Minor spoilers ahead for The Dark Knight Rises.
Even before Warner Brothers started pulling trailers and taming the next screen iteration of Batman in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado shootings, The Dark Knight Rises was a movie that seemed to attract controversy. From little, geeky ones to big, political ones, it seemed like everyone spent the last year arguing about the film–what it would be, what it should be, what certain hints meant or didn’t mean, who would appear…anything said about this movie prior to its release was ripe for someone to generate an argument about it, which isn’t surprising because there were a number of people who were so eager to see how Nolan ended it that they literally would have preferred nothing be said about the film and that they could go in absolutely un-spoiled.
So, of all the big, loud conversations we’ve been having over the last year or so, what were the biggest and the loudest?
After the film debuted its initial scene, attached to IMAX prints of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol during its opening weekend, Bane’s voice was reported to be almost inaudible. The combination of his accent, the mask he was talking through and a loud scene (it took place on an airplane, and during much of the scene, the plane was punctured and air was roaring by) made it nearly impossible for fans to understand what was going on, which was likely a problem that was exacerbated by the fact that many casual moviegoers don’t know who Bane is, and so were hoping to get some insight into what exactly it was that he was doing there.
It sounds small now, but at the time it was a big deal. It was headline news in all of the entertainment industry papers, not least of all because director Christopher Nolan has a history of being inscrutable and “artsy” and there was some concern–not only on the part of fans and journalists but reportedly from the studio as well–that he may not be convinced to “fix” the problem. He maintained that there wasn’t one, and that he didn’t intend to fix it, but by the time anyone saw more footage from the film, nobody was complaining about the voice anymore.
Immediately after Inception star Joseph Gordon-Levitt was cast in the film, rumors began to spread that he had been cast as Dick Grayson, better known to fans as Robin, Batman’s sidekick. Christopher Nolan denied it, just as he had consistently denied for years that the brightly-colored teenage sidekick would ever appear in one of his films. It was pretty well-established years before that Robin just wouldn’t “fit” into the Nolanverse, but fans had a hard time accepting that.
Nolan also appeared to be toying with the audience somewhat, as well: a Robin logo seen in one of the film’s early trailers was thought by many to be a hint before it was revealed that the fan in question had made that up himself and held it while in the stands, unknown to the filmmakers. A book released as a companion to the film referenced Haly’s Circus, where Grayson’s parents performed. For many, all signs pointed to Robin…but a number of other fans were exasperated by the fact that people couldn’t just take the director at his word that Robin wouldn’t appear.
In the end, this one was a bit of a toss-up: John Blake was Nolan’s version of Robin: no garish costume, old enough to make his own decisions…but he was instrumental to Batman’s victory and even had the name to back it up. Even if it wasn’t the one fans were expecting.
Letterman Spoiling The Ending
Again, some people wanted to go into this movie totally pristine, completely unspoiled. And if you watch The Late Show with David Letterman, that’s just not possible.
“It’s not essential to see all previous installations of Batman, and I think this is it, and in the end Batman is dead,” the late night host said before adding, “He’s not dead. He ain’t dead, just relax, will you?”
Of course, a lot of people laughed it off. Of course he’s going to toy with the emotions of people who are trying to remain unspoiled; he’s a late night comedian. And he didn’t really take a stand on the issue, just offered both! But at the same time, there were fans very irate about the fact that he even joked about it, let alone the fact that there was no real way to NOT take a stand on the issue–he had to leave one or the other answer out there as the last word.
Rush Limbaugh’s Bane Conspiracy
Exactly what Limbaugh said is open to interpretation since his initial claim seemed to be that Bane had been chosen by the filmmakers as the film’s villain due to his name being a homonym with “Bain,” the financial institution for which Mitt Romney used to work. He later walked that back, saying only that he was predicting Romney’s opponents would seize on the coincidence for political gain.
The week before the film was released, some damning documents emerged that seemed to suggest the Republican frontrunner was not entirely forthcoming regarding his relationship with the company. Romney’s opponents jumped on what they called a series of lies, and Romney’s people responded by accusing the President’s campaign of lying to smear him. A number of fans online began to make Bain/Bane jokes, which appears to have spurred stories in some conservative newspapers, which were then referenced by Limbaugh.
Then the story exploded. The veteran talk show host claimed that his Twitter and e-mail was more inundated with Batman e-mails than with any other story in recent memory.
The Occupy Wall Street Comparison
This one came early, and came back often. The violent, nominally populist movement led by Bane appeared to many to resemble a kind of militarized take on the Occupy Movement, which was in its heyday while The Dark Knight Rises was shooting in New York City. They had originally planned to film some scenes at Zuccotti Park during the “occupation,” but eventually scrubbed those plans, saying that it wasn’t really feasible. Instead, they filmed at Trump Tower, home of then-Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, one of Occupy’s most outspoken opponents.
In the end, it was all a lot of nothing, ultimately. Nolan explained months ago that the story didn’t reflect Occupy, but was instead a take on A Tale of Two Cities. Still, that didn’t stop Bane creator Chuck Dixon (and others) from drawing the parallels between Occupy protestors and Bane’s militia when trying to discourage Limbaugh from misinterpreting Bane.