Tag Archives: The Dark Knight Rises

The Avengers > The Dark Knight Rises

You read that title right: The Avengers was better than The Dark Knight Rises.

Man. Always fun to stir up some controversy.

Why do I think this? So glad you asked.

But let me preface all this with something: I’ve loved Batman for as far back as I can remember. I loved The Dark Knight, heck, it was one of the first movies I added to my BluRay collection. I’m not some Batman hater championing The Avengers because it’s not Batman; I legitimately think The Avengers was better.

The Dark Knight Rises is called the end of the Dark Knight Legend. Which it certainly is. Unlike it’s predecessor(s), however, it doesn’t stand alone. Rises depends on The Dark Knight and Batman Begins for the plot to have impact. It still works without them, it just nowhere near as well and winds up feeling incomplete.

The Avengers has no such problem. Having seen the prior movies does help us understand the characters more, but the script is deft enough to sum up what’s relevant to their characters quickly. Even a hitherto unseen character like Hawkeye (besides a brief cameo in Thor) has development and character.

In addition, each of the main characters in The Avengers (The titular team and Loki) are given their own character arcs. The characters in this film feel complete and round, as opposed to the archetypes of Rises.

Another thing that’s comparable about these two movies is the presence of a woman that spends a lot of the time in a catsuit. The Avengers has Black Widow, Rises has Selina Kyle. Both are remarkably good protagonists, both use others perception of them as women as a tool, both have their own goals.

But it’s Black Widow, and not Selina Kyle, that sticks out as being better. Unlike Selina Kyle, Black Widow has a much fuller character and development. In Rises we know Kyle’s a master thief, and we know what she’s after. It’s implied in passing she perhaps fancies herself a modern day Robin Hood, but that’s it. We’re never told why nor are we given a personal reason for her actions. We can see what she does, but never does she come into her own person.

Black Widow is given a couple of key scenes where we meet the woman wearing the catsuit. We find out that she has red in her ledger that she needs to clear, and that’s her motivation for wanting to achieve her goal. Selina Kyle’s steals to get something that will clear her name of her previous thefts. As great as she is, she feels like just another archetype.

The other thing is The Avengers has you pour more investment into it. Yes, Gotham at risk is indeed a serious threat and we want to see Batman rise to the challenge. But in The Avengers we watch a group of people who are heroes in their own right learn to set aside their differences for the greater good. It’s a different conflict, but one was handled better than the other.

Furthermore, Batman and Iron Man are both called to make sacrifices. Batman’s feels like an eventuality, something that had to happen. Iron Man’s was a culmination of the development of Tony Stark’s character within the film. We have an investment in him and the people who care about him due to the events in the film thus far. Rises had a few moments, but focused too strongly on Batman as a symbol and not enough on the actual people around him.

In The Avengers we legitimately care about the characters and who they are. Not just the fate of New York/Gotham, but the fate of the very heart and soul of these characters. Sure, The Dark Knight Rises had it too, just The Avengers had it more.

Then there’s the heroism. No moment in The Dark Knight can compare to the shot of the assembled Avengers in New York City ready to save the day. None.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved The Dark Knight Rises. It’s a perfect ending to an excellent trilogy with regards to both plot and theme. And maybe comparing these two movies is like comparing apples to pipebombs. One’s an epic, the other’s an adventure. Both are very different and both succeed at what they set out to do.

At the end of the day though, The Avengers was just a better film.

 

Writer’s note: I realize there’s much more I could get into here (like how The Avengers had more heart and humor, etc), but I’m already past my self-imposed deadline and have to go to work soon. My apologies.

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Sacrifice

There’s this trope in fiction called the Heroic Sacrifice. The idea is that a character gives himself up so another can live or succeed. When done right it can be an incredibly powerful writing tool.

Doesn’t have to be sacrificing your own life, though. At the end of The Dark Knight, Batman has just saved Commissioner Gordon’s son and the fallen Harvey Dent has tumbled to his death. There is blood on Dent’s hands; the man who came close to saving Gotham has come crashing down and his stellar reputation will follow. So Batman tells Gordon to pin every one of Dent’s crimes on him. Batman will take responsibility for what Dent did so that the late District Attorney’s work will not be undone. Gordon agrees reluctantly and Batman disappears into the night and we are left marveling at the self-sacrifice of the Dark Knight. Gotham has been saved, at the expense of Batman’s character.

Of course, the trope of sacrifice can be done wrong. In the terrible live-action adaption of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the interaction between two characters (Sokka and Princess Yue) is treated from the get-go as comic relief. It’s amusing to see them bumbling over themselves as their attraction grows. Then suddenly the plot necessitates a sacrifice and the only one who can do it is the Princess.

The relationship that we’ve only seen snippets of (and has thus far been used exclusively as comic relief) is suddenly thrust forward as drama. Before we get a chance to realize that it isn’t a joke, she’s dead and everyone forgets about her as the climax continues. It’s forgettable and fails to add any tension or poignancy. The general crappiness of the script, acting, and direction probably doesn’t help any.

(Do note: in the cartoon series the sacrifice had punch and weight and genuinely felt sad)

A far stronger example comes from the TV series Lost. Sawyer is never presented as a particularly ‘good’ character. As far as he’s concerned, he’s not someone worth liking and no one could possibly hate him more than he does.

The plot continues and Sawyer faces his demons and grows into a protector of the other castaways. As Season Four draws to a close a handful of the castaways are given the chance to get off the island. Sawyer is among them.

But the helicopter is too heavy; they need to lighten the load. So someone has to jump from the copter. Though Sawyer isn’t killed from his sacrifice, it serves as the climax to his arc. He’s gone from the selfish murderer when he arrived on the island to someone who would give up his spot for another. It’s a story of redemption and sacrifice.

Sometimes everything comes together to form a simply beautiful sequence. J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek opens with the USS Kelvin being viciously attacked by an unknown enemy. George Kirk has only been captain for a few minutes and orders the evacuation of the entire crew; including his wife and about-to-be-born child. To buy time for the lifeboats he resorts to ramming his ship headlong into the enemy. Autopilot’s gone and only he is left to pilot it in.

The gravity of the moment is accentuated not only by Michael Giacchino’s beautiful score (see Up for further reference) but by the heartbreaking conversation he has with his wife. Within a few minutes we’re caught up in this valiant act that not only sets up the plot but gives his son a standing to aspire to. It’s a universal notion: the idea of giving up one’s own life for a loved one, one that draws us in and makes us feel.

The midnight release of The Dark Knight Rises was marred by the Aurora Shooting. Yet even in the most horrible circumstances, light can shine out. Three men, three unrelated individuals, had one instinct when the shooter opened fire: get their girlfriends out of harm’s way. Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves all died to save the ones they loved. There was no fanfare, no triumphant score as they fell to the ground. Just sacrificial love. Though the press will follow the shooter until he receives his judgement and beyond, it’s these stories, the actions of Blunk, McQuinn, and Teves that should be remembered. Because of what they did three young women still have life. Because of them we’re reminded that though some of us may be absolute bastards, some of us are still good.

I’ve written of heroes on this blog before. I’ve said that one of the reasons heroes inspire us is because we hope that we can be like them. We read and watch our fiction about brave heroes who will die to save the day. Then we see before us real people who willingly gave their lives. All of a sudden the notion of the heroic sacrifice ceases to be a trope in fiction and it becomes real.

And heroes ARE real. And Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves ARE heroes.

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Legend’s End

This weekend the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s epic Dark Knight Trilogy was released. His was a new Batman, one that took place within the confines of our world rather than some dark/campy alternate. Nolan sought to not only retell the Batman story, but to elevate it from just a story to a legend. In telling the story of how man became myth, Nolan took each aspect of Bruce Wayne’s journey and centered a movie around it: overcoming fear, resisting evil, and ultimately embodying the legend.

“To conquer fear, you must become fear,” Bruce Wayne is told by R’as al Ghul in Batman Begins. It was Wayne’s childhood fear of bats that led to his parents’ death, and it’s this fear that he uses to wage his war on crime. The atmosphere in Begins is drenched in fear, whether it be Gotham’s citizens’ fear of the mob bosses who run the city or the villain of the film: Jonathan Crane, the Scarecrow, whose weapon is fear itself. Crane (and the League of Shadows) want to destroy Gotham by amplifying the population’s fears until they tear themselves apart. It is his mastery of fear that allows Batman to defeat Crane and R’as al Ghul. Wayne triumphs over his personal demons to become the Batman. Now what?

The Joker appears inexplicably in The Dark Knight. He has no name and no origin; he simply is the Joker, an agent of chaos. He is the antithesis of Batman: where the Dark Knight stands for order and justice, the Clown Prince of Crime is the embodiment of anarchy and lawlessness. Batman’s struggle against crime is paralleled by Harvey Dent. They are the supposed saviors of Gotham: one through law and legislation and the other through vigilantism. Both are forced to the breaking point by the Joker and both make a choice. Harvey Dent chooses objective chance and Wayne remains an idealist. Batman withstands his temptation and remains incorruptible, going so far as to take the fall for the crime of the ruined Harvey Dent as his own.The Dark Knight was Batman’s test of character; the answer to the question of whether he would die a hero or live long enough to become a villain is a simple no. After it all he is still a hero; the hero Gotham needs.

In Rises, the age of Batman ended with the legacy of Harvey Dent. The Dark Knight disappeared into the shadows, and Wayne retired from the public life. Enter Bane, a man who wants to undo the newfound order and destroy Gotham in not only city but spirit too. He intends to break Gotham and its icons: Batman, Harvey Dent, and the police. As Gotham begins to crumble it falls to Batman to rise from the ashes and rally people around him. His insignia becomes the symbol for the resistance and the unquenchable hope that one day the Batman will prevail and topple Bane and restore Gotham to its glory. But in order for this to happen, Wayne must once again conquer his fear and never give up if he is to finally become more than just a man in a suit, So the Dark Knight finally rises to a legend, a symbol of justice and hope that cannot be killed.

Gotham is the fantasy setting for this legend. It’s not Spider-Man’s Manhattan. In Dark Knight the city seems to be Chicago, in Rises it looks like New York. Where it is is unimportant as Gotham is no one city: it’s every city. It’s a myth that could happen anywhere, just as Batman could be anyone: a cop putting a jacket on a scared kid’s shoulders or the man who throws a detonator overboard. As the Dark Knight Trilogy comes to an end, no longer does it matter who is behind Batman’s cowl, what matters is who he is: the ultimate fearless paragon.

These are our legends, and this is how they end.

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