First off: The Dark Knight Rises was fantastic, a killer ending to Christopher Nolan‘s Batman trilogy and an engrossing masked hero film in its own right. Over the next few days, our content will get a little more spoilery once people start seeing the movie and we have plot points and specific characters to discuss. But for now, here’s a completely non-spoilery observation that’s interesting considering the context.
The Dark Knight Rises is the third and final big superhero blockbuster of 2012, following The Avengers in May and The Amazing Spider-Man earlier this month. On Monday I’ll be comparing and contrasting all three films, but I didn’t want to wait to point out one surprising similarity between The Avengers and TDKR. These two movies represent opposite ends of the spectrum: Marvel vs. DC, superpowered individuals vs. a millionaire with a collection of badass tools and a massive chip on his shoulder, Joss Whedon‘s wit vs. Nolan’s social commentary. But the one thing they do have in common is a certain quote.
Part of what surprised us so much with The Avengers was that Whedon did a fabulous job continuing the reboots of Tony Stark, Thor/Loki, and Captain America while also making us care for Bruce Banner. Part of the credit goes to Mark Ruffalo, of course, for embodying this multifaceted character whose layers don’t sit nicely on top of each other. Ruffalo plays the unevenness and, despite his shy demeanor, is the Avengers’ most unpredictable weapon. Throughout the film, people constantly poke and prod at him, curious about his secret to keeping “the other guy” at bay for over a year. At high-intensity moments like when Loki nearly divides the team, Bruce has this outburst:
Bruce Banner: “You wanna know my secret, Agent Romanoff? You wanna know how I stay calm?”
Steve Rogers: “Dr. Banner… put down the scepter.”
Tony Stark: “Got it.”
Bruce: “Sorry, kids. You don’t get to see my little party trick after all.”
It’s a supremely creepy moment, because of the knowledge that Bruce has that we’re dying to know. How does he do it? It must be meditation, or drugs, or self-pain. Something to keep the Hulk at bay… but instead, Bruce reveals in the final battle that rather than push aside the Hulk, he embraces him:
Steve: “Dr. Banner, I think now might be a good time for you to get angry.”
Bruce: “That’s my secret, Cap: I’m always angry.”
I was really frustrated when several reviews tossed in this line as an afterthought, spoiling what I considered one of the movie’s prime moments of emotional payoff. It’s so Jossian, a big reveal that fits the character so perfectly and speaks to the average person’s frustrations. I couldn’t imagine a better explanation from Bruce Banner, and I couldn’t imagine that line having the same heft in any other movie.
Imagine my surprise, then, when another Bruce spoke a very similar line in TDKR. Bruce Wayne, played brilliantly by Christian Bale – it’s been so long that I forgot how great he is at the role — starts off the movie a recluse, haunting Wayne Manor with his limp and his grief eight years after Harvey Dent killed his love Rachel Dawes. He’s hung up the Batsuit (and then submerged it in the Batcave), distancing himself from his masked alter ego as much as possible. But as Bane (Tom Hardy) begins to infiltrate a still-recovering Gotham with his army of minimum-wage workers furious at the fat cats, Bruce eventually accepts that the symbol he created must return to bring order to the city.
If I remember it correctly, this quote comes partway through the film, when Bruce’s loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine) accuses him of being emotionally and physically unfit for this undertaking. When he argues that his master is afraid, Bruce snaps back,
“I’m not afraid, I’m angry!”
Of course, this is all coincidence. Both films were written over a year ago — probably several years earlier, in the case of The Dark Knight Rises – and for all we know, either line was improvised by the respective actor. It’s fascinating, though, that two superhero movies released in the same year both focus on the fury at the root of these damaged people obligated to help out humans who neither understand nor care about them.
Now, if The Amazing Spider-Man had had Peter Parker spit out that line, then it would have been spooky.
Photos: hotdamnavengers on Tumblr; Warner Bros.