Four New Banners for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’: Alliance and Gods

Concept: Alliance

The Civil War banner, as I called it, shows Batman on the side of the law officials against a line of attackers.  As that shot was composed, Batman is nearly alone, but not entirely.  Being nearly alone accords both with the needs of the story and the needs of marketing it.

The needs of the story

Batman needs to be alone or nearly alone, from the perspective of the story, because that is part of his character and because that is how he is left at the end of The Dark Knight.  Batman has always been presented, in every medium, as a solitary individual, although he also forms an alliance with select individuals around him.  Sometimes few, sometimes many.  Readers will be familiar with his sidekick, Robin, who is wonderfully parodied on Tiny Toon Adventures as the colorful Decoy (see minute 2:20), and I myself would like to see a Tim Drake or a Damien Wayne, but Nolan has said that there will be no Robin for his Batman.

In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne allies first with Lieutenant Jim Gordon.  “You’re just one man?” Gordon asks him in the dark.  “Now we’re two,” Bruce replies.  But Bruce has already allied with his butler and family friend, Alfred Pennyworth.  And he has allied with another family friend, Lucius Fox, a technologist.  Gordon, Alfred, and Lucius are followed by Bruce’s childhood friend, Rachel Dawes, who is now a lawyer, and later by District Attorney Harvey Dent, an ex-internal affairs agent, “Gotham’s White Knight.”  Batman makes strides toward saving the city from corruption with his allies in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but not everything goes according to plan.  The Dark Knight is so named for the Dark Knight’s willingness to stand wrongfully accused for the good of the city.

The Dark Knight Rises is said to take place about seven years later, and Batman surely needs every ally that he can make, but it is unlikely that he will already be recognized as an ally of the city or much of anyone at the beginning of the film.  It is uncertain yet what allies Bruce will or will not find in John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), or Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) in The Dark Knight Rises.

The needs of marketing it

It is conventional wisdom that sequel must be “bigger” than what came before it.  I dissent from that opinion.  A sequel does not need to be “bigger” in order to be a good story or even in order to be financially successful, but I concede that it may is generally a safer gamble, financially, to bank on the common expectation that is set by conventional wisdom.  Critical acclaim and word of mouth are not a strategy that the marketers are inclined to like.  Recent disappointment over the domestic performance of Battleship, the boardgame blockbuster, surely has not changed that.  From the perspective of marketing, Batman “needs” to seem to face a still greater threat, and if possible, to overcome it with much greater force, like the flying vehicle that Bruce tells us is “not a car” at the end of one trailer.

Bane, and the force that he leads, pose that much greater threat.

Concept: Gods

Bane is seen here in much the same way as Batman in the banner at the top.  Both banners are composed to show a figure in the front of battle and in a highly visible position.  These compositions remind me of the depiction on Achilles’ god-made shield, in which a city lays besieged:

But the city’s people were not giving way, and armed for an ambush.  [The fighting men go out to meet the attackers.]  And Ares led them, and Pallas Athene.  These were gold, both, and golden raiment upon them, and they were beautiful and huge in their armour, being divinities, and conspicuous from afar, but the people around them were smaller.

(Iliad, 18.513-519, Lattimore’s translation, italics added)

The aptness of this quote rather surprises me.  The first theatrical trailer shows that Bane is a besieger.  Lindy Hemming, the costume designer for the film, has said that she designed Bane’s costume to cross the look of a revolutionary and a dictator.  The prologue, attached to the IMAX release of Brad Bird’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, is said to show, too, that he commands a sort of religious devotion from his followers.  He is not a god.  Neither is Batman.  They do not have superpowers, like Superman.  They are not even aliens, like Thor and Loki, who are “basically like gods,” Natasha Romanov assures us in this year’s The Avengers.  Nonetheless, they lead the city and its attackers in battle.

Interestingly, the citizens standing behind Batman stand also behind a wall of police vehicles, not like Bane’s men, some of whom stand nearly beside him.  Also, the police vehicles behind Batman show heavy damage, whereas Bane’s militarized vehicles, tumblers, seem to be in perfect condition.  Keeping in mind the vehicular nature of the city, what might the squad car under Batman and tumbler under Bane be vehicles for?

Images: /Film

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