Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The politics of Bane's unintelligible dialogue in the upcoming Batman film

A new trailer for the upcoming Christopher Nolan-directed Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises," has just been released to much fanfare and excitement. You thought that was just anticipation over the "holiday season," that you were feeling, but no-- it was the trailer hitting the web on Monday:

That's a bunch of stuff happening in there. Including, apparently, some political stuff. According to a headline in the Los Angeles Times, the film "dons an Occupy costume." You might not have realized this, but a film can wear a costume. An "Occupy costume," which is a reference to Occupy Wall Street. I admit I was unaware that there was an "Occupy costume." Were those people doing the occupying wearing costumes? Anyway, from the Times:
Over a haunting rendition of a child singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" (lest there be any doubt about his national themes), Nolan offers us a peek at his haves-and-have-nots preoccupation when he has Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle whisper in the ear of Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne a message from the 99%.

“You think this can last?" she says. "There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. And you and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”
The Times (which is preparing to hide its material behind a paywall) has apparently been able to discern that Christopher Nolan has a "haves-and-have-nots preoccupation," based on this two minute trailer, and the Selina Kyle character is Mr. Nolan's Mary Sue.

And the "Star Spangled Banner," that irritating ode to war -- its use in the trailer is an alert that Mr. Nolan is making a grand political statement about the state of our nation. Then again, because the "Star Spangled Banner" is an irritating ode to war, he might be using it to set up some kind of violent action scene. Without having seen the actual film itself, I can't say. I don't have the same insight into Mr. Nolan's mind that the Times seems to have.

The Wrap has a bit of a roundup of more trailer reactions:
In particular, Catwoman’s (Anne Hathaway) warning to Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale)... struck some as evidence of distinct Occupy undertones.

“Even if Nolan decided against filming at Zuccotti Park, it seems he may in fact depict Batman as the 1 percent,” Slate's David Haglund wrote.

Asked Entertainment Weekly's Jeff Jensen : "Team Nolan has made it clear that 'The Dark Knight Rises' won't be going gently into the good night of franchise retirement-rebootment. But are you intrigued or alienated by the prospect of a potentially politically charged superhero epic, one that arrives July 20 -- about a month ahead of the Republican and Democratic national conventions?"

Mr. Nolan's previous Batman film, "The Dark Knight," was seen by some commentators as a "War on Terror" allegory:
In 2008, Nolan’s blockbuster and unqualified masterpiece, ”The Dark Knight,” was openly embraced by conservatives who saw the film as a thinly veiled, intelligent, and very welcome allegory sympathetic towards America’s and George W. Bush’s role in the War on Terror.
This of course was not how I saw it. In fact, I saw it as exactly the opposite-- a repudiation of Mr. Bush's -- and the US government's -- role in the "War on Terror."
Toward the end of “The Dark Knight,” it’s revealed that Batman/Bruce Wayne has been working on a secret project that basically turns everyone’s cell phone into sonar images. He can spy on everyone in Gotham City. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but it’s both ultra cool and scary as hell. Batman realizes that one person shouldn’t have this power- he rationalizes using it because he needs to track the Joker, who is undeniably worse than Batman.

This same Batman who, in “Batman Begins,” brought down the entire League of Shadows to save the life of one murderer doesn’t trust himself to only use the spying device once. That’s why he gives Lucius Fox, the head of Wayne Enterprises’ Applied Science Division, the power to destroy it at any time. And he does just that, once Batman has found Joker.

There are a few decent people in the government, but even those decent people can be corrupted, as happened to poor Harvey Dent. A recurring theme throughout the film is that Commissioner Gordon doesn’t know who on the police force he can trust.
Unlike Lucius Fox, the former Constitutional law lecturer, Nobel peace prize winner, and current president of the United States Barack Obama has not destroyed the machinery that Mr. Bush erected in his "War on Terror." In fact, he has done just the opposite, starting more wars, killing thousands of people in Pakistan, and claiming new (super) powers for himself -- including the power to assassinate American citizens without trial.

The repudiation of the government's assumed powers in its "War on Terror" was magnified by the scene in which the convicts throw away the detonator that would have allowed them to blow up the other ferry, therefore saving their own lives (sorry -- um, spoiler alert!). The citizens have the power to handle the situation on their own, making a deeply moral and righteous decision, even if it means risking death. This optimism about humanity is clearly not shared by the political class -- those who make the laws under which they prosecute their "War on Terror." That's why the government considers anyone who travels to be a suspicious character who must be frisked and/or x-rayed before getting on an airplane. Not even gun-shaped purse designs are safe from their purview.

So, it is my contention that "The Dark Knight" was expressing a sentiment that was in fact totally opposed to the official government "War on Terror" line. Obviously, some people didn't see it that way. But art is open to interpretation, so I'm not going to say that my interpretation is the only one, or even the best one, even though clearly my interpretation is both the only and the best one. And I'm certainly not going to speculate about the politics of an upcoming work of art based on a two minute advertisement.

Besides, the whole "Occupy costume" thing isn't even the biggest controversy awaiting this film. The movie might actually have a bit of a Bane problem.
...Warner Bros. is running into an unexpected problem, one which is causing some handwringing among executives and others who are working on the movie.

Some audience members are grumbling that they can’t understand what Bane, the main villain in the final installment of the Christopher Nolan-helmed trilogy, is saying. Bane is a bad guy whose super-strength comes from a drug that he continuously inhales. In the prologue, the character, played by British actor Tom Hardy, is seen with a mask that covers his nose and mouth; his speech is garbled and muffled.
Sources close to the movie say Warner Bros. is very aware of the sound issue. One source working on the film says he is “scared to death” about “the Bane problem.”
I for one think that a villain who is slightly unintelligible is even more menacing than one whose thoughts and plans are articulated with crystal clarity. How many times have you found yourself in a situation in which you're speaking to someone you can't completely hear or understand, and you've wanted to ask them to repeat themselves, but you've been afraid to because you felt awkward, or you didn't want to offend the other person?

Now imagine the person you can't quite understand has super strength and could break your back if he wanted to. You wanna ask him to repeat himself? Or are you just gonna nod your head to whatever it was he just said, and hope that he didn't say something like, "Do you mind if I break your back now? Just nod your head if you don't mind."

That is genuinely scary.

Or, perhaps Mr. Nolan is making a political statement with Bane's alleged unintelligibility? Something about misunderstanding the root causes of the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement? Or something?

I won't speculate until I actually see the movie. I'm not the LA Times.

1 comment:

A.Jaye said...

I've always hated the exploitation of children no less than in the arts. An attempt to provoke response by having a child sing a 'haunted rendition' of a national/nationalistic anthem is cheap heat.

Christopher Nolan's Batman is PG for commercial reasons. I can only assume Nolan would not have recieved such a budget had the Batman been rated R. Yet as a comic connoissuer you know the Batman to be a R-rated hero viz theme, mood and Frank Miller. If Nolan is looking to imbue his Dark Knight with contemporary political hot buttons he will fail by definition. George Orwell called Animal Farm a children's fable in order to get it published. Nolan's advertisment of his agitprop defeats its own purpose. The wretched actress Anne Hathaway, Christian Bale and the auter himself are all part of the 1%. Celebrities sell the corporations whilst panhandling to the gullible masses.

The Dark Knight Rises will probably be great entertainment and perhaps good storytelling. It wont be art. It will be infantile cinema at best. It has to - in order to appeal to the 99%. In which case it will resemble great sex and/or great food; memorable on a sensory level.

I'm being presumptous of course - because I can see right through that trailer. Unlike the LA Times.