The Dark Knight Rises: The Streets of Pittsburgh as a Stand-in for a Recovering Gotham City
"I used to live there," I whispered to my roommate near the finale of our The Dark Knight Rises Sunday matinee viewing. "I parked my car on that block!"
Lucy was just, like, "Huh? Gotham City?"
Yes. And no.
Two shots in The Dark Knight Rises show a view from the end of 41st Street facing southwest to Butler Street with Eden Way, the street running parallel to Butler, right in the middle. My old address was on Butler Street. It's the little star you see in the Google Map here. Eden Way is directly behind my former apartment building.1
On seeing the scene the suspension of my disbelief in the reality of Gotham, precariously held throughout the movie, finally dissolved.
As my friend Tom said, a little CGI could have saved a lot of Pittsburghers from a broken fourth wall. Seeing perpetually-inept Mayor Ravenstahl kicking off the football game in the film pretty much made things unrecoverable for the majority of us. The film also left the street signs in scenes. You even spot Parkvale Savings bank signage during the big chase. That just makes me think of getting little envelopes with a weathered $20 bill from my grandparents at Christmas and birthdays. Man. Come on yin'z guys, redd up them shots.
In the first scene, we see Foley and the Commissioner talking after a wide establishing shot of 41st Street. The Commissioner is in the street. Foley is speaking to him from the steps of his house. In the second scene, the residents of Gotham come out of their homes and into the street after *SPOILER* the big nuclear device has been diffused, rubbing their eyes and basically acting like a bunch of hibernating bears. But bears are from Chicago. Let's say they're more like off-season Steelers. Off-season Steelers neither crashing motorcycles nor (legitimately) raping girls.
If you saw the flick, maybe you'll remember the shots. If you haven't yet, look for them when you watch. The DVD isn't out yet and I have neither intent nor the patience to track down a pirated copy of the film to poach the screen captures to back up my shots here. However, I have about five years of memories of life that street to create the mental picture.
I know from where they framed the shot on 41st Street. I know I didn't have the telephoto lens to match the angle while I walked there in August. I know their shot was supposed to be during the Winter. I know the character Foley (played by Matthew Modine), who lived on this fictional block, may have, in reality, been living with a bunch of Somalian refugees or lifelong residents who couldn't ever control their kids as neighbors – I just can't remember how far down the street the house was in the scene to place which.
Drunk and weary old men stumbled down Eden Way with half-had sixers of pounders. Mothers and daughters walked Eden Way collecting leaves around the Wendy's parking lot after school. I snatched up discarded Wendy's receipts to use in my infinite cheeseburger loop when times were rough. I voted at the eventually-shuttered middle school. I parked my car on Eden Way (the #2 spot shown in the photos above) after some DUI-ing, country music-loving goons nearly totalled my car on Butler Street during a 3am hit-and-run – they did the hitting, I did the barefoot running down the street after them and their almost undrivable vehicle. My neighbors across the building's courtyard, living on Eden Way, would tell me how they chased local neighborhoodlums away from the car and cleaned up the broken bottles they left behind so I wouldn't blow a tire.
Here the old block in Lawrenceville was in a Batman movie. My old life, up on screen, an entirely different place than the one I knew.
Between seeing the shots of the bridges in Brooklyn (to which criminals were exiled in the film, my roommate noted) and the streets in Pittsburgh, watching the movie made me think more about where I've been – and how it gets represented to me – than the messages of violence solving problems and the only salvation possible for a helpless underclass being the whims of a vengeance-oriented rich kid.
This isn't a criticism of the film in any way. I liked it. Not as much as the second film in the triology but I still liked it. I just couldn't subsume into it like I hoped. I hit movie theatres alone because I want to go away for an hour or two, not go home.
*) I shot the images above on August 23, 2012.
1) Technically I was living in a former storage area of a former grocery store that then became an art gallery and then a hat shop and yoga studio. The last two enterprises had respective owners and a wall between them, mind you. I still got to hear everything on either side of it. There was that other space across the hall from me on the second floor but that was first a dentist's office and then long abandonded. Was it really an apartment building if I was the only one living there? Still, and point being, I used to live right on this block that is supposed to be part of Gotham City.