Since the release of The Dark Knight Rises, I’ve been gobbling up a lot of criticism and commentary on the movie. A lot of it is political interpretations, of course, being that I tend to read political people. Some of it is quite smart and interesting, more of it is quite silly. But most important had been one thread of criticism I’ve seen that I agree with whole-heartedly.
That is, that even at nearly three hours long, the movie still feels short. This is a grand world, with grand happenings and we’re forced to walk through only a few select sections of it. A lot could be gained for this movie by us seeing more of this world. What was life in Gotham like when it was under siege? How much of Bane’s army was normal citizens pushed to the brink by their circumstances? What was life like for your average Gothamite throughout this movie? What are their thoughts and feelings of the events?
These seem like important unanswered questions, yet it also seems hard to imagine how Christopher Nolan could have fit them in there. This is where Item 47 comes in.
Item 47 is a short filmed by Marvel for The Avengers DVD that takes place in The Avengers universe. After the final fight, there are loose pieces of alien tech lying around and a young couple with nothing to lose finds an alien weapon that it uses to rob banks. Two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents track them down to recover the item.
Simple, fun little short that allows us to explore the Marvel movie universe a little more thoroughly. It gives us a look into the lives of ordinary people who live in a world full of superheroes and alien invasions.
It’s ground comics have been covering for years, but it’s still very fertile.
While Item 47 will no doubt be fun and interesting, it is The Dark Knight Rises that really needs an Item 47 short of its own. The Dark Knight Rises is so grand and epic and overwhelming, it could use a bit closer inspection of the details. It’s also such a large and interesting universe, it’d be fun to see people play in it.
It’s not hard to imagine a story of an ordinary Gothamite. He and his wife work hard for their money and are able to support their family. They aren’t rich or anything, but they have good jobs and they’re getting by. Then he finds out that he’s been laid off because his company is collapsing and his 401k has been raided. The guy responsible for mismanaging the company and essentially stealing from the employees is given millions of dollars in bonuses and a multi-million dollar severance package.
The rich don’t even get fired like the rest of us, huh?
His family can’t survive on his wife’s income alone and because she’s a public employee her benefits have just been slashed to compensate for state budget deficits. He can’t find work. After 6 months of frantically searching, the bills are piling up, the electricity’s been shut off, he has to take a minimum wage job just to keep food on the table. But that’s not enough, so he needs to take a second job. Even with all that, his family’s about to be thrown out on the street because their rent just went up and their credit cards are starting to get maxed out.
Then Bane comes, and even though he blows up a football stadium, he’s compelling. He offers a promise that the protagonist’s family won’t have to go hungry or without a home. He joins Bane to take a home for his family from the type of asshole who ruined his life and got paid millions for it. But as time goes on, he begins to become disillusioned with Bane’s mission. He sees Bane as offering more violence and cruelty than justice. Eventually, one of Bane’s crew harms a neighborhood child. It could have just as easily been his own. But what to do. He can’t fight back. He’s back to being helpless. He’s scared for his family’s safety. He keeps his head down and he protects his family. Then the Batman comes back and he has hope again. He’s cheering in the streets for the overthrow of Bane.
That took me two seconds to come up with, but it fits with all the themes of the movie and the whole trilogy while fleshing out the world a little bit.
We could also use a short about Catwoman and Holly Robinson. Or two, with one about each of them. I found Catwoman to be the most interesting character in the movie. The movie very easily could have been about her character arc, much like how The Dark Knight was about Harvey Dent’s arc (with Bane being the Joker, the catalyst of that arc). But Nolan instead chose to make the movie about Batman. I can’t blame him, it is a Batman movie after all. But Catwoman’s arc is perhaps the better vehicle to build a movie around. Too late. But it would still help flesh out the character and movie more completely for us to see her back-story and to see the events of The Dark Knight Rises through her eyes.
Between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Warner Brothers gave us a collection of animated shorts about Batman that take place in Nolan’s universe. It was fun, but not nearly as meaningful as a new collection would be for The Dark Knight Rises. The Dark Knight Rises is a really good movie, but it’s an even better universe. I wish they’d let us play in it a little longer.