I'm Nathan Hardisty, an author, ex-editorial writer for Platformnation.com, ex-games writer at Screenjabber. I now write for a variety of sites on the internet while still updating both my DTOID blog and my regular blog, which can be found below.
Before you ask I am only seventeen years old and I live in England. If you have a problem with either of those facts then I suggest you leave the building you are situated in and get hit by a van. If no van appears after three or four hours then a car will do. Thank you.
Note: Yes, I've been away. Yes, I've been busy. Yes, it's somewhat late to be prancing about Skyfall but, goddamnit, I had something to say. Expect irregularly scheduled content from here on in. I have missed writing about film.
I am currently working on my book about American Psycho too.
Skyfall is a Bond film about Bond, both genre and man. It critiques, deconstructs and celebrates the genre it inhabits. Sam Mendes and company have created probably the most important and clever Bond film of them all, well deserving of its place atop the 50th Anniversary.†Skyfall is the type of film that shouldn't happen and it's the type of Bond film that, up until now, doesn't exist. There's a whole variety of 'parody' movies, even the Bond spy sub-genre has been mocked by the likes of†Johnny English, but this is possibly one of the most unique films ever created. I honestly believe that this could only be accomplished by such a franchise that has now lasted for half of a century, and will continue to last forever thanks to such raw energy that has been thrown into this series once more.
What am I talking about? To understand what I'm about to say you must consider for a moment the meetings building up to pre-production. Who should we get to direct the new Bond flick?†How about the guy who did†American Beauty?†Great!
There's a trend that picked up from the mid-2000s which seems to becoming the simple 'norm' nowadays. Big budget franchises with all of their attached iconography are handed off to independent directors who've made clever, intricate films and projects chock full of ideas. Think Sam Raimi and Spider-Man,†Christopher Nolan and Batman, think Joss Whedon and†The Avengers, Marc Webb and...†Spider-Man again,†and now James Gunn with†Guardians of the Galaxy. It's one incredible high-risk strategy; hand off hundreds of millions of dollars to some independent talent that the target audience, more than likely, won't have a clue about. People don't go to†Skyfall expecting something on the level of†American Beauty, nor do most folks go into Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy wanting some ideas about revolutionary thought, police state, terrorism, hope and the misuse of ideology and†bureaucracy.
Skyfall manages to pull off one of the greatest moves of the past five years, and I'm not sure if people have noticed. I've read some great critiques of the film; how it explores the Oedipal relationship between Bond and M, the recurring themes of 'age' against 'youth' and evaluations of the stellar performances within. This is not an essay about any of the above, this is an essay about how†Skyfall mocks, berates and celebrates the genre by using the genre itself. Sam Mendes has certainly pulled off an intellectual caper.
Even in the film's advertising there was a sense that this wouldn't fit into the rest of the franchise. There seemed to be a wider emphasis on the 'elements' of the Bond film; fast cars, glamorous women, exotic locations etc. It was largely perhaps out of the franchise's impending 50th Anniversary with†Skyfall being the firm flag to mark the series' long history. Journalists, reporters and film critics seemed to get caught up in the†ruckus†around the 'elements'. You need not Google 'Bond' for but a few links nowadays to catch Top Ten Bond Girls, Top Ten Bond Cars. The fact is, this was the†setup.†Skyfall†requires†you to know the elements, it demands you know what a Bond film is. At the same time it's an absolutely perfect entry point for newcomers, with only cute references and nods to the concrete past.†Skyfall's critique of the 'Bond' film is more interested in the abstract theory behind what†makes a Bond film. The†setup began long ago, probably not even intentionally.
From the film's opening moments we find Bond failing to do his job. Failing to defeat someone in hand to hand combat. Failing and falling to his death. This was all over the trailers, and I would've relished to have been surprised by this actually. It makes more sense really. Bond†has to fail, he has to fall to his death so that he can rise again. It's important to note throughout watching the film how much time is spent underwater, underground and inside buildings. This is about Bond's psychological condition as much as it is his physical and meta-condition. Sam Mendes shoots Bond in the first fifteen minutes to give us a sense that he's not worthwhile, that he can't keep up and (perhaps) there's a degree of antagonism shown towards Bond. Indeed, the next time we're introduced to him he's shagging some nameless bird up a wall and necking alcohol. The film makes a definite swipe towards Bond's martini indulgence and painkiller needs, remarking at one point that Bond has been shown to be a†perpetrator†of "Substance abuse" and "Alcohol" abuse. He further fails his physical and psychological tests when he comes back to England, shattering a core principle of the Bond franchise:†the macho male power fantasy.
The very root fact of†Indiana Jones,†Transformers,†superhero movies and every long-standing 'action movie' protagonist is the projection of the ideal man. The perfect man. Strong, handsome, muscular, witty, clever, well-traveled with arms around big-breasted babes and toes dipped in gold. 'Men want to be him, women want to sleep with him.' That old, heterosexually orientated near-Victorian filmic idiom. Why on Earth should we celebrate Bond then? Why should we care and†want to be Bond anymore when he sexes strangers, necks alcohol, pounds the painkillers and is generally just too damn old. For the first time, Bond is shown to be nothing but a pathetic waste of man. He's called "Old dog" by Moneypenny, and Silva remarks that he's "Not bad for a physical wreck." I imagine some of this would stem from the fact he did fall off a goddamn bridge in the film's opening, but it's more interesting to link both Sam Mendes' involvement and the fact that this is the fiftieth year of Bond. Why on Earth would anyone want to be†this particular Bond? Bond answers it himself, "Sometimes the old ways are the best."
One clever scene, which deserves analysis in itself, is the introductory sequence between Q and 007. Note the huge disparity of age, I agree with other commentary that age and youth is a recurring theme of the picture, but note what they're looking at. "An old warship" being "hauled†off" for "scrap". What does Bond see? "A bloody big ship." Q explains, in this age of cyber-terrorism, that Bond's role is simply to fill the shoes of something almost expendable, almost worthless. "Now and then a trigger has to be pulled." The shelf life is showing, the old ship has to prove itself worthy. This actual painting comes back at the film's final scene in the background of the new M's office. Well worth seeing how the 'age versus youth' theme comes full circle. By the film's end, indeed, Bond proves himself more than worthy of the double-0 mantle.
The Aston Martin DB5 rears its head again, with one pretty†humorous†note revolving around the ejector seat. The film is rich in references to the past, but it also delves a little deeper. We go straight to Skyfall manor, the very core of James Bond's upbringing. Only when Bond†wields his father's old rifle does he truly get his aim back. Only when he dips into his own history does he find his ability return to him. Notice an underwater sequence is both at the start of the film and end of the film. Notice the touted 'exotic locations' pillar of the franchise reduced, in the third act, to encased in the British Isles. It's shot beautifully and the locations themselves are used wonderfully, but this is clearly not your typical Bond film.
The martinis and booze are to show him raggedly alcoholic, the injuries and physical wreck to show him aged and old, the locations are to show him out of touch and out of pace with the modern cinema, the cars are to show just how long he's been around and the gadgets point and laugh at the franchise. Even Q remarks that there's no "exploding pen" to be found here.
This is a Bond film that uses the Bond genre to reveal things about the character and genre. It shows the ridiculousness behind the various elements and, honestly, did you ever consider Bond to be an alcoholic? Did you ever think for him to be this old? The film points and laugh both at Bond, and at the audience for believing in him. When James himself says he "knows all there is" about "fear", there's a truth behind that. He's been around for that long. He's seen the Cold War end and terrorism stirs. But the films thus far haven't been that self-conscious. Lazenby's Bond remarked himself "This wouldn't have happened to the other guy." in On Her Majesty's Secret Service in reference to Connery. Pierce Brosnan's Bond was called a "Cold War dinosaur" at one point. The film's have certainly been self-referential, but they've never used the genre itself to show just how ridiculous and out of touch the franchise is. At the end of the picture, however, there's a sense of celebration. Even when Silva manages to wipe his M off the Earth, Bond has exterminated the last rat.
Silva's appearance may be an actual nod back to 'Jaws', who funnily enough is Bardem's†favorite†villain. The cyanide and psychological scars may be an attempt to modernize the villain, to try and usher Bond into the new age.
Further still, Silva's flamboyance hilariously deconstructs any trace of the heterosexual 'macho-male power fantasy' still residing in Bond. He feels him up, and even Bond remarks "How do you know this would be my first time?" A direct undermining of the idea that Bond pursues girls, and Bond girls only. Bond's very sexuality crumbles under the weight of†Skyfall's prods into the genre's elements. One could comment it's an attempt to modernize Bond, that he should always encompass our times and our society.
What is†Skyfall? It's a self-conscious Bond film about Bond. Not just the man but the man beyond the man. The figurehead agent who has become a figure of British cinema and irreversibly influenced the 'action movie' forever. You may see the film differently, and I encourage you to do so, but the film's approach to common Bond elements certainly directs it to be both a critique and celebration. Even when Adele is channeling Shirley Bassey with her 'Skyfall' song, the purest kind of Bond theme, there's a sense of over-indulgence. The women, the quips, the physical wreck, the alcohol; "Age is no†guarantee†of efficiency".†Skyfall points out just how ridiculous it is to believe in this genre, to believe that it is of any worth. That this horrible man can be revered by many. The macho-male power fantasy†crumbles in wake of the film's smashing criticism, it literally slaughters Bond only to bring him back to life and push him to find his place in the modern world. And he does it. Not just 'modern' or 'post-9/11' but 2012. Bond remarks himself that his hobby is "Resurrection", a double nod both to his Skyfall†comeback and the very fact of the franchise. Like a Timelord he resurfaces with a new face, film after film, actor after actor, year after year after year. He keeps coming back, I really wonder if there's a sense of agony in his meta-immortality. Alike Deckard in†Blade Runner he may be stuck across versions, in some being human and in some being Replicant; never free or sure of who he is. He is trapped in ambiguity, across faces and spaces and forms from the film franchise to Fleming's spy masterpieces. The film is Bond turned up to eleven, and while it critiques itself it still absolutely delights in it.
I think this was both the most impossible and appropriate Bond to make at its fifty-year inning. It's a film that takes an axe to the genre but, by its end, enjoys itself. It lets Bond win because he is worth more than just a "trigger" in this world. He is a figure of the past, present and indeed future. To Skyfall, Bond is an 'icon' and one that can be used; it chooses to let him live so that he can go on to embody new ideas and shift his tastes.†Existing long past history. It's a re-evaluation and celebration of the genre, and this is the film's greatest triumph. It belongs beyond the genre, as both an onlooking critique and a sharp romp through its heart.
One sequence that sums up the whole film is the incredible 'Tennyson' poetry†overlapped†by scenes of an aged Bond rushing to save M from Silva's reckoning.
ďThough much is taken, much abides; and though We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.Ē
It's beautifully interlinked with the franchise's history and perfectly†summarizes†Skyfall itself:
ďThough much is taken, much abides; and though We are not now that strength which in old days
A nod towards the franchise's history. That "much is taken", that so many lives have taken on the double-0 suit. Still, past actors and history, "much abides", there's still strength in the old dog (significantly, M's final gift to Bond is that of the British bulldog ornament she has on her desk throughout the film). "We are not now that strength which in old days" is a direct reference to the franchise's history, and indeed the true strength of Bond was once considered how it was both a mish-mash of Cold War†paranoia†and romps within.
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts,
"Which we are, we are" Almost admits that this is Bond, that this is what it always will be. That he will remain an icon; a suit to be filled. That it is there to be mocked and celebrated and watched by all. The "heroic hearts" is a further nod to the 'macho-male power fantasy' crumbling, but Bond still remaining a hero.
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.Ē
"Made weak by time and fate" is a fantastic way to show the film's self-consciousness. It knows its own history, it knows how "old" its hero is, but it is still "strong in will". It still strives, seeks and finds new ways to fight its own corner in the cinema world. Even among Batman and Bourne, it will not "yield". It will not die.
Skyfall can, in short, be seen as a spin on the aged "Can't teach an old dog new tricks." In some cases using literal reference to Bond as an "old dog", but otherwise trying to show Bond as (both the man and genre) capable of change. Capable of rebirth. It all comes back to the film's opening, that Bond will continue his path of "Resurrection". It's a Bond film about Bond, just as†Spec Ops: The Line is a video-game shooter about video-game shooters and Jane Austen's†Northanger Abbey†is a gothic novel about gothic novels. James Bond has finally entered the age of post-modernism.
And don't get me started on the film's links to current political events and Britain's position in the wider world. This is one clever film.
t's interesting to consider the massive array of talent that was suckered into the†Aliens franchise. The fire was†kick-started†by Ridley Scott, a man who would go on to do incredible things with the sci-fi genre. James Cameron then delivered the first sequel, another bloke who would go on to do some mind-blowing things. A youngling David Fincher got his first proper ropes with†Alien 3 and he's gone on to do incredible things. The last director I won't even mention because†Alien Resurrection†doesn't exist.
The first film was largely a retread of the old-age horror formula with a few twists. There was a neo-gothic, alien architecture and setting along with injecting a bit of age into all the main characters. The main heroine wasn't shrieking or screaming or fainting every five seconds, nor did she perish horribly. In fact she came out of the ordeal a complete badass.†Aliens is not a 'horror' movie. It doesn't have scuttling monsters around air ducts, it's a war movie. It has its moments of suspense but it's otherwise a very action-heavy affair.
Aliens is a film with robot-sentries and Alien queens and giant stretches of the xenomorph anthology. This is†definitely†a†super-sized†sequel. For the first time you get a real feel for the universe, for the place that the films have taken place within. The silence of the first film's soundtrack is replaced by this bombastic score and it's all done to show just this vast universe.†Refineries†and factories, hospitals and apartments, ships in outer space and the original's plot fits in nicely. Ripley's grown a lot since the original, she's been having nightmares (which I'll discuss in detail tomorrow) and it's time to beat the nightmares to death.†With bullets.
Any†vulnerability†that Ripley had before has now been shed away. If you compare the times that Ripley encounters the xenomorph in the original with her encounter with the Queen then you get a very different character. But it feels like a progression of the same person. Over the course of these films she slaughters them like butter and then, in the end, feels herself able to go toe to toe with the biggest and baddest.
There's still the themes of innocence (the pursuit of a cat replaced with the pursuit of a child) and there's suggestions that the film is quietly self-mocking. The lines of "Game over man! Game over!" and "Get away from her, you bitch!" seem incredibly exaggerated, but this is an 80s action flick and not a late-70s horror flick anymore. But the film is still incredibly clever and, I would argue, a lot more emotional. The moments when Ripley discovers she has outlived her own daughter, the 'Mommy' moment with Newt and the team-effort 'last stand' that goes on. The film is rich in tension but not of the 'horror' kind, we're just wondering when the bad guys will show up.
I noted before that the theme of innocence pervades in a different way and indeed both films are rich in symmetry. They both end practically identical to each other, there's still a sweeping silent shot of the ship as the crew cyrosleep and Ripley still goes into a closet at the end to escape a nasty. Except this time instead of coming out shaking in a spacesuit she dons a loader and ices the queen-mother-motherfucker. The genre flip of 'horror' to 'action' is probably at its most explicit during the final half-hour. There's explosions, larger sets and a completely different tone to the original. There's still elements of claustrophobia and a neo-gothic feel to some of the film but the lighting, the sets and the mixture of characters feels completely alien.
I think it's incredibly interesting to watch the series flip from its sci-fi horror roots, imbued with traditional elements and set-ups, to then into one of the most bombastic action sequels of all time. Cameron would later show again what he could do with massive budgets with his sequel to the†Terminator which I would argue is the greatest action sequel of all time.†Aliens isn't worse for wear for having an action-gun-ho sequel, it's still often quite terrifying, I'd say it feels a lot more fresh.
The series somewhat nosedives in the next flick and takes on a ridiculous mixing of both the original and the sequel. The final film in the series, that doesn't actually exist, just amps up the horror to disgusting†Saw like 'revolting' levels. It isn't fun. But†Aliens is where the series went from a clever horror into a bombastic and incredible action vein. There are few series I can name that actively 'genre flipped' like†Aliens did.
Note: I get a bit too preachy and feministy with this, and indeed assume and rant and whatever. I'm sorry. Last few days have been a nightmare.
What do you think of when I say 'classic strong female heroine'? Some of you literature folk will raise your fingers towards the likes of Austen and her collection of protagonists, or Lady Macbeth from 'The Scottish Play'. Some of you history people, me included probably, will yell out Pmily Pankhurst or Eleanor Roosevelt. A few of you will namecheck Bella from†Twilight or Lara Croft or choose from a plethora of responses. I fully expect Joss Whedon's name to be in the mix of descriptions too. The phrase of 'classic strong female heroine' always sparks images of Sigourney Weaver in†Alien or†Aliens, not the latter two.
Exactly why this is has been a plaguing question for a while. Yes, Weaver's Ripley is an empowered, strong and witty female who holds her own against xenomorphs never mind the mostly 'male' crew. The film is probably, as thousands of much more cleverer folks have pointed out, an incision into the Vietnam War and its consequences. The most†patriarchal†of all of life's pursuits, at leas that's what history will teach you. Ripley, however, gives us the full story about conflict and community; that women are badass too.
Except 'badass too' would likely cause some sting with a slice of the feminist community. That to be on the same level of men in the context of one film isn't enough. As a more easy feminist myself I would somewhat agree, but I'd point out the absolute presence that Weaver's character has on the entire franchise. She's namechecked when she's not there, she's the only focus of the fourth movie, she defeats a legion of nasties and she's the protagonist. That last one is probably the most obvious to anyone, but this is important to consider given the realm of sci-fi horror we're dealing with.
In the realm of 'horror' then the girl is usually one of the first to die and in the realm of 'sci-fi' they're often treated with some disrespect.†Blade Runner, another Ridley Scott film, treats females with either a righteous empowerment, giving great ability to the Replicant females and showing absolute oppression, or a distinct misogynist slant, the 'pleasure' model Replicants are females and Deckard only ever kills female Replicants directly, depending on how you interpret it.†Ridley, in the case of†Alien however, takes a vastly different approach in my opinion.
I can say that I can count enough 'good' films with female protagonists†on one hand. Sarah Connor from Terminator†(James Cameron also directed†Aliens), Beatrice Kiddo from†Kill Bill, Dorothy from†Wizard of Oz, Ellen Ripley from†Alien†series and arguably Lisbeth Salander from†The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Obviously if you expand that to literature and I'll need a†lot of hands.
Empowered female characters in films is another story too. What I'm talking about is 'protagonist' and the paradigm of the protagonist, the very model of the lead character, isn't necessarily decided by gender but it seems to be somewhat 'the case'. The vast majority of stories have male protagonists with females serving as a cause of destruction, a femme fatale, eye candy to gawp at, a damsel to be in distress, a Maggie Thatcher male-empowered 'Look I can shoot guns too' figure or simply 'wife/girlfriend'. I'm not playing the feminist here. It's quite fun to look at the works of Christopher Nolan and try to find a single woman in his filmography that isn't a foil to the protagonist. Not that Nolan is a misogynist but I wondered for a while why he has females to be so destructive, unfair and generally†viscously†disgusting†'creatures'. Then I remembered†Alien.
I will probably write about Nolan's 'use of women' in his films at a later date but I think he uses them as such vile, violent characters because they often†destroy men. A few extreme circles would argue that he is simply showing how the†patriarchal†society that we have created has now created such desperate, tragic figures as Mal (Inception) or Natalie (Memento) or Selina Kyle (The Dark Knight Rises). The same goes true for Lady Macbeth in†Macbeth, Shakespeare may be showing such a distress (and indeed powerful being) because she only manipulates what is put upon her; masculinity, sexuality and the crushing weight of being a female. Although they're all†debatable†really.
Alien is not about the 'female metaphor' destroying the 'male society metaphor'. It has nasties with phallic weapons, the men tend to die a lot or do stupid stuff, and even in†Blade Runner†Scott portrayed the men as drunk or obese or killers or cold-blooded or envious or generally disgusting or perverted amongst others.†Alien's take on the 'protagonist paradigm' is indeed a challenge of the status quo, but in a reverse as to what the ilk of Nolan and Shakespeare have created. It's showing empowerment not through showing distress, and the consequence of macho-male dominated society, but through plain empowerment. Ripley is probably the strongest female protagonist of all time by†virtue†of her being one of the strongest protagonists of all time full stop.
I am so so sorry for dying for the past few... months. I apologize so so much. Consider this my 'comeback' because I've given up video-game journalism for filmy stuff instead. Expect more and more of ME around these parts.
I did plan to do an essay on†Aliens tonight but then I remember that I'm an idiot. I did an essay on†the original†Alien a few... months ago†but I really didn't do it any justice. I have a strong love for the original†Alien†and I think it's Ridley's finest hour outside of†Blade Runner. I've decided that before writing on†Aliens I need to go back and deliver some more essay action on the original†Alien.†Prometheus also happened and the DVD/Blu-ray is released over here in exactly a month so I'll write something on that too.
The original†Alien will get another essay written about it for Friday (which happens to be my Birthday) on the topic of the 'protagonist'.
The week afterwards will be 'Aliens' week, finally, where I'll discuss the move from horror-focus to action-focus under the direction of James Cameron. I'll also write a 'Pop Psychology' essay on confinement and the psychological metaphors that the film series carries throughout anyway.
Alien 3 will have an essay with a strong emphasis on the direction of David Fincher compared to Scott and Cameron's preview vision of the xenomorph violence. There will also be a 'Scene Incision' in which I talk about one of the film's scenes in massive detail, with screen caps and stuff. It won't be Cinematography #101 but more of a deconstruction of a specific visual piece.
The critique of†Alien†Resurrection could probably span a whole month's worth of essays. Not because it's bad but because it's so†different. The first essay will focus on Joss Whedon's screenplay and how it was adapted to the actual screen. The second essay will be a 'Pop Philosophy' in which I address Existentialism or something.
I have no idea what to essay about with†Prometheus but I would like to say that I consider it a good film. It's heavily flawed but it's Ridley Scott's best film in years, maybe even decades. I'll talk about it.So this is 'Aliens Season' to make up for my absence from 'essaying' as a whole and to finally fulfil that promise I established a long time ago. The essays will vary on their length but I will be watching the Alien Anthology numerous times between now and†Prometheus, beginning right now when this post goes out.
So that was pretty good. Better than¬†Dark Knight good? Not sure. It feels like a completely disconnected film yet familiar with its escalation. It's like a lovechild between the two films actually, and this lovechild is beautiful. Okay that makes me sound a bit like¬†paedophile.¬†Rises is a¬†different film from the previous two. I have some minor gripes with the moments of exposition (Nolan is not a natural writer,¬†Inception already proved that), I disagree with the consensus that Anne Hathaway 'stole the show' (for me it was JGL, Caine, Oldman and Bale) and I also have some problems with some of the editing in the film. Other than that it's a pretty solid feature and Tom Hardy defies all odds to command a stronger position than the Joker ever did. That's not to say Heath's performance wasn't worse, it was miles beyond Hardy's¬†repertoire, but Hardy's portrayal of Bane just has this raw physical presence which really can't be articulated. The quirk on his voice, the physicality and the ideology that drive Bane make him, for me at least, the centrepiece villain of the entire trilogy and a fitting villain to finalize the dark knight legend.
So that's it. No need to talk about anymore. Whatever! And in case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night!
Well we both know that this isn't how my writings usually end;¬†abruptly. If anything they're long-winded attempts at some pseudo-intellectual incision into a film or something.¬†The Dark Knight Rises is a politically intricate, morally messed and wonderfully woven masterpiece of cinema. I will probably discuss the trilogy as a whole someday, I could probably write a book about it (hint hint), but instead I want to focus on something. The ideology of hope.
I've heard slander towards the film that it's Anti-Occupy, fringes on becoming fascist¬†paraphernalia, a love letter to extreme capitalism and a raw defence of the 'police state'. I don't think it's any of these things. I think what is portrayed is two extremes battling it out to save the livelihood of the world's citizens.¬†The Dark Knight was about the war on terror,¬†Rises is more about a war on revolution. I think in the end Nolan settles for something more pleasingly ambiguous, and in fact seems to see that no matter what revolution we choose what matters is that we keep our humanity intact. A lot of this was taken from some abstract viewing of the film but there was a slice of concrete political thought that I took from the film. There's a strong weight given to the separate ideologies of Batman and Bane, namely surrounding that of 'hope'.
For the majority of the film Nolan decides to literally break one of the biggest genre conventions known to mankind; that of the hero/heroine learning to not fear death. In¬†Rises, Bruce Wayne revolts against the trilogy's status quo of 'sacrifice' and instead smashes into a whole new outlook on his very life: to fear death is not a weakness but a¬†strength. The lack of a fear is used against him as he tries to break Bane, only to get torn in twain himself. When he comes back with the raw 'want' to survive he practically breaks Bane in every place possible. It's interesting now we can see the trilogy as a whole: it's about Bruce finding a way to sacrifice himself for the good for Gotham, about him losing any hope for his future life (with Dawes' death) and then regaining it with the events of¬†Rises. It's in some flavours a 'coming of age' story, albeit with a near 40 year old protagonist by the end of the three films. It's also about a realization involving 'hope'.
Bane details that there can be no despair without even the slightest bit of hope. It's why he has the bomb ticking away and hiding the tick-tock from Gotham's ears. There's still hope to survive. It's why he breaks Batman, but doesn't kill him, there can be no despair without hope. Batman's compass points in a different direction, that without hope we have nothing. It's an interesting ideological battle that spans the film and tears into other relationships and characters. Of particular interest is the way that John Blake still sends the kids to sit in the school bus when Bane looks to have won in blowing up Gotham, he'd rather the kids still have a little hope even when all is truly lost. That's all we have. "Sometimes the truth isn't enough, sometimes people need to have their faith rewarded." There are so many callbacks to the previous two films, even with the score by Zimmer and some of the camera shots, it really is a true 'curtain call'.
Once John Blake takes on the ideology of Batman then we can see exactly what will happen next. He will become the successor, a man willing to allow himself be shot and blown up to save Gotham's smallest. Selina Kyle similarly tells Bruce that there's no way he can defeat Bane, and Bruce tells her that he might be able to do it with her help, giving her the slightest bit of hope. It's what changes her character from this moral mess into an ally for Bats, the giving of hope. Whereas Bane sees hope as a weakness, Bruce eventually sees it as a weapon. Without hope we have nothing.
It's wonderful to hear that the lost words of Bruce's Batman are given to Gordon and they detail what may be the most subtle plot twist of the entire trilogy. The "warmth" that a single cop gave to him on the night of his parent's death made sure that his "world hadn't ended". That was where the hope came from, that's where Bruce became Batman. Thomas Wayne's morals and Alfred's fatherly guidance all steered Bruce in the right direction, but from the moment there was a flicker of hope given at Bruce's darkest hour (the night is darkest just before the dawn) he was reborn.
That's what serves as the ideological battle between Bane and Batman. There's an entanglement of hope and truth as Harvey Dent is unravelled as a false idol for the people of Gotham at the hands of Bane. The school children that went back to the school bus were, in Blake's eyes, just seconds from nuclear destruction. To Bane, the truth is what drives us and to Batman it is hope. Who wins? Batman... surely?
Maybe that'll take us on to the next discussion of¬†Rises... at some point.