Subtle Changes!

It’s tough to find a superhero more “1%” than Batman.

But despite the fact that the world’s favorite superhero is empowered by the funds, technology, and the research of a fictional world’s largest multinational conglomerate*, there are apparently murmors coming from the The Dark Knight Rises production that cameras may well roll on the protest.

The news comes from the LA Times, who have heard rumors that “cast members have been told the shoot could include scenes shot at the Occupy Wall Street protests.” They specifically note that the storyline is unlikely to directly incorporate the protests, and that it would more likely be integrated in such a way as to demonstrate a general frustration in Gotham city with corruption/greed or what have you.

Interesting, no?

It’s easy to balk at the idea of Nolan using something so topically loaded as a controversial protest movement in his already-underway motion picture, but one need only look back to The Dark Knight to see him doing very similar things. In fact, the difference between the hype and build-up to TDK and TDKR is most notable when you consider how effectively the campaign for the former was quickly capitalizing on, in very broad strokes, the political atmosphere of the country. The coming feeling that the country was drawing a line and making a big change (in either direction) imbued the viral marketing and known story elements with an energy and irreplaceable effervescence that helped make the film a cultural phenomenon upon release. That we were ultimately presented with a film that, no matter what the Nolan Bro’s will own or not, is loaded to the brim with potent post-9/11 Bush-era themes only made the entire package of the film and its marketing feel sharp and of its time. Terrorism, wire-tapping, the frightening anonymity of terrorism, and a hero that was struggling with how low to sink in order to combat an inherently unstoppable force… all very 2008.

Now cut to another election season as The Dark Knight Rises films in a country whose priorities and concerns have very much changed. Frankly, nobody gives a shit about terrorism much anymore. And from what we can tell of the new movie, the story revolves around the return of a shadowy, old force that works behind the scenes of civilization and exerts influence and power through a combination of conspiracy and indiscriminate wealth. Consider that said organization seems to be aligned once again with a villain character that seems more of a force of nature than a simple man. Consider that the conceit of the film seems to be that said villain is ready not to simply blow up landmarks, but to literally crumble civilization from the foundation, collapsing everything we know around us. Consider that we’ve seen massive crowd fights on the steps of what very much look like Wall Street! Would that not suggest that our hero shift his focus from anarchic forces, to very deliberate forces with a much more insidious agenda? Does it not sound like Nolan and co. may have once again captured the spirit of the times? It’s hard to say if Bane is purely an extension of the League of Shadows and their agenda, or if he is at first some independent force that might have something in common with the protesting spirit (he’s been heard to have dialogue filled with words like “liberation” and “freedom”).

Regardless, it’s not all that hard to figure how protest footage could work its way into the movie. It’s also not a huge leap to guess that Batman was already going to be dealing with a threat to Gotham much different than shit blowing up unexpectedly. While there’s no chance Bats would be fist-fighting bankers and using that BatCopter thing to chase down CEOs of financial institution, it’s quite possible the League of Shadows may have more than a few things in common with the political and financial institutions that have largely driven the ominous direction of our economy of late. Oblique it may be, but I think a post-Joker Gotham is going to have more to fear from their lives being torn down around them by the rotting influence of corrupt institutions or self-serving organizations (again, like The League) than a dude running around and blowing up landmarks. All this is why an earthquake machine doesn’t sound so silly to me, and a perfectly natural way of escalating the stakes and staying true to the real world.

In terms of a viral campaign, it may well end up true that Warner Brothers just isn’t able to market The Dark Knight Rises with as much thematic resonance as they were able to do with its predecessor. The film itself may not lend itself to such (it would be cheap to redo something like the I Believe In Harvey Dent campaign and simply switch out The Joker for Bane), and ultimately the game has changed in a mere four years. Hell, we’ve seen so much more already from this film than perhaps any other highly-anticipated film before it, to the point that a viral campaign kind of feels moot. That said there’s still almost a year remaining between now and the film’s July 20th release. Even if the film has had a clunky start in the public eye, once all the photography is complete, the spy photo hype wears down, and WB is in a position to control the stream of information again, there will still be plenty of time for a well-choreographed viral effort. A viral effort that we may see once again tie into the charged atmosphere of the country…

So all of this to say, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Magnus Rex (the production title of TDKR) get in on some of that sweet sweet free production value and scoop some footage of the protests. I don’t think Nolan would have to bend over backwards to work it into his film, and if this particular protest and political energy survives the harsh cold of winter and carries into next year, I could see Warner Brothers getting their marketing ass in gear and doing something with it.

I’ll leave it to you to consider the philosophical implications of such a thing.

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*I can’t say if a post-Batman Wayne has undone all the tax shelters and loophole exploitation one would expect from Wayne Enterprises. Also, the 99% protest is (for the most part) aimed much more at banking firms and corporations that just smear their own shit-covered wealth back and forth amidst each other, siphoning money out of the real economy with bullshit financial inventions. Wayne Enterprises on the other hand, is built on infrastructure management and the actual production of goods, so maybe it all does work out. Then again.. oops! …military contracts.