Last week, I took a look at The Successes of The Dark Knight Trilogy Part 1 and Part 2. But enough with all of the love; let’s be honest with the series. Now we take a good hard look at all the ways that Nolan and company messed things up.
Eight Years’ Retirement
As a diehard Batman fan, this is the big one. Why would Bruce give up being Batman because Rachel died and the cops had more power?
While Batman serves as a vital aspect of Gotham’s safety, the reason he exists is because of Bruce’s childhood trauma and near-psychotic devotion to fighting crime. Yes, the Dent Act busted up the mob, but what about unorganized crime? What if a super villain came to power in those eight years? Gotham is by no means a crime-free city and its citizens still suffer the effects of criminals every day. There is obviously work still to be done by Batman, and he would still serve a purpose to the city.
As far as Rachel’s death goes, yes it obviously had a profound effect on Bruce, but why would this be enough to make him retire? He watched his parents get murdered right in front of his eight-year-old eyes and then dedicated his life to fighting crime, first spending eight years preparing for the battle and then devoting his public persona for the sake of his life as Batman. Yes, grief and depression can send a person spiraling downward and even cause them to give up the things they once believed in, but the effects of Rachel’s death did not seem to be as impactful at the end of The Dark Knight as they were portrayed at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises.
The revelation of Bruce’s eight years without Batman puts the end of TDK into a whole different light. Rather than a Batman who takes the blame for Harvey Dent’s crimes and lives with the consequences by still going out every night with police hot on his tail, we have a Batman who cuts and runs. Even Gordon’s speech at the end of the second film seems incorrect. How can Batman be a “silent guardian” or a “watchful protector” if he quit that very night?
Take a look at the time that Bruce has stopped being Batman in the comics. First, he gave up the mantle to the unhinged hero Azrael in the Knightfall storyline after having his back broken by Bane. Next, Nightwing took over when Bruce was seemingly killed by the god Darkseid, but was really transported into the past. Finally, in the much-loved and hypothetical The Dark Knight Returns, Bruce comes out of retirement many years in the future after have stopped being Batman for 10 years. Much of this story influences TDKR. However, this is a Batman in his 50s who quit after Robin was killed and the entire U.S. Government turned on superheroes and hunted them down.
In the end, Bruce’s sudden retirement in the trilogy is both uncharacteristic of his film version and is against the nature of a character whose true power comes from never giving up. The fact that most of these eight years were spent in seclusion apparently practicing indoor archery makes his hiatus even worse. Rather than contribute to Gotham in a different way, he let his company fall apart and the city become prey for Bane.
Batman’s Lack of Preparation
Speaking of Batman’s characterization, Nolan and Bale’s Batman is woefully underprepared when put in contrast with his comic counterpart.
While comic book Batman can often be written as so over-prepared that he has been referred to as Bat-God by fans, this is still a defining aspect of the character. This is a mortal man who must regularly deal with super-powered beings and overwhelming odds. The only way to ensure victory is to prepare for every potential threat and outcome. Whether that is through extensive study of criminals, training in dozens of fighting styles, or the creation of technology that exploits others’ weaknesses and prevents his own death, Batman is always prepared.
Nolan’s Batman is far more reactive than proactive. Instead of working to prevent crimes and intercept terrorist attacks, he only jumps into action after citizens have been killed. This is the most evident in The Dark Knight, where Batman is not only playing catch-up with The Joker, but is often caught off guard by his tactics. In the comics, villains often think they have outsmarted Batman, only to find that the Caped Crusader is already two steps ahead of them. In The Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman really is far behind his enemies.
Obviously, a villain who is constantly outmatched by Batman is boring. However, this Bruce Wayne can’t seem to figure out what his foe might do next. As such, devices like the cellphone hacking in The Dark Knight are absolutely necessary, whereas the comic Batman would probably have deduced The Joker’s location through detective work.