Movie Review: The Dark Knight Skyfalls (Spoilers)

My Friends,
   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:

The Dark Knight Rises, and…
 
Skyfall.
 
I wish to jump on that bandwagon by doing my own comparison & contrast-ison.
   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.
 
First Off…
 
What’s Different About These Movies?
   For starters, everyone in Skyfall seems to have an inexplicably British accent, 
 
…well, most everyone…
 
…while just about everyone in DKR  seems to speak ‘Merican.
 
 Except him.*
 
So yes, there are serious linguistic differences in the film.
That just about covers the differences.
 
On to the Similarities:
   Compare & Contrast is a peculiar species of review which demands discretion, because any movie abstracted to a certain point is identical to any other movie abstracted similarly.  Like I would have a hard time saying that Billy Madison ripped off The Land Before Time if I compared the plots of the two films.  But if I abstracted both plots to their most essential details as follows,
 
Protagonist faces adversity
Protagonist struggles with adversity and meets new friends along the way
Protagonist overcomes adversity

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.

 
On to the Similarities For Realzies This Time

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

 
   The obvious comparison.  As protagonists, these two share a common arc involving a fall and a rise.  In the case of DKR, the focus of the story is redemption.  Bruce Wayne’s struggle is a largely internal one and questions about how (physically) ready he is to don the cowl after a lengthy sabbatical are more or less put to rest when he straps some hi-tech brace to his leg and kicks down a brick wall.
 
 
Later, when he is physically bested by Bane in their first match, we get the impression it is not because of any physical flaw, but due to some mental block which he overcomes while watching Gotham tear itself apart as he recuperates in the prison Bane sends him to.  As if to reinforce this point, Batman neatly, if not easily defeats Bane in fisticuffs in their next encounter. 
   In SF, Bond’s “fall” comes early on and it is a literal fall from a bridge after Moneypenny accidentally shoots him when he is fighting some douche-fag on a train in Istanbul.  He recovers from his apparent death pretty early on however, and unlike Bruce Wayne, he struggles more with the physical difficulties of getting back in the saddle than any emotional blocks or guilt.  (*This actually seems to be a consistent distinction between the two films: the struggles and repercussions in DKR tend to be more emotional and mental, while the struggles in SF are of a more immediate physical kind).  Still, we really only see Bond’s physical difficulties in his training montage.  When he goes back to active status he seems to fare pretty much the same as ever and the only give-away that he is struggling is when other characters allude to how old he is.
  Oh yeah, James and Bruce are also both orphans


Bane vs. Raoul Silva

 
   The two antagonists serve as dark mirrors to the protagonists in many ways.  What’s more importantly (sic.) is that in some ways you feel sympathy for these characters because both have been fucked over by The League of Shadows and MI6 respectively.  Of the two, Bane is definitely the more sympathetic even though his crimes could be considered worse.  Generating sympathy for a guy who wants to nuke a city of innocent civilians is an impressive feat to accomplish especially when his hulking, lumbering gorilla frame makes him seem a brute.  But then we have the revelation from Talia that it was she who escaped the pit, not Bane.  It was he in fact who protected her and facilitated her escape.  During the telling of this story the camera pans to Bane and we see this:
 
 
 
2:00-2:20 (You may have to view it on youtbe to see the tears clearly)
 
He’s not just a hulking lumbering gorilla, he’s a hulking, lumbering gorilla with feels.  
   And if we didn’t already feel bad enough for Bane at this point we then realize that he loves Talia but she at some point went and fucked Bruce Wayne.  The fanboys of the internet found this particularly offensive and have pointed out this injustice in their memes:
 
Bane, a sympathetic character if ever there was one
 
   While we don’t ever feel the same level of pity for Silva we do find out that M handed him over to the Chinese where he was tortured and unsuccessfully tried to commit teh suicides a la cyanide.  We start to think, “Wow, M is kind of a bitch and maybe, just maybe she deserved this guy coming after her and MI6.”  This potentially great conflict however is neutralized not long after it is introduced when M explains herself to Bond and justifies her actions for the greater good, explaining that Silva had become problematic in the field.  “Oh, so basically he is/was not justified in the least?  M is/was completely in the right and Silva is/was completely in the wrong?  ‘Cause that’s how real life conflict actually works…”  M’s explanation seems good enough for Bond who doesn’t question M’s leadership or choices and does not even seem to realize that but for the grace of M herself, he could be the next agent given up to an enemy nation.  Since a clear line between MI6’s good and Silva’s evil is drawn in the sand (and because he doesn’t cry while telling his story) it is hard to feel sympathy for Silva even though he has so much potential to be an interesting character.  
   But this lack of sympathy is a double-edged sword because I also don’t feel much disdain for Silva either.  Remember a few lines back when I said it was impressive that the creators of DKR make you feel sympathy for Bane even though he was gonna nuke Gotham?  Well, you would think that because Silva is ultimately less sympathetic that it would be easier to condemn him for his transgressions.  Buuut, I have a really hard time caring about his victims or his targets.  Let’s review them, shall we:
 
James Bond: Not even a primary target, just a guy who got in the way.  Also a sociopath whose chosen profession allows him to kill with impunity while he drapes himself with the flag and sings “God Save the Queen” to lull himself to sleep.  I am supposed to care about this guy who works in the shadows to maintain the hegemony of an empire with a legacy of murder and oppression around the globe?
 
M: An ice queen and bureaucrat who tries to keep fear alive in her country to justify her inflated position and salary.  Too dumb to realize that she should have turned over Silva to the Chinese with the caveat that they must kill him when done with him lest he come back for her and vengeance.  I don’t really care about this character.  
 
MI6: Uses up the tax dollars of the average working Briton and doesn’t divulge its secrets.  Its existence is predicated upon the fear of external threats and xenophobia.  
 
If you ask me, Silva should have used more explosives.
 
Severine: I cared so little for this character’s death that I actually had to look up her name.
 
When it comes down to it, the only victim of Silva I feel bad for is the glass of 50-year old Macallan scotch he wastes when he shoots Severine.
 
Evidently, Bond feels the same way.
SILVA, YOU BASTARD!!
 
On the whole I would say that Bane is more menacing as well as more sympathetic, while Silva (although creepy as fuck) doesn’t elicit a lot of hate or sympathy from me.  That said, both fill their respective roles in their respective films well enough because DKR is, like I already stated more about internal struggles while SF is more about action and therefore needs a less complex villain.  In fact, giving Silva any complexity at all is simply icing on the cake, so my criticisms of his lack of depth are given with an awareness that the same film series that produced Silva also produced Jaws
 
This guy is a regular fucking Hamlet.
 
Catwoman/Selina Kyle vs. Miss Moneypenny

 


   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,

Mommy was very bad,” 
 
about M.  And throughout the film James shows a steadfast, if rebellious devotion to M, which is in line with the parent-child dynamic.  Everyone calls her ‘Mum’ for shitsakes!
   The similarities between Gordon and M deepen though as both are plagued by past crimes.  In Gordon’s case it is guilt; the opening of the film almost sees him come clean about the circumstances regarding Harvey Dent’s death.  Later, when Bane outs him for lying about Dent, he tries to justify his actions to a disappointed John Blake.
   M on the other hand is haunted by past indiscretions in a much more tangible way by former operative Silva. 
 
 
I mentioned this distinction between the two films already; while the struggles in DKR are of a more emotional nature, the ones in SF are typically more in the form of direct physical threats with little emotional struggle.  To be fair, M does show some regret about having to give Silva up but she views things in Machiavellian terms, acknowledging that it was a necessity of her position and for the greater good.  Beyond this, she doesn’t let her past keep her up at night.
   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.

 
Miscellaneous Similarities
   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 films have a literal representation of their respective titles:
   
This is a dark knight ‘rising’
 
This is James Bond ‘skyfalling’
 
Both Batman and Bond mysteriously reappear to their “parent figures” after extended disappearances  to explain their absence and ultimately get back to work.
 
 

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.

 
On a more superficial level, Silva and his men just dress like cops for their assault on M’s hearing.
 
 
Both villains have plans which involve getting captured at some point.
 
 
I almost missed it but DKR has some minor homo-eroticism as well in the form of Bane caressing Daggett.  This of course is nowhere near as pronounced as Silva and Bond flirting with each other in SF.
 
 
Well, that’s all I got.  Hopefully you didn’t hate it.  If there is anything large I missed please feel free to point it out.  If you haven’t seen either or both of thse films go check them out as they are both well worth it.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
*I didn’t put a joke about Bane’s muffled voice here because the claims about how difficult he was to understand seemed mostly overblown to me, and even worse it became an easy joke which could be made without thinking.  I try and keep the humour a little elevated here. 
 
 
 
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One response to “Movie Review: The Dark Knight Skyfalls (Spoilers)

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