This is the debate that was coming. The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) vs. The Avengers. Which one was a better movie? It’s hard for me to say. I loved them both, but the films are akin to apples and oranges. While both are fruit, they are different kinds. The Avengers and TDKR are both superhero movies, but different kinds. Avengers is more of a living comic book. TDKR is a war film akin to Gangs of New York with comic figures.
I am not going to compare plots and story structure, but show how the films through accessibility and stakes makes the films great, and show why they are too different to compare.
Even though both films will get people of all ages to attend in droves, but each film will be understood by different demographics.
The Avengers is a more family-friendly film. The color palette is bright and the movie is extremely funny. Any film with “a large green rage monster” is sure to appeal to the kids and the kid in all of us especially when Hulk stood up to Loki in “BEST BOSS FIGHT EVER!” The Avengers plot is easier to digest for the most elementary mind. A group of superheroes must stop an evil god from leading an alien invasion. The goal is simple and doesn’t require much thinking. Is it bad? Determines who you ask, but I say no.
The Avengers, movie and characters, are light-hearted. They aren’t battling personal demons for the most part, but they are fantastic. We have a god, a super solider, a billionaire with wonderful toys (well, that goes for Batman), and…a Hulk. Even though they are cool, they are entrenched in the fantastic.
TDKR is an adult film despite being about Batman. Kids will go to see Batman, Catwoman, and Bane but the film’s themes will resound more with adults. Many kids will see Bane beating Batman in a fight. Adults will know Bane is breaking Bruce’s body, then proceed to break his spirit. On one hand, this limits the overall accessibility. Small kids will not get the different themes in the movie, but the realism of it makes the emotions accessible to those who understand. We may not be Norse gods, but many people, especially the victims in Colorado, have lost loved ones to violence. We may not be super soldiers, but many have made the journey from paralysis to walking. We may not have stopped an alien invasion, but many have kept secrets to protect the ones they loved.
While, the Avengers may be accessible to more people. The emotions of TDKR is more accessible to people who have gone through pain. The movie is cathartic.
Finally, in The Avengers, the archetypes are clear. There are clear good guys and clear bad guys. In TDKR, Bruce is clearly a good guy to the audience, but to Gotham he is the murderer of cops and Harvey Dent and for some they may not undestand the discrepancy.
The Avengers carries the stakes of most comic book stories: save the world. If The Avengers fail their mission, Loki and the Chitauri will take over the world. Grand stakes, but simple. Also, there are no personal stakes that wouldn’t affect anyone deeply. Sure, Tony Stark would hate if Pepper died, but everyone’s life is at danger. The stakes aren’t close to home, but the grand scale of the stakes makes us root for them.
The stakes in the TDKR are the opposite. Everything revolves around Gotham. On the grand scale, if Batman loses then Gotham is destroyed. If Batman loses Gotham, he loses his reason for doing his job, which is proving to the League of Shadows and himself the people are worth saving.
Bruce also have personal stakes that are vested. In the beginning, Bruce is dealing with Rachel’s death and taking the rap for Harvey’s death. Personally, Bruce’s stakes lie with his family fortune and the fusion project. If he goes forth with it, people may use it as a weapon. He risks his fortune by not doing it. These stakes are personal, but not “globally” threatening. When Selina steals the pearls, Bruce wants his mother’s jewelry, the symbol of his childhood, back. His stakes go from his person, to his memory. When Bane’s goons shoots Gordon, Bruce’s stakes increase to his allies. After Bane bankrupts him and Bruce discovers his “plans”, the stakes increase to stop Bane because he [Batman] knows that the League of Shadows will kill people.
In the battle with Bane, Batman is broken physically then hauled off to a foreign prison where Bane amps up the stakes. Bane explains his plan to destroy Gotham’s soul before destroying all of Gotham. When Bruce sees the stadium destroyed, he knows that is Bane’s first step in breaking his spirit and destroying the city he loves. When Bane announces he has a fusion bomb, the stakes reach their peak. All that Bruce has fought for is in danger. All that he has sacrficed for is about to be for nothing. He has a reason to succeed. He must prove that he will not be broken, but Gotham will be saved.
The Avengers is the film families will go to and be wowed by the explosions and the teaming up of superheros. It’s a bright film, a comic come to life. TDKR is a dark film. It’s a disaster movie/war film. It speaks to the dissent of rich vs. poor, pleasing the Father, and rising from defeat. Kids may like seeing Batman fly the Bat, but may not understand the need to return to cape and cowl.
What did you think of the movies?