I feel like I need to apologize. In the five years that I've been doing Fishing in the Discount Bin, I forgot to post one last week! Normally, when I go on vacation, I post it, and use all the "publish later" functions at my disposal to make sure it still goes online every Thursday morning. I was on vacation last week, and I just plum forgot to do that. As I said on Twitter the day it happened, my apologies to the six of you who actually read this.
Anyway, time to close out my run on every Batman movie with The Dark Knight Rises. This is in my notes at July 2, 2016.
Well, here we are, at the end of my trip through every Batman movie. We get to the end with The Dark Knight Rises. It came out and I first watched it on home media after I'd started doing this, so I've already done this film here on the column. I see that when I last did this film, I ended with "I'll be revisiting this some day, and doing another entry. For the longest time, I've wanted to do every Batman movie all in a row, so that'll necessitate a re-watch." Well, today's the day!
I see, initially, I put this at #2 in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, but after watching the entire trilogy in quick succession, I think I'd drop it down to #3. I just kinda forgot how good Batman Begins is. I mean, we all wondered how they would follow up with the Joker, especially given the real world events of Heath Ledger's death. I'm not sure "Ignore the Joker completely and just focus on Batman Begins" was the way to go. But, here we are.
And again, now that I'm a little more versed in Batman lore, it's fun to see what Batman comics they pulled from. Batman returning after a long absence takes its cues from The Dark Knight Returns. But whereas, say, Batman v Superman was slavishly devoted to it, this is more a...reinterpretation of its spirit. The battles with Bane are taken from, of course, Knightfall, the comic that introduced Bane. And the whole "Isolating Gotham from the rest of the world and watching it descend into chaos" was taken from No Man's Land. It's quite the interesting blend, but Nolan does manage to pull it off.
And speaking of Bane, let me once again say that I'm mostly pleased with his appearance as the villain. As I said in the past, I was thrilled when they selected Bane as the villain. I felt he'd fit right in with the more realistic spin that Nolan put on things. I imagined at the time them taking a similar approach as The Animated Series: make him a freakishly strong South American mercenary, brought in by Gotham's mobsters to settle the Batman problem once and for all. But, by making him a former member of the League of Shadows, they kind of went with the more modern interpretation: making him some form of anti-Batman...the same skills, but on the opposite side of the law.
But I still stand by some of my original criticisms. It's long. There's a lot going on. They could have cut out two or three subplots and been OK. But some of my original praise still stands. I love Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. It would have been nice if they could have used the extra room from cutting subplots to focus on her a little more.
The film does bring up an interesting question that it attempts to answer. Can Bruce Wayne find a life after Batman? Nolan attempted to find a way. As one critic pointed out at the time, we have yet to see a filmmaker bring their superhero epic to a close. Bryan Singer got booted from X-Men before he could bring that trilogy to a close. Talks with Sam Raimi for Spider-Man 4 fell apart. But Nolan got to finish his trilogy, so we got to see his final Batman story.
And that ending. I would kind of like to see some kind of alternate universe tale following John Blake's adventures as the new Batman.
While we're at it, I'd like to tell you my favourite idea I had to retell this film. One little change I'd make. Take the character of John Blake...and replace him with Barbara Gordon.
I've got a friend to thank for that idea. We were talking about The Dark Knight and its ending. She said, "I would have preferred it if Two-Face took young Barbara hostage, and Batman saved her. It could have planted the seeds for the origin of Batgirl." And I just started projecting that onto The Dark Knight Rises. Gordon's son looked to be about 10 or 12 in The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises takes place 8 years later, so that would make her 18 - 20...age appropriate for Batgirl. There was much eye-rolling at Blake's explanation for figuring out that Bruce Wayne was Batman. "We're both orphans, and we both have that same look in our eyes," was what Blake said.
Now imagine that being Barbara Gordon. It could have been like, "Dad occasionally tried to figure out who you were. He'd bring files home to look at. He had all the pieces right there, spread out on our kitchen table, but he always chose not to put them together. But I did." That's just a pinch more believable.
And then finding the Batcave at the end of the film...voila! Batgirl.
Or, you know, rather than give Blake the real first name of "Robin" at the end, with a wink and a nudge, they could have really blown minds and named the character something like...Terry McGuiness.
Well, my friends. Here we are. The whole goal of this endeavour was to try to find the worst Batman movie. And I think I'm still safe in saying it's Batman & Robin. It just gets everything so wrong. The prime example ties into The Dark Knight Rises: their treatment of Bane. In The Dark Knight Rises, he's the powerfully brilliant, and equally physically powerful, warrior that he is in the comics. In Batman & Robin, he's brainless muscle. Even the original 1966 film still had a certain respect for the characters and the source material...but no such respect is found in Batman & Robin.