The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

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Nasir007
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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1426 Post by Nasir007 » Fri Jul 03, 2020 3:47 pm

I guess with this trilogy the words realistic and grounded really rub me the wrong way and trip me up and are partially responsible for my negative reaction.

These are outrageous films - in the sense that these things cannot happen in real life in any shape or form. I could never reconcile the term realistic or even grounded with any of these films.

I think these kind of qualifications place an undue burden on the film and create an expectation the films can't possibly fulfill.

The discourse around Nolan films is always fascinating. They definitely are kinda like rorshack tests inviting a very wide spectrum of opinions and assessments.

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Big Ben
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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1427 Post by Big Ben » Fri Jul 03, 2020 4:13 pm

Nasir007 wrote:
Fri Jul 03, 2020 3:47 pm
I guess with this trilogy the words realistic and grounded really rub me the wrong way and trip me up and are partially responsible for my negative reaction.

These are outrageous films - in the sense that these things cannot happen in real life in any shape or form. I could never reconcile the term realistic or even grounded with any of these films.

I think these kind of qualifications place an undue burden on the film and create an expectation the films can't possibly fulfill.

The discourse around Nolan films is always fascinating. They definitely are kinda like rorshack tests inviting a very wide spectrum of opinions and assessments.
The part that kills me in Dark Knight Rises though is how Wayne's legitimate bodily wear (Which is actually what would happen to a real Batman) is somehow fixed with a brace on his knee. It's dumb sure but it I'm unsure if it is truly any more ridiculous than a villain who has to wear a mask that pumps pain killing gas into his body to prevent him from suffering terribly? And this of course is a watered down version of Bane. The one in the comics and previous film was on a drug called Venom which made him swell to an enormous size which allowed him to do all manner of absurd things.

It's all pretty dumb when you think about it but I love the absurdity all the same. Perhaps it's because Nolan treats the absurdity as normal that I tolerate it?

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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1428 Post by Nasir007 » Fri Jul 03, 2020 4:20 pm

I would much rather just let the freak flag fly.

Who gives a fuck about respectability.

I actually like perverse movies.

Look at Verhoeven. He's not craving respectability.

Good cinema will win out whatever the construct. Take Elle. Elle is essentially a trash B film. But it is also somewhat of a masterpiece.

I think Hollywood's prestigy instincts are misguided and Nolan films are definitely responsible for that.

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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1429 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Jul 03, 2020 4:26 pm

Nasir007 wrote:
Fri Jul 03, 2020 3:47 pm
I guess with this trilogy the words realistic and grounded really rub me the wrong way and trip me up and are partially responsible for my negative reaction.

These are outrageous films - in the sense that these things cannot happen in real life in any shape or form. I could never reconcile the term realistic or even grounded with any of these films.
You also declared Beanpole as unrealistic based on your own definition of logic that was too narrow to include traumatic experiences of post-war Russia, so flexing your perspective to meet films where they're at, whether historical or fantasy, seems to be a short leash. You would not walk outside of your home and see Gotham city, that is correct, but knives and tenia and others earlier already made points on how a film can flaunt some realism within a fantasy.

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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1430 Post by feihong » Sat Jul 04, 2020 3:20 am

In the time between the release of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight I saw a double-feature of Begins and the Tim Burton 1989 Batman with a friend. As a comic book nerd aggressively trying to front as a cooler kind of person, I was very gratified by the success of the Nolan movie. It felt as if comic book movies––and by association, comic books––were starting to get mainstream respect that had always been denied them. It felt safer to out myself as a serious comic nerd in the wake of these movies––though I was never a Nolan stan, and I didn't appreciate Memento, which seemed too clever for me to really enjoy it. And as my friend and I watched the two movies, the Nolan movie's more grounded, "rational" approach to the superhero seemed to devour the Burton film alive. The Nolan movie gave Batman realistic character motivation––which seemed to be a sign of respect for the subject matter. So we understood Batman's motives and methods, his desire to use what he's learned in what is essentially a terrorist organization to mount a terrorist war against crime. We see him build the image of his movement, construct his methods, enlist necessary supporters in his cause. In the Burton film, Vicki Vale asks Batman why he does what he does, and he turns away from her and says, "I don't know." At that time, in my mid-20s, desperate for respect, the Nolan presentation looked unassailable, and the Burton approach seemed insubstantial by comparison. Burton's fantasy seemed to have no legs under it; Batman did what he did just because, and the Jack Nicholson Joker was a gangster who went nuts because his vanity was besmirched and he was kind of traumatized by prolonged exposure to chemicals. Sure, whatever. None of the Burton scenes seemed to connect together with the appropriate logical story progression (the art gallery, the scene in Vicki Vale's apartment––things just manifest seemingly out of nowhere––who is Vinny? Where did he come from?). Key story elements float into the picture at random, often at very awkward times. The introduction of the "dance with the devil" line is a key plot point; yet it appears jarringly in mid-film––Joker says he asks the question of all his prey, but we've seen him kill a bunch of people in the film so far and never ask them the question. What about Bob? Who is Bob and why should I care? Combined with that very negative experience of the 1989 film, it was exceedingly clear to our "savvy" and "discerning" eyes that the Burton movie was filmed on a couple of soundstages––the sets looked cramped and fake, whereas Nolan's movie took place in what seemed for the most part to be real locations and big, open–air spaces.

Fast–forward 15 years. I'm at a very different place in my life, and the landscape of the movies is considerably altered. Comic book movies and comic books have been revealed to be on very different trajectories, and, respect accrued or not (I think that the increasingly obvious division between the movies and their source material has meant few people are really prepared to grant the avid comic book reader anything beyond classical social ostracization––reading comic books still means you are a nerd, and not in a post-ironic, hipster kind of way), I've come to regret my feelings that the emergence of successful comic book movies was a good thing. The motion picture landscape is increasingly starved of anything but these pictures, all of them so expensive as to price many smaller pictures out of business. The middle-budget film has been absorbed by Netflix, I suppose––and they are not synonymous with quality. The big studios, which once aspired to make movies that at least reflected upon human experience in some tangential way, are falling over themselves to create these ventures, and the Nolan Batman movies are, I think the template for what they are aiming for; a kind of pseudo-intellectual movie with very controlled action set–pieces arranged conservatively throughout(this is where the modern movies depart from the model––the Marvel pictures become more concerned with a kind of action maximalism), which flatters intelligence on the devoted viewer while feeding them suspense. The films are stylized, but Nolan has always been a director who presents both a fullsome propensity for style and yet a kind of anodyne aesthetic––no big stylistic decision in these movies grates upon the average viewer––save perhaps for the voices some of the actors invent for their superhero/villain identities (Bale and Hardy get the worst wrap here––I can see how in each case they wanted the voice to represent a kind of "presentation of self" for an alternative identity, like the voices were the way in which they got their "heads in the game," so to speak, giving voice to a character born in their minds). And at this point my opinion of the superiority of Nolan's approach over Burton's has flip–flopped. The idea of making the city of Gotham "worth saving" or not worth it, seems preposterously limited as a thematic concern. The idea of the surveillance state gets unacceptably short shrift. The extended "Batman can do some heroics and Bruce Wayne has to do others" subplot in the middle of The Dark Knight really does not come off at all––never does Nolan make an attempt to draw out a strong visual to underline Bruce/Batman's duality––it's all in the script and the editing, and so it never gains any visual poetry. The women in these films are, depressingly, afterthoughts. I still have trouble remembering there was a Catwoman in these movies––whereas Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman still haunts my dreams. I now find I have trouble with the whole idea of justifying Batman the way Nolan does, pushing as far as he can to put the evolution of Batman as will and idea into focus. Is it really so important? Now I sympathize entirely with Burton's approach. The fluidity of the Nolan narrative seems too slick by half to me, and I find myself preferring the fitful, come-and-go interest Burton seems to have in his subject matter, his preoccupation with gadgets and art shows and photo collages splashing onto the the screen whenever things threaten to slow down. I now find Michael Keaton's take on Batman, that the guy is basically just insane, to be perhaps less mappable but surely more poignant. And though I really like Bale, I can't entirely shake the feeling that I'm watching Patrick Bateman play Batman (Patrick Batman?). Actually, it would be really cool to see a Nolan-era Justice League, where Patrick Batman takes out his business card and compares the printing cost and paper quality to Aquaman and The Flash's cards.

But also I find that there are vivid scenes from the original movie that simply won't leave my mind. The mimes attacking the press conference. The extraordinarily weird cosmetics subplot. Nicholson wiping away the flesh–colored makeup to reveal his corpselike white skin beneath. Keaton shouting "You wanna get nuts? Let's get nuts!" (why is he doing this, really?). Vicki Vale is a more striking and important female character as a witness to the madness of the 1989 film than Katie Holmes, Maggie Gyllenhal, Anne Hathaway and the barely-there Marion Cottilard. Vale is like the narrator, drawing us into the story, like Dr. Watson meeting Sherlock Holmes for the first time, showing him to us as he first encounters the great character. What does Cottilard do in THDKR again? I remember her stabbing Batman is about all. And in the Burton film there are moments where Batman sits at his desk in the Batcave that seem to me now eerily reminiscent of Charles Clay in Welles' The Immortal Story, dreaming himself into an involving tale––only Batman doesn't need the story told to him; he can reach out and make the story himself. So at this point everything that seemed campy and clumsy and old in the Burton film has come to have the arbitrary quality of a dream to me; and along with that comes the whimsy and interest of a dream. By comparison, the Nolan movies now look dogged, endlessly unspooling grim, petty creative "inventions" of plot, mostly, supported by ever more endless tracts of justification for why the story has to be the way it is, and as long as it is. I never liked Nolan's style, and now his approach seems labored and tired in retrospect, and the clear inspiration for so many more "grounded" approaches to superheroes which have saturated the film market thoroughly.

I think in the future we might come to identify these Batman pictures more and more by the era in which they were made. The original comic Batman was very close to the Shadow, and inspired as well by Mabuse and Fantomas. In a way it was a throwback, and perhaps that gave Batman his somewhat original flavor within the golden age of comics. The television show is already synonymous with the swinging 60s––I vaguely recall Batman & Robin saving the flower children from Otto Preminger, though I might be confusing several episodes in my head. The '89 movie gives us villains out of the paranoid fever dreams of the Reagan era––blighted cities full of criminal "rats," legitimately filthy–looking and smacked out of their minds, with Nicholson as the king rat, a chintzy mob boss who wants to be on the front cover of Vogue. The Nolan films are locked into their post–9/11 era; all the key villains are terrorists, state-sponsored torturers, or would-be war profiteers. The actual mobsters in these films––who would be given grotesquely individualized character in the Burton films––are hardly even treated as criminals in post9/11 Batman. They're almost just community representatives, glum figures in the backgrounds of Mean Streets, next to the Joker (who is most aggressively stripped of most of his usual mob connections for this outing). By the third movie, Batman is so preoccupied with uber-terrorism and nuclear bombs that he seems to have no time left to bust Eric Roberts' chops. The Dark Knight in particular very awkwardly shoe-horns in a whole surveillance-state commentary (a very inconclusive one, but I suppose Warners did not want a finger pressed too hard on that scale), and Bane's whole setup is meant to be strongly redolent of Al Qaeda––or, more precisely, our fears at the time of what Al Qaeda was capable of. The Affleck Batman movies I think will come to represent the Trump era. His is an old and hateful Batman, who wages war primarily against ideas and symbols, and sometimes only the vivid paranoia blossoming in his own mind (witness the "American Nightmare" of Darkseid unspooling in his dreams––Patrick Batman would certainly call this vision "some weird shit"). He repeatedly blurts out sweaty assurances of how rich he is. His relationships with allies are incredibly shaky, he has trouble closing deals (Aquaman won't join up with him, Wonder Woman brands him a hypocrite and is worried he's going off the deep end, and he keeps referring to Amy Adams as "the big gun," with her having no say in the matter), and he is obsessed with glamorous brutality of presentation (his relentless, fetishized body-building a la Riefenstahl) and the administration of bitter, overblown, personalized vengeance against anyone he views as an enemy (he means to impale Superman, and KGBeast and the others who kidnap Martha Kent get extraordinary retribution. The current Batman is more casual a murderer than James Bond, and whensoever he does take someone in rather than killing them, it's easy to imagine him telling the cops not to be "too nice" when they put him in the squad car (after all, he does show up in prison later to brand them so that the other inmates will put them on some nonsensical death list). We're teetering on a scary precipice where it looks like Affleck's Batman may continue for another go-round, or Joe Biden might take over as Batman––wait, I mean Robert Pattinson. Will things turn out a return to Nolan-era nostalgia for the caped crusader? One things for sure; without universal health care in Gotham, all those people Batman puts in the hospital will end up costing us taxpayers more than twice as much as they could be costing us. I'm pretty sure Bob the goon isn't insured since they took away the individual mandate. Dominant amongst these impressions is that this is a Batman more at home than ever with his own authoritarian leanings––a man who confuses doing what makes him feel right with doing good for others (by which I mostly mean that killing Superman is absolutely right for him, but he justifies it by making Superman "our enemy" in his mind), who builds allies amongst authoritarian peers rather than a team of experts and a reliance on the innate decency and courage of his city's citizens (as does Patrick Batman, ultimately––though he makes a deadly technological breakthrough and proliferates it without batting an eye, and that is still disquieting).

All kidding aside, I do think that since the Nolan films are firmly in the rearview mirror it is a little easier to set a place for them in the scheme of Batman media––and that place no longer feels quite so large by comparison to the other Batmans and their films. I feel now that I appreciate the Burton films more and more; they actually look backwards, toward the Donner Superman film, in their presentation of a pop–art campiness (though they seemed awfully sleek at the time). There is more humor, and their scope is such that one doesn't feel the need to take Batman too seriously. They preserve the intimacy inherent in many comic book-bound superhero confrontations. I think the Nolan films fall straight into the trap and blow the scale of events up as large as they can––really, they just embrace the bigger-than-Bond-grade–bigness, treating it as a feature rather than a bug. Does Batman need to be saving us from Nuclear armageddon? And the Nolan films brush against the surreal in a way that demands logical explanations for everything, and because of that feels dispiriting and a little joyless. Nolan is really a strange proposition as a filmmaker; he has carved out a substantial space for himself as an imagination forever poised on the edge of the irrational, and yet he seems to be the filmmaker least prepared to plunge or least capable of plunging into the genuinely dreamlike. Always I feel him reaching out, in a ham-fisted, pedantic way, grasping at the logic he finds in dream narrative, duplicating the feel of a dream through dizzying plot structure. And what I come away with is only the logic of it, and none of the dream. Never in Inception do I feel as if I am in the uncanny space of anyone's actual visions––we are watching a therapy session, in which Cobb confronts not his wife, or the ghost of his wife, but merely his guilt manifest in her screaming form (played here as well, with grinding, shrill, one-note vigor by Marion Cottilard––is this a productive actor/director relationship? Does Nolan draw out of her something we haven't seen in her before?). Similarly, his Dark Knight is a determined composition, arranged to make Batman exciting by making him seem more developed, more psychologically explicated and plausible than you ever thought possible. It is a theory of the character composed of elements I think that I should want in a Batman, but which I find that I ultimately didn't need. I don't need the logic, I don't need the motivation. I don't need the dream to be manifest as plausible psychological presentation. I don't need the public at large to respect Batman, or comics in general. Batman can remain stupid, hokey, and absurd. I wouldn't say he has great power in that form, but what power he has is maintained more consistently the less we know of or are invited to care about how he works, why he is the way he is. For myself, the lesson I've learned is that in this case, none of these things especially matter. I don't especially like the character, anyways. But I'd rather Batman be more fun.
Last edited by feihong on Sat Jul 04, 2020 3:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1431 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Jul 04, 2020 8:07 am

Lovely post.

One thing that struck me while reading your description of how the various Batmans fit their social and political contexts is how Snyder's Batman is an aggressive return to the Regan-era Batman of Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, only without the self-awareness that let Miller's book be a critique and satire (or without even the mitigation of having the story play out in a twisted expressionist fantasy about ghouls and monsters ala Burton's handling of Miller). I don't know what if anything this says about the Trump era, but we now have a Batman which takes what were once exaggerations meant to mock the Regan era and plays them straight. It's like a reverse of that Marx quote, with history played first as farce then as tragedy. The exaggerations of old political satire are now the grim reality; what was once intended to outrage and alienate its believers is now the subject of awe and nostalgia. Rather than crave a return to the Regan era, it's like the Snyder movies crave a return to the nightmare vision of the Regan era created by left wing (and other) media. There's something very unthinking here. As the political context of Miller's Batman slips away, what fans are left remembering is Miller's attitude without any larger sense of what that attitude was meant to signify. Fitting, as over the last two decades Frank Miller himself seems to've become the thing he was once critiquing.

Perhaps one way this Batman fits our era is the unthinking posture of it; it's political without any political goals, all glamour and violence and bile as an emotional end in itself. Even the Regan era action movie hero Miller was satirizing--Rambo for instance--had explicit political meanings attached to him. It's a lot like taking Robocop, Verhoeven's specific Robocop, and playing him straight. Like, seeing Robocop blow off a guy's dick, show a comic lack of empathy for the victim he ostensibly saved, ride off into the night to do more violence untethered to any emotion or concern for humanity, and saying "that's cool! That's what we need to go back to!", and then filming only that for 145 minutes. A Robocop whose posture is the point.

Nolan's films are at least about the symbolic value of posture. The focus on how Bruce Wayne and co. understand the social value of Batman and the various meanings that can be attached to him is on some level a reflection on Batman's place in pop culture: a protean symbol who's the hero we need when times are good, and the hero we deserve when they're bad. A reflection of the American psyche at a given moment, reflecting either innocence or degradation. In their portentous way, the Nolan films also make the source material the subject.

In the intervening years, the basic self-awareness of the Nolan films has collapsed into an unthinking fetishization of the stuff we used to think of as parody, now presented unironically. We've drawn back from thinking about what Batman is to basking in how Batman made us feel as kids (if you grew up in the 80s I guess). So, yeah. In Nolan, or rather Goyer's, terms, what kind of society is Snyder's Batman a reflection of?

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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1432 Post by tenia » Sat Jul 04, 2020 10:31 am

Having watched Batman, Batman Returns and the Nolan trilogy over the course of a few weeks, I'd say that it's not so much not needing the logic of Nolan's Batman but that I found the Burton ones, especially Returns, to make possibly at least as much sense from a character and society POVs, or even maybe more, than Nolan's one. In some ways, it feels more fully fledged, more fleshed out, than what Nolan achieves in the end despite all the realism and down-to-earth atmosphere pumped in those movies.

I was also struck, revisiting the Nolan trilogy, by how all supervillains seemingly have the same goal : destroy Gotham. Amongst all the possibilities offered to fuel supervillains, these are 3 very long movies with 4-5 supervillains and they all have this same goal, as some kind of one-note supervillains mafia.

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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1433 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Jul 04, 2020 1:46 pm

tenia wrote:
Sat Jul 04, 2020 10:31 am
I was also struck, revisiting the Nolan trilogy, by how all supervillains seemingly have the same goal : destroy Gotham. Amongst all the possibilities offered to fuel supervillains, these are 3 very long movies with 4-5 supervillains and they all have this same goal, as some kind of one-note supervillains mafia.
I think that fits with the post-9/11 terrorism fear though. In the Burton Batmans, everyone’s goal was to coexist under the same roof, Gotham as a community, with skewed ideas of what that meant. Even if vengeance and social destruction were the objectives of madmen, they still revolved around the focal point of belonging to this space, and taking hold of it for their own gain- perhaps a form of capitalism or emotional projection that’s familiar to us. Nolan’s villains aim to destroy the community, to obliterate the very space where good and evil can occur, people can grow and change or harm and fail. There are certain laws being followed in the Burtons that are thrown out in Nolans, perhaps reflecting our western-minded inability to comprehend another culture’s aims thats don’t fit within our own ideas of even ‘bad’ uses of power, so they become recategorized into our view of nihilism.

I think the originals are taking something from the Western genre, where the Hobbesian antagonism is a form of human nature that we can comprehend on some fundamental level. We understand what it’s like to have thoughts of prioritizing selfish greed, or feelings of vindictive anger take over for brief moments before we return to a moral code that the Burton villains don’t possess the ego function for suppressing. But the Nolan villains’ aims are foreign, we have no common language to assume reason, and their alien nature is what drives the fear and default into meaninglessness, even if there is meaning that we just cannot make tangible.

Personally I love both sets of films for the very reasons feihong mentioned, but don’t find that admiration to be mutually exclusive or necessary to rank in allotment.

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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1434 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jul 15, 2020 2:02 am

Revisiting Batman Returns tonight and the flourishes of loud artifice have only gotten better with age. I loved every second of this twisted fantasy of expression, where not only does the mise en scene express but the act of humans "expressing" is like a drug that feeds the villains' motives underneath the obvious surface drives. Wayne/Batman is recognized as so dull compared to Kyle/Catwoman, Shrek and Penguin that he doesn't even appear until the film is over a half hour underway! Burton, and by extension we, just forget he exists- because he doesn't even really need to in the pleasures of this exposition. The Dark Knight still strikes me in a spot that is philosophically in the spirit of the ethical dilemma Batman's existence poses, but this film is so firmly and confidently realised as a comic book movie in every way that it may be the primary argument for how superhero films could function as science-fiction based on Suvin's definition.

Burton creates a visionary world that deviates so strongly from our own, yet as a familiarly exaggerated version of it, that it becomes a technological machine to transport us into a fantastical nightmare of our social environment. The milieu is physically deteriorating into grime but also painting counterfeit constructions of space, acting as darkness to imitate quicksand sucking all the life out of the city and preventing identity formation. The perfect manifestation of this is Selina Kyle desperately declaring to Wayne at the end that she doesn't know who she is anymore, which is just as heartbreaking as Rachel Dawes' exit. Perhaps even more if you, like me, find the idea of complete disorientation of the 'self' to be a form of death arguably more frightening than a purely physical one. And of course, even Bruce needs to unmask himself to risk his life in front of Kyle and Shreck just to cling to the unlikely chance that he can connect with another human being- all he can offer is his bare flesh to identify himself, an infantile tool that shows just how lost we are.

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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1435 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sat Sep 19, 2020 9:06 pm

The official WB YouTube uploaded The Fire Rises: The Creation & Impact of The Dark Knight Trilogy the other day, exclusive to the box set that came out around a year after TDKR. Really just a feature-length EPK on the making of all three movies, with not much meat on the bone but has some (albeit fleeting) moments of interest.

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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1436 Post by RIP Film » Sun Sep 20, 2020 10:57 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 2:02 am
Revisiting Batman Returns tonight and the flourishes of loud artifice have only gotten better with age. I loved every second of this twisted fantasy of expression, where not only does the mise en scene express but the act of humans "expressing" is like a drug that feeds the villains' motives underneath the obvious surface drives. Wayne/Batman is recognized as so dull compared to Kyle/Catwoman, Shrek and Penguin that he doesn't even appear until the film is over a half hour underway! Burton, and by extension we, just forget he exists- because he doesn't even really need to in the pleasures of this exposition. The Dark Knight still strikes me in a spot that is philosophically in the spirit of the ethical dilemma Batman's existence poses, but this film is so firmly and confidently realised as a comic book movie in every way that it may be the primary argument for how superhero films could function as science-fiction based on Suvin's definition.

Burton creates a visionary world that deviates so strongly from our own, yet as a familiarly exaggerated version of it, that it becomes a technological machine to transport us into a fantastical nightmare of our social environment. The milieu is physically deteriorating into grime but also painting counterfeit constructions of space, acting as darkness to imitate quicksand sucking all the life out of the city and preventing identity formation. The perfect manifestation of this is Selina Kyle desperately declaring to Wayne at the end that she doesn't know who she is anymore, which is just as heartbreaking as Rachel Dawes' exit. Perhaps even more if you, like me, find the idea of complete disorientation of the 'self' to be a form of death arguably more frightening than a purely physical one. And of course, even Bruce needs to unmask himself to risk his life in front of Kyle and Shreck just to cling to the unlikely chance that he can connect with another human being- all he can offer is his bare flesh to identify himself, an infantile tool that shows just how lost we are.
Interesting reading, as usual Therewillbeblus. I also feel like this one has aged finely; and all of the exaggerations that I loathed growing up have somehow become astute and pointed. Not in the least is its political commentary, with the public lobbying for a sewer monster as their savior. But the world that Burton creates, one where the source material is used as an anchor for audiences, only so that the director can go even deeper into surreal, cinematic territory-- is something I feel is sorely missing in superhero movies. I realize this is very opinionated, but it seems as if people crave or demand 'authenticity' to comics these days. Batman in film seems to become less an object of interpretation and more an increasingly militarized Death Wish surrogate. But that's enough of my soapbox.

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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1437 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Sep 20, 2020 12:55 pm

I know what you mean, but I do feel that Batman is specifically an interesting case because he’s not a superhero, but a completely relatable human being to audiences, who has positive moral intentions and lives with ongoing trauma from loss that affects his personal relationships and ability to make himself vulnerable to intimacy. So demanding authenticity into the gritty side of his caped crusades feels more fluid in step with how his character is established in relation to the consumer. The biggest divide between him and us (or at least the way we want to see ourselves) is socioeconomic status.

I like how you bring up the political commentary because while The Dark Knight (successfully, in my opinion) touched on the ethics of NSA-intrusion for ‘greater good’ purposes, poking holes in utilitarian philosophy, Burton makes his entire milieu a reflection of our political unrest in post-Reagan America. Penguin’s social mobility is only possible through support from the right superficial connections to sway the public, and the widespread adoption of his character through the press is unsettlingly poignant, especially today as the American people form confident opinions through titles of clickbait and word of mouth (now I’ll get off my soapbox).

It’s funny you bring up Death Wish, since I was talking about my distaste for these 70s/80s revenge films with some friends who are considerably older than me, just the other day. They countered with how powerful these films were as a response to current events at the time, and I forget (probably because I wasn’t alive then) just how dangerous urban spaces were- and were painted as by Reagan- in certain American cities. Nolan’s films do feel like more tasteful versions of those films that imbue optimistic energy into the ability to fight back. Burton’s film, conversely, feels like an acknowledgement of the nightmare of society as seen by generation X, a kind of postmodern vision that exists beyond tangible hope to change the actual macro-direction of society’s disintegration, and towards how we feel within such cold spaces and what we want and need for ourselves.

It’s a different kind of existentialism in capitalizing on our agency to realise our identities ourselves without the support of others, vs the same path but completely externalized in Nolan’s film. Bale’s Batman in contrast to Keaton’s (specifically in Batman Returns) continues to hide from this self-actualization by anonymously providing a tangible service to others. Burton is more interested in framing that as a form of defeatism if taken by itself, and makes his Batman desperate and brave enough to be vulnerable, de-masking himself to advocate for his own needs. Even if one reads Burton’s film as accepting the inability to alter the tides in large ways, and Nolan’s an affirming claim that it’s not too late, I actually find neither to be nihilistic and maybe Nolan’s to be more pessimistic, at least in certain areas.

There is a comfort in the surrender that Burton’s film embraces, just as there is an overwhelming shadow of fear, because it doesn’t say not to act, but that one can act to make small changes for others and for themselves that carry meaning. Nolan’s films feel like they see all change as immense and overbearing threats, so Bale’s Wayne can’t fathom making any measurable changes to his personal life and sees all altruistic change as gigantic in scope. Operating under that logic, poisoned by emotional flooding, is in some ways more nihilistic and anti-therapeutic even if both films argue that we can’t see the tools we possess to traverse challenges of identity. Burton’s finds some confidence in baby steps, micro-focused meditations on what is directly in front of us, when we gain the courage to remove our attention from the colossal, which is itself a defense mechanism to deter us from facing our insecurities and doing work on ourselves.

Essentially each film uses a quasi-nihilistic perspective as a jumping off point for hope- just in different directions (towards micro or macro inspiration) and within each direction of focus we find optimism and also a significant area that is neglected and consequently interpreted to be futile, tainted by the cynicism that comes from a lack of evidence in hope’s domain. Nolan’s film, which I really do still love, cannot overcome its dour core. Wayne is firefighting because he is harnessing little energy from within, and as a result feels like a Sisyphean existential nightmare of the ‘self’ burning out by only looking outward and not tending to his own needs that would boost his will power, like a person in therapy only focusing on palpable action but not digging into their own emotions. Burton’s film may surrender to the uncontrollable world, but that feels no different than a man recognizing a higher power and accepting their own inability to become a God and change the weather. Thus his characters can find grace in such a practice of letting go from an extremist Godlike stance, continue to control what they can in digestible doses and grow internally, spawning meaning from what may be misperceived as nihilism to an observable eye. And yet Bale’s Batman represents the drive in all of us to be that God, and conversely I find it very validating that he is imperfect enough not to even be willing to put real work into himself, representing our subjectification to the drive of fear. Batman Returns and The Dark Knight are polar opposites in many respects, yet this makes them reciprocally integral puzzle-keys to find the reflective voids and strengths in each's philosophy, and taken together can form a comprehensive whole.

RIP Film
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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1438 Post by RIP Film » Tue Sep 22, 2020 6:30 pm

Great write up. I admit to not giving Nolan's Batman much thought; mostly enjoying the first one, feeling overwhelmed by the second, and then thinking the third one was silly-- but I appreciated his 'wholesome' take on Batman, where that brooding trauma wasn't idealized or fetishized, but used as a motivation for positive action. My Death Wish reference was aimed more at the newer incarnations, like the trailer for The Batman where Pattison pulverizes a thug then says 'I am vengeance', tapping into the almost sexualized revenge fantasy that those films kickstarted.

But you're right how Burton and Nolan are almost opposite but complimentary visions. I'd argue the primary point of departure, and I think you alluded to this, is that Nolan's characters are superhuman (forms of will) in an ordinary world, and Burton's characters are merely human in a nightmarish world that imposes its will on them. In Burton's movies, no one chooses to be anything, certainly not a symbol. Pfefier's character is forced to become Cat Woman after her powerful and corrupt boss attempts murder; her passive identity has no where to go so she effectively 'dies', manifested to great effect in the scene where she destroys her apartment. Same with Penguin who does not choose to be anything, but is simply born then thrown away and only understands cruelty. Even with Batman, there's no real sense that he's trying to be a symbol or altruistic. It's more for personal reasons, almost to work through and process his own life. I think this is why the Burton films continue to resonate with me; the idea of rising to meet injustice or at least perceived injustice, out of some inner necessity-- rather than Nolan's battle amongst Greek Gods and Ubermenschen (though that's hardly something to hold against a superhero movie).

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1439 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Sep 22, 2020 7:36 pm

I mostly agree with that, though I’d say Nolan’s figures aren’t attempting to be ‘superhuman’ so much as succumbing to (or choosing the path of) depersonalization because self-actualizing is too uncomfortable and hopeless (or meaningless for the villains). Consequently, they sublimate their malaise and internal disconnect into grand gestures of symbolism that falsely appear to be the ‘greater’ feat even if they mirror as forms of avoidance (In some ways I actually think this is more realistic to western urban white cultures, of which Gotham and most characters are emulating pretty homogeneously, that behavior pattern of burying the more vulnerable emotions and focusing outward into work, helping others, etc.- but only from an observational perspective, since Burton’s sensitivity speaks to what is really going on ‘under the iceberg’ of Nolan’s objective focus).

Burton’s films refuse to engage with this absolute avoidance, and he’s far more interested in how these characters feel and what actions they take that directly relate to their conditions. Even if their actions also take the form of externalized focus, hiding of identities, and sublimation, there’s a more intimate connection in how we sense this is serving their emotional needs. They aren’t hiding behind masks to sweep their problems into their unconscious, but as a direct result of acute awareness to pain that doesn’t subside after donning a costume. I wouldn’t say Kyle is forced to be Catwoman though, but that she actualizes her agency to the best of her abilities under the conditions of her experience, which is I think what you meant since your examples about Penguin and Batman are spot on!


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Boosmahn
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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1441 Post by Boosmahn » Tue Dec 01, 2020 11:29 pm

I revisited these films a week or so ago. Since it had been years since I saw them last, I was never sure as to why The Dark Knight Rises is considered a step down from the previous two movies. Having rewatched them over the course of three nights, I think I can see where some of that disappointment comes from now: the villains. Wayne's conflicts with Ra's al Ghul and the Joker felt like battles of ideals, whereas his relationship with Bane felt like more of a traditional battle between good and evil.
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This was made apparent to me during the fight between Wayne and Bane at the end. In the previous films, any physical fights were substitutes for battles of ideals; in Rises, that final brawl felt like just a regular fistfight. The reveal that Tate was Ghul's daughter didn't change that for me, even though she was following her father's beliefs.

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Re: The Dark Knight Trilogy (Christopher Nolan, 2005-2012)

#1442 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Wed Dec 02, 2020 5:38 am

That and Anne Hathaway's Catwoman wasn't all that interesting. I'll put that more on Nolan than on her, because his record with creating interesting female characters is spotty at best. Most of the good performances from women in his films speaks more to their talent maybe rising above what he's capable of in that area. The one exception is Interstellar where those characters, as the whole story does, comes from a more personal place.

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