‘The Dark Knight Rises’

As you begin watching this last installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, you have to wonder why anyone would want to live in Gotham. Eight years have passed since the events of the 2008 “The Dark Knight” and Bruce Wayne has become a crippled recluse and Batman has disappeared.

Gotham is a city that was under the crime boss Carmine Falcone in the 2005 “Batman Begins” and then targeted by the League of Shadows under Ra’s al Ghul. You have to wonder why Japanese ninjas are in a Bhutanese prison (geography note: Bhutan is a landlocked country in South Asia bordered by China and India) and why they care at all about a large city in another country. Why not liberate communist China, North Korea or other Asian countries? Is this like Americans’ preference to save the pandas over saving their own endangered species?

Gotham is also plagued by chemical warfare nightmares that transform Dr. Jonathan Crane into the Scarecrow.

In “The Dark Knight,” the mob is still a problem, but the mob is having problems with their Chinese accountant because American mobsters skip all the surrounding towns, cities and states and jump right over to Hong Kong.

Gotham has a new villain–the Joker. In Heath Ledger’s characterization, this is a real mad man who enjoys a good scare–meaning giving and not getting. After the ferry bombing threat, where two ferries were going to explode, you wonder if anyone still wants to use  a ferry in that city. Perhaps the eight years makes it easy for people to forget, but wouldn’t you want to move to a city that only has the kind of certifiable crazies who aren’t looking for anything less than world domination?

In “The Dark Knight Rises,” we learn that Gotham City has been living a lie under the Dent Act. The people believe that Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) who died in “The Dark Knight” was a crusading do-gooder instead of a revenge-driven villain Two-Face who threatened to kill James Gordon’s son based on the flip of a coin. To preserve that image, Batman becomes the fall guy.

Batman is sulking in the dark shadows as is Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) who has become a recluse. At a fundraiser held at his mansion, two women seek out Bruce Wayne, but only one is successful in finding him. Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a clean energy advocate, had received a sizable investment from Wayne Enterprises, but this had resulted in a financial loss. Wayne Enterprises has largely been neglected in the last eight years.

A sexy servant takes up a meal to Bruce Wayne, but she turns out to be a cat burglar, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who has been hired to get Wayne’s fingerprints, but also gets a little something for herself–the pearl necklace that belonged to Wayne’s mother. The pearls have a GPS tracking system attached–something we are asked to accept although it’s not clear exactly where that device would be attached.

Selina gives the fingerprints to Bane (Tom Hardy) and Bane is working with Bruce Wayne’s business rival John Daggett temporarily. Suspecting that his business is under threat, Bruce trusts Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) with information about the fusion power project. The project could be used for evil–being transformed into a nuclear weapon.

Encouraged by a police officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman), Bruce Wayne re-emerges as Batman despite Alfred Pennyworth’s threat to leave. Luckily, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) has been keeping the Bat toys under development because as president of Wayne Enterprises, he can keep certain funds and projects hidden from the rest of the board. Is that a shady practice or what?

In his first confrontation with Bane, Batman learns that Bane now leads the League of Shadows following Ra’s Al Ghul’s death and the league intends to take over Gotham City. Bane beats Batman and transports him to a foreign prison because there aren’t enough prisons in the United States and Bane hasn’t had time to build up a mysterious fortress while working on his underground hide-away. Just on the topic location, location, location I know to Americans the Middle East just radiates foreign menace, but wouldn’t the Arctic wasteland in Northern Canada be a bit closer?  I do understand that Ra’s al Ghul is a part of the Marvel tradition but he only dates back to 1971 though thoroughly entrenched in a pulp fiction tradition of the mysterious Orient.

As a history refresher, in April of 1970, Israeli Air Force fighter bombers killed 47 Egyptian school children (Bahr el-Baqar primary school bombing).  The year 1970 was also when there was an Arab League summit in Cairo, Egypt in September. Iraq, Syria, Algeria and Morocco boycotted that one. By the end of the year, Anwar Sadat became Egypt’s president. The big threat from the Middle East was the 1973 oil crisis resulting from actions by the Arab Oil Embargo of OAPEC and later the 1979 energy crisis resulting from the Iranian Revolution in the predominately Persian Iran which included the U.S. hostage crisis (1979-1981).

But let’s get back to the Batcave and Nolan’s movie. With Batman out of the way, Bane outmaneuvers Gotham’s police force, leaving Blake and Gordon working topside to free the police force that is imprisoned underground. Gotham has become an isolated city-state from which no one can leave or enter and mob rule has reduced to city to a horrific mess with a kangaroo court presided over by Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy).

Of course, Batman will be back and somehow Bane will be defeated and the bomb will be detonated in time to save the city. Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) will be back and there will be some type of happy ending.

My scientist confidante tells me that:

The fusion reactors I am familiar with (toroidal, bottles, and laser) cannot have a “meltdown” or a run away nuclear reaction like the current fission power plants.  If they did blow up like an H-bomb the fall out would be small (relative to an A-bomb) as most of the radioactive material would be heavy hydrogen which has a half life of about 12 years and is a beta decay which is easier to shield than a gamma decay.

 Most of the fallout from an H-Bomb is from the fissionable material used to ignite the nuclear fusion.  I would image that a sustainable fusion power source would not use nuclear fission to start or maintain the process.

So much for the science in big budget movies, but the real question is what did you think of “The Bat.”

This movie delivers plenty of action–noisy explosions, hand to hand combat and a few villainous surprises–and yet manages to give us a romance and a Catwoman whose costume could almost be practical if it weren’t for the heels. Someone explain to me just why she has a loser roomie when she has such high tech goggles and a get-up like that? Is this Nolan’s version of “Pretty Woman” comic book style?

I’d also question that legend of the offspring of Ra’s al Ghul climbing up that circular exit to the underground prison. Looking at the walls, it looks like there should be more than one way and even an easier way to get out than one that requires a frantic great leap. Really, the only logical way an adolescent–say a 10-12-year-old child–could get out and not hulking muscular men is that adults cannot for two reasons. One, the adult is too heavy. Two, the ledges are too narrow for the adult foot. That means, strength has little to do with the ability to climb and escape.

As a fan of the camp of the TV series, I wish there was a bit more humor in this Batman because there’s much too much gloom and doom for me to want to live in Gotham, even if the mayor is that hot looking Anthony Garcia (Nestor Carbonell).

Still, despite the excessive violence, lapses of logic, the movie is strangely satisfying. With the Batman trilogy over, maybe Nolan can go on to something more intellectually twisted with the sort of Escher-like logic like the 2010  “Inception” or the 2006 “The Prestige.”

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