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Completely Unnecessary Dark Knight Rises Post (Spoilers)

[ 92 ] July 23, 2012 |

There’s absolutely no reason to write a post dissecting the shortcomings of Dark Knight Rises in security analysis terms.  Nevertheless (spoilers etc):

  1. A cursory glance at FM 3-24 would have indicated to Bane et al that the project of managing a city of 12(?) million with a few thousand poorly trained and organized soldiers, many of whom have only the most tenuous of loyalties to the ideological project (I don’t see the 1000 organized crime veterans as following Bane with any enthusiasm) was… ambitious. It’s possible that the population of Gotham isn’t terribly restive, but in general blowing up the football team and threatening nuclear destruction aren’t great ways to win the hearts and minds.
  2. By Day 10, I’m guessing that JSOC would have infiltrated the city with several thousand SOF. The population of the city is easily large enough to absorb such an influx without difficulty, and Bane’s organization showed little capacity for monitoring the population in any case. It goes without saying that managing the city on a day-to-day basis would have been impossible under these conditions.
  3. Bane’s only card is the nuclear weapon, but as we know nuclear weapons aren’t very useful for fine tuned coercion. Within the first few hours it would have become clear that Bane was not prepared to detonate the nuke at any escape/infiltration, because hundreds of private boats would immediately have attempted to flee the city. Once Bane’s tolerances had been established, the salami slicing would have begun; SOF would arrive in the aforementioned throngs, electricity would go on and off, shipments of food would only be made on pain of concessions, etc.
  4. None of this matters if Bane’s only goal is the destruction of the city, but of course it isn’t; Bane wants to hold the city captive in order to make an ideological point.  This means that he values something, which means that value tradeoffs can be forced. Arms and Influence should be required reading at League of Shadows HQ.
  5. A thermonuclear weapon is a device; a machine that requires a variety of equipment to function properly in order to do its job. If you hit a thermonuclear weapon with a Tomahawk missile bad things happen; radioactive material is strewn across the blast radius, etc. What normally doesn’t happen is that the device operates properly and detonates to full capacity. Destroying the nuke might not be option 1, but it would be part of the toolkit.
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  1. Dan Nexon says:

    No reason is reason enough.

  2. WhatDragon says:

    This post, among many other reasons as well, is why the movie was terrible.

  3. ploeg says:

    A movie that has Arms and Influence as a prereq is my kinda movie.

  4. JREinATL says:

    Well analyzed. Hard to decide who had the more implausibly complicated plot: Bane, or Walter White at the end of Breaking Bad S4.

    (That being said, I have a hard time caring about villain with outlandishly implausible master plans. I mean, my favorite movie is “Vertigo,” and Gavin Elster comes up with the world’s least likely to succeed plot to murder his wife….)

  5. Murc says:

    None of this matters if Bane’s only goal is the destruction of the city, but of course it isn’t; Bane wants to hold the city captive in order to make an ideological point.

    Yeah, but if it looks like things are going to hell, he’ll pull the trigger anyway.

    The most “realistic” outcome of Bane’s plan, such as it was, would have been him declaring his ultimatum, a bunch of scared people trying to flee by boat, swimming, or ingenious swings across the bridge gaps, and him shrugging and popping his nuke.

    Sidebar: I remain annoyed we never saw that twentysomething “judge” from the kangaroo court get his. Everything about that kid screamed “I am a trustafarian weekend anarchist who is finally getting his jollies off.” I would have loved a scene at the end, nothing to long, maybe ten seconds, where he gets arraigned in a REAL court.

    • Robert Farley says:

      Um. You mean Scarecrow?

    • WhatDragon says:

      The most realistic outcome of Bane’s plan would have occurred in the first 20 minutes of the movie. Specifically, Tommy Carcetti, or the Special Forces operators with Mr. Carcetti, would have shot Bane in the face.

      Failing that, the aircraft Tommy Carcetti was on with Bane would have communicated with it’s controllers that they were under attack, and then the C130 Bane got on would have been shot down.

      Yay! End of internationally wanted mercenary.

      • mpowell says:

        Yeah, they didn’t even do anything to explain why Carcetti’s pilot doesn’t appear to notice or respond to the C-130 pulling up directly overhead.

        • Just Dropping By says:

          Sorry, you’re somewhat incorrect. The pilot and co-pilot clearly notice their plane being buffeted by the propwash of the C-130 (the camera starts bouncing and they look around and up in response). The question is why they didn’t take evasive manuevers.

      • Ebonlock says:

        The most realistic outcome of Bane’s plan would have occurred in the first 20 minutes of the movie. Specifically, Tommy Carcetti, or the Special Forces operators with Mr. Carcetti, would have shot Bane in the face.

        Yes, this, a thousand times over. I left the movie absolutely fuming that the entire plot falls apart if the CIA agent just says, “Take the hoods off” before they get on the plane then says, “Now put a bullet in their heads and let’s get this nuclear physicist back home so I can catch the game tonight.”

        Done and done.

        Also too, how in the hell does Bane cart Wayne all the way back to Outer Who-Knows-Where-istan to throw him in hell hole prison? When Wayne finally crawls out of said hole how does he get back to Gotham? Hitchhiking?

        • Just Dropping By says:

          Also too, how in the hell does Bane cart Wayne all the way back to Outer Who-Knows-Where-istan to throw him in hell hole prison? When Wayne finally crawls out of said hole how does he get back to Gotham? Hitchhiking?

          Neither of those seemed at all problematic to me. They clearly took Wayne out before the city is sealed off. As for getting back, Wayne is broke, but he still has all the skills of Batman (for filching some fresh clothes off a clothes line, sneaking past checkpoints, etc.) and his regular social connections (presumably Wayne still had plenty of wealthy friends outside of Gotham who could wire him a few thousand bucks for plane tickets).

          • Craigo says:

            The first movie establishes that he wandered the world for seven years, without any of his wealth, and managed to stay under the radar. Would getting back to Gotham really be such a hassle?

            • brent says:

              Yeah. I mean, I also thought it was a little weird that that part was just glossed over. We never get any sense of his journey to or from this place and so its weird jarring to see him climb out of the pit and immediately step into Gotham. On the other hand, he’s Batman who at least in the comic books is portrayed as in possession of a wide array of extensive financial resources internationally (most of which are hidden) and a master of… everything (except maybe interpersonal relationships). This would not be an especially difficult task for such a person.

              • SEK says:

                how in the hell does Bane cart Wayne all the way back to Outer Who-Knows-Where-istan to throw him in hell hole prison? When Wayne finally crawls out of said hole how does he get back to Gotham? Hitchhiking?

                Those were annoying, as was the lack of an establishing shot the prison, which left me in the odd position of thinking “Has no one in Gotham noticed the big hole full of Arabs?”

                • dan t. says:

                  Not to go for a NoPrize or be That Guy but… they were speaking Russian in the hellprison. So, not Arabs.

                  Otherwise, I’m really looking forward to more SEK on this. I was straining to hear the dialog in a lot of the movie, and I’m still jumbled about how to take the narrative.

      • Janastas359 says:

        Not to completely defend this scene, but:

        1. I don’t know much about military air engagement procedures, but during the football field scene the military brass mention that Dr. Pavel was thought dead when the CIA was flying him out of Uzbekistan. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that the audience is intended to think that this is meant to be a quiet, under the radar pickup, and that there was no easy recourse for the plane in case of trouble.

        2. Obviously they should have taken the hoods off before loading them onto the plane, but it’s not crazy that they did. The CIA agent clearly expressed a very large interest in learning more about Bane, bringing them on board and questioning them about Bane and his mask. It’s not crazy that they would have brought the captives on board.

      • Daragh McDowell says:

        In fairness its later established the plane was in Uzbek airspace, indicating Aidan Gillen (a fine Irish actor to whom props must be given) and his crew were on something of a black-op (Uzbekistan isn’t so friendly towards the US these days) outside of radio contact of a friendly airbase.

        Additionally those hunting Bane might have some inkling that he’s not actually top banana in the organisation. Interrogating him could be a priority.

        Also – its a movie.

    • Janastas359 says:

      The judge is a character from the first and second movies, Dr. Johnathan Crane, AKA the villain Scarecrow. In the first movie he is dosed up with his own fear inducing toxin, and is driven insane by it. In the second movie he is shown to be a low-level drug supplier. The use of the character was meant to be an in-joke/callback to the first two movies.

    • A Random Lurker Temporarily Decloaked says:

      I’m going out on a limb & assuming you’ve never seen Batman Begins, and probably didn’t pay much attention to The Dark Knight if you didn’t miss that as well.

      Since, you know, that was the Scarecrow, a major antagonist for the first film who also appears in the beginning of the second.

  6. mpowell says:

    I think it would have been pretty dangerous to allow people off the island so easily. Normally, the way this process works is the government doesn’t actually care that much about the hostages (in comparison to the example they are setting for other situations) and so is willing to put substantial pressure on hostage takers as you suggest. But there is no example setting in this case. You have to let Bain think what he is doing is working.

    But you could still easily sneak people onto the island as you suggest and a handful would easily escape. The scenario lasts 5 months. How hard would it be to sneak out at night on boat or even by swimming in August?

    There are many other problems with this movie, of course. I don’t know if it was the source material or not. But it made the Joker movie highly plausible in comparison.

  7. Stag Party Palin says:

    Farley, are you a secret member of the NCAA rules committee?

  8. Anderson says:

    UNDER THE FOLD, dude. Jeez. The NCAA should penalize this blog next.

  9. SEK says:

    HAVE NO FEARS, LGM FAITHFUL! The resident “Batman expert” will be seeing it in a few hours and write a necessary post sometime later today.

  10. NonyNony says:

    I haven’t seen it yet, but if it is anything in tone like the first two movies, I wasn’t expecting any kind of “realism” to the plans of the villains. I was actually expecting them to be kind of like the plans in the first two movies – utterly ridiculous schemes that are spoken about with sufficient seriousness – and filmed with a very serious tone – that people believe that they’re “realistic”.

    Honestly Ra’s al Ghul’s scheme in “Batman Begins” isn’t any less ridiculous in the abstract than Christopher Walken’s character’s schemes in “Batman Returns” – but Liam Neeson and the screenwriters play it very seriously while Christopher Walken and his screenwriters played it less so. But neither scheme is particularly any more more less “realistic” than the other – it’s all in the staging and the illusion of realism.

    • daveNYC says:

      The plans in the first and third movie weren’t horribly unrealistic. Basically they were hitting a major city with a chemical or nuclear weapon. Just with an extra heap of stupid on top of it.

      What didn’t make sense was how that tied into the goal of the League of Shadows to bring balance to civilization or whatever. Sure Gotham is a big city and whatever, but taking it out wouldn’t have the same result as sacking Rome did.

      Plus, with Bane’s resources, it probably would have been easier to just buy/steal an old Soviet city buster than to kludge a 4 MT device using bad science and a fusion reactor.

      • NonyNony says:

        Basically they were hitting a major city with a chemical or nuclear weapon. Just with an extra heap of stupid on top of it.

        “The extra heap of stupid” and the “lack of connection between plan and stated goal” are actually what I mean by the fake realism being glossed over by people watching.

        “I will poison the city’s water supply as a random act of terror to show world leaders that I can seriously strike anywhere and they can’t stop me” is a realistic – if boring in a superhero movie – scheme. Something very close to it probably gets wargamed out by first responders in this post-9/11 world.

        “I will put magic insanity drugs into the city’s water supply and activate them with a microwave engine strapped to a speeding train to further my end goal to bring balance to The Force civilization” is a completely ludicrous scheme that depends completely on Liam Neeson, Christian Bale, and Gary Oldman playing it completely straight to sell it as anything less than “overly convoluted and ridiculous”.

        This isn’t a dig, actually. I like the fact that Nolan can sell crazy over-the-top supervillainy so well.

        Personally I want to see Batman join the Justice League and beat up on Starro on the big screen. But I doubt the movie-going audience is ready for that quite yet.

        • Spuddie says:

          is a completely ludicrous scheme that depends completely on Liam Neeson, Christian Bale, and Gary Oldman playing it completely straight to sell it as anything less than “overly convoluted and ridiculous”.

          And the great thing about all 3 of them is their ability to take ludicrous writing and sell it to the audience.

          They could be taking turns reading a phone book and I would still watch for at least the first half hour.

    • JREinATL says:

      That’s what I’ve liked about Nolan’s take on Batman. Pretty much entirely through the use of set design and mise en scene, he’s managed to create the illusion that outlandish, implausible, and utterly “comic book” plots are “realistic.”

  11. Just Dropping By says:

    I definitely agree that Bane’s plot would have been very unlikely to succeed in real life and was pretty inconsistent with the “realism” angle of the Nolan films. That said, it was still very good for a summer action movie (albeit not as great as TDK) and, as several reviewers have pointed out, it was an excellent conclusion to the trilogy in that it really pulled together a lot of the themes and plot threads that had been developed in the previous two films.

    One thing though that I’ve been surprised not to see more mention of is Bane’s rule over the city seemingly being somewhat inspired by the Paris Commune (major city cut-off from the surrounding nation by a local uprising, quasi-socialist rule, etc.).

  12. Janastas359 says:

    I think the reason we’re meant to believe that the plan worked is BECAUSE Bane’s ideological point was proven correct. As Alyssa Rosenberg said on Think progress, Gotham is generally depicted as containing four groups:

    1. The rich
    2. The poor
    3. The criminals
    4. The police

    I think the idea is that by keeping group 4 from interfering, that groups 2 & 3 would be happy to rise up, and take from group 1. Instead of relying on a few thousand mercenaries to control the whole city, the city controls itself because a big enough chunk of Gotham agrees with what Bane is saying. Now, whether or not that’s how it would really play out is up to the viewer, but I think we’re meant to take away from it the point that it worked because Bane’s thesis was proven correct.

    I think the more unrealistic thing is the size of Gotham’s police force; Gordan said they had roughly 3000 men down in the tunnels. Obviously not all of the police were trapped down there but enough were that the city didn’t have any more real law enforcement. New York City, comparable in population to Gotham, has roughly 35,000 police officers, so how the heck did Gotham get by with 3000?

    • Just Dropping By says:

      I agree that we probably end up with too low a number of police in any event, but the 3000 figure appeared to be the number of survivors after the tunnels were imploded. It’s quite plausible that thousands of additional officers were killed in the initial cave-ins or suffocated/starved in sections of tunnel that couldn’t be resupplied. What I want to know is how it is that the survivors all stayed so cleanshaven after spending more than three months in the tunnels.

      • Chuchundra says:

        I remarked to the missus that JGL spends five months in city under siege, cut off from the rest of the world, scavenging for resources, yet manages to remain perfectly coiffed throughout the entire ordeal.

  13. Daragh McDowell says:

    I hate to say it, but I had trouble enjoying the film for these exact same reasons. Damn you International Relations PhD! (I also had problems with Dr. Pavel referring to the device as a ‘neutron bomb’ – Jesus he’s nuclear physicist?

    Couple of notes though –

    a) Its fairly well established that Bane’s militants are fanatically committed to the cause, and presumably as League of Shadows vets/trainees are at least the equal of an average US SOF soldier.

    b) The question of guarding the nuke does seem to be reasonably established – three permanently moving convoys, each protected by Tumblers with fairly sophisticated anti-air defences.

    c) The part of the city Bane takes over is the relatively small island part, analagous to Manhattan. Still a formidable piece of real estate to defend, but as he has no real interest in maintaining law & order or exercising control over anything but the aspects of society he’s already thoroughly infiltrated and compromised, less formidable than Farley makes out.

    • Just Dropping By says:

      As to point (b), the convoys also appear to mostly travel alond alleyways, presumably to further limit the possibilities for aerial targeting.

    • Murc says:

      I also had problems with Dr. Pavel referring to the device as a ‘neutron bomb’ – Jesus he’s nuclear physicist?

      In the good doctors defense, english may not be his first language.

      • Daragh McDowell says:

        Nyet – I’m afraid I speak Russian. The various terms for ‘neutron bomb’ ‘nuclear bomb’ and ‘atomic bomb’ are quite distinct.

    • Robert Farley says:

      Regarding A, however fanatical they may be they are not depicted in the film as being particularly competent; given that many of them appear to have been hired at the age of 16, this would not be surprising. Recall also that 1000 armed criminals appear to make up a substantial element of Bane’s force.

      On C they’re a bit sketchy, but if we take Manhattan as a good analog that’s still 1.6 million people, which is still utterly insufficient for even basic policing tasks. If the occupation force was unpopular (and that’s a big if, but again if Manhattan is appropriate comp then it’ll be unpopular with large segments of population), you’re going to be seeing Bane’s army lynched on a regular basis.

      • WhatDragon says:

        I am not sure the Gotham Police were that competent either. At the end there they appeared to be assaulting a building guarded by opponents with some model of Kalashnikov and Wayne Industry Applied Sciences Armoured Cars.

        The Gotham Police appeared to be armed with MP5s, or some type of Heckler and Koch variant, and some sort of pistols.

        Yet, the Gotham Police made the assault like they were fighting the Dead Rabbits in the Five Points.

      • Craigo says:

        The criminals were not part of Bane’s force – he released them only to cause chaos. They’re not members of the League of Shadows anymore than the maniacs released from Arkham in Batman Begins; they’re just pawns.

      • Daragh McDowell says:

        What Craigo said. And we don’t actually get to see the much of the combat skills of Bane’s forces outside the initial assault on the CIA Gulfstream – which seemed pretty damned effective. Batman takes them on precisely once, when their objective is to let him progress into their hideout so Bane can take him down. They also adapt to using cutting edge military hardware quite rapidly. Given all of this in addition to what we know of the League of Shadows from previous films, I don’t think your ‘poorly trained’ point holds up.

        • Robert Farley says:

          We see them utterly fail to mow down an on-rushing throng of police officers, in the open, with automatic weapons. And then we see those same (malnourished, to boot) cops manage to take them on effectively in hand to hand combat.

          • Daragh McDowell says:

            Yeah but they’d been effectively running an occupation for five months. Seriously depletes combat effectiveness. I think if your forces can hi-jack an airplane mid-air, extract three people from it, insert one, perform a relatively complex medical procedure (the blood transfusion), its safe to say they’ve got some game.

            But yeah, that last scene. That was a bit weird. As were the clean shaven, and entirely healthy GPD.

      • Anderson says:

        Terror may or may not suffice in the real world, but it does in Gotham. People are scared shitless. You noticed all those empty streets? People were hiding indoors.

  14. brent says:

    Its interesting. What I find is that when a movie is mediocre or not very good otherwise, these kind of “shaky” details tend to stand out more. I could certainly be wrong but I doubt that they are what tends to drive the dislike of a movie itself.

    I can say for myself, I remember walking out of this movie and, for another instance, Prometheus, thinking “well I really didn’t enjoy the movie that much.” In both cases, it wasn’t until later that I started thinking about all the various plot holes. But while I am watching, my displeasure is more centered on a general sense of incoherence and poor craftsmanship than with any specific narrative point.

    I do tend to notice bad dialogue and this movie has quite a bit of it. So did the first two but I liked both of those quite a bit more and so I tended to be more forgiving of a lot of that.

  15. Craigo says:

    1. Bane has no interest in managing the city; indeed, that’s the opposite of what he actually wants. (Tangentially, the LoS fighters appear to be very committed, and the 1,000 mob thugs were, as mentioned, not part of his force.

    2. How? They clearly have anti-air capability, there’s one guarded bridge, and even before the river freezes, would you risk the nuclear destruction of a major city to slip a couple guys across in a boat?

    3. See 4.

    4. It is made explicitly clear that the destruction of Gotham is the goal – the chaos beforehand is merely a bonus.

    5. As others mentioned, the nuke is mobile, with decoys, and travels only in narrow alleyways. Tomahawk strikes are far from surgical under much better conditions than these.

    • Robert Farley says:

      1. Bane has created a situation in which distribution of food, clothing, et al is centrally managed, and he appears to be trying to manage it. He also appears to have an interest in carrying out (if only the appearance of) a revolutionary political project. Which requires management of the city.

      2. Yes. Bane has far, far too few people to monitor either the egress or ingress of persons from the water. The other shore ain’t far away; JSOC has guys who can swim that far (and gear that can support the swimming) and could deliver SOF in substantial numbers in very short order, right under the noses of Bane’s forces.

      3. Of course it is, but he maintains the facade of a revolutionary program… which means he has to maintain the facade of a revolutionary program.

      4. See 3.

      5. Keeping those alleyways open requires… careful management of the city. It took the insurgents, such that they were, several minutes to track and disrupt such movement. With SOF, the location of the warhead would have been determined with near certainty in almost no time, and the amount of ordnance (delivered by air, IED, etc.) targeted would virtually ensure destruction.

      • Robert Farley says:

        Moreover, in the film we see that Bane is actually willing to tolerate the infiltration of SOF; when he doesn’t detonate at that point, it would be pretty obvious that further infiltration (made possible by Bane’s utter inability to monitor or manage the city) would likely be tolerated.

  16. daveNYC says:

    One interesting point is the different take on the people of Gotham that Nolan had in this film. In the second film, the climax of the movie is when the ferry passengers show some spine and don’t set off the explosives. In this movie, you have the entire population of the Gotham island going full Lord of the Flies in less than 24 hours.

    The ferry passengers in the second movie were mostly commuters, so maybe Nolan things more highly about suburb residents.

  17. heckblazer says:

    What the movie was doing was combining two Batman stories, Knightfall and No Man’s Land. The first had Bane breaking Batman’s back, which lead to Bruce Wayne not being Batman for a number of real years. The second was centered around the aftermath of a 7.5 earthquake hitting Gotham and the US government’s decision to just blow all the bridges and declare the city a no man’s land with no one allowed in or out; this is also the story in which Bruce Wayne finally dressed up as Batman.

  18. sleepyirv says:

    The movie was going fine. I think, “Wow outside of that Catwoman speech this movie has been a lot less political than the last one.” And then suddenly the French Revolution happens.

    I really have had enough of Nolan’s poorly thought out political stuff. His societal commentary stuff is just annoying.

  19. Daragh McDowell says:

    Alright this is thoroughly exhausted – can SEK or Scott or Paul write a post on how the film is not an endorsement of right-wing political thought as the reliably ignorant (Erick Erickson) and reliably disappointing (Matt Yglesias) have been claiming?

  20. Dave says:

    Completely unnecessary indeed. I’ve heard more plot analysis/nitpicking with this movie in less than a week than I have most movies that have come out all year. On one level I appreciate that people care and want it to be as good as it can be. But on another I think people are going a bit too far and are treating it more like a documentary. And I think it’s at least in part a response to high expectations rather than a consistently strict adherence to tightly formed and completely logical plots.

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