Forgive me if this post is a little less than timely. Life happened and I never got around to it. In the past year (2012, for those reading this in a distant future) two movies came out whose similarities were made much of:
Now before I continue I want to point out that I am writing this blind in the sense that I haven’t searched out any other blogs, articles, or reviews which might be making a similar case, save for some of the initial reviews of Skyfall (those which gave me the idea for this post) that pointed out superficial similarities with DKR in regard to how dark they both were (Given that one of the films has “dark” in the title I think we can do much better than that). So you will have to forgive me if someone else has already written these exact same things elsewhere because I never bothered to look.
That just about covers the differences.
you can see that Billy Madison is a direct rip-off of The Land Before Time which came out years earlier. So I will try not to be too abstract when comparing the similarities between SF and DKR, but ultimately its not an exact science.
The Characters and Their Relationship to the Plot
It seems to me that almost every main character in DKR has a parallel in SF. Sometimes, one character from one movie has similarities to two or more characters from the other movie but still they function in largely the same capacity. Let’s start with the easy one…
Bruce WayneBatman vs. James Bond
Bane vs. Raoul Silva
I find the greatest similarity between these two characters is not that they are both femme fatales, but the role they play in the fall of their respective protagonists. In the case of Selina Kyle, she led Bruce Wayne down to the underground base where Bane accidentally his spirit and his body (sic.). Moneypenny was a little more directly responsible for Bond’s downfall, y’know having shot him and all. From a plot perspective I think Selina Kyle is more necessary to her film as it could have been any rookie field agent who shot Bond, or even a bad guy, but the fact that it was Moneypenny sets up a cool sexual tension and a grounds for flirting throughout the film. There is definitely a romantic tension between Bruce and Selina Kyle as well, but it is less grounded in physical attraction and more a result of mutual fascination.
Again, I have to point out here that this seems to be in line with the more internalized struggles in DKR versus the more physical ones in SF. In fact, the relationship between Bruce and Selina never strikes me as particularly sexual at all, which is interesting considering that their relationship at film’s end seems perfectly natural and genuine. This is important because there was high potential for their courtship to be glazed over and their romance assumed to be a given simply because he is the hot male lead and she is the hot female lead. Also, Bruce fucks Miranda Tate after already being fascinated with and attracted to Selina. This is great because its how romance works in real life; you can have a crush on someone and still bone someone else. If Bruce had refused to bed Miranda cause he liked Selina and saw her as a fellow nightkin, it would have been unrealistic as hell. Especially since, from a strictly sexual perspective, the tension between Miranda and Bruce was much more tangible at that point in the film, so boning made sense. But carnal delights and sexual gratification have no place in a film about internal struggles and succumbing to temptation must be punished. Want proof? Look how their relationship ended:
By film’s end both Selina and Moneypenny each have a retirement of sorts, with Selina (presumably) giving up crime and Moneypenny taking a desk job. In a way this is kind of disappointing because both “retirements” really only serve to facilitate their continued relationships with their respective protagonists: Selina has to give up crime because Batman wouldn’t allow it (although in the comics, her bad girl streak is precisely what made her so alluring to Batman. I guess since he’s no longer Batman by film’s end, all bets are off.), and Moneypenny had to give up field work because Bond couldn’t have another operative in the field always shooting at him and such. Plus he needs someone to flirt with/wave his penis at tauntingly when he returns to HQ to get briefed.
Robin John Blake vs. Gareth Mallory/Miss Moneypenny
I could probably abbreviate this criticism to be just between Robin and Mallory. I only include Moneypenny in the comparison because who these characters really are/what they are to become is revealed (cheekily) at the end of the film. That said, lets keep the comparison between Blake and Mallory.
Blake as a lowly beat cop seems to butt heads with Deputy Commissioner Foley because of his willingness to circumvent the chain of command and his sharp instincts. He saves Gordon’s life (twice) and is instrumental in helping the resistance in Gotham after Bane takes over. Later, he throws his badge into the bay when he realizes that the structure of the police force cramps his “do what needs to be done” style. At movie’s end he reveals himself to be Robin, finds the Batcave and presumably goes on to fight crime as Bruce Wayne’s replacement.
Unlike Blake, Mallory starts off with some status, being the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. However, he still alludes more than once to his dickhead boss, the Prime Minister. He ends up saving M twice, first when he gets the Intelligence minister to lay off during the review hearing, and then again when Silva tries to shoot her. While he never abandons the establishment he is part of, he does show a willingness to flout the rules when he discovers Q unofficially assisting James in setting a trap for Silva. By film’s end he reveals who he is to become, namely M’s successor at MI6
Lucius Fox vs. Q
This one is a no-brainer, as every modern hero needs a gadget-guy (as well as a 1337 haX0r). Q’s cheeky-as-fuck attitude and hipster fashion sensibilities are reminiscent of his older Gotham counterpart, but the similarities continue from there. Both characters prove to be instrumental to the bad guy’s plan too, as Lucius’ handscan lets Bane access the fusion reactor and Q’s hacking allows Silva to escape from MI6’s emergency HQ. After these respective fuck-ups though both turn their efforts toward stopping the bad guys, Lucius aiding the recently-returned Bruce Wayne when Gotham is under siege, and Q leaving a “trail of crumbs” for Silva to follow to Skyfall. At film’s end both characters are still alive and while it is certain that Q will go on assisting Bond, we can only assume that Fox will help Blake when he eventually takes up the mantle of the Batman. Otherwise why would he have been running a diagnostic on The Bat’s auto-pilot at film’s end?
Commissioner Gordon vs. M
Both of these characters serve as quasi-parent figures in their respective film series. You will remember that scene in Batman Begins when Det. Gordon protectively puts his coat around a recently-orphaned Bruce Wayne to comfort him at a police station. Later on throughout the series, Bruce reports to Gordon as Batman, and while he doesn’t strictly take orders from him, he works collaboratively with Gordon where possible.
Ditto for the relationship between M and Bond. As far as a parental dynamic, Silva spells it out during his first meeting with Bond when he says,
There is one final similarity between Gordon and M which bears mention; both are explicitly referred to as relics of war-time who no longer belong in peace time In the case of Gordon, this happens in the party at the film’s beginning when Foley is ambitiously plotting to become the next commissioner. In the case of M it is at her hearing when the intelligence minister is criticizing her paranoia about the threats in the world. It is sad that the paranoid types and symbols of war like Gordon and M are eventually vindicated by the events in their respective films, as it reinforces the message that constant paranoia and vigilance are how things should be and that we should be wary of peace of mind and a lack of fear. I don’t know if the majority of viewers picked up on this sub-text but it kind of made me cringe. It didn’t hamper my enjoyment of either movie too much because I realize that they are fictions, but we should really try and stay mindful that the good/evil duality is unrealistic and only works as a narrative tool.
Two notable omissions from this character comparison are Talia/Miranda Tate and Alfred Pennyworth from DKR. Although I mentioned Talia in passing I didn’t feel she had a direct parallel in SF, instead sharing similarities with many of the characters in the Bond film at various points in her character’s development. In the case of Alfred, his disappearance at the beginning of the 2nd act seemed peculiar to me because abandoning Bruce did not seem in line with his character. Certainly I could compare him to M in the way he chides/advises Bruce, or I could do a very complex reading and compare Alfred’s abandonment of Bruce to M’s abandonment of Silva, but ultimately SF was just more economical in its casting, so no matter who gets compared to whom, some DKR characters will not be paired up with anyone.
Having gone on at length about character similarities, and in the process, plot similarities as well, it is time to have a little more fun and point out the random similarities. While these are of a more superficial nature, it does make you pause and wonder if the creators were trading notes while developing their respective films.
Both antagonists have fucked-up faces:
Both protagonists demonstrate proficiency for walking on ice:
Both protagonists seem pretty magnanimous toward the chicks who betrayed or accidentally shot them.
In a bit of role reversal, Bane’s troops take on the role of peace officers prior to the climactic battle, ordering the assembled GCPD to disperse. This role-reversal is reinforced by Dep. Com. Foley as he and the other freed cops advance on city hall toward film’s end.