12 June 2012

Tuesday Talk: The Dark Knight Legend

36 days until The Dark Knight Rises...

From the age of three, I fell in love with two things that remain to this day dear to my heart: dinosaurs, and Batman, the Dark Knight. Around this time, Warner Bros. debuted Batman: The Animated Series, and with that, my love for the Caped Crusader was cemented. Naturally I sought the live action productions soon afterward (with Batman Forever being a favorite for a long time) and I owned enough Batman toys I would need a whole house to display their beauty. Batman was awesome because he kicked butt and the Joker was cool and the series was beautifully drawn.

In 2005, everything changed. Batman Begins, written by Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer and directed by Nolan, opened up a whole new understanding of Bruce Wayne and his path to rid Gotham of its criminal underworld. The psychology of the character suddenly became of paramount importance in my life, and the poetic, Shakespearean, magical story of this one man who so finely crafted himself a instrument of perfect deduction and physical skill, vowing that on his watch not another kid will have to suffer the same pain he has suffered, became this beautiful addiction. Begins had me fall in love with the man. In 2008, Nolan and Goyer teamed up to bring The Dark Knight, and with it, my imagination grew even more. A corrupt city, a madman who wanted nothing other than to "watch the world burn", a good man turned vengeful, and the outlaw who fought the fight against insurmountable odds.

These weren't/aren't just movies to me. They represent something fundamentally important to my life personally, and helped mold the type of storytelling I find interesting in my 'career' as a writer. I'm not in love with a guy in a cape and a bat outfit - I'm in love with the why he's in that outfit, the how he came to be in it, the what the costume represents, and the city that refuses to be healed. This is truly amazing material, brought to life by three brilliant, talented individuals who approached the subject from a realistic perspective. And thanks to them, Batman transcended the 'superhero' genre staple and became loved by the mainstream audience.

So understand me when I say, there will be few things in my life I will look forward to as much as I am 20 July 2012 when at midnight The Dark Knight Rises plays at the local movie theater.

Over the weekend, during the MTV Movie Awards (rather bland, minus the hilarious and gorgeous Emma Stone, future wife-to-be), Christopher Nolan, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Christian Bale took the stage and presented one minute and twenty-five seconds worth of Rises footage. Some new, some recycled, but it was amazing nonetheless. It gave us some spectacularly intimidating shots of the ruthless Bane (Tom Hardy, Inception) and further insight into Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, Love & Other Drugs). This is very, very good.

Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) holds no allegiances
Not gonna lie, I for one was not on the Catwoman bandwagon. Now, as much as the next guy in the world, I was all for Anne Hathaway in this rather nice, form-fitting outfit, but the casting of Hathaway didn't exactly inspire me, nor did the very inclusion of Selina Kyle/Catwoman in this Nolan universe. I guess it stems from me just not really caring that much about the character - Catwoman just never made that much of a mark on me. After the footage seen here (and the third and final trailer released under a month ago), I'm sold, I'm game. Hathaway nails it, and Nolan clearly understands the character. I'm still a little fuzzy and unsure how she fits into this world, and specifically this story. The amazing thing about Begins and Dark Knight is that each member of the sizable cast played a part - a very important part - in the film's narrative. I'm curious as to how she fits into all of this, and I hope that Selina won't come across as a superfluous character thrown in there for the sake of simply being there. People can complain about the presence of The Joker, Two-Face and Scarecrow in The Dark Knight, but their argument holds very little water when looking at how each of the villains affects the story. So how Selina is relevant to the narrative, that waits to be seen, but for the first time, I'm quite giddy about it. She doesn't appear to be on anyone's side, doing what she wants and needs. From the looks of it, Selina's the one who gets Batman and Bane in close quarters which initiates the first brawl.

So Selina Kyle, I still don't quite know where she's going or how she impacts the story, but I'm having a bit more faith in her inclusion. And with more and more promo shots of her Catwoman visage, I'm becoming more convinced that her outfit is more in line with the trilogy universe. Basically, I'm getting excited.

Bane (Tom Hardy) is revealed in all his glory.
In December Warner released a 6-minute prologue that showed before Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, exclusive to IMAX screens. Naturally I took it upon myself to find a copy online, since the Minnesota Zoo ain't exactly a quick jaunt. The prologue was our primary introduction to Bane, showing a man who is mysterious and calculating, willing to do anything and sacrifice anyone to achieve his plan. Visually, it was very striking, in true Nolan fashion, and Bane looked absolutely intimidating. But seeing as how this was also our first introduction to Bane's voice, this is where the red alert lights started going bonkers in the entertainment world - eventually making itself mainstream by getting mentions on late night talk shows. The problem was that because of the mask and the accent of Bane's voice, some of his dialogue was muddled and indecipherable.

This is my feelings about the Bane stuff: honestly, I love what they're doing with his voice. It's menacing. It's freakin' frightening. A man in a mask isn't scary enough, it needs to have the voice to back it up (e.g., Darth Vader, Batman, The Joker), and Tom Hardy accomplishes that. In the video of the prologue I watched, I could understand Bane's dialogue up until the climax when he wrestles his target in his hands and says something along the lines of "Now is not the time for fear. That comes later." It was muffled, and I had to consult alternatives to find out exactly what was said. Still, Trailer #2 and Trailer #3, both which feature Bane dialogue, feature Bane's voice in all its crystal clear spine-tingling glory.

"I am Gotham's reckoning."

"Your punishment must be more severe."

"Let the games begin."

"When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die."

So in conclusion about Bane: I'm freakin' excited. The Joker was the absolute right villain to counter Batman in The Dark Knight, and Bane is absolutely appropriate as Batman's final nemesis in this concluding chapter. A man with a plan, who will resort to any length to fulfill those devious, murderous plans. His voice is spine chilling, and his physical presence enough to make me recoil and pray he chooses to spare me. During filming of the daylight royale between Batman and Bane, onlookers commented on the two adversaries demeanor: Batman fifty or so feet away from Bane, a crowd of police and henchmen beating each other, and the two men in masks searching each other out, ready to fight, ready to end it.

Whatever the story elements or the theme of The Dark Knight Rises is, Batman vs. Bane has me giddy as New York. This is going to be amazing.

Look at the intensity of Bane. This is going to be a seriously awesome battle.

"The Legend Ends", the tagline reads, and this is bloody enticing. For once, we get a genuine, honest to God, planned conclusion to a hero's journey. It's not exactly something we see with hero stories anymore, with the properties usually abandoned (e.g., Spider-Man, Fantastic Four) and rebooted, but never really given a proper ending. Now we're getting that, and to my favorite heroic character of all. How does one end Bruce Wayne's journey? In Batman Begins, Rachel comments that Bruce's true face is the one the criminals now fear, that Bruce Wayne never came back [in essence, that from the minute his parents where killed, he was from then on always Batman], and in The Dark Knight, Bruce begins to contemplate life outside of Batman, looking to Harvey Dent to be "the hero with a face" that "Gotham deserves." I don't think this Batman tale will end with Bruce Wayne dying, but his rise into the city's savior will spell the end of the cape and cowl. Will Bruce relinquish himself into police custody to stand trial for the acts of Batman (as foreshadowed in Dark Knight)? Will Batman 'die' saving the city (and successfully inspiring it) leaving Bruce free to shake off the shackles of his Dark Passenger and finally be free?

Nolan has always been a man to approach characters from a psychological standpoint first and foremost, and however the physical journey ends, I think Bruce Wayne will end on a completed, content note. As the trailers ay, this is the end of the 'Dark Knight Legend'; Batman will live on through stories or whispers or in the spirit of the Police Department, it's how Bruce hangs up the mask that interests me. Hell, everything interests me. I could go on and on and on about this production.

Perhaps I'm too excited. That's a possibility, and all I will be heading towards is inevitable disappointment. That is a possibility, of course. When I first saw The Dark Knight, it didn't deliver what I was expecting, so I was initially taken aback. I studied those trailers like one of 'em CSI blokes, dissecting every frame and tidbit I could get my hands on, and the movie still 95% surprised the hell out of me. I still have no frakkin' idea what transpires in The Dark Knight Rises, but as long as Nolan continues to honor the themes and story beats he set up in the first two movies and brings a natural resolution to Bruce and, just as importantly, Gotham City, we're in for a wild ride.

All this writing boils down to one simple proclamation: I, Andy Simon, am more excited for The Dark Knight Rises than any other event in 2012. I'm already planning my activities for 19 July - when to arrive, what to bring, what to buy, etc. - because I both will be anxious to see the movie and sad that the time of Nolan's reign over the Batman franchise will shortly be coming to an end.

I'm thinking of dedicating most, if not all, of July to covering the Batman saga. Sound fun?

My tickets for Dark Knight Rises at the Marcus Oakdale UltraScreen. :) Boo ya!
How about you much less Batman addicted fans but general movie lovers? Excited for Dark Knight Rises? Thoughts on the Bane voice? Thoughts on Hathaway's Selina Kyle? How do you think the film will conclude Bruce Wayne's story?


David Bishop said...

Sounds good on your July Batathon. Are you going to stick to the theatrically released films or are you going to include some of the DC Universe straight to video movies as well? If you have the resources, I'd be interested in seeing your thoughts on some of the most famous Batman graphic novels: The Killing Joke, Batman Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, The Long Halloween, and A Death in the Family to name a few.

Time Lord said...

David -

I am (mostly) going to stick to the theatrical films. My plan is to have a thorough analysis of BATMAN BEGINS and THE DARK KNIGHT from July 10-20 day after day. But I will definitely be looking into the graphic novels.

I will say already that I've tried picking up YEAR ONE and DARK KNIGHT RETURNS on MULTIPLE occasions, but damnit, the art is too ugly and the writing too sloppy for me to get into. But I recognize their importance in comic book history, and I hope to trudge through 'em. Have yet to read DEATH IN THE FAMILY, so I will probably give that a go. And KILLING JOKE. Yep. :)

I believe I've already reviewed some of the Straight-to-DVD flicks, but I'm going to try and review as many Bat-related titles as I can. Preview now: I did not take too kindly to the animated BATMAN YEAR ONE. Sigh.

Thanks for reading! Keep up the good work on your site, sir. :)