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They’re not standing around the watercooler, but Cheryl Sadler, Mark Meszoros, Mark Podolski and Nicole Franz are talking about what they’ve been watching, listening to and playing during their free time.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Making sense of 'The Dark Knight Rises'

Give Christopher Nolan credit. The director is excellent at making the viewer want more. Much more.

The third, and most revealing, trailer for the much-anticipated film, "The Dark Knight Rises" (July 20) was released late Monday night.

The biggest reveal is Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) is a broken-down individual, physically and perhaps mentally. Times appear bleak for Wayne. What we don't know is why. Do the affects of his battles with the Joker and Two-Face at the end of "The Dark Knight" still linger, or is it perhaps something bigger? Namely the new villain in "Rises" named Bane. The muscular terrorist proclaims himself in the trailer as "Gotham's reckoning."

In the trailer, there's also an appearance by Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, another new Batman toy (the batplane?), and the Wayne character that is thoroughly beaten down by Bane, which could be a reference to a storyline from the 1990s. In "Knightfall," Bane breaks Batman's back, putting the hero out of commission.

There's also a plea by Catwoman, telling Batman, "You don't owe these people any more. You've given them everything." Batman's reply is, "Not everything. Not yet."

Interesting comments, which are a perfect tie-in to a theory many are asking: Will Nolan kill off Batman? History tells us it's a possibility, or at least the appearance of his death.

First, let's examine where Nolan has found inspiration for his films. The director has said many of the storylines in his first two films, especially "Batman Begins," were helped along by Frank Miller, author of the highly regarded comics series/graphic novels "Batman: Year One" and "The Dark Knight Returns." Both were written in the 1980s, and gave the caped crusader a dark, edgy persona that gave new life to the character.

"The Dark Knight Returns" was a boon for the Batman character. The story was the first of its kind: Bruce Wayne is in his 50s, and has been retired as Batman for 10 years. (Sound familiar? Published reports say in "Rises," Batman has been out of action for eight years until the threat of Bane brings the cape and cowl back). In "Returns," Batman is back to take on the Joker, Two-Face and Superman, who is now a puppet for the government. There's also a storyline in which mutant teen-agers attempt to take over Gotham by force, which has relevance to "Rises."

Many have theorized Nolan's final Batman film is more about a civil war, than about superheroes and villains. In Miller's version, he writes Batman's return from retirement is "to bring sense to a world plagued by worse than theives and murderers ..." Sounds a lot like "Rises" doesn't it? Bane has come to bring Gotham City to "ashes," as he tells Wayne in a trailer.

In order to stop Bane, it could be a battle to the death. Or will it? In Miller's final scenes of "Returns," Batman defeats Superman in a fight (thanks to kryptonite), but in the aftermath Batman succumbs to a heart attack. The man is, after all, in his 50s. Later, it's revealed the death was staged, and Wayne retreats underground to continue his fight.

How all of this plays out in "Rises" is anyone's guess, but "Returns" could be a handbook for those with curious Batman minds. I give the book the highest of recommends. Until then, check out the newest trailer for the film, plus a clip from the Batman animated series in the 1990s highlighting a few scenes from Miller's classic "Returns" tale.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo


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