Women of TDKR got shafted, film relied on fans to fill blanks.

If you haven't seen the movie, stop now, half this thing is covered in spoiler blocks for a reason.

Lets not take this the wrong way. I liked the movie. The first time I saw it I was on the edge of my seat following each character’s agenda, and the underlying themes. The second time it was a good action movie. Both times though, I left the theatre thinking “were I not a fan, and familiar with the mythology, how would I take this movie?"

For such a long movie, it felt like many things were rushed, and I think what stands out most explicitly was the size of the cast In addition to Batman and Bane, our primary protagonist and antagonists, we have a returning Alfred, Lucius Fox, James Gordon, and newcomers John Blake, Selina Kyle, and Talia Al Guhl. Alfred says his piece and exits, Gordon and Fox are interwoven with the plot, which leaves three major characters who need to be fully developed by the end of the film. My contention, is that since our two ladies already exist in the comics, and each have over 40 years of publishing behind them, the writers and Nolan decided they could cut corners, and leave the fans to fill in the blanks.

Selina’s entire narrative feels rushed, and her motivations never really explored. We establish her as a burglar of some skill in the beginning, imply that she runs with and may be or have been a prostitute. Then we spend the rest of the film moving her from unsure in her self-serving survivalist ways and her feelings for Batman to happily ever after. We never get the real foundation of what got her where she is, how, if not why she wants the blank slate, and how her interactions with Batman and the events of Bane’s martial law turn her towards altruism. It’s not that her change isn’t appropriate, it’s just not justified within the film itself. She doesn’t have enough screen time (or perhaps, the screen time she is given is not used with enough economy) to make such moves. Still, it’s what we want to see, and it’s what we are given. I’m contending that Selina deserves better than that. As Fan service, it was great. As filmmaking? It was cheap corner cutting.

Talia got even less screen time than Selina, certainly once she outed herself. For such a major character, her motives get narrowed down to being daddy’s girl, as if we are supposed to just cut and paste the monologues from the first film into her mouth. True, I don’t want to sit through something redundant in a three hour movie, but both she and Bane deserve more autonomy than this. This is the Mother of Batman’s son we’re talking about here, who is one of the world’s most deadly assassins, and all she manages to do for herself in the film is sleep with Bruce (which is not thoroughly motivated in film- she already had what she wanted, what was she just trying to get further in his head? Deepen his trust? Again, we accept this scene because as fans we want them together, but within the film, there isn’t much reason for it. She doesn’t want to marry him. She just wants to destroy him), order a truck around, and then die poorly in a car crash.

We accept these shortcuts because we know and love these characters, but not everyone does. What the hell was the average moviegoer supposed to make of Talia? If anything, our love for these characters should demand a more realized roll for them in this film. I had one discussion on the matter that suggested a film focusing on the Bat-Cat relationship had more potential to reach the philosophical, psychological and ethical heights and grays seen in the other two films. Of course it has less explosion potential, and I can’t blame Nolan for wanting to go out with a bang. Still, you’ve got to wonder.


Stop comparing Chris Bachalo to anime.

It just isn't appropriate, and I think it underlies a kind of ignorance among comic readers. When I look at the books that are currently being put out by the big two, a lot of what I see is attempts at a kind of cold realism. Some of these attempts work, and though not particularly dynamic, they look good and get the job done. Most of the stuff falls short though, with awkward limb placement, inaccurate face planes, and poorly rendered expressions. Maybe people who aren't visual artists who work with the figure don't see this, but for those of us who do, it is glaring. The dominance of this style, or at least attempts at it, feels rather uncontested in the comic vine community. It is like a kind of recognized standard, and anyone who deviates from it is labeled as "other".

I think the people who support this style need to look back to Jim Lee in the 90s... and they need to take a long and considered look. From where I'm sitting, he feels like the grand daddy of rendered realism... the bastion that a generation of comic artists grew up on and rallied around. We accept attempts at rendered realism as his linage... and in doing so, we fail to look at what he was actually drawing. The guy was hugely stylized. The musculature of his figures, the approaches he takes to shading... the fact that most of his faces look like variations on a hand full of themes. He's a great artist, but like most of the guys that emerged in the early 90s (and not just the ones that went on to form Image) he was a stylist.

Now, when people speak ill of Bachalo, they almost always deride him as too stylized, too cartoony, too confusing, and finally they compare him to anime. The guy is cartoony (aren't we all?), and he has undeniable style. I've never found his compositions confusing, only dynamic and engaging... and i can think of only one brief phase in the late 90s where his work actually resembled anime at all. Even then, it was more dynamic, individualistic and engaging than any anime or manga I've yet to see. Truth be told, he's taken to so many changes in style over the years I find it hard to pin any labels to him. He's like Frank Zappa- playfully dipping his hands into any genre he feels like, but somehow preserving a constant recognizable flair and energy.

People who want to call him sloppy need to take a crack at drawing themselves, and understand the skill and competence it takes to depict such wild and frenzied images and still hold them together. You can't draw angles like that and not know what you are doing. he's sloppy in the way that Zappa was sloppy... which is to say the guy didn't allow his musicians to take drugs because they would't be able to play the music, and he expected every one in the band to know how to play every song in whatever time signature he felt like indicating by hand signals on the fly mid concert. This kind of sloppiness is also known as being insanely organized.(High level organization)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aU47shd3j_s (High level chaos)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrzOzgYL1-o

Folks who say he can't draw faces need to realize he's been making comics since the early 90s. Through 1995 or 96, he probably did more than any other artist I can think of to give every character a distinctive face. He caught a lot of flack for it from Marvel. Read his early run on "Shade: The Changing Man", "Death, The High Cost of Living", and the better part of Generation X. In reading Gen X, you really get to see his range,- he notably changes his approach to the figure and faces five or six times during the run. One of these changes resembles an Anime style. In the past decade of so he's settled into a more compact style. True, his faces have become more simplified, but he still knows more about conveying attitudes and emotions in the gestures of the face than most comic artists out there. He also still bothers to draw character faces for our more rough and tumble types like Wolverine and Sabertooth. These are qualities I've never seen in Anime art, which seems overwhelmingly to rely on symbolic convention to convey emotions- the American equivalent of a Ninja Turtles one sided scowl.

In the end, I think the fear of Bachalo is the fear of something that is different... something that still manages to challenge the status quo. Comparing him to Anime is like calling anything with a saxophone jazz influenced. Saxophones don't make jazz- blue notes, swing, improvisation, soul, and advanced harmonic theory make jazz. Simplified or stylized faces don't make anime. Last I checked, most faces ever drawn in comics were either simplified or stylized.