The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Selina Kyle/Catwoman: GOOD!
Bruce Wayne/Batman: BAD!
Actually passing the Bechdel test: GOOD!
Overall philosophy: BAD!
selenak has a good write up of how anti-populist the movie is, which is a large part of why I hate it. I do think it's a very well-made movie in that I am sure flocks of people will go watch it, feel like they have watched something that has been elevated beyond a superhero movie, and spout off about the profoundness of violence and grit. I mostly just laughed at all the Big Emotional Scenes, like the football stadium collapsing to an a cappella "Star-Spangled Banner" or the slo-mo footage of a tattered American flag.
Also, although I liked TDK when I first watched it, I hate hate hate the "We must lie to people for their own good" ending. TDKR isn't any better in that respect. Even worse, though, is the underlying thread throughout the movie that suffering is ennobling and that enough pain by itself purifies the character. Although Alfred castigates Bruce for hiding away for eight years after TDK, there aren't many other consequences for it. Bruce redons the cloak of Batman with very little problem. Not only that, Blake recognizes Bruce Wayne as Batman solely through telepathic manpain: Bruce hurt the same way Blake did! And clearly that makes him Batman! Then there's even more about the prison being the anvil upon which Bane and Batman are forged, with the addition of Bruce's great fix to a dislocated vertebrae (or whatever it was). Just stand up through the pain, duh!
In addition to that, there's Nolan's preoccupation with the theme "I am so awesome that no one can recognize how awesome I am." Gordon goes on about how Batman is such a wonderful friend for perpetuating the lie about Harvey Dent and taking the fall for it; Batman himself of course wants no unmasking prior to his grand self sacrifice (except the people who are actually important will know but lie to the commoners for Their Own Good).
One of the reasons why I liked Selina so much was because she is such a refreshing change from the unending Batman worship. Also, amazingly, Nolan got the mix of cynicism and optimism right, and I loved Selina's eyeroll at Blake professing that the police would protect her. Alas, the kiss with Bruce at the end just felt weird; they had a more comrade dyanamic than a romantic and/or sexual dynamic to me, so mostly I chalk up the ending to a dream of Alfred's.
The completely unnecessary Orientalism with the prison and Talia's mother and whatnot was completely unnecessary and stupid. Then again, given that Nolan seems to think you can't reach the peak of your physical powers unless you train in a random Tibetan monastery, this wasn't really a surprise.
I did, however, like the twist that the child of the prison was Talia, not Bane. That said, the reveal came a bit too late for me, and I never got a good sense of why Talia wanted to bring down Gotham.
Other things: why in the world did Nolan feel the need to make up yet another Robin wtf?! We get no mention of Barbara Gordon in TDK and of course there's no Stephanie Brown, so I was actually (pleasantly) surprised by the inclusion of Holly and Talia. Also, I really wanted a Renee Montoya on the police force.
The thing that annoys me most about the movie, though, is Nolan's whole take on heroism. We're given to understand that having a seething, unresolved anger that other people tell you to "get over" is somehow a mark of nobility that enables Blake to recognize Bruce Wayne for who he is. Me, I think that's more a call to get a therapist. Also, somehow I'm supposed to respect this guy who crawls away for eight years to mope?! There is a bit of critique for it in the movie, a la Alfred and Marion Tate and Selina Kyle, but Alfred leaves and Marion is Talia, and in the end, Gotham really does need a superhero to do superheroics. I just. Somehow everything is peachy after Harvey Dent dies, so Bruce can just withdraw from the world for nearly a decade? Never mind that it's fairly clear that the income disparity in Gotham hasn't changed much. (I could go on about lack of POC and women in business and the police force given what we see, but I suspect Nolan only acknowledges the income disparity as a problem in Gotham.) He has a solution for green energy and instead of disseminating it, he decides for everyone else that it's too dangerous because someone could make it a bomb.
And of course, his fears are bourne out. Because if there's one thing Batman's good at, it's deciding what's best for everyone else without their knowledge or consent.
Also, my impression is that Bruce basically only wants to be Batman when people praise and recognize him for it. He doesn't do things like day-to-day interventions or silly things like rebuilding urban social structures after devastating events, because no, that's not heroic or giant enough! Only something that brings on massive emo pain where he can wallow about people not appreciating him is enough for Batman! Not only that, he takes the easy way out at the end. He gets to be glorified for his contribution without actually having to work or live in post-Bane Gotham. I also find it telling that his rebuttal to Selina's "Haven't you given them enough?" isn't a denial of the premise—the point is not to "give" "them" things, but to provide what help you can to whoever needs it most—it's to emphasize how he hasn't given everything yet. He is still operating under a system of charity and donation, and I hate that the movie holds this up as a good thing.
Spoilers for TDKR, Captain America, and Avengers
Also, given the other summer superhero blockbuster which ends with a nuclear device being dragged off by a privileged white dude in a self-sacrificial gesture, this one doesn't work nearly as well. I can't believe it, but Bruce Wayne actually makes me like Tony Stark more. I still hate the idea of privatizing world peace, but at least Tony was trying to implement green power, and when he goes up to sacrifice himself, it's not so people will canonize him (though I'm sure he thinks that's a plus), it's because he actually can't think of anything else to do. And he's saved in the end because Avengers doesn't get its rocks from the lonely self-sacrificial hero who no one appreciates enough; he's grabbed by Hulk because he does things like make human connections.
This is also why I like Captain America; I don't get the sense that Steve does what he does out of some desire to be praised or to Be Heroic in ALL CAPS. Steve does it because it's something that needs to be done, and if something less stereotypically heroic needs to be done, like dancing around in tights, he's there as well. Whereas Bruce Wayne is not your go-to guy unless you want something spectacular and in public; otherwise, he's there brooding in his mansion letting his foundation's various causes fall apart from neglect.
I do think some parts of TDKR contradict this; I liked the parts we see of the police banding together, or Blake with the orphans. But in the end, Batman doesn't work with the police, unlike Cap telling the NYPD how to help civilians get out, and there isn't even the small perspective of the old man in Germany telling Loki he's full of shit and just like every other dictator out there. Speaking of which, I really wish there had been some evidence in TDKR that Bane's rule is not a rule of the common people, or that the non-rich, non-police Gothamites may have suffered under Bane's rule as well.
I am preemptively annoyed with all the people who somehow think the Dark Knight movies are so Deep and Profound because they're all about the loneliness of heroic suffering and sacrificing yourself for people who don't appreciate you.
In my head, I have a much cooler movie in which Bane kills Batman halfway through because of aforementioned eight years of not doing anything. Selina Kyle, Lucius Fox, Gordon, Alfred, Renee Montoya, Babs, and Kate Kane (and Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Kane? I haven't read them) join forces and rally Gothamites to overthrow Bane and rebuild Gotham and address things like income disparity and maybe how the Dent Act wrongfully imprisoned tons of men of color without parole and etc.
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