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He's The God Damn Batman

by Sean Curry

On Wednesday, our dearly delusional editor, Mike Anton, posted some questions and complaints he had after viewing The Dark Knight Rises. As the superhero nerd who most passes for socially adept around here, I felt compelled to answer as many as I could, both for his sorry self, and for our confused readers. Also, dammit, he’s just plain wrong in so many cases.

So Bane's in his mid-50s, at the very least?

What give you the impression that he’s in his mid-50s? After having seen the movie twice, I don’t recall there ever being a mention of his – or anyone’s – age, save the child in the pit which turns out to be Talia Al Ghul. “Child” is a pretty general age definer, so I’m putting her at 13 when she escapes the pit. At the time of Talia’s escape, Bane is of an age to fight off the other inmates long enough for her to ascend the wall and escape, but not long enough to save himself the severe beating that leaves him eventually needing the pain-reducing mask and waist belt. He isn’t superhuman at that point, but he’s certainly a force to be reckoned with.

I’ve seen 18-year-olds with capabilities like that, so it isn’t ridiculous to assume he’s a mere five years older than Talia, putting him in his late 30’s or early 40’s during the main events of TDKR. What’s more, a deleted scene shows Bane training with the League of Shadows with his belt and face mask on, implying that all his time with the League happens after Talia’s escape. That gives him a solid 20 years to become the Bane we see in the movie.

Seems like Bane has everything going for him … but why is his self-esteem so low? He goes around telling everyone this lie about how he was a baby born in the Pit and then he escaped, but that's actually the story of a nine-year-old girl named Talia.

He doesn’t, though. I don’t think Bane ever says that he himself is the one who escapes the pit. A number of people say he was born in the pit, and that a child escaped the pit, but no one ever outright states that Bane is the child who escapes. The inmates leave it up to Bruce Wayne to make that connection, much the same way as Nolan leaves it up to the audience to, as well. That’s why it’s such a shock when we find out it was Talia all along. And “born in the pit” is a statement open to a lot of interpretation, especially deep within one of the most terrifying metaphors for a vagina in comic book cinema.

I know where he won't find [affirmation]: planning takeovers of major metropolitan cities. ...he's really got to leave the whole "giant master plan" shit to someone else, cause, man:

Why did he leave Lucius Fox, the only person in Gotham who has any idea of the megaton detonation device, completely unguarded, after murdering the doctor who set it up in cold blood?

He doesn’t. The next time we see Lucius Fox, he’s literally standing next to and entirely trusting Talia Al Ghul, the mastermind of the entire plan. Lucius Fox was never left unguarded.

Why does he not chase after the police commissioner when he breaks out of the hospital?

He was in the middle of a prison riot, and probably a bit tied up. What’s more, he thought the problem was taken care of when he sent two guys with guns to finish the job. How much more should one be expected to do to kill a sick old man in a hospital bed?

And when he finally does sort of go after him, why is it three months later?

When Bane chose to go after Gordon is irrelevant. Bane had, in his mind, taken care of Gordon and the entire GCPD. The staggering majority of cops in the city were trapped underground, Gordon was cut off from his tools and resources at GCPD, and they had all been named outlaws. As soon as Bane’s henchmen could take a break from keeping order in the city, they arrested Jim Gordon. Sounds like a pretty effective response to a rebel force.

Why does Bane have his semi-nuclear device traveling in one of so many trucks along the same routes over and over again when he and nearly all of his gun-toting buddies are holed up in a large, fortified building?

A number of reasons. First off, no one can know where the thing is at any given time. It literally takes the good guys five months to finally figure it out. It’s a well thought out added layer of security. Secondly, it’s a display of power. Gotham’s citizenry are going to think twice about rising up against him when they are daily reminded of the tanks and nuclear bombs literally rolling through their streets. Thirdly, it plays into the “Audacity of Hope for Pain plan,” which I’ll get into below.

Furthermore, if he believes in this Audacity of Hope for Pain plan, where it's far crueler to let Gothamites sorta struggle to live before being obliterated because sure, yeah, cool, then why does the device have a detonator? Thanks to SCIENCE! the bomb is already a ticking clock … so why even have a back-up plan? And if you do have a back-up plan, why wait until 15 minutes before the bomb goes off anyway to try and execute it?

Bane’s “Hope for Pain” plan was the backbone of his entire character, and I think you missed something about it. Bane wants to break Batman, but not just physically. He wants to break his spirit, and says as much in the pit when he’s talking to Bruce Wayne. If the pit’s inmates were simply to be locked in an inescapable prison, there would be no hope for life beyond it, and they would resign themselves to defeat. Psychologically, they would eventually be able to cope, in some small way, and adjust to their inevitable end.

By giving them a potential way out, the prison makes them dream of life on the other side. They constantly imagine themselves outside of their cells, in the open air, with the blue sky shining above them, and can never truly resign themselves to the pit. If they just hold out a little longer, one day they’ll be able to escape and live a normal life again. That is the deeper kind of despair Bane is attempting to inflict: meritless hope. The longer they stay in the pit, the more that urge takes hold of them, and the more they blame themselves for their current circumstances.

It’s why he doesn’t kill Bruce outright. Bane observes that Bruce doesn’t fear death; instead, he welcomes it. To threaten him with death would be pointless. Instead, he wants Bruce to want to live, to try to save his city, and then kill him. He wants Bruce to fail, and to fully experience that failure. If Bruce simply accepted that he was going to die and there was nothing he could do about it, there would be no point to killing him.

Bane wants to inflict the same kind of despair on Gotham. As far as the common Gothamite knows, the bomb will not ever go off if they play according to Bane’s rules while the bomb will go off regardless of how well they play ball. This keeps the citizens thinking about life on the other side of Bane’s martial law. He makes it clear in his initial address: Gotham City will survive. If they just hold out a little longer, one day they’ll be able to escape and live a normal life again. Not only does this keep them hoping, it also keeps them passive.

This despair is compounded back at the pit, where Bruce Wayne is made to watch his city give up and wait for Bane to let them go. Bane is inflicting that special kind of despair twice over on Bruce- both the audacity of hoping for escape from the pit, and the audacity of hoping he can escape and save his city, both of which Bane believes impossible for Bruce, or anyone, to do.

Of course, he’s forgetting that Bruce Wayne is The God Damn Batman and impossible is what he does.

“...so why even have a back-up plan?”

It’s not a back up plan. The half-life of the bomb’s radioactive core expiring in five months isn’t the back up plan to Bane’s takeover of the city, it’s the key component of Bruce’s psychological torture. While Gotham City sits back and waits for Bane to let them go, Bruce knows that regardless of how well they play ball, the bomb is going to go off anyway. We know he’s read up on the potential bomb threat of the power source, because he shuts down the whole project down after reading the scientist’s report.

For how long was Talia Al Ghul "Miranda Tate"? Does she actually care about the environment? Was her goal to always fuck over Bruce Wayne? And if so, why did she then fuck Bruce Wayne, quite literally, especially as she knew that he was Batman literally the entire time? Doesn't that seem extraordinarily cold to your dead dad?

Everything Talia did as Miranda was to get the power source in her control. This included getting Wayne Enterprises to build it, convincing Bruce Wayne to trust her (sleeping with him was a short cut), planning a corporate takeover of Wayne Enterprises, and having Bruce transfer control of the Wayne board (and the power source) to her. She said it at the end, when she revealed herself. I’m paraphrasing, but, “The knife that waits longest and slips in quietly is the knife that cuts deepest.” She didn’t want to hurt Bruce Wayne for what he did to her father. She wanted to utterly destroy everything about Bruce Wayne, including what he believed in. She wanted to hurt him in a way he had never been hurt before. Part of that was sleeping with him. While it was somewhat cold to her dead dad, it was far colder to Bruce.

And she was hardly the first woman (or human, for that matter) in fiction or reality to use sex to hurt someone.

Speaking of which, how does one inherit the League of Shadows? Is there a charter? Do the society-destroying lower rungs of the Earth follow a set of bylaws? Or was it just mutually agreed upon by all the followers of this cult-like group?

It probably involves fighting ninjas on stilts while hallucinating. I believe Bane is more than up to the task.

Why wasn't Catwoman in all the films? She was great, wasn't she?

Good god, yes she was.

If Gordon, ace cop, is Commissioner, then why is every big decision set by Matthew Modine's character, Captain Dipshit?

Well, the appropriately-named Captain Dipshit is only in charge while Gordon is incapacitated in the hospital. When Gordon comes back, the Captain relinquishes control back to him.

Why does Cap'n decide to chase Batman, a recluse who hasn't been seen in nearly a decade, instead of the guy who just shot up the Gotham Trading Floor?

Batman was considered a bigger villain than the Joker at the time, it was the whole point of the end of The Dark Knight. Everyone believes he killed Harvey Dent. He’s a masked, crazed vigilante, and every glory hound in the city wants to be the one who takes him in. At the time of the chase, Bane was just a murderer and a thief. Batman was the White Stag of Narnia, showing up out of nowhere to lead the cops on a merry chase. If you’re a dipshit glory hound (and Captain Dipshit is just that), you chase the Stag.

Why does he decide to send almost every single police officer on Gotham's force into the sewers without giving any credence to the lessons learned by Chief Wiggum in "Marge vs. The Monorail?"

Actually, that was Gordon’s call, and it was exactly what Bane wanted them to do. “No more games! Send every cop in there and FLUSH ‘EM OUT!” The laid up commissioner was at his wit’s end dealing with Captain Dipshit’s resistance, and finally made the call. It was a rash call, and he didn’t consider all the outcomes. But then again, Police Academy doesn’t exactly train you for a terrorist detonating a ring of bombs around an entire city, trapping every available officer underground.

Shouldn't Bruce Wayne be happier? Yes, the love of his life ... blew up and died in a horrible and gruesome fashion all because of his own inaction. But he accomplished what he wanted as Batman, didn't he? … And didn't crime essentially stop for eight years? … Does Alfred ever attempt to repeat this to him?

In answering this question, we need to separate Bruce Wayne and Batman. Batman has accomplished all he was created to do. Organized crime is non-existent in Gotham City, the people rallied behind one of their own, and Harvey Dent is the White Knight the city needed. And Alfred does repeat this back to him, on the stairs in Wayne Manor.

However, Bruce Wayne is miserable. He accomplished everything he wanted to as Batman and reached the point of putting it behind him that he had always talked about. But when it came time to do that, “the love of his life ... blew up and died in a horrible and gruesome fashion all because of his own inaction”. Shouldn’t he be allowed to grieve for her? The life he thought he was going to have with Rachel, the woman he was going to stop being Batman for, was ripped away from him not because of his inaction, but because of his actions as Batman. People have flat out killed themselves over far less.

That’s what Alfred is worried about, and ends up leaving over. Instead of moving on with his post-Batman life, Bruce put down the mantle of Batman but never picked up the mantle of Bruce Wayne. He just stopped, and has been brooding and drifting ever since Rachel’s death. When confronted with his lifeless inaction, he goes back to Batman instead of moving on as Bruce Wayne.

“They need me, Alfred.”

“They need Bruce Wayne, his knowledge, his resources. They don’t need your body, not anymore.”

As much as this movie was about the rising of Batman, it was also about the rising of Bruce Wayne. When Batman is believed dead with the nuclear bomb, Bruce Wayne is free to romp through Europe with his cat burglar girlfriend. In short, he’s free to live.

Why does Wayne publicly dress down civilians who dress up like Batman at the beginning of The Dark Knight only to turn around and bequeath the cape, cowl, and cave to John "Don't Call Me Robin" Blake, who doesn't have anywhere near the training or resourcefulness that Wayne has?

“I’m not wearing hockey pads.”

When John Blake is given the cape, cowl, and cave, he’s given way more than the average citizen has at his disposal (ie, hockey pads). And yes, Blake doesn’t have Wayne’s training, but he has the right mindset and … sigh ... heart. He’s reached the point where he believes in justice over the law, a key part of the Batman mindset.

And while it’s true that Bruce Wayne’s Batman needed his training and experience to do what he did how he did it, who knows what kind of Batman John Blake will be. Maybe John Blake’s Batman uses guns. Maybe he kills the bad guys. Maybe he creates an army of orphans to do his bidding. John Blake doesn’t have to do Batman the way Bruce Wayne did.

Is it solely because Blake was an orphan?

I think John’s Blake orphan-hood simply helped Bruce Wayne relate to him. Bruce Wayne saw someone who had learned that he had to stand on his own against the world, that there was no one behind him to support him up. Their shared lack of parents taught them to come of age in a way few others are forced to. Other than that, their fellow orphan-hood is a nice bit of fanservice in the film, as was the “Robin” nod. Who cares what his birth name is?

Clearly they're going to spin off "Robin" into another trilogy because this franchise is a god damn ATM on a scale only understood by Bruce Wayne himself.

I sincerely doubt that. DC Comics and Warner Bros. know they have a masterpiece on their hands, the superhero trilogy that all other superhero trilogies are going to be judged against for decades to come. They know they’ve done absolutely everything right from a studio’s standpoint so far, and that to mess with what has been created for more money would put an enormous black mark on their otherwise sterling Batman reputation right now. They won’t touch this specific iteration of Batman’s universe again.

However, we will see more Batman on the silver screen. They’ve already begun working on a Justice League film franchise similar to Marvel’s The Avengers. Nolan’s Batman can’t fit into that framework comfortably, and they know it. It’ll be far easier for everyone involved – writers, studios, directors, actors, and fans – if they restart the Batman film continuity in preparation for a world with Superman and the Green Lantern in it.

And if for some god-awful reason they do continue the continuity set up by Nolan, it won’t be “Robin.” Nolan made it pretty clear that John Blake was being set up to continue on as Batman, not create his own vigilante.

Are the same fanboys who shit all over the plausibility of the opening of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull now breathlessly trying to defend the logic [of Batman’s escape from the bomb detonation] because having a man in a flying hovercraft thing wearing body armor is somehow a more believable a scenario?

Christopher Nolan was pretty careful to make everything as real as possible, right down to the prototypes Batman uses throughout the trilogy. The Bat isn’t a hovercraft; its propeller is a helicopter blade utilized underneath the craft instead of above. I’m certainly under-qualified to discuss helicopter physics, but it’s perfectly well enough within the realms of movie-science for me to suspend my disbelief.

To compare that against a human being surviving flying over a mile through the air in a refrigerator that has been propelled by the shockwave of nuclear bomb is ridiculous. Spielberg and Lucas broke the rules and physics that they had already established in the world they had created. In the world of Indiana Jones, physical laws are extremely similar to our own world’s physical laws, and in our world, a human would not survive that.

...I know what this movie needs more of, other than logical plotting, character-based decision making, and decent editing.

So do I. It needed more Heath.

Image courtesy of Wired

 

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Sean Curry is a writer, funny guy, and terrific dancer. He is 26 and a quarter and next year he gets to walk all the way to the store by himself. He resides in New York City with his wife and eleven dogs, and he even has a website: www.sean-curry.com