Dark Knight strategy

(Note 1: Anyone who will be offended by light-hearted discussions of the Dark Knight Rises in light of the shootings at the Aurora premier should skip to another part of the Internet. I have no intention of giving murderous attention-seekers the power to hijack all media, but I am aware that not all will agree.)


I’ve just seen the Dark Knight Rises, which was a pretty good movie–not as good as the previous film in the trilogy, unsurprisingly, but exciting and even moving at times, with lots of little moments for each minor character to reveal his true nature and seem like a unique individual.

One minor problem: Batman is supposed to be a master strategist and tactician. He’s chosen to go underground to pursue and confront his enemy, Bane, about whom he has considerable intelligence, including Bane’s background, training, experience, and physical prowess (including his main point of weakness–a mask over his mouth that keeps Bane from suffering intense pain). He can see Bane standing in front of him, a very large individual of obvious strength and questionable agility. Batman is wearing a utility belt filled with grenades, throwing blades, sleep darts, cable launchers, and bolas. He is standing in a large cavern and is capable of operating vertically by shooting lines up to the ceiling and using built-in powered winches. In short, he is in a perfect position to remain outside Bane’s striking distance while hitting him with a variety of entangling, injuring, and even killing weapons.

Out of this cornucopia of options, what does Batman choose? Of course, a head-on bull rush, followed by a slugfest and wrestling contest. That’s the combat equivalent of Neiman-Marcus starting a price war with Wal-Mart. Macho is one thing, unbelievably stupid is another. (It’s true that in the real world, people make stupid mistakes, but in fiction we want Aristotelian probability, not literalness. And if someone does go the literal route, the character’s stupidity should at least be noted by others in the story.)

The fundamental writing problem here was actually reflected way back in the Knightfall comic book series that introduced Bane–his supposed awesomeness as a combatant simply doesn’t match his capabilities. (At least in the comic book, they gave him a device that injected a super-steroid called Venom straight into his head when he needed to pump himself up for extra fighting fury. It still wasn’t enough to make him seem that tough for any foe with speed, agility, and distance weapons, but it made for a striking visual when his veins would bulge out in expansion mode.) So the Nolans gave themselves a tough writing challenge the moment they decided to use the Bane character–another example of a particular strategy causing tough execution problems.

4 Comments on “Dark Knight strategy”

  1. davidburkus says:

    Interesting thoughts. I suppose, though, that it makes you wonder if Batman wanted to be caught by Bane. Plus, doing so allowed Nolan to include the comic book elements of breaking Batman’s back AND tying in Ra’s al Ghul, who at least in the comics named Bane as his heir after Batman rejects him.

  2. RussCoff says:

    In the spirit of taking superheroes seriously, did anyone catch the physics study of Batman’s winged suit? Here is a link to the study:

    • Rick McGeer says:

      It was interesting. Of course, the conclusion (Batman would get pulped on hitting concrete) is obvious; after all, if an airfoil the size of Batman’s cape could support safe flight and landing at tolerable vertical velocity, then one could make parachutes that small. However, the calculation rests on the guesstimated area A of Batman’s extended cloak, which is approximated from a screen shot to be a triangle of height .94 m and base 4.7 m. In fact, when Batman is photographed standing and caped, the cape is ankle-length; this gives a height of at least 1.5m and base 7.5m (ratio base:height of 5:1 was seen in the photo), or an area A’ 5.56m. A’/A ~ 2.5, so the actual landing velocity might be closer to 32 km/h, or about 9 m/s; this is about equivalent to the fall from the second story of a building…so maybe…ankle-breaker territory. Cape would have to roll up horizontally most of the time, though…7.5m would wrap comfortably around a human and his arms at least six times over.

  3. Rick McGeer says:

    I suppose one explanation is that Batman had been retired for a number of years, remained emotionally shattered by the death of Rachel Dawes, and had just terminated Alfred Pennyworth — and under these various stresses was not thinking clearly. More questionable was how he returned to Gotham rapidly from half a world away; and, come to that, why anyone took Gordon’s word that Bruce Wayne was the (supposedly) deceased Batman.

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