Wednesday, October 24, 2012

And We Are Merely But Players

Acting is a trippy thing. It's the chance to be someone else. To feel their pain, their sorrow, to love their women, to laugh at their jokes. Also it's a chance to bring to life another person. To their dreams, to their fears. To me, that's always been the allure.

It's also hard as hell. Talented actors can do it easily. Amateur shmucks like myself find their own voice doing the reasoning some of the times and that is wrong. It's like having a conversation through a translator. The words have to first go through your own head, and then you translate it into what the character says and how the character would say it. Or rather, how you think the character would say it. Real actors know the language.

As complex as that is, it gets so much easier when you have good co-actors. Nothing makes this process better than having a talented player to play off of. Use their emotions and react. And then it becomes a friendly game of table tennis (at least, when it works). There's nothing like it, that synergy.

To see it all come together is a different experience when you do it from the other side of the audience. I had my first crack at it last term during Kuhla Asman (MICA's in house theater event) in a quirky little play called "Melange" (which, before you ask, was about the strangeness of romantic relationships).

I learned the sheer nervousness before the act. I got jitters when I looked out at the audience. I wondered if we could pull it off. I wondered if they'd understand or would we be greeted with raised eyebrows. I started forgetting my lines.

And then there is this moment, this magical moment, when you know that they are getting it. They are receptive. Suddenly they laugh at a part you didn't expect them to. And it's adrenaline. Suddenly you don't want it to end, you want to carry on all night. It's a brilliant high.

I've been bitten by the acting bug again. One of the best parts of putting on a production is the rehearsals  You'll rarely laugh harder. The whole thing, when done for love of the art and for putting on a show, is a fantastic experience. I can't wait for Khula Asman 2 to start.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Bruce Wayne Character Arc; And Why The Dark Knight Rises is Such a Great Film- Part 3

Well, its about time I sat down to write this.

If you are interested, I have covered the Bruce Wayne character arc (as I see it, of course) in part 1 and part 2. This article will look at his character arc from Rises and why I think the film is so great.

I grew up a Batman fan. And that was it. I never delved into comic books or, other cartoon series, or any of that, I found them too farfetched. I grew up on the original 1992 animated series, one of the most brilliant representations of Batman out there. And after a slew of horrible Tim Burton renditions, along came my hero Christopher Nolan who created The Dark Knight Trilogy, for which I am forever grateful to him. Batman is one of the greatest characters of all time, as are some his enemies. This series is by far the most brilliant realization of the story. Artistic, crisp, fantastic and yet very believable, it is a series that has, at least for me, changed action movies. This is how Batman should have been represented- dark, heroic, human.

So why is The Dark Knight Rises (hence forth to be referred to as Rises for short) such a great movie? Several reasons, the most important of which is the completion of the Bruce Wayne character arc in such style. The second is the boldness to step out of one’s comfort zone, and by this I mean the comfort zone that Nolan has created with the previous two movies. This zone is the reassuring thought that “Yes, this could actually happen,” which is one of the main USPs of the series. The fall of Gotham into anarchy has been covered in the comics. But to show the fall of a modern American city, the modern American city, is a ballsy thing to do- and Nolan pulled it off. If Gotham were to fall, it would take a villain like Bane and The League Of Shadows. Even then, this is the trippiest movie I’ve seen of the series.

Everything fits perfectly, everything is thought out, and everything is ended perfectly. Everything comes full circle, right from Begins through TDK till the end of Rises.

Eight years after the events of TDK, the Dent Act is enforced which has effectively cleaned up organized crime in Gotham. It seems Batman is victorious. Gordon still feels a great guilt at burying the truth, and almost reveals it in a speech he had written. Bruce Wayne, on the other hand is a recluse. Batman disappeared after that fateful night when he took the fall for Dent’s murders. Bruce Wayne went into hiding himself, refusing to come out of his fortress and cutting himself off from the world. Bruce was a broken man, physically and emotionally. The scars of that final battle are visible. He walks with a cane now. More than that, he can no longer face the world because his one chance at a normal life is gone. He couldn’t love again after Rachel’s death. Especially when he believed that it was his fault she died, and that she was waiting for him. In spite of all the good he had tried to inspire, all he knew in his life was pain and loss. And he felt the guilt of it all. First his parents, then countless innocents, then Rachel. Alfred knew there was nothing but pain and loss for Bruce in Gotham. But Bruce came back because he was driven by higher ideals. Alfred also hid the truth about Rachel’s final decision from Bruce. Bruce lived the last eight years believing that they were going to be together, he carried that weight every second of every day for eight years and as it bore down upon him it became a part of his existence. And the worst part for him is that he had nowhere to lose himself, nothing to distract himself with. His alter ego was an outcast. Gotham no longer needed Batman, they even wanted him arrested. With nothing else to turn to, Bruce withdrew completely.

True, he tried to do his best in his capacity as Bruce Wayne, billionaire industrialist. He tried to start a clean energy project but recognized the potential danger and put the project on hold. This caused Wayne Enterprise revenues and profits to plummet, and subsequently hampered the aid to his various philanthropic outlets. Other than that he probably tried to keep his mind occupied the best he could. I don’t know what physical therapy he might have been up to, but he seemed to have taken a shine to archery.

All the while, evil is rising again. The League Of Shadows is returning to Gotham to finish what they had begun. And they are led by Batman’s greatest physical match. It is fitting that Batman’s final test would be against the brotherhood that made him in the first place. Batman would be needed again. And he is sought by an officer, John Blake. I don’t know how, but Blake figured out that Bruce Wayne was indeed Batman. It took someone who had been through almost similar circumstances as a child, but in spite of being orphaned and having no money to his name, Blake remained a good soul. I don’t know how long it took him to finally be convinced of Batman’s identity. I’m not sure if he just jumped the gun finally and went to Bruce’s house and sprang this accusation on him, waiting to see his reaction. In any case, he jarred Bruce into action with what he had to say. Fitting that it had to come from another orphan.

And we now turn our attention to two new women in Bruce’s life.

One is a resourceful, clever girl who plies her trade as a master thief and goes by the name Selina Kyle. Bruce’s first meeting with her was a memorable one. She is highly trained in martial arts and knows how to handle herself. Bruce is intrigued, to put it lightly. But he doesn’t know how bad she is for him. Bruce finds out she is part of something huge, but her main motive is clearing her records. He thinks it is so that she can start over clean. She’s tired of doing what she does, and she wants out, but people who want to use her talents won’t let her. But she is essentially good, even if she has done bad things. Her guilt is very evident at two points: when she turns Batman over to Bane, and when Bruce returns to Gotham from his prison. This is not the characteristic trait of a psychopath.

The other is the very beautiful and rich environmentalist, Miranda Tate. She has been trying to get on board with Wayne Enterprises regarding a clean energy project. She comes off as a dutiful and concerned citizen, not wont to sit by idle while the world wastes itself. Much akin to Bruce himself. But it’s all just a mask, for she really is Talia al Ghul, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter come to take revenge. She is the actual leader behind everything going on at Gotham. She needed to get on the board of Wayne Enterprises to get access to the nuclear device, nothing more. But her role goes deeper than that. She was another lynch pin in the plan to break Batman. Although her character was not given as much attention, her role was a solid one.
Both women are an equal to Bruce Wayne in different ways.

Alfred fears for Bruce’s life. Bruce is older now, and not quite at his peak of physical strength, and he expects to go up against Bane, whom Alfred points out is more than a match for this much older, more tired Bruce. But Bruce is adamant; he says he will fight harder, that his body can take it. But Alfred is afraid that Bruce is going on a suicide mission. “No, I’m afraid that you’d want to (fail),” is what he tells him. He knows Bruce never got past Rachel’s death, and that he had nowhere to turn to what with Batman not needed anymore. On Batman’s return, Alfred points out that Bruce was very much off his game. He believes that Bruce donning the mask again is an excuse for him to get himself killed in the line of duty and end his misery. Alfred pleads with Bruce to stop, to see there is something beyond that cave, that there is a life out there for him. But Bruce has believed for eight years that his last chance of a life outside of the cave died with Rachel. And this is when Alfred breaks the truth to him, even though he knows he will lose Bruce for good. He tells Bruce that Rachel was not waiting for him, that she chose Harvey, and he tells him why he hid that information. Betrayed, Bruce tells Alfred to leave. Alfred wishes to leave anyway, because after raising him and being a part of his war on crime, after all those years, he cannot watch Bruce set himself up to be killed. But what about the last eight years of Bruce’s life? It was all based on a lie. It was one of the worst blows he’d ever received. His faith was broken.

Then came the brush with Bane that left Bruce virtually bankrupt. This was, at least in part, due to Selina. This was part of the plan to allow Miranda Tate to join the board of Wayne Enterprises. It also left Bruce very much humbled and susceptible to the next stage of their plan.

And it was one of the most far reaching plans anyone could have concocted. Because Bane was coming not only to finish the League’s work and destroy Gotham, but also one very important, personal job: to break Gotham’s protector- physically and otherwise. The main theme of Rises is HOPE and ASCENSION. And it was hope that kept Bruce going at the end of Begins, hope that was taken from him at the end of TDK. Bruce was already broken, so how then does Talia exact revenge on him? Talia’s prison was the inspiration. As Bane pointed out, Bruce welcomed death. Now, that would hardly serve their purpose. For betraying the League, Bruce’s punishment must be more severe. The first stage was the League’s plan of obtaining the weapons stored in Wayne Enterprises and laying siege to Gotham. They declared martial law, and claimed to be liberators of the people (what Selina thought she was fighting for). And thus the oppressed brought down the greedy and the city fell to ruin. But this was not the point. Back in Bane’s prison, Bane explains to Bruce how it is the worst prison in the world. Freedom is there, just outside of the well that looks down into the bowels of the prison. An inmate need just make the impossible climb and leap across the wall of the well. But the HOPE is always there. “There can be no true despair without hope.” And this is what Bane aimed to give the people of Gotham. The people were given this glimmer of hope, and were meant to “climb over each other to try and get their place in the sun.” When they had been tortured thus sufficiently, Bane had a nuclear bomb ready, once again taken from Wayne Enterprises, to level the city and complete their true task.

Bane does break Batman. The physical job was done. Not only that, but he took the instruments of Gotham’s doom right from Bruce’s company. But the job of breaking Bruce had begun a long time ago. This was Miranda Tate’s role, to give Bruce Wayne hope in his life. She came to him at his most vulnerable moment- he had just been bankrupt, and now he was locked outside of his own house, stuck in the rain. It was at this moment that she came to him and gave him love and comfort. She played the womanly charm bit to the hilt. Her purpose as Miranda Tate was to give Bruce hope before they took it away. A hope that he could share a normal life with someone, that he could love again. The next part was to break the other side of Bruce, the Batman, and take hope away from him. This was to be achieved in the prison. As Batman lay, back broken, he begged for death. Bane declined, saying he welcomed death and his punishment must be more severe. Bruce would be kept alive, and would watch on through a television set as Bane gave the people of Gotham hope that they could rise above the decadence in their lives, and then wipe them out. All the while Bruce would know that his freedom lay just outside the well, if only he could somehow escape. Bane went back to Gotham and exposed the lie that Gordon had purported and put his plan into action. Bruce was so distraught that in a hallucination he saw Ra’s taunt him, saying that even with all his resources all he could achieve was a lie. And when Bane’s plan was complete, and Bruce’s failure would have been complete, then only would Bane have killed him.

Bruce had forgotten how Batman came to be. He had lost his fear, but then he lost all the care that came with that. The one who fears death fights harder. Since Bruce welcomed death, he could not fight his hardest because it didn’t matter to him if he fell or not. It was in that cell that he was reminded of the power of fear. His spine was popped back into place and he began to rebuild his body. Fear remained forgotten, and anger took its place. But pure, unfocussed rage was not going to help him. Bruce created Batman as an embodiment of fear, to take the fear that powerful people use to prey on the innocent and turn it back against them. Somewhere, he forgot this. It was the doctor who reminded him. He told him the only way to make the jump is to instil fear inside himself, and use that fear for his own survival, and only then could he save his city. Make the jump without the rope, he said. And in one of the best scenes in the entire film, Bruce ascends the wall amid chants of “rise” from the inmates who watched on. As the music slowly rises to a crescendo, bats fly out of a hole in the wall, reminiscent of his very first fear and the symbol he chose to adopt. It was one of the most beautiful, poignant, and poetic moments in the film. Fear was not a bad thing, fear would help him defeat his enemy. And then of course, he makes the jump and escapes. The Dark Knight had risen, literally and figuratively.

Back in Gotham, he enlists the help of Selina Kyle to get to Lucius Fox who could help him get access to the tools he needed. It seemed even after being betrayed by Selina, he still needed her help. I think he trusted her because he believed in her. Like himself, she wanted out of this life. She wanted to start over fresh. Then Batman led the police to war against Bane and his militia. Batman defeats Bane hand to hand. Bane is shocked. How could he return when he had broken him? At the last moment he is betrayed by Talia. Left to die at the hands of Bane, Batman is rescued by Selina, in whom he had placed a large amount of faith. She was going to leave to save her own skin, now that her record was clean, but she came back. In spite of her telling Bruce he had given these people everything and he doesn’t owe them at all, perhaps she was touched by his words: “Not everything. Not yet.”

And at the very end, with little time left on the bomb, they only way to save Gotham is to use the Bat to carry the bomb out over the bay. He could have gone anywhere, pointed out Selina, but he chose to come back. As a parting shot, he revealed to Jim Gordon his true identity. The Batman gave almost everything to Gotham, more than just his body. But he had not yet given them everything. And his sacrifice would be his last gift as Batman to Gotham City. The lasting legacy of a selfless hero; an embodiment of fear but a force of good.Magnificent.Shining.A beacon of truth; an inspiration.Someone to look up to, to serve as a shining reminder that people are capable of good. At that moment we are led to believe the auto-pilot doesn’t work. Batman flies the Bat out to sea and the bomb detonates.

With his name now cleared, Batman was hailed as a hero. A monument in his honor was constructed. Perhaps this great city would carry on. Its greatest threat seemed to have been overcome. Everyone who knew Batman’s identity thought Bruce Wayne was dead as well. A grave was constructed next to his parents. In his will, Bruce left everything to Alfred, and it was a just thing to do for the man who raised him and was his accomplice in his grand mission. Alfred is of course devastated because he failed to protect Bruce. Wayne Manor was left to the city to serve as a home for orphaned boys. But Bruce’s legacy did not end there. He left everything in place perfectly. In his very last act, he left a protector to look after Gotham even when he was gone. And with that, Bruce truly had given them everything.

The role of John Blake was that of a successor to Batman. Gotham would always need a watcher, a protector. Bruce chose Blake for this duty. It had to be someone like him, someone dedicated as he was. Blake’s character had an arc of his own. He went from the doubting Thomas to a believer that what’s necessary had to be done. He had to learn the hard way that what Gordon had said was true: that sometimes, the rules become shackles and they allow the bad guy to get away. Initially he condemned Gordon when he learned about how he hid the truth about Harvey Dent. But he was educated out there on that bridge when he was trying to get the kids off the island, but the cops on duty followed their orders to the letter and blew their last chance of escape. Even after this, he didn’t want the children to die without any hope. I can only assume he went through some rigorous training before he thought to put on the suit for real.

The people of Gotham City would be grateful, but they didn’t even know to whom, according to John Blake. He claimed it was unjust that Bruce died without anyone even knowing what he did. The people would never know who saved them. Gordon smiled reassuringly and said they do know who saved them. It was the Batman, and that was all they needed to know. Even Lucius Fox gets to rest easy in the end when he finds out that the autopilot was indeed fixed by Bruce himself. He knows now. And the audience is treated to the sight of a happy, content, and peaceful Bruce Wayne, starting a new life withSelina Kyle. He got everything he deserved in the end: peace and a pretty girl who is definitely his equal. And Alfred could be at peace too, no less than he deserved.

And it was in that last scene that one thing was made clear, one thing that Rachel was wrong about. Unlike in other versions of this story, Bruce was never consumed by Batman. He was always the man that he was underneath the suit. So Rachel was wrong, his mask was and always remained that of the Batman. The real face was always the man who wanted to avenge the innocents who fell at the hands of evil-doers. (It was a nice touch when Bruce went to the masquerade party that he was the only one not wearing a mask). It was the face of the man who at every step showed the utmost concern for those under his watch. It was the face of the only man in that city brave enough to be take the fall for the sake of his people. So the character arc here is that of Bruce Wayne, and never was of the Batman. They were never separate people. Bruce always wanted out at some point. Donning the mask was not something he did because it brought him a sense of power, he did it because someone had to. But he always had an ultimate goal, he always knew that one day he would want to step down and have a normal life. And he finally got that, without even the burden of having to be Bruce Wayne, the billionaire playboy, an act he’d had to put on for too long.

Another thing to note is the use of seasons throughout the films. I would like to assume Begins culminated in the spring, and was a new beginning for Gotham City and Bruce Wayne. TDK took place during the summer, and was full of vibrancy and urgency. Rises on the other hand begins in the autumn, just as the leaves are falling from the trees. It signals the beginning of an end. It symbolizes oldness, a turning from young to aged, a decaying. And then Gotham was covered in a terrible white winter. There is helplessness and death all around. When Gotham fell, it was cut off from all of the outside world. Any efforts to help from external sources was blocked by the threat of the nuclear bomb. The river is covered with ice and serves as a cruel means of punishment. And then the thaw comes again. I like to think that when Alfred saw Bruce in that café, it was a new spring, and a new beginning for all of them.

Nolan has taken a story that was told and retold a hundred times over and made a marvellous character piece. Everything falls into place, from the first film till the very last. And I for one am glad he chose to give his hero a happy ending. Each script was deep and carried so much weight. I am shocked that TDK didn’t get more recognition in the Oscars for its artistic prowess, and not just its technical brilliance. And Nolan does use technology to devastatingly amazing effect.

And the fall of Gotham was picturized magnificently. Exploding roads, collapsing bridges… it was mesmerising to watch. And the haunting vision of bodies hanging from high atop a suspension bridge will be burned in my memory forever. Bane truly was the greatest physical match Batman ever faced. And it was not only that, but everything Bane stood for. It was unnerving to see him snatch Batman out of the dark like he did. His voice, his mannerisms, his dialogs, and those burning eyes were all rolled so fantastically into one muscle-bound villain. To see Gotham descend into anarchy was a terrifying thing. Imagine if that were to happen to a real modern day financial hub like New York or Mumbai. But it was handled with such class. Which is not to say that this still isn’t the trippiest of the three films.

If I thank Nolan, I’d have to go on thanking everyone. Even those that I don’t know, those who were behind the scenes. It was everything from the writing to the cinematography to one of the greatest scores ever written that gave rise to this story of Bruce Wayne that touched millions. The wait for this movie was a nerve-wracking one. For me, it is one of the greatest moments in cinematic history. The Dark Knight Trilogy has come to an end. Bruce Wayne’s character arc is complete. Everything has come full circle. And now that Bruce can rest in peace, so can I.

The Bruce Wayne Character Arc; And Why The Dark Knight Rises is Such a Great Film- Part 2

Time passes. Gotham is overrun with crime. Every level of its infrastructure is cracking and filthy. Henri Ducard said as much. But there are still good people in Gotham. Bruce still has faith in that. Good people, like his parents, his guardians, his friends.

Batman is going after organized crime in Gotham in The Dark Knight. To weed out the evil who prey on the innocent. But he is also looking for someone to take up his mantle. Someone who would be able to stand up for justice without wearing a mask. And he thinks that he has found that person in the Gotham DA, Harvey Dent, who incidentally is in a serious relationship with Bruce’s once lover, Rachel. It takes a truly dedicated man to put that element in the background and focus on his ultimate goal, his task, his duty.

Enter a very strange man. The antithesis to Batman. I can’t talk about the next stage of Bruce’s character arc without talking about the Joker. Now I have a theory of my own about the scars, drawing from original stories, comics, and cartoons. The original Joker character was a man who had a really bad day, which ultimately ended with him falling into a vat of chemicals that turned his skin white and hair green. Here, what we have is a man who wears make-up. What I think happened is he was a man that took a lot of beatings in his life, lost faith in it all, even lost his mind partially. I think the stories he told about the scars were in part true. He probably did have a abusive father, and a loose wife. He took these psychological tortures until he could take no more. This would lend credence to his opening dialog, “I believe that whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stranger.” The things that didn’t kill him, that perhaps should have, only served to drive him slightly mad. But he had no way to express himself. He believed in his own mind that Gotham was beyond saving, that everyone in Gotham is selfish, rotten, and inherently corrupt. Rules are a mirage, because they did not work for him. Structures of society were nothing but shackles for him. I believe he tried to play by the rules and had to pay unjustly for it in his life. So what to do? Along comes another man in a cape and mask who jumps off rooftops.


That was exactly what this man needed. Something to be an exact counterpoint to. As the story unfolds, we see that all along the Joker was very interested in the Batman, and what he could do with him. He even directly blames Batman for what he’d become (“See, this is how crazy Batman’s made Gotham!”). So he sticks a blade in his mouth, gets some make-up, and then goes to work obtaining contacts, materials, and a nice suit to do his work. He had to be a pretty well connected person before donning the Joker avatar. He must have come from the underbelly of society. And thus he embarks on a mission to show Gotham what they truly are.

The theme of the movie is CHAOS. That is what the Joker wanted to bring. To take the so called “order” which this society runs on, which is a fabrication by “schemers with their little plans,” and pull the rug out from underneath it all. To show that once the walls of order come crumbling down, the people will eat each other.

Chaos is exactly what the Joker injects into Gotham. Who knows what his plans were, but he is obviously a very resourceful and clever man. He used an army of small time criminals to take down mob bosses. What did he promise them? My guess is Gotham on a silver platter.The promise of all the spoils once this community shows its true colors and succumbs to its true nature. It doesn’t matter. He knows whom to play against who. And he knows that Batman doesn’t kill, but it soon becomes obvious that Batman is the one he wants to play his game the most.

Now let’s back it up. Bruce has chosen Harvey as his successor. Harvey had the guts to lock up half of Gotham’s criminals without ever putting on a mask. And now he thinks he is closer to that day when Gotham no longer needs Batman, that day that Rachel spoke of at the end of Begins. That day when Bruce and Rachel could be together again. Bruce shares this thought with Rachel, who  feels confused. Obviously she still has strong feelings for Bruce, but it is different now. Bruce has become Batman, she has fallen in love with another good man… things have changed. But she is still not sure. When Harvey asks her to marry him, she is hesitant. Maybe she too still believes that she and Bruce and be together one day.

Now the Joker comes in and demands Batman reveal his true identity, and for every day he doesn’t, the Joker would kill someone. Bruce cannot take that blood on his hands. This is the point where he finds out the limit of the things he can take. He says that he will turn himself in, that Batman would be done. He tells Rachel that now they can be together, but Rachel tells him that once they take Bruce in, they will never let the two of them be together. But Harvey believes that in order for justice to be served, the people need to be strong and not give in to a madman’s demands. He unexpectedly poses as Batman. And as expected, he manages to fish the Joker out.

But the Joker is one step ahead. He has already set up his next game, the star of which is Batman. Killing is a choice, says Joker. A choice that Batman has to make. Here is where the intelligence of the Joker is made frighteningly clear. Batman is made to choose between saving two people- his successor, Harvey, or Rachel whom he must have realized was of some significance to whoever Batman is (and it makes me wonder if he guessed Batman’s identity). Joker knows that Batman can definitely save one- but only one. And by choosing, he kills the other one. We know what happens next. Rachel is killed. Harvey is burned.

I always get angry when I hear people talking about how the Joker stole the show. What they fail to realize is that the Joker cannot exist without Batman. He said so himself: “I don’t want to kill you! You complete me!” Which harks back to my theory of where the scars come from. There is no Joker without the Batman, because unlike Batman, the Joker has no true, benign purpose. He needed a foe on such a pedestal as he placed himself and his ideals. He wanted to show the Batman more than anyone else that he is wrong about the people of Gotham, that even though Batman has his rules and he thinks the people will save him for his sins in the end, they will sell him out. Hence the game he set up with the choice.

Bruce is devastated. Harvey is plunged into a vengeful madness. Batman feels responsible now. Especially after this personal loss. He meant to inspire good. Instead what he brought was madness and destruction. All this was happening because of what he had done. Surely there was to be reprisals for taking on the mob as Alfred pointed out, but where did Rachel stand in all of that? And what of Gotham’s White Knight, what was to become of him, now half burned? Bruce lost it all. His parents. Rachel. His last chance at a normal life.At love.At peace.For Gotham, and for himself.

Ultimately he finds the Joker by using a machine with the ability to spy on all of Gotham. He asks Lucius for help, who says he doesn’t want to wield such power, that he will help him this one time, but he will quit Wayne Enterprises if such a machine exists there. The Joker sets up his ultimate social experiment, to show everyone in grand style that people are selfish and cruel. But it backfires. Bruce’s faith is rewarded. The people are essentially good. Gotham can be saved. But the victory is short lived. The Joker left one ace up his sleeve- the madman he created in Harvey Dent. Such was the Joker’s dedication to his own cause that he was even ready to take a bullet to the head at the hands of the former DA. Then Dent would lose all credibility and all his efforts would be undone. Those with other agendas would use that as a point to denounce all his work as fraud and release all the criminals he had put away or policy changes he initiated.

But the Joker got more than he bargained for. He turned Harvey into a true believer of his cause. Then he set Harvey loose on the world, to exact his own revenge as he saw fit. This ended in the ruins of the building where Rachel met her demise. Harvey sought to punish Jim Gordon by killing his son. An enraged Harvey questioned why, when he, Batman, and Gordon were all involved in this together, that he was the one to lose everything. Of course, he wasn’t. Bruce lost it all too. His only chance at a normal life. No matter what, he could never love again. And again he was consumed by guilt, because he blamed himself for putting Rachel in that position. He blamed himself for the deaths of those innocent people at the hands of the clown. He probably even blamed himself for the very appearance of the Joker in the first place. Yet he knew what had to be done. After subduing Harvey (who fell to his death), he knew what had to be done. He took the blame for those murders, because it was what Gotham needed. He and Gordon bet it all on Dent, and the Joker tore him down. But they could not let chaos win. So they buried the truth, Batman took the blame, and he disappeared.

But Bruce still believed that Rachel was waiting for him. He didn’t know that at the moment Harvey claimed to be the Batman, she stopped loving in him. She thought that he did it out of selfish reasons. She thought Batman had become more important to Bruce than anything else. The tragedy is that she was wrong. She didn’t understand that Bruce really was going to turn himself in, that Harvey and then Bruce understood what needed to be done. So she chose to leave Bruce for Harvey, rather unjustly. But just as people sometimes deserve better than the truth, so did Bruce at that moment. He had sacrificed so much that he needed to have his faith rewarded. Both his faith in Gotham which was vindicated by the people on those boats, and his faith in Rachel. Just as Bruce kept Lucius’ faith by destroying the machine he used to locate the Joker with.
Bruce left the scene both emotionally and physically broken. The reign of chaos ended, and good triumphed over evil, but at what cost?

The Bruce Wayne Character Arc; And Why The Dark Knight Rises is Such a Great Film- Part 1

Well, its about time I sat down to write this.

I grew up a Batman fan. And that was it. I never delved into comic books or, other cartoon series, or any of that, I found them too farfetched. I grew up on the original 1992 animated series, one of the most brilliant representations of Batman out there. And after a slew of horrible Tim Burton renditions, along came my hero Christopher Nolan who created The Dark Knight Trilogy, for which I am forever grateful to him. Batman is one of the greatest characters of all time, as are some his enemies. This series is by far the most brilliant realization of the story. Artistic, crisp, fantastic and yet very believable, it is a series that has, at least for me, changed action movies. This is how Batman should have been represented- dark, heroic, human.

So why is The Dark Knight Rises (hence forth to be referred to as Rises for short) such a great movie? Several reasons, the most important of which is the completion of the Bruce Wayne character arc in such style. The second is the boldness to step out of one’s comfort zone, and by this I mean the comfort zone that Nolan has created with the previous two movies. This zone is the reassuring thought that “Yes, this could actually happen,” which is one of the main USPs of the series. The fall of Gotham into anarchy has been covered in the comics. But to show the fall of a modern American city, the modern American city, is a ballsy thing to do- and Nolan pulled it off. If Gotham were to fall, it would take a villain like Bane and The League Of Shadows. Even then, this is the trippiest movie I’ve seen of the series.

So now, what about that arc? Bruce Wayne’s character arc. Or rather, Batman’s character arc. Or maybe it’s the same thing?

Rewind to Batman Begins (hence forth to be referred to as Begins for short). We must start at the beginning in order to explore the transformation properly. The main theme that ran throughout Begins was FEAR. Young Bruce Wayne was born into an easy life. His family were the equivalent of royalty in Gotham. Bruce’s father was brilliant and made himself rich through toil, and the world was Bruce’s oyster. He could have done anything he wanted. But here’s the most important part- his parents were both humble, generous and honest people, and that influenced him to a great extent. This is important, because the influence they had on him started long before their murder. Bruce is humble, we never see him act arrogantly, or with a sense of entitlement. His father must have inculcated that entrepreneurial spirit in him from the start. And most importantly, there was so much love and affection in his family life.

But Bruce was just a kid, and as such, had childish fears. In his case, fear manifested itself in the form of bats. Now you know the story, but Nolan shows it with such style and panache. At the opera, Bruce gets frightened by the actors in bat costumes, which bring back the recent traumatic memory of him being attacked by bats. It is THIS that forces his parents to leave and enter that alleyway. In fact, his father was understanding and magnanimous throughout. Of course, we all know what happened next.

Then came the sorrow, which was natural for a young boy seeing his parents murdered. But more than that was a crushing guilt that it was HIS fault (or so he thought). Imagine what it would be like to feel responsible for your parents’ deaths. And then the anger that came with it, that mutated into an “impossible rage, strangling his grief, until the memory of his loved ones became just poison in his veins.” And perhaps one day, he did find himself wishing they had never existed, so that he could be spared his pain. And the only thing he could do is fake normalcy. He’d trained himself from an early age to wear a mask to the world, because how long could they take a brooding kid, as was explained by John Blake, especially when that kid is the “Prince of Gotham?” As a young man, he tried to take revenge for his parents’ deaths, but was thankfully denied that opportunity by another. He was then showed the truth by another person in his life, a lover and childhood friend. Rachel Dawes plays a very important part in the Bruce Wayne character arc. She made him realize what was going on, that there was a world out there apart from his pain, that suffers as a direct result of the forces that took his parents from him (and of course, from Gotham). Here you have to appreciate how important and integral the Wayne family is to the history and image of Gotham.

But what does Bruce understand of these forces, and of the world in which they operate? No matter how angry he was, how wronged, how deprived, the fact remains that he has never known what it’s like to be down there, to “taste desperate,” as was put forward so eloquently by mob boss Carmine Falcone. Cold reality smacked him down and told him what was what. The dawn of realization came swift and hard. Bruce understood what it meant. He would have to know his enemy, his enemy’s world. And so he goes underground, travelling the world to enter the criminal’s mind and train his own mind and body.

His mission was simple: To use fear against those who prey on the fearful. This was something he must have formulated years later, after living in the underbelly of the criminal world. But this usage of the concept of FEAR was very poignant and intrinsic to his character. But of course, in order to BECOME fear, he must first conquer his own. Ultimately he is taken in by the League Of Shadows, who complete his training, help him conquer his fear, and finally give him a task that he cannot complete- kill a man, and proceed to destroy Gotham. But however angry and vengeful Bruce is, he cannot bring himself to be like the enemy before him, even if the enemy would gladly take his life. Mercy is not an attribute his enemies would share, but as Bruce put it, “That’s why it’s so important. It’s what sets us apart from them.” This was the final step in his journey from aimless vigilante to focused instrument of justice. He chose to become a SYMBOL, something that could not be corrupted or destroyed so easily. He became an embodiment of vengeance and fear.

This sums up the great beginning of Bruce’s journey. He went from pampered little school boy, full of fear, to hardened upholder of justice, who was wise, experience, skilled, compassionate and had conquered his fear, channelling it into a rage that would crush many enemies.

In the penultimate scene, Bruce and Rachel share a tender moment. They are still very much in love with each other, but Rachel points out that Bruce now wears a mask.Bruce says Batman is just a symbol, that he wouldn’t be that forever. “No,” she replies and touches his face, “this is your mask. Your real face is the ones criminals now fear.” She then gives him HOPE. Hope that one day when Gotham no longer needed Batman, they could be together. And so she steps aside. Perhaps she did not want to hold him back. And Bruce knew that he had to sacrifice his own happiness for the greater good. It is not something he took lightly. We can safely assume that no matter how many women he was with after that, his heart belonged to his childhood friend, who had served as confidante, lover, and inspiration throughout his life.