For a hero to rise, he must invariably fall. The force and ferocity of the fall will often depend on how severe a rise is necessary. In some cases our emotions are toyed with to such an extent that when the protagonist is beaten, we are giddy with childish glee when they return.
I would like to compare two such scenes of horrendous falls that toy with our emotions and precede a mammoth rise. The Dark Knight Rises and Robocop (there are some TDKR spoilers so beware).
Alex Murphy and Bruce Wayne are mercilessly destroyed before our very eyes in two of the most memorable scenes of hero peril. In the case of Murphy he is destroyed so badly he needs to be completely rebuilt physically, with Wayne it’s more a mental breakdown (though obviously his back needs some TLC too). The scenes are pitched to show you how evil and how strong the antagonists are. In the case of Bane he bulldozes Batman – the previously indestructible hero, into the ground. It is a devastating attack. We have previously seen Batman handle all comers with aplomb. Whoever the assailant – man or dog, Batman has dispatched them with consummate ease. With Bane however, Batman has well and truly met his match. He is punched so much that the iconic mask shatters in two and is then broken over Bane’s knee. All the time the attack is going on Selina Kyle is forced t0 watch helplessly through a wire fence (though it is her fault it is happening). We as the audience join her in these feelings of helplessness. The man who carries our hopes and dreams of heroism is being destroyed before our eyes. Batman is then buried deep in an inescapable prison and left to rot – while watching his beloved Gotham city be destroyed and broken before his eyes. Hope seems lost.
With Robocop it is much more of a merciless attack. It’s perhaps the most upsetting and harrowing screen death ever filmed. Alex Murphy is tortured and picked to pieces by Clarence Boddicker and his men. However rather than being beaten and left to nurse his many bruises, Murphy is horrifically shot over and over again, the attack culminating in a single cold shot to the head. Murphy’s partner Lewis is forced to watch Murphy’s last moments from behind a wire fence. Once again unable to help and once again as an audience we are left just as frustrated and helpless. This scene demonstrates just how evil and depraved Clarence Boddicker is and does so much more work than any dialogue could.
Obviously this is all part of Joseph Campbell’s grand plan. A hero is called to adventure, that hero will then face trials and then that hero will then come back and save the day. However the execution on these two occasions is so unique that the journey feels so much more intense. With Robocop you spend a large portion of the middle of the film not knowing that he in fact is still the same person. Indeed immediately after the attack he is basically a lump of meat waiting to die. One of his arms is shot off, his chest riddled with holes and his forehead contains a bullet. There can surely be no hope for Murphy. However as the film progresses he collects his thoughts and gathers his memories and becomes triumphant. Revenge is delivered and good wins out in the end.
Both these moments are made even more powerful with the eventual rise. The steep velocity of their fall serves to make the rise all the more triumphant. Both men return from oblivion and both men avenge their destruction.
Now how to explain why The Dark Knight Rises also reminded me of Rocky 3…
Originally posted 2012-07-30 21:38:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter