Published on August 7th, 2012 | by Chatterb0x0
Nerds Can’t Enjoy Things: Dark Knight Rises (Part 1)
Dark Knight Rises is, at worst, a decent action flick. Many comic aficionados adore Batman and wish no ill toward any project bearing his name. As nerds we are dually blessed/cursed when discerning between gold and garbage in our culture. Why would I, Chatterb0x Batfan Extraordinaire, enjoy accusing Christopher Nolan of failing Batman’s legacy? Slip yourself into my nerdy US size eleven Bat Moccasins and keep unbridled rage to a minimum until the very end. We are going on a journey of self-discovery and just maybe you’ll forgive me for not enjoying Dark Knight Rises as much as the public does. Here we go!
The points I will be addressing are:
- How true is Dark Knight Rises to the Batman character?
- How true is Dark Knight Rises to the ‘plausible’ universe Nolan has established?
Let’s start with Batman himself.
Batman is a multifaceted character with an interesting origin. In my opinion, modern Batman represents the best qualities of every fictional adventurer. Making his first appearance in 1939 as a two-fisted creation of artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, Batman has been depicted in a variety of forms ranging from psychotic vigilante to rainbow bright space charlatan during his 73 year run. Nolan’s production borrows from the serious interpretations of authors such as Frank Miller, Jeph Loeb, Alan Moore, and Dennis O’Neil.
Now, I’ve never been completely satisfied with the aesthetics of Nolan’s Batman. To his credit, no director has claim to getting it quite right. We must then ask a fair question: How DOES one effectively portray a man in tights? It’s a problem that has escalated from Batman Begins to a conspicuous climax in Dark Knight Rises. Nolan opted to take the ‘realistic’ approach, making Batman a high tech soldier with detection skills. Many fans agree an effective real-world superhero would likely operate in this manner. But fundamentally you still have a pointy eared SWAT officer in Dracula’s stolen garments. If the costume and effects crew asked for my two cents, I’d stress they mind three particular elements.
1) The facial features
Why does every costume designer insist Batman’s eyes be visible? Burton, Schumacher, and Nolan: All guilty for green lighting it! Batman should not be perceived as human. Let’s compare two images:
Here’s a scenario: A woman returning to her flat decides to take a detour through Old Gotham. The pitter-patter of her heels striking a relinquished cobblestone road contrast against the stark silence of the dead of night. She momentarily perceives something to slink in and around her periphery but continues walking. Suddenly a filthy figure of a man is upon her. Her vocal cords oscillate in vain against his sweaty, beastly clasp. Coarse granite can be felt to scrape along the back of her neck as the brute restrains his prey against the wall of a derelict building. With no useable leverage underfoot, her legs flutter frenziedly until she begins to fade out of consciousness.
A faint zephyr can be felt to pass by. The aggressor nervously cocks his head in the direction of a pitch dark alleyway. Staring back at him are two pale unearthly eyes beckoning his soul to damnation.
2) “I am the day”, or, the lighting.
A chilling narrative but why am I setting up such dark imagery? Because at heart Batman is only frightening as an inhuman figure of the night. Nolan apparently forgot this mid filming and casts Batman in broad daylight for a significant portion of the movie.
As such Batman loses credibility. Many complained that Begins obscures Batman’s features through poor lighting and dizzying combat scenes. Frankly, this is a blessing in disguise. As noted above, we want to limit exposure towards Bruce Wayne’s facial features (Especially when Bale speaks)! Let’s take a cue from David Mazzuchelli; one of my favorite Batman artists.
In other words the more one attempts to explain away a Gothic character such as Batman the more absurd he appears. A vigilante in a bat costume is incredulous outside of the comic book medium. Putting Batman in a well lit environment only magnifies why he would not belong in our world. Hell, even the interrogation scene in Dark Knight is bad ass – up until Commissioner Gordon flicks on the lights. Begins had it right: Less is more! Believe me when I say Batman does NOT look intimidating outside of his niche. During the final confrontation with Bane I actually pined for Bats to ditch his cowl.
3) The jaw
Others reviewers will likely not consider this an issue, and I admit it’s pretty vain, but for some reason I’m extremely bothered by these idiosyncrasies. Most illustrations of Batman depict him with a very pronounced jaw. Name one other medium featuring a narrow-chinned Batman. It’s a matter of casting but I find Bale’s features too soft, and, combined with Nolan’s serious approach, highlight Batman’s absurdities. Fans have plenty expounded on Bale’s forced voice so all I will say is that it does not help. Let’s compare Bale’s mug with Henry Cavill’s.
Clooney got a deservedly bad rap in Batman & Robin but you have to admit he`s got a killer chin. Cavill’s stone jaw is the kind that belongs on DC’s godlike heroes. By all accounts Bale is believable as Bruce Wayne. Infact, the scenes prior to Bruce adopting his dark persona are some of the best in the trilogy. Batman Begins is a film which focuses on character development. Bale is passable because it chronicles silver spoon Bruce Wayne’s transformation into a symbol of justice. With no prior knowledge of Batman’s true identity it is difficult to put pretty boy Bale underneath the cowl.
Assuming Christopher Nolan had the timeline worked out from the beginning, perhaps three different actors each representing iconic interpretations of Bruce/Batman’s career would have worked best. By the end I can imagine a rugged, grizzled antihero as featured in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns.
Don’t crack those flame-mail typing fingers until you’ve read part 2!