Batman – The Dark Knight Rises Christopher Nolan (USA 2012) Christian Bale; Anne Hathaway; Tom Hardy Viewed: Tyneside Cinema 03 08 2012 Ticket: £7.00
James Holmes is kinda hot – chelseah’s twitter
Pun in the sub title of the movie: the Dark Night Rises. As knight closes in on the American Empire only a purging apocalyptic violence remains.
What does the audience see when they view the movie?
Better to begin with the film as affect rather than a stream of thoughts that link the movie to the world and the social relations out of which and from which it is projected – both in itself and in its associated epiphenomena of death, represented most immediately by the murders committed by James Holmes (JH).
The genesis of Christopher Nolan’s (CN) look and style in Batman are the DC comic books fused with the imagery of the computer game. The movie replicates the characteristics of the comic; nothing happens beneath the surfaces. Everything that happens takes place on the surface of the screen: its sets locations and computer generated graphics. We read the movie in images, pictograms to follow what is happening. Likewise nothing is left unsaid: what you get in the speech bubble is all that is said. Everything can be taken at face value. Batman then has a mythic quality in this respect in that the issue of meaning is not intrinsic but rather extrinsic and belongs in the realm of cultural responses.
Neither in structure nor camerawork nor CGI is there anything of filmic interest, CN defaults to Hollywood’s tried and tested methods culminating in a cross cut finale. Interest devolves onto the internalised specific details of production and what these signify.
The character of Batman himself is central to the film. It seemed to me that Batman is no longer an alter ego of Bruce Wayne. The Wayne/Batman two hander is not just a simple character switch using tights a mask and a cape. In the movies depiction of Batman, Bruce Wayne is a cripple. A figure rendered powerless and impotent by his evident handicap. Of course he is smart but this makes his crippled state the more frustrating as his body can no longer impose his will on situations.
The Batman costume has become more than a disguise. It is no longer a tight fitting suit made of a yielding material that follows the contour of body. It has evolved into an exoskeleton, a responsive total body prosthesis enabling Batman to justify himself. The Batman exoskeleton enables his body to impose his will on his enemies. To this extent it has the same quality as the gun, say the gun used by James Holmes, which in US society has become a prosthetic extension of the body. The prosthetic extension of choice for the child that needs to impose the dictates of his frustrated will upon an indifferent world.
Likewise the machines used by Batman and Catwoman are not actually machines. They too are prostheses. Fantasial creations stemming out of the fusion of comic and game. These devices are objects that are without traditional operational considerations capacities or limitations. They are devices that are responsive extensions of body and mind, seamlessly interfacing human desire and action through the medium of speed. In the age of the drone it is almost as if the power speed and intensity of these machines enables them to accelerate through reflective ethical considerations and to present the spectacle of the destruction they have caused as a logic in itself that is right . Right because it is too late to argue, and there never was time anyway. Military drones the Batmobile the Batbike exist as prostheses to create situations that are by the immediacy of their nature irreversible. The magical moment when the speed of the missile or the machine or the bullet changes everything. The gunman looks down at the dead bodies in the cinema knows that he has done this and things can never be as they were before. And this too is rightful.
A culture, not just American but world wide, in which there seem to be changes to the psychic processes structuring the way we think. Increasingly action is an ideal that bypasses thought. Action an outcome driven by and governed by internally projected images drawn from the collective resource bank of computer games and movies and given efficacy by speed. Acton precipitated by the rage of the child processed in an adult body unable to escape its deeply internalised infantile needs. Immediate gratification of desire; intolerance of frustration. A culture that encourages fosters and exploits these needs as part of our consumer culture. What we pursue is no longer the collective dream but our own personal nightmares.
Progress adjusted to the profit motif finally seemed to have come down to the irruption of a host of machine toys for adults who could with their aid, do what they had been forbidden to do as children. (Paul Virilio – Ground Zero)
As the child has overtaken the adult so the image has overtaken the process of thought. Cut off from any real collective life we revert to a stream of consciousness in which a fantasy life of images is superimposed on our own internalised states of mind. We transform ourselves into the superstar of our own action movie. And since the Hollywood action movie (imitated of course in cinema around the world) specialises in the cathartic playing out of individual redemption by violent murderous closure, then this too is the scenario of choice for numbers of battered bruised psyches, who experience impotence and powerless opposition to the perceived controlling forces that deny them.
James Holmes another way of being in the movie.
One feature of the Batman plot is that it is ultimately meaningless. Well almost. The group who take over NYC do so without any overt purpose. There is no purpose to these people only state. We are to understand that they are evil. It is difficult to understand what is happening as anything else other than meaningless destruction for the sake of it. Sense you cannot make of it; all you can accept is the outcome: the destruction of the city as providing its own justification. Right at the end of the film we are given an explanation by the ‘uncovered’ antagonist. All this destruction, and the final detonation of the atomic bomb in the middle of the city is revenge upon you and the way you treated me and continued to enjoy your rich consumer lives as I watched on in fury – but now my revenge is your destruction. This of course to some extent, in personalised parenthesis is a slight echo of a jihadist statement. But more to the point it is the revenge of the child. Mass destruction no longer a function of personal gain, ideology, religion, war, competition but of individual will. The spectacle of destruction is consequent to the rage of the child inside the body of an adult that finds its expression in the speed of imposed death.
CN’s Batman is characterised by the brutal periodic irruption of meaningless violence throughout his scenario. Meaningless in that the extreme violence is the mechanism for moving action along. But then into the cinema during the film steps James Holmes to perpetrate an action, to overlay the film with another act of violence; meaningful to him but meaningless to the audience who at first simply assumed he was part of the movie. And in a sense Holmes was part of the movie. He’s part of the movie released into the theatre by the same forces that create Batman as an archetypal cultural product. Enabled by gun weaponry prostheses to act out his own personal movie on the biggest screen in the world inside his own head; the child man bearing the fruit of his own frustrated desires. Be that the whole world is destroyed, I am vindicated.
In the penultimate scene of the movie the camera looks over the destroyed infrstructure of Manhatton. The bridges blown away, huge areas reduced to rubble. A message does ring out: this is what happens when America lowers her guard and puts down her guns…..but the message seems to have overlooked the fact that the terror is now within the grain of America itself and it has sown the individual seeds of its own destruction. adrin neatrour firstname.lastname@example.org