This one, I promise, will be brief. I’ve intended many to be brief but they’ve gone longer than intended, but I will keep my promise this time. Maybe.
Recently I’ve had cause to mull over The Dark Knight Rises, the fascinating finish to Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. (I know it’s called The Dark Knight Trilogy on packaging and in “nerd” circles, but it’s really a Batman Trilogy since the first one was called Batman Begins, not The Dark Knight Begins. Maybe I’ll write one about that curious naming convention and what rules, if any, should govern these sorts of nicknames in the future.)
I, like many others, find myself gleefully enjoying the focused agent of chaos called Bane. He really is a worthy character to follow up the Joker as portrayed by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.
Like the Joker, Bane is an agent of chaos. Where they differ is their goals.
Bane is the selfless answer to the Joker’s selfish obsessions. He uses chaos to destroy the world. He has no goal but destruction.
Yes, they’re both focused on Gotham in the literal story sense. But Gotham is of course the metaphor for the world as a whole. I know you know that.
Bane leads a nihilistic revolution, seeking to burn it all to the ground to validate his view about the emptiness of it all. To Bane there is nothing good about the world as it exists. The revolution is the tool to the end. He rigs the entire contest so that no one can win.
So Why Do I Call Bane Brilliant?
By building a revolution with no end but death for all, Bane has figured out the only way to “win” is to accept that everyone loses. He has no escape plan, and he’s not trying to win an argument. He’s trying to end it.
If Batman never gets back from the underground prison, everyone still dies. Bane will still incinerate it all even after he’s taken over Gotham.
Bane knows the revolution will ultimately consume itself, and he has no vision of a future after it. He has learned from Robespierre that the bloodthirsty can never be satisfied truly or permanently. The only way to stop it is with fire.
I’m not going to turn this into one of my lengthy series, though. This will be one post because I think that there are some baseline “physiological costs” that apply across all the costumes. It’s really the level of the effects that are influenced by the materials used in its construction.
Overheating and Hydration
Overheating and hydration are likely the primary concerns with any iteration of Batman. Since they’re tied very closely together, I’m addressing them at the same time. They still have their own headers, though, to try to delineate where specifically they concern the health and well-being of the Dark Knight Detective.
Even appropriately-breathable materials trap heat. It’s an inescapable concern for Batman especially, as physical exertion increases body heat. If that heat can’t escape, your heat basically gets trapped.
It’s a vicious cycle; even high humidity prevents adequate sweat evaporation and can lead to overheating. Imagine the issues if you’ve got a layer of material on top of your skin, and the only way for the heat to escape is through your eyes and the bottom half of your face.
This ties into hydration because sweating is how we cool off, but as we expend that water…we need more of it.
Hydration is an issue regardless of the era we’re examining. Every suit we’ve seen Batman wear would trap body heat. That’s not a terribly difficult hurdle for the moments we see him idling, as he can just bring a big water bottle, presumably attached to his utility belt. Given the bursts of activity he endures, though, it becomes an exponentially increasing concern as it’s paired with the concern for overheating.
Batman would have to be constantly mindful about salt imbalances, and the deleterious effects of fluid loss. Batman would therefore need to carry a lot of water with him, or have water stations hidden all around Gotham so that he could grab a quick drink when he was feeling worn down by fluid loss.
For this reason, the economy-of-motion Batman we saw in Tim Burton’s 1989 masterpiece seems a much better approach for the caped crusader than the higher-energy versions we encounter in other iterations.
Chafing and Other Skin Issues
Chafing and skin issues are unquestionably more serious issue for the “rubber-suit variants” to which we’ve grown accustomed in the modern age. The aforementioned trapped sweat – a part of our overheating concerns – could easily combine with the rubbing of the material on the skin, and cause abrasions, cuts, or even infections.
You could ostensibly avoid these sorts of things with baby powder, but we’re talking a fair amount of it. There would have to be enough that it would slow down Batman on the way out, and in cases where he was unable to slather himself in baby powder, even putting the suit on becomes a difficult task.
(I have a personal grudge about baby powder, but I promise I’m not taking that into my reasoning. It’s a weirdly personal thing, too, and I’d appreciate it if I stopped talking about it. It’s none of your business.)
You could reason that he has a suit that functions like a diving suit, but that would arguably multiply the concerns of overheating and even fluid loss/imbalance.
Other Skin Issues
When I mentioned “abrasions, cuts, or even infections,” I should also have mentioned “rashes.” Ingrown hairs would also be a potential side effect, as would boils. Basically, Bruce Wayne would be able to be a recluse because his body odor and apparent lack of hygiene would drive people away from Wayne Manor.
At the end of the day, it’s pretty much just fall and spring where Batman would be the most effective “on the ground” crime fighter. Those seasons alleviate some of the suit concerns by virtue of lower humidity and more moderate temperatures.
They don’t remove them completely, though. For this reason, it would follow more that Batman would be active only for short bursts every few days. Christopher Nolan seems to address that idea with an exchange in The Dark Knight that Batman doesn’t always show up for the Bat Signal, and by implication isn’t out on the streets every night.
The whole reason I write these sorts of things, honestly, is to remind myself of how absurd it is that we look for “realistic” explanations to fantastical things. He’s Batman, he’s a vigilante, and we don’t need to care about anything else. Otherwise we run the risk of becoming insufferable bores like “real life scientists” on a Twitter rant about the scientific accuracy of Star Trek.
The first thing to establish here is that I’m not going to pursue any pedantic, circular arguments about Lucas establishing a fairy tale. However true that is, which does ameliorate a lot of these sorts of questions, it’s an easy way out of the argument.
I’m going to present logical, believable reasons, consistent with everything understood about the Dark Side of the Force.
It boils down to the very Shakespearean sense of the Sith, and any other Dark Side user in the Star Wars galaxy. To borrow the Bard’s sentiment, a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.
The Honesty of Darth Bane
Practitioners of the Dark Side are simply too honest to care about using a different name. They do not waste their time with preamble about why you should believe their doctrine. Either you will buy in, or you won’t. The only liars are the ones who can’t be honest with themselves.
I’m including Anakin in that line about characters lying to themselves. I still entertain the controversial view that Anakin flipped to the Dark Side in Attack of the Clones, and the rest of the Prequel Trilogy is the story of a man denying what he’s truly become. He’s started the slide, and as he scrambles back up the slope continues to find that his heart pulls him back to the truth of himself.
I’m not completely sold on that interpretation, but it does fit. Even if you incorporate The Clone Wars television series, you can see the Jedi being dishonest with themselves and indulging his worst tendencies in the hopes their prophecy comes true in a positive way. They pushed all their chips in to bet on Anakin, and will do anything to make sure it pays off.
It’s certainly a really interesting filter through which to watch his arc.
The Honesty of Another Bane
Back to the point at hand, Dark Side practitioners may be dishonest as a means to an end, but they’re never meaningfully dishonest about their quest for power. Their end goal is power, control, and domination. They are ultimately selfish.
There is a universal objective recognition that the goals they seek are not good. Since they cannot be of the light, why not simply call it what it is, and pronounce it dark.
You can look to another work that demonstrates this principle just as clearly. Christopher Nolan’s superb The Dark Knight Rises has a character called Bane who’s painfully honest about being “molded by [the dark].” He refers to himself as “necessary evil.”
This gets to an underlying and interesting philosophical point that surely would cause LANDRU to explode. (If you don’t get that reference, it’s a Star Trek thing.) Bane, like his mentor Ra’s al Ghul and other people “of the dark,” can often see themselves as the unpleasant tools of life. They understand and appreciate the personal wrongness of what they do, but can justify it as a means to an end.
I don’t think that applies to Palpatine, though, who’s just an all-around bastard.
They’re Not Trying to Sell Soap
The idea that there’s some sort of political advantage to having a nicer name seems a byproduct of our marketing mindsets. After all, we’re self-marketers on social media, leveraging hashtags and keywords to generate engagement and satisfy our…whatever.
In short, there’s no reason not to call it The Dark Side. There’d be little to no point, because once you got past the name, you’d say, “Boy, that sounds pretty…dark. Like the opposite of light. Can we just stop calling it Fluffy Bunny Side and keep moving?”
It’s about pursuing things that are ultimately selfish. The means to achieve these things are against the Natural Order, like creating life using dark magic, or justifying the slaughter of innocents as a necessary tool.
Anakin is correct that the Sith – our model Dark Side users for the better part of four decades – think inwardly, only of themselves. It’s not limited to the Sith, and I’m not even bringing in the Nightsisters to supplement the argument. I’m not even talking about the Knights of Ren (or Stimpy).
There are people in the Star Wars galaxy using the Dark Side who have no affiliation, or who don’t even have a strong Force connection. Their selfish and monstrous acts simply feed that Dark Side.
The operatives of Crimson Dawn, the soldiers of the Empire, and the chalky visage of General Hux all display an honesty that, while not admirable, is exceedingly blunt. Those of The Dark Side don’t care about what you want to call it. What point is there in obfuscation once they’re revealed?
Their point is not simply to convert, but dominate. To borrow a line from Darth Sidious, “If you will not turn, you will be destroyed.” You can either be down with the sickness, or get 10,000 volts blasted at you through evil magic.
Recently I was asked, if you were about to be put to death (let’s just say that in my case it’d likely be for thoughtcrime), what is the last movie you’d request to watch?
It’s a riff on the more-traditional “what would be your last meal” sort of question (short answer: Brinner), but it stopped me in my tracks.
My initial response was “something really long” and a hearty chuckle was shared. I’m one of the great comedy minds of my generation, as evidenced each week on Words With Nerds™.
I couldn’t decide, though. I had to beg for an evening to consider.
So Many Factors
After all, there are so many questions that the basic premise raises!
In a situation like that, you’d feel arguably obliged to choose your favorite movie of all time. It follows that if this is the last piece of entertainment you’ll ever see., it should presumably be the favorite one, a teddy bear experience that soothes and lets you lose track of the running time so that you lose track of what would undoubtedly be a stressful watching experience.
Because otherwise, these sorts of questions rely on the thought that you’re at peace with being killed to begin with. I can assure you that if I knew the time of my final moment, I’d be distracted by that fact.
And I Wonder
So I wondered how I could choose. There’s the inevitable mental conflict between selecting a Batman movie and a Star Wars film. As an odd side note, I never considered Burton’s 1989 Batman, though it’s probably the moment I started down the path of being a “geek.”
The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, with their themes of heroism and rebirth, could easily distract me from thinking incessantly about the final question of my faith put to the test. I adore both films, and they’d be a reassuring pat on the butt, as it were.
Both move me to that moment of heroic emotion as well, that great feeling of victory for the righteous. Which, when I meet God, is what I hope the general feeling to be. Because the opposite would suck.
For heroism as well, I could choose The Last of the Mohicans by Michael Mann, with its bittersweet ending wrapped in both victory and sorrow. The soundtrack alone is something marvelous and the cinematography in the film is some of the best you’ll ever see.
Then my mind wandered back to Star Wars as a whole and Revenge of the Sith, my favorite of favorites, in specific.
But then I’d be ignoring The Godfather Part II! Which got ruled out immediately, because I don’t
want to go out on a down note.
And though Revenge of the Sith ends with a note of hope still, I realized I’d have to rule it out as well. There’s a lot of darkness there. And so long as I’m ruling out darkness, I have to disqualify the original The Godfather as well as Vertigo.
Citizen Kane would seem apropos, but I’d prefer not to go out with a message of how small even the greatest of us are.
The only problem with indulging my love of musicals is, how to select a favorite? The field is littered with larger-than-life options that have a special place in my heart.
Singin’ in the Rain, The Music Man, 1776, Godspell (maybe it counts as an extra little prayer at the end?), my treasured Guys and Dolls.
But then I know, if it’s a musical, it has to be Scrooge with Albert Finney. It’s the one version of A Christmas Carol that makes me weep still, and reminds me of warm Christmases with my family and especially my dad singing along with “Thank You Very Much.”
A musical is fine, but I don’t know if it can deliver the type of spiritual oomph I’d need.
I wonder if, knowing it’s your last film, you could really enjoy it?
Is this all an argument against watching bad movies since, theoretically, each one could be the last one you see?
Amid all the predictions, anticipation, hype and marketing* surrounding the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises, in which I am most definitely interested, I have a bold prediction. My predictions don’t always come true, but often when it comes to movies, there’s a history of getting things right along at least a 70/30 split, which isn’t bad. Usually I’m at least in the ballpark.
So after paying money to see the first six minutes, with a Mission: Impossible movie shown afterward as a door prize, looking at the released photos (avoiding spoilers like the plague) and studying the first two films again, I have a bold predicition.
At least half the so–called Fanboys are going to sh*t all over this movie.
I call it the “Phantom Menace Effect.” It later repeated itself on a smaller scale with the 2009 Star Trek, because Star Trek as a property had contracted to a smaller scale by that point. It’s happened with other franchises as well, but none so memorably as with Star Wars.
I hope the geek, wanna–be geek and psuedo–nerd audience at large keep an open mind, remember that previews are designed to energize and if you go in with expectations set too high, you cannot help but be disappointed. It makes no difference to me since I have no financial stake in the film, but I hope everyone gives the film a fair shake and judge it on its merits and not our expectations.
I’m not overly optimistic, but I can dream.
*Remember, marketing is only bad when Lucas does it. Never anyone else.