Four Years In the Making
As I’ve said before on the “FromPage2Screen: Stateside” podcast, I love what Christopher Nolan has done for not just movie making, but for the Batman film franchise. Over the past couple of days, I re-watched “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” and I was left with a much different impression of these movies and watched them in a completely new way. As the movies were going along, I was left with distinct feeling of complete uncertainty on what the finale will be for movie goers and fans of the series. I’ve done a good job of staying away from spoilers as well as reviews of the movie and but I have an unwavering sense of confidence that “The Dark Knight Rises” will not disappoint me.
Let’s go back to “Batman Begins.” This was a movie that could have leapt off the pages of a graphic novel and left the viewer with the best understanding of why Bruce Wayne takes on the Batman persona. The film is completely balanced mixing enough back story of Batman lore, with justice vs. vengeance themes that Batman faithful come to know and expect, but also mixed with a surprising amount of, not necessarily whimsy, but as I’m calling it “practical science fiction” in the gadgetry of Batman’s gadgets. With all the cinematography done, Gotham is its own character and as Nolan moves into “The Dark Knight,” that’s something that is lost.
“The Dark Knight” is for all intended purposes, a masterpiece of cinematography, scriptwriting, acting, music production, and the list goes on and on. One thing is missing though, the sense of Gotham and the sense fiction that is necessary for escapism. I love “The Dark Knight” and I’m very proud, as a lifelong resident of Chicago-land, Chicago was chosen for Gotham City. Maybe it’s because “The Dark Knight” is set at most, about a year after the events of “Batman Begins,” but even though Chicago reprised its role as Gotham, things were so very different. Those even remotely familiar with what Chicago looks like, I believe, had to recognize that things had changed. The monorail that was integral aspect from “BB” is mysterious gone and forgotten. “The Narrows” which began a less than a half mile from where the “Joker Truck Flip” happened is elusive. Remember in “BB” when the Tumbler jumps the river twice? That happened on the same streets and same geographic area that the Gotham Chase / Truck Flip happened in “TDK.” Maybe this was director Christopher Nolan’s choice to remove the “idea” and strip away the mystique from the comics of Gotham City only to make the film more realistic, but something is lost and I hope not forever.
In “BB” one of the ideas explained is the idea of what the criminal is and how or why the criminal functions. A definition and ethos of justice is what we are left with and viewers can walk away with something tangible going into the sequel. This is where things change. The message of “TDK” is an extreme (albeit fantastic) case study of what it takes to create chaos on a mass level. There are so many truths projected by both Batman and the Joker that I believe people seem to forget, I would like to believe that people are good and when presented with the option, will do the right thing and stand up to fear; but at some level, the Joker is right, people will throw out their morals and convictions when it becomes convenient, or when something doesn’t go “according to a plan.” The Joker succeeds in turning the best of who are trying to save Gotham from corruption, specifically Harvey Dent who was doing things “by the book.” This comes through in the last few minutes of the film, especially when Gordon’s son asks why Batman was running away, because “He did nothing wrong.” Batman didn’t do anything wrong but both he and Gordon know and are able to understand that the people of Gotham and people in general can not understand, cope and are not strong enough to make the hard moral decision on what is right and what is wrong. In order to fight great evil, for what the criminal underbelly and the Joker stood for and were doing to Gotham, sacrifices had to be made. This is such a powerful commentary on people and society.
Nolan has take the series from “Justice v. Vengeance” and asked “Are You willing to do what is necessary in order for Good to triumph over Evil?” that I am so very anxious to find out what “The Dark Knight Rises” will ask of it’s viewers. I hope that “TDKR” is a cerebral and rewarding blend of the two but I will not be disappointed if it demands more from the audience and viewer of the series.