Positive Cynicism – Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies are supposed to be realistic?

Aaron Davis

Aaron R. Davis

I’ve seen more than one debate in the last couple of days on more than one geek website where people are attempting to deconstruct the idea that Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are realistic movies. I didn’t ever realize they were supposed to be realistic … I mean, sure, they have a superficial edge of realism that is part of Nolan’s style (none of his movies are realistic, but he approaches them as if they were), but do there need to be entire articles describing the myriad ways in which a movie where a guy dresses as a bat and rides a tank across rooftops are fantasies?

You know me, I have problems with Batman, anyway. I think too many fans are invested in the idea that Batman is special because he doesn’t have any powers, while ignoring the fact that over the past 20 years DC Comics has basically turned him into a Jedi with a limitless supply of wealth and free time. Sorry, but that old “could Batman beat Superman” saw is a litmus test for me. Could Batman beat Superman? If your answer is a long, rambling “Well, with time to prepare for the fight and blah blah going on forever” and not just “No, because the fight ends in one second when Superman punches Batman into the sun,” I’m going to get tired of talking about comics with you.

And you know I have problems with Christopher Nolan’s movies, too. I was never able to like The Dark Knight, and I’ve talked about it on many occasions. And that’s actually part of my annoyance with the people who are talking about how the Bat-movies aren’t realistic, because they’re picking apart inconsistencies in film editing (simple human error) or problems with the logic of, again, a guy dressed as a bat driving around the streets in a tank. They’re not talking about the massive narrative leaps in The Dark Knight.

“Do I look like a man with a plan? Even though the first time you ever see me in the movie I’m clearly following an intricately-designed and perfectly-timed blueprint to get away clear with my bank robbery? I’m an agent of chaos! Except for everything you actually see me do on screen! No, really, it was a complete coincidence that they took Harvey Dent down that one direction on Lower Wacker Drive that I needed them to go for all of my intense non-planning to work!”

Ugh, I get going with this movie and it’s the tip of the iceberg. Seriously, Lucius has an ethical problem with Batman’s big surveillance sonar, but he was fine doing it in Hong Kong? And ultimately, what was the frigging point of the whole Hong Kong thing? What was the point of the scene with the Scarecrow? There are about 40 superfluous minutes you could cut out of this flick, and it would be the exact same movie. Batman is too much of a good guy to kill the Joker, but not so much of a good guy that he’s fine killing Two-Face because he’s protecting an ideal or some such bullshit? Why would Commissioner Gordon even want to go through with Batman’s ridiculous “sacrifice” to preserve Harvey Dent’s honor when Harvey Dent was seconds away from shooting Gordon’s son in the face? And how is Harvey Dent angry at the system over Rachel’s death instead of the Joker? Seriously? It’s not the Joker’s fault, it’s everyone else’s fault for failing to stop the Joker from doing it?

Okay, okay. Yeah, I was hugely disappointed in that movie. I watched it a few times on HBO because, honestly, I really felt like I was missing something that made it all work for so many people, but it just made me hate it more and more. I came to dislike it so much that it actually retroactively ruined Batman Begins for me, because more narrative inconsistencies started popping out at me. I mean, Bruce won’t kill anyone, and the way he stops himself from killing someone is to burn down a building with the entire League of Shadows inside of it, thus killing them? That’s a weird moral stance to take … especially when it just boils down to the supposedly crowd-pleasing moment of Batman’s flip “I’m not going to kill you, but I don’t have to save you,” which really should have been “I have a moral code against killing, but I’m still going to make sure you die somehow,” which really isn’t a moral code …

Maybe in The Dark Knight Rises they’ll just go full bore on the hypocrisy and explain how the only way to protect law and order is for the super-rich to ignore the confines of law and order and take justice into their own hands, because only they know what’s best for people, and holy shit this is sounding more and more like Ayn Rand’s Batman to me …

But, yeah, those editing inconsistencies really ruin the realism of those movies.

Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at samuraifrog@yahoo.com

  1. James February 15, 2012
  2. Carlos Nicolini July 19, 2012
  3. Mai Eego August 29, 2012

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