimefighter, and also is technically non-canon (since it exists in its own litte world). But, yes, Nolan did pull from it. Still, I don't buy that the character Nolan created would quit so easily. 

bella787's picture
bella787 is reading Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs July 24, 2012 - 1:57pm

I agree with just about everything you said in your article and I appreciate knowing there other fans who feel the same way I do.  I am not undermining the creative cinematic adventure Nolan has directed; I certainly could not create anything half as spectacular, but that caveat aside, I agree with you in that Nolan did not capture the DC Comic's essence of Batman's character.  Nolan takes a different creative approach and that's fine, I like and respect that he makes it his own.  I appreciate seeing new adaptations of my comicbook heroes on the big screen, but the only movie I would call epic in Nolan's trilogy would be The Dark Knight.  The Joker was captivating and the storyline parallels real fears for my generation.  I concur with all the arguments and critiques you have on the first and third parts of the trilogy.  Yes, I enjoyed the the third installment, The Dark Knigh Rises, but I easily predicted the storyline scene after scene while watching it and I was extremely disappointed with the overall plot.  The whole League of Shadows via Bane's take-over of Gotham City was a constant thorn in my side throughout the whole movie because it is far-fetched and serves no worthy purpose for those masterminding villains.  Occupy Gotham? Really!!? To what ends? However, all that being said... I would like to go on record and thank Nolan for directing the trilogy. The movie-goer in me enjoys comic book stories on the big screen and Nolan's "The Dark Knight" is one of my all-time favorite movies.

Pretty Spry for a Dead Guy's picture
Pretty Spry for... from I'd prefer it if you didn't know. So would you, only you don't know it. is reading whatever he makes time for this week July 24, 2012 - 2:26pm

I'm also in a very small minority of people who doesn't worship at the throne of The Dark Knight. Sometimes it's a very good movie, but it's never truly great. I don't buy Harvey Dent's turn to the dark side, the end is heavy-handed, there's a lot of bloat, and Rachel Dawes is less a character, and more a plot device. Yes, Heath Ledger is iconic, but the mystique of his performance and death did that film a very big favor. 
...
There are other problems. Bane's plan is dumb; it's an awful lot of effort to make Batman sad. The bat-growl is still ridiculous. There's still a lot of bloat (Matthew Modine, why were you in this movie?). The fight scenes are still incoherent. The movie reaches for a political statement that it never grasps. The ending is a cop out that jettisons theme and character arc in favor of crowd-pleasing nonsense.    

I completely agree with you on these points. Every single one of them.

Zeke Zee's picture
Zeke Zee July 24, 2012 - 2:52pm

( I'm not trying to out-nerd you or anything, but in response to Batman just letting someone die  - he totally, from time to time, does that. In fact, in the comic Bride of the Demon, the Batman knocks out Ras al Ghul, then leaves him there AND THEN blows up his base, seemlingly killing him. Maybe this is a scenario specific to al Ghul as he can regenerate... but he did just leave him to die, then entered a campaign to destroy the Lazarus Pits so that he couldnt come back. Largely, Batman would rather not kill.. but sometimes he does let things happen. )

511Kinderheim's picture
511Kinderheim from Calgary, Alberta is reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman July 24, 2012 - 3:29pm

I'm trying to understand, because differences in opinion are not at all a big deal, but I'm sort of confused.

A lot of your complaints are based on plot and logic flops (which I can agree with), and then holding to some mysterious franchise 'spirit' (which you rendered useless by recognizing that in such a wide-spanning franchise there is no official 'spirit', but held on to as part of your argument anyway). You tore down Prometheus for the same reasons.

But then when you mentioned your adoration for The Avengers and I raised an eyebrow. Whedon's script was full of plot problems (We need to ramp up the bad guys here, but what would the audience get into...oh, of course, RANDOM ALIENS ALL UP IN THIS BITCH) and uncomfortable, forced dialogue. It's even more outrageously crowdpleasing. So is it your favourite just because it holds to the old-fashion campy-comic 'spirit' of Marvel? Gritty reboots in 2012 are getting old and increasingly forced, but I think a lot of us have forgotten that Batman Begins essentially started this gritty trend in Hollywood, and for an increasingly cynical population it worked, now it's getting a little too forced. So, yeah, Avengers was enjoyable because it was a much-needed break from darkness, but it's not doing anything different or innovative with the Marvel universe like Nolan did with DC's.

If I'm going to concede that the Dark Knight trilogy is good but not great, I have to be stubborn and hold Avengers to, at best, the exact same level.

But, holy crap, the lengths we go to just to feel validated about the movies we like. xD

Cillian Fleming's picture
Cillian Fleming July 24, 2012 - 3:42pm

I think you're over-analysing Batman.

John's picture
John from Brooklyn, NY is reading The Big Short by Michael Lewis July 24, 2012 - 3:49pm

I very much enjoyed Batman Begins and I'll go ahead and out myself, thought The Dark Knight was one of the best films, period, of the last several years. That said, I was waiting with baited breath for TDKR, and I absolutely hated it.

I won't get into spoilers, but pretty much every gripe you had with it was enough to make my blood boil. Chiefly, I was upset that a director like Nolan, who, when he's firing on all cylinders, operates like a well-oiled machine, just totally dropped the ball. It felt like some rushed piece of garbage a studio exec dreamed up. This might be too cynical, but some people in LA have told me Nolan wanted to quit the trilogy and only signed on for a third in order to get Inception made, and after viewing TDKR, I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case.

I think my love for BB and TDK stems from the fact that I'm not a HUGE comic book guy. I have my favorites, but I was never a huge batman person, outside of the movies. That being said, I'm familiar enough with the character that obvious lapses in canon, etc, piss me off. 

As films go, I think BB and TDK especially both stand up as really great filmmaking, and I've thought this of Nolan for a while. He's a filmmaker who engages the senses as well as the intellect, which is becoming more and more rare these days.

And, just a little point of contention: is it really fair to say TDK wasn't good because the "only" good thing about it was Heath Ledger? Considering he's the SECOND LEAD that seems to be a pretty damn big part of the movie...that's kind of like saying The Godfather sucked because the ony thing that saves it is Al Pacino's performance.

John's picture
John from Brooklyn, NY is reading The Big Short by Michael Lewis July 24, 2012 - 3:49pm

And yes, I realize the comparison I just made is ridiculously hyperbolic, but you catch my meaning.

Manjuan Dudley's picture
Manjuan Dudley July 24, 2012 - 4:02pm

I knew the Dark Knight Rises would suck. And watching it confirmed it. My first problem is Nolan’s need to make the title relevant in each movie. Batman Begins (that one’s obvious), The Dark Knight (I swear to God they called Harvey Dent The White Knight at least 100 times in the movie. I get it. Batman’s gonna take the fall and be the hero Gotham needs instead of the one it wants. The opposite of Harvey. Instead of the real reason Batman is called the Dark Knight. Because he’s honorable like a battle hardened Knight of the round table and he uses darkness as his ally.), and The Dark Knight Rises (Because he climbed out of a prison.). I swear to God, you can’t make this crap up. I felt myself cringe every time I heard the word white knight. Anyone can tell Nolan’s making it up as he goes along. It would have made more sense to call the first one, “The Dark knight,” the second one “The Dark Knight Rises,” and the last one, “Knight Fall.” But of course he’d have to leave all those title hints out and actually depend on story telling.

Anyway, aside from the fact that Christopher Nolan obviously was never a Batman Comics fan, I’m not taking his ability to make a decent movie away from him. All three are good movies (Minus his desperate attempt to cover plot holes because he strayed so far away from the actual mythos). You can make up some characters and put them in it and it will still be a decent movie. Oops. That’s what he did. None of the characters in this movie are true to the original characters except for the names. The Batman mythos has always been based on the psychology of the characters. Once you start changing that psychology they cease to be those characters. You may as well give Batman the ability to fly. Ooops. He did that too.

I love this article because you pointed out things that I was thinking but cannot articulate. But it doesn’t surprise me that people love this movie. After watching people applaud all the Transformers movies I’ve come to the conclusion that we now live in an age of bullsh*t. Honestly, after The Transformers, The last Air Bender, and that Horrible Dragonball movie, I’m tired of defending my childhood characters. Anyway. The two things that you touched on says it all. Batman does not kill and Batman does not quit. His very character is defined by the fact that he doesn’t give up. “Bats are great survivors.” It was through will and determination that he even became Batman. Nolan even presents this quality in Batman Begins. Katie Holmes says to Bruce that his real face is Batman. Nolan is aware of these things and still makes a point to contradict himself, by having Batman take an eight year sabbatical. Plus, Batman and Jim Gordon would have never lied about Harvey Dent. It’s against their moral character.

This is the reason most Hollywood adaptations crumble by the third movie. Remember when your mom said not to lie because a lie doesn’t have a foundation. You have to keep telling lies to support the one before it until finally the whole house of lies crashes down. Well these “Iconic Characters” have evolved over the generations until we’ve gotten this pristine, finished product. The original creators already know what doesn’t work which is why we’ve had so many comic versions. At the end of the day what holds true is that Batman does not kill or quit amongst other things. Once you start telling lies about the characters, (No one ever found out about Two Face, Batman trained as a ninja, Ra’s Al Ghul trained Batman) those lies keep compounding until you end up with a movie that makes no sense. These are decent movies but they’re not Batman movies. Just because you pour syrup on something does not make it pancakes. Sooner or later Hollywood is gonna have to start sticking to the script. Yep. That looks just like it sounds. Common sense.


Bottom line is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Edward Byrne's picture
Edward Byrne July 24, 2012 - 4:54pm

Personally speaking, I am not particularly a fan of the Batman character. I am however an enormous fan of films, and I have seen perhaps thousands of films in my life-time. 

For one, in the very introduction of the Batman character, in Detective Comics issue #27, Batman ends a fist fight with a villain by punching him into a vat of acid, which he follows with saying something along the lines of "A fitting end to his kind." Certainly the development of Batman into his own serial included a moral code of strict non-killing, but I think to criticize Nolan for being inconsistent with the character is unfair.

Due to the abject rejection of Christopher Nolan's directorial strength present in this post and in the following comments, I will use subjective means to demonstrate his quality.

Millions of theater-goers felt fear, apprehension, catharsis, sympathy, anger, levity, and an expansive gamut of other emotions, right when Nolan asked them to, in Rises alone. The excitement and impact of some sequences in the middle film of the trilogy will stay with us for years. The flipping of the truck, and the wail of the Joker's theme music come to mind.

As a screenwriter Christopher Nolan has always been and likely always will be guilty of disingenuity of character. The artificial recreation of Bane in the final moments of Rises created many inconsistencies with both him and his associate. Their previous motivations cease to stand to reason, and the device adds unnecessary complexity to the story. However, from Memento onward Chris Nolan has been guilty of artistic dishonesty such as this, and he remains in far better standing nonetheless than, say, M. Night Shyamalan.

That said, a film has two components, visual and literary. Both, god willing, work together towards some artistic meaning, and Christopher Nolan is truly gifted as such. Flaws of scripting do not transfer directly to flaws of film. Many a great director have abstained from writing completely, and many an excellent film has been made from a faulty script, or even no script at all. 

It appears as though the main arguments you and other critics have against The Dark Knight Rises stem from your own feelings of how the character should work. Bruce Wayne in Nolan's Batman universe is unshakable in his devotion to Rachael Dawes, and he sees her as essential to his continued being outside of Batman.

Furthermore, at the start of the film, as stated multiple times by numerous characters, Batman has not been seen because he was not needed for eight years; your declaration that Bruce Wayne has gone into hiding due to his guilt over the lie he and Gordon executed is not substantiated by any line or visual indication in the film, and is in fact directly contradicted by just about every scene involving Alfred. Bruce Wayne launches swiftly into his role as Batman. Alfred is afraid he has done so too quickly, and is further worried that Bruce has become reclusive due to a lack of desire to have any life outside of Batman. This is the conflict that occurs between the two, Alfred in fact is telling Bruce to quit, and Bruce refuses

Setting aside however that faulty analysis of character, Batman has done absolutely everything to earn a temporary, or permanent, respite from crime fighting. At the close of the second film, Batman has sacrificed his reputation, and also seriously risked his life, to do nothing more than give hope to a city which desperately needs it. He has transcended their, and indeed our, views of a traditional heroic figure to become something far more heroic. If that does not earn Batman an eight year vacation, then perhaps you are expecting far too much from the caped crusader.

Christopher Nolan as a director utilizes the proven tools of masters, and for this has been compared to perhaps the greatest director of all time: Stanley Kubrick. His techniques are not dissimilar to other directors that have been met with no criticism, I think because they do not adapt comic books. Personally, I think Chris Nolan is far from Kubrick, but not in style. Nolan, as I see it, is Stanley Kubrick without as much ambition to venture into uncharted territory. Otherwise, his directing style is lauded by renowned critics, and his methods are well established in the field of cinema. The opening sequence of The Dark Knight is very similar in form to Michael Mann's Heat, a film recognized, deservedly so, as a masterpiece of crime cinema. To deny that Nolan is at least practiced in the art is to accept a heavy ignorance of the art itself.

All serious criticisms I have heard of The Dark Night and The Dark Knight Rises have dealt exclusively with whether or not Nolan's adaptation was true to the source material or not, and it appears that this is no exception. From an analytical standpoint only addressing the techniques of filmmaking, I do not think anyone can, with honesty, deny that the second and third of Nolan's trilogy are without a great degree of merit. 

Lastly, I would like to address the idea of "dark" literature. The only figurative definition of "dark" from Oxford suggests that which is "dismal, sullen sad." All academic, scholarly, educated, or otherwise knowledgeable usage of the term to describe art has supported that idea of, to substitute a term, depressing. Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea is a dark story. The feeling of existential sorrow when the old man loses the fish in unquestionable. Recently, the term seems to have been distorted to mean "serious." 

To call The Dark Knight Rises a "dark" film is, I believe, misleading. Feelings of terror, dread, and sadness are swept away by expertly executed catharsis, as is true of The Dark Knight, although the latter does approach more closely the idea of "dark." Rises surely deals with atrocities, but not even unrealistic ones. A film that deals with the outer limits of societal constructions does not necessarily carry with it a dismal tone. For sure, the sequence in which Batman first fights Bane is a dark scene. Nolan shoots it with low saturation, high contrast, stark lighting that envelops nothing, tons of water symbolism, and displays Bane as larger, unshakable, and unconquerable, a feat for sure given that Tom Hardy is significantly shorter than Christian Bale, culminating of course with Batman, previously unmatched and unscathed, never beaten by evil, falling to an unstoppable force. Incidentally, the fact that Bruce's trust in the inherent goodness of people and his own belief in the unconquerable nature of the Batman are what cause him to fail is classical talent in writing. 

However, this scene of great darkness is followed by a remotivation and retraining sequence on the level of The Karate Kid in how deliberately inspirational and non-depressing it makes the film. Batman wins, Hamlet loses. To identify "dark" films simply by their chosen subject matter is useless frankly.

For the record, The Dark Knight was my third favorite film of 2008 after The Wrestler and Frost/Nixon, The Dark Knight Rises is my second favorite film so far this year, after Moonrise KingdomThe Avengers is, however, unlikely to escape by bottom ten; the dialogue was sappy, sentimental, obvious, and frequently stupid. Scarlett Johansson's performance was laughable. The exposition was inordinately long, and the film was largely as campy as the Joel Schumacher fiasco. That said, I think the method of adaptation for The Avengers was excellent and the treatment of the characters exceptionally truthful.

MD Cain's picture
MD Cain July 25, 2012 - 3:51am

The bat-growl will always be the worst part of the nolan movies. It is on the same level as rubber bat-nipples.

Pretty Spry for a Dead Guy's picture
Pretty Spry for... from I'd prefer it if you didn't know. So would you, only you don't know it. is reading whatever he makes time for this week July 25, 2012 - 6:26am

@Edward Byrne

I think you undervalue scripts to an extent, especially considering the source of this essay: Rob W. Hart is a writer, and he posted his article on a writers' website. It only makes sense that his critique would focus largely on aspects of the screenplay. I might address some of your points at a later time, but I will address your last paragraph now.

I disagree quite strongly with your remarks about the dialogue in The Avengers, with the exception that it was at times very obvious. I think many of your claims, however, fit every one of Nolan's Batfilms, and you can add to the list "overwritten." I thought Scarlett Johansson did an admirable job as The Black Widow. Finally, nothing is as campy as Schumacher's entry in the Batman franchise. Regarding the exposition, however, I cannot agree with you more. Five films preceded The Avengers, and it takes at least forty minutes for the titular group to be assembled. That is excess, pure an simple. The script needing drastic reworking, in my opinion.

For the record, Frost/Nixon, The Dark Knight, and The Wrestler all probably fall short of my top ten for 2008, though I think they're each good films. I have yet to see Moonrise Kingdom, but I would put at least The Cabin in the Woods, The Grey, Chronicle, and 21 Jump Street ahead of The Dark Knight Rises. It was just too unintentionally silly.

Pablo Milanese's picture
Pablo Milanese July 25, 2012 - 7:05am

I think there is too much over-analyzing going around. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (I won´t include the 3rd one since I haven´t seen it yet) do have their flaws, not to mention how much Ledger contributed to the 2nd film´s fame.The only thing I disagree with in the whole article is the "gritty" subject. I think that these movies should be gritty by necessity. They tell the story of a hero who rose out of a city worthy of Bradbury´s dreams and out of the fact that both his parent´s died in the hands of crime. Gloominess is a must. Tim Burton´s Batman on the other hand makes me feel like Jack Skellington is about to pop out at any moment. Plus the only thing worse than the bat-growl was Schumacher´s Riddler. Jim Carey ruined my childhood.

Kevin Maddox's picture
Kevin Maddox from Melstrand, Mi is reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut July 25, 2012 - 7:18am

I can't wait to see this movie. I am a big fan of Batman in general, but not nerdy enough to know or have read all too much about the details of his career. I learn more and more with every comic conversation I have, but still don't have enough general comic knowledge to compare him to much other graphic literature. I just like the image I guess, But I totally agree with the fact that BATMAN WOULD NOT STOP OPENING CANS OF WUPASS FOR 8 YEARS!

 

On another note, I remember as a kid I came up with the concept of Batman's extensive rain over Gotham was due to him being a vampire and owning a string of blood banks, and "faking" Bruce Wayne's death, and I have just recently found out about Red Rain so I feel very compelled to read it possibly buy it.

DOGuitar's picture
DOGuitar from England is reading The Run Diary (Again) July 26, 2012 - 6:38am

Me and my friends saw this film and were all bitterly disappointed.

I felt I would be with the minority but the issue for me was that it felt like Nolan just didn't give a crap anymore.

Bane was built up in numerous interviews by Nolan to be 'Batman's Test' and he failed to make Bane a test.

Ultimately we find out that this so called big, badass is a subordinate of another character (don't want to leave spoilers) which further took bane closer to the dippy, muscle he was in Batman and Robin :(

There are too many characters stapled to this for it to work and the plot doesn't seem to follow the straight forwardness of Begins or Dark Knight - In both of these it's Batman VS the Antagonist and this went from
Batman VS Bane to Batman VS Bad Guy to Batman VS Bomb.

Miranda Tates role should be taken out.

The reveal of the true bad guy should be taken out as this spoils Bane as a character and also is just Nolan flipping Vs to his audience and shouting 'didn't expect that did you!'

The Modine role should be cancelled out because he's not a likeable character at all!
Gordon is in bad health and states there are bad guys and he laughs at his own boss?
The guy who helped saved Gotham numerous times and he won't believe his superior ?
That was balls to me!

Also the 'radioactive bomb' timer to speed up the ending was another plot device for various reasons, but also angered me how something that they state would be volatile in its lasting days is so relentlessly and carelessly attacked by Batman that it would have blown anyway!

I too felt that the 'crime free Gotham' was balls but I went with it because the wounded Bruce reminded me of the Dark Knight Returns comics and they did add a little from that.

Bane was completely underused considering this is the character who deduces Bruce Wayne is Batman through intuition.

He is an intelligent general as well as a destructive force.

I felt Banes role was a representation of Communism with the beginning being about Capitalism as the film both shows how they attack class (The capitalists care about their own pockets and attack each other to take over properties and businesses and also have a disregard for the poor as they support the Dent Act which results in possibly many innocent people being out in jail for maybe what could be petty crimes) and Bane targets the rich, shares their wealth and food supplies to the working class.

But not many people noticed that, despite Gotham being in supposed unrest, during Banes rule, it appears as though people are doing what they were at the beginning when the capitalists ruled. They stayed at home.
Gotham is not shown in any decay really, the citizens just move on.

I found this interesting and believe that if they took this and made Gotham from an ideal peace state to one where bane could use the Dent Act lie and the fact innocents or petty theft crimes were put to jail under the dent act, he could have rallied most of Gotham into supporting his ideals.

This for me would lead to a better conclusion as you would have Batman's army VS Banes - made up of citizens fed up.

This would strike a chord with cases where people complain of police brutality and we would see Gotham fall into a civil
Riot, where the victims are the law enforcers and the citizens thus equating to a much darker film and would also mean that Batman was wrong about the people of Gotham (Dark Knight - 'These people showed you that they are not afraid to believe in good' or something alone those lines as well as make Bane a more frightening opponent as he managed to do what the Joker could not.

For me that would have fulfilled it and I would have been happy and it would still be realistic.

There were too many times I had to suspend my belief to the extreme! Especially seeing as Wayne sorts himself out with a slap and a bit of rope...Tell that to the paraplegics!

I just found it lost its darkness and dealt too much with trying to explain all these knew characters that it forgot itself.

Banes plan although it takes up over half the film turns out not to be the actual plot which I found infuriating and the fact that the real plot is revenge based and also similar to Begins plot (Let's destroy Gotham! Yadayadayada!) I felt it just ended up as a rerun of Batman Begins with characters staples to it.

It's a shame because it has some really lovely scenes between Aldred and Vruce especially and Hathaway is amazing as Selina Kyle. Hardy I felt was completely underused! Watch Bronson and you will see what Bane could have been in some aspect!

I just felt Nolan didn't pay much attention this time and possibly got bored with it.

This is the only Batman film I've seen where he appears 3 times as well...

It is a major disappointment and I hate how everyone says, 'Its an amazing film!' only to further admit, 'But it has it's flaws!' they're just basking in the media spotlight.

I think if I paid £10 to see a film critics are hailing as amazing I would later think 'maybe I missed something and this film is just too clever for me otherwise I will have to live with the fact that I lost £10 watching some lame excuse to an ending!'

For me I would personally tell Nolan to watch the Original Star Wars Trilogy which ended! It had an end!

The end in this trilogy is again Nolan flicking
V's at the audience and laughing at them whilst saying, 'Im not making any more hahahaha!'

The film is good. For me it's average.

Even the action sequences seemed dull (Police chase batman on a bike for 5 minutes? Please! Oh you have the Bat chasing a truck with bomb on it? Please!)

There is a lot that should have been desired in terms of plot and rather than add gimmicky throw away characters they should have used that character building on Bane to make him more threatening and more intelligent.

It will devise opinions but this disappointed me. Dark Knight was full of so much more with a lot less and I don't know why he tried to make this epic by adding rubbish characters.

NOLAN, IF YOU'RE READING THIS WATCH STAR WARS!!!

Edward Byrne's picture
Edward Byrne July 26, 2012 - 1:07pm

@ Bret Gammons

I am analysing the Batman films from purely a cinematic standpoint remember. I certainly agree, in fact I believe I addressed in the first paragraph, that Christopher Nolan is far from an excellent writer. 

My main qualms stem from the fact that this article is highly critical of Rises for what appears to be a failure of scripting and of adaptation, which I feel is fair because Mr. Hart discussed the film by declaring that the "movie" was this and that when if he wanted to engage with his feelings on the script alone, he could have indicated that.

I addressed the fact that Mr. Hart is outright wrong about one of the balls he perceives Nolan as having dropped; that is, Batman was originally created as a crime-fighter who was perfectly willing to kill criminals, as evidenced in the c.1939 issue of Detective Comics, #27 that was his genesis. Also, I feel it is a misinterpretation to say that Bruce Wayne has given up in the film The Dark Knight Rises. I feel it is directly indicated that Batman was unneeded for 8 years, especially in the scene where Alfred outright begs Bruce not to become Batman again. I may be wrong in that interpretation, but I believe I have more evidence to suggest my position. I have only seen the film once.

Furthermore, Mr. Hart did not once mention any truly cinematic aspect of the film in his criticism. I'll explain more thoroughly what I mean by that: I consider criticism of the script to be a sort of too late criticism. The script in a Nolan film is done by the time the cameras begin rolling, so it seems to me that to discuss Nolan as a director we must observe how he handles the script in hand.

I actually would like to take a moment to express that I feel Nolan completely betrayed everything about the character of Bane as Nolan had established him with that mishandled nonsense with Marion Cotillard. 

However I cannot in good conscience denounce Nolan as a director based solely on his shortcomings as a writer. Much like Prometheus, I think The Dark Knight Rises overcame the scriptural flaws to become an acceptable film. Prometheus was only acceptable, Rises I think was quite good. 

If anyone would like to address the particular aspects of Nolan's filmmaking approach that he/she believes failed in Rises, I would be happy to hear and discuss. I am referring though to engaging directly with the framing, motion & direction choices, cinematographic concept, editing choices, art direction, choreography, color choices, visual symbolism, and other such devices, and not simply make vague "good/bad" statements about an exhaustively conglomerate art form.

Also I will add to stem confusion, though some of the mentioned cinematic aspects are usually delegated off to other members of the crew (art director, cinematographer, editor, to name a few) Christopher Nolan obviously has oversight, ultimate control, and of course ultimate responsibility for all aspects of the film. Also, Nolan chose who to work with, and so to deal with his quality as a director, I think it is fair to include the other regards as well. 

I do respect your opinion on The Avengers, I am aware of my position in the minority party with regards to that film. I can't get behind 21 Jump Street or The Grey though, I don't know if those live up to cinematic grandeur, which includes the likes of The GodfatherWings of Desire, and The Seventh Seal among others. Liam Neeson fighting a bunch of animals is cool, but I don't know about it being art.

That said, well responded, and thank you for being civil.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this July 26, 2012 - 1:55pm

Edward - my opinion is that Nolan did a disservice to the character, because the most established and enduring interpretation contrasts with his actions at the end of the first film. You're perfectly welcome to feel differently about the relative worth of Nolan's interpretation. But I'm not "outright wrong" for having an opinion, am I?

Randy Robinson's picture
Randy Robinson July 26, 2012 - 4:48pm

Sorry, Rob Hart. You're wrong on two major points in this article.

First, Batman does quit. In "The Dark Knight Returns," Batman went into retirement following the death of Robin v. 2.0. The comic starts with Batman returning to crime-fighting in this 50's. And there's also that whole "Knightfall" storyline where his back gets broken and he sits around moping while an evangelical Christian slaughters criminals in Batman's good name. So yeah, Batman quits. He's human.

Second, Batman does kill. Maybe not outright, but in this example, it certainly wasn't accidental. In Detective Comics #572 (published in 1986), he uses a henchman as a meat shield to stop a bullet - intended for him! So yeah, sure, Batman doesn't use guns and doesn't like killing people, but that was a pretty direct way of getting someone indirectly capped.

Also, in the "Crimson Sun" storyline, Batman has Ra's fried by sun-lasers then ejects Ra's' ashes into space.  When Robin says, "You killed him!" Batman cryptically answers, "Did I?" That's vague. Sure, maybe Batman secretly knew that Ra's was immortal, but that was indicated nowhere in the story. That "Did I?" line could also be read, "I did not kill Ra's; Ra's sorta killed himself by building that damned death ray device."

Then there's Darkseid, where Batman shot the dude with a magic bullet and did Darkseid in with some kind of uber-radiation poisoning. He even noted in that scene that he was making an exception to his own code.

Rob, are you sure you know your Batman comics?

I believe the real reason why people didn't like DKR is because it showed Batman as frail and mortal. He was, despite all his ninja training, grand intentions, and billions of dollars - a man. Like every man, he is limited by the boundaries of his biology. I think that rubbed a lot of viewers the wrong way - most likely the same viewers who are rabid fanboys of invulnerable (and boring) characters like Wolverine and Superman.

Speaking of which, what, exactly, tantalized you so much about the Superman teaser? (And don't kid yourself: that was a teaser, not a trailer.) It just showed Superman flying for a few seconds. Like really? That intrigued you? Were you surprised that Superman was going to fly in the new movie?

Randy Robinson's picture
Randy Robinson July 26, 2012 - 4:54pm

Edward Byrnes:

In Rob's defense, you're citing old Batman stuff. That's no longer considered canon, and was basically deleted from the official Batman storyline when DC finally molded the character into who he is now.

The "real" Batman does not pack heat and does not break people's necks willy-nilly. Although you'll be hard-pressed to find canon-Bat being homicidal, I think there's some arguments for when he slipped.

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this July 26, 2012 - 7:03pm

Randy, c'mon. In Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, Batman turns into a vampire.

The source material is rich and diverse. Which I've said a bunch of times already. Of course I've read The Dark Knight Returns, which is technically non cannon since its set in the future and a one off. I don't count The Dark Knight Strikes Again because it's lame. 

There have been so many takes on Batman. The point is to discuss the nature of adaptation, not call me wrong because I didn't name every single one. 

And Superman is inherently a boring character because he's invincible. I like the idea that they're pushing for, a Superman struggling with his humanity and his destiny. Yes, I knew he was going to fly. Don't be a wiseass. 

Edward Byrne's picture
Edward Byrne July 28, 2012 - 5:51pm

Verily, poor wording on my part. You are quite right, I apologize. I duely respect your right to an opinion.

What I mean to say is that a personal taste is distinct from an opinion.

All are entitled to opinions, of course this is so, an opinion however is a judgement or view that can be based in facts or not be based in facts. 

It is my belief that your judgement of Christopher Nolan is unfair, I should have considered that word in the first place. 

I could explicate further why I think that judgement is unfair if you like, but for now I will simply summarize.

 

"Wrong" was incorrect, "unfair" is what I meant. 

Kristin Mendez's picture
Kristin Mendez July 30, 2012 - 2:36pm

I thought the movie was enjoyable, but I didn't like the ending. Batman should have died! I also didn't like that the young cop ended up being Robin

Brett Caron's picture
Brett Caron from Toronto, Canada is reading The Abolition of Man August 6, 2012 - 2:52pm

Rob, I have to say that this article was very much in line with my own feelings on Batman, and superhero movies in general. What you say about validating our love of superhero media by holding up all 'darker, realistic' interpretations as somehow more valid than others... you read my mind.

For example, if you haven't been keeping track of Spider-Man since the 90's animated series and the live action movies, you may have missed a couple of animated series that have really lived up to the idea of Spider-Man; The Spectacular Spider-Man, which ran for two seasons, and Ultimate Spider-Man, which is still running if I'm not mistaken. Neither of these are any more realistic than either the Raimi movies or the (what's the name of the guy who did the latest one? Webb? Are you serious?) other film, but it really doesn't matter.  First of all, it's a cartoon, so there's that.  The real thing though, is that they both capture the flavour of Spider-Man. Both feature the wise-cracking, smartass kid that we love as Spider-Man, a character trait that Raimi I guess just forgot about. Building a series or a movie around a character is fine, but if you're working with an established character then it's important that they encapsulate the idea of the character, even if they're not 100% faithful to the mythos.

Similarly, Nolan's Batman films have their flaws (like I said, I agree with most of what you've said already so I won't regurgitate your own words back to you) but really sucked people into the world effectively, allowing them to get to know Batman.  As a guy raised on the 90's animated series and the Burton films for the most part, I already loved Batman - but I know people whose first real exposure to the character was the Nolan films, at which point they became Batman fanatics (Batfanatics? Batanatics? Fanbatics?) to this day. I think that's the real test of any superhero media - if it encapsulates the idea of the character, the flavour, then people who like Batman will like it and people who don't, won't.

(Incidentally, people who don't like Batman aren't people at all, but pod people.  Don't ever be alone with one - you could be next.)

I really enjoyed your article.  I hope to read more of your work soon.

Brett

 

Pretty Spry for a Dead Guy's picture
Pretty Spry for... from I'd prefer it if you didn't know. So would you, only you don't know it. is reading whatever he makes time for this week August 23, 2012 - 9:03am
bigmac2012's picture
bigmac2012 August 31, 2012 - 10:00am

While I largely disagree with some of the "balls" that were "dropped", I loved your article and the look at his devotion and what drove it. I tried to touch on the many themes within the trilogy when writing http://voices.yahoo.com/and-batman-begins-11691546.html?cat=9 ... but just couldn't do it.... part 2 coming soon.