Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Dark Knight & Monomyth

***Moderate Spoilers***

Christopher Nolan's recently wrote about his highly successful Batman Trilogy:

"People ask if we’d always planned a trilogy. This is like being asked whether you had planned on growing up, getting married, having kids. The answer is complicated. When David and I first started cracking open Bruce’s story, we flirted with what might come after, then backed away, not wanting to look too deep into the future. I didn’t want to know everything that Bruce couldn’t; I wanted to live it with him."

As humble and idylic as the statement may be, it also shows Nolan's dream behind his Batman. Like Lucas and Star Wars, Nolan set out to make a great story without hesitation or compromise. They both realized that the true hero's journey does not simply end after his introduction. Their vision extended beyond their first movie, which they knew had to be good enough to allow for the hero's journey to continue and endure through time. The Batman trilogy is not merely a 1.6 million dollar (and growing) success. It successfully utilized the Myth to capture 21st Century America's hopes, fears, and beliefs.

I recommend you brush up on Joseph Campbell, author of A Hero of a Thousand Faces. His scholarship revealed the power and purpose of myth. Namely, the monomyth in which "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man" shows us the essential story-line that all of humankind's Epic Heroes follow. If your interest delve into anthropology, sociology, psychology, mythology, or philosophy, I strongly recommend you read or watch Campbell's work.

Hollywood utilizes the monomyth in most of its productions. The Dark Knight trilogy just happens to be an exemplar example of it. I've broken down each film, and then the series so you can better see how movies are in fact mythical stories. (I'm not making this up.) If you get confused, at least read the Wikipedia page.

Now, there are several variations of the Hero's Journey, but Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy follows Campbell's quite distinctly. Here (via wikipedia) is how Campbell broke the monomyth down:

Via Wikiapedia.

  1. Departure 
    1. The Call to Adventure 
    2. Refusal of the Call 
    3. Supernatural Aid 
    4. The Crossing of the First Threshold 
    5. Belly of The Whale 
  2. Initiation 
    1. The Road of Trials 
    2. The Meeting With the Goddess 
    3. Woman as Temptress 
    4. Atonement with the Father 
    5. Apotheosis 
    6. The Ultimate Boon 
  3. Return 
    1. Refusal of the Return 
    2. The Magic Flight 
    3. Rescue from Without 
    4. The Crossing of the Return Threshold 
    5. Master of Two Worlds 
    6. Freedom to Live

Now lets break down the Dark Knight Trilogy into plot points

Ra's Al Ghul tests Bruce Wayne's moral fiber in Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins

  1. Act I 
    1. Bruce Wayne has gone to wander the globe, 
    2. and is currently in a prison. 
    3. He meets Henri Ducard, who frees him and tells him to journey 
    4. withe a blue flower up a mountain where 
    5. The League of Shadows is located
  2. Act II
    1. Ducard proceeds to train Wayne is mental and physical combat. 
    2. At his Final Test, Wayne is exposed to Blue Smoke
    3. that distorts his senses, making his worst fears come to life. (Falling in the cave with bats)
    4. Bruce overcomes this fear (Father saving him from the cave with bats)
    5. but refuses to kill a prisoner, or even Ducard, which
    6. means he retains his humanity but also has superpowers
  3. Act III
    1. But he does not return to Gotham as the enlightened Bruce Wayne,
    2. and instead assumes the Batman persona and fights crime
    3. with the help of Lucius Fox, the grounding of Alfred, information of Commissioner Gordon, and the insight of Rachel Dawes.
    4. Only now is Batman able to fight Gotham's terrible underworld
    5. Which defeats both crime bosses and the Scarecrow
    6. So that Gotham is a little more safe. 

The Dark Knight

The Joker tests Batman's morality in The Dark Knight (2008)

The Rise of the Villian (The Fall of the Hero)
  1. Act I 
    1. A Clown Robs a Bank 
    2. but won't join the mobsters 
    3. and does not conform to rules 
    4. (Harvey Dent Takes Rachel on a date) 
    5. (Batman leaves Gotham to capture Lau) 
  2. Act II 
    1. Joker demands Batman reveal his true identity, starts to crash parties, etc 
    2. ( Rachel tells Bruce that revealing himself as Batman won't stop joker and will destroy any possibility of them being together ) 
    3. (Rachel rejects Bruce because he is Batman and he cannot think of her as his only way to a normal life.) 
    4. Joker refuses to cooperate, and actually gets the upperhand 
    5. by reavaling to Batman that he must choose between Dent or Rachel [Masculine/Feminine, The Mask/Normalcy, Compromise/Truth, Justice/Love, Public/Private, and a plothora of opposing adjectives] 
    6. Harvey Dent is saved, Rachel Dies 
  3. Act III 
    1. (Harvey Dent becomes disillusion and ) 
    2. ( assumes the Two-Face identity.) 
    3. (Gotham will not be rescued by Harvey Dent) 
    4. Joker reveals Batman has failed to save Harvey Dent 
    5. and that good can be corrupted. 
    6. Batman becomes a villian in Gotham's Eyes while living alone.

The Dark Knight Rises

Bruce Wayne tests himself/Batman in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

  1. Act I
    1. Selina (Catwoman) robs Bruce Wayne 
    2.  Bruce hasn't left the Manor for years (?) and has nothing to live for 
    3. John Blake reveals he knows Bruce is Batman, and explains Gotham Needs Batman 
    4. Bruce tells Alfred to investigate Bane, meets with Fox, and visits Gordon 
    5. Bruce pursues Selina. 
  2. Initiation 
    1. Bruce must try to unravel the Bane mystery as well as get his company back in order, 
    2. which includes meeting with Miranda-
    3. giving her control of the company (and sleeping with her). Also, he asks Catwoman for help to find Bane. 
    4. Fights Bane 
    5. Arrives at the Prison 
    6. Realizes he must accept death as a possibility in order to accomplish his goals. 
  3. Return 
    1. [Refusal of the Return doesn't happen, but you might be able to call Bruce's refusal of the rope as a refusing the possibility of failure without death] 
    2. Bruce escapes the prison and returns to Gotham 
    3. Batman returns (from the without) to Rescue Fox, Gordon, Selina, Miranda, and the rest of Gotham. 
    4. Batman saves Gotham not by returning the reactor to the power plant(?) (normalcy) but by sacrificing himself [Astronaut] 
    5. Batman becomes a legend in Gotham, an icon who is respected and remembered (and lives on). Bruce Wayne actually.... 
    6. ... gets to live a normal life with someone who loves him. 

Now if that doesn't explain it take this:

  1. Batman Begins [Pledge]
    1. Bruce Wayne is adventuring
    2. But finds himself just fighting criminals
    3. Meets Ra's Al Ghul 
    4. Returns to Gotham, finds fun tools to help him
    5. Becomes Batman
  2. The Dark Knight [Turn]
    1. Gotham still isn't clean, and Bruce might want a normal life
    2. Rachel says she likes him, 
    3. but will be with him only if he gives up Batman
    4. Joker Says Batman must choose between Harvey Dent (Public) or Rachel Dawes (Personal)
    5. Rachel dies and Dent becomes psychotic/ Two Face
    6. Gotham becomes safe/crime-free
  3. The Dark Knight Rises [Prestige] 
    1. Bruce doesn't want to be Batman anymore
    2. Returning as Batman, savior, finding his true self again.
    3. Loses his fear of dying (as both Bruce Wayne and Batman)
    4. Escapes the Prison, Returns to Gotham, Dies
    5. Batman becomes a living legend, Bruce is
    6. Free to live like he wants
["The first part is called the pledge, the magician shows you something ordinary. The second act is called the turn, the magician takes the ordinary something and makes it into something extraordinary. But you wouldn't clap yet, because making something disappear isn't enough. You have to bring it BACK. Now you're looking for the secret. But you won't find it because of course, you're not really looking. You don't really want to work it out. You want to be fooled." - Cutter from The Prestige (Touchstone Pictures, 2006, Director: Christopher Nolan)]

He told you what was going to happen!!
The Prestige (Touchstone Pictures, 2006)

I encourage you to look for the 'Hero Epic Cycle' in any narratives you happen to watch. Remember that each aspect can be emphasize or emphasize according to the director's wishes. Also, Epics are not the same as folk/fairy tales (pg. 21 onward of Hero of a Thousand Faces). Let me know what you think. 

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