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Christopher Nolan’s Batman is practically a master course in manly movies — so just why does this bat-flick make guys cry?

The goal of this series is to show that being “manly” and being disconnected with your emotions do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. While the approach to these articles is one of comedy and satire, the emotional core of these movies is very valid. Manly movies make guys cry, for example:

The Dark Knight Cries

NO IT WASN’T BECAUSE OF BANE’S VOICE! Now that we’ve got that out of the way, The Dark Knight Rises was a fantastic film. Sure, there were minor flaws, such as Talia al Ghul being such a wiener at the end, and yes, Bane’s voice SOMETIMES being muffled. But on the whole, we couldn’t have asked for a better ending to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. I mean, besides missing Heath Ledger. But this film, more than the first two — and in fact BECAUSE OF the previous films — is the emotional payoff that brings tears to guy’s eyes.

Do I really have to explain why a Batman film is a “manly” movie? Explosions, fist fights, gadgets, Batman, that Catwoman outfit…Batman some more. The gap there is because the middle of the movie had Bruce Wayne doing pushups at the bottom of a pit! Now that’s manly! However, Christopher “Complicated Plot” Nolan has injected more heart and soul into this world than any other Batman director.

This film makes several expert callbacks to the previous two films, and it’s nearly impossible to follow the plot without seeing them. We start out establishing the goofy Bane voice that the film pretends is menacing, but then he backs it up by being legitimately menacing so we’re ok with it. Then we skip over to watch Anne Hathaway earning the right to be drooled over by anyone watching, and all but erasing Halle Berry’s performance as Catwoman from our minds. Christian “gargling peaches” Bale has an odd cameo on “Reno-911,” and then sulks around because reasons. It’s hard to be rich, amiright? Bane starts orchestrating a long plan where he steals all Batman’s money (oh yea, he figured out who Batman is, cause that’s how it went in the comics), and then steals a McGuff-nuke to hold the city hostage.

There are a few running themes in the trilogy that start to gain true traction here, all rotating around Alfred. While Bruce Wayne is ostensibly the protagonist of this film, Officer John McNotRobin is really more of the hero and Alfred is the Shakespearean tragedy akin to King Lear.

First, Alfred’s personal pain is explored through his recurring café fantasy. During Bruce’s seven-year absence, Alfred took a yearly vacation to Italy (you know, to steal some gold and escape in a Mini Cooper) and daydreamed about catching a glimpse of Bruce nearby enjoying a peaceful life. This scenario is often misunderstood as Alfred saying “I fantasize about you being happy,” but what he’s really saying to Bruce by revealing this to him is, “I often think you would have a better life if you weren’t Bruce Wayne.”

Watching a boy with survivor’s guilt become an angry young man obsessed with becoming a martyr is not easy. Alfred’s fantasy isn’t peace for Bruce so much as relief from the pain of being that child, that adolescent, and that man. What’s worse is that Alfred was charged with raising him to be a worthy heir to the family name and as good a man as his father, and now Alfred has completely given up on that responsibility and admitted that it would be better if Bruce never returned from his walkabout. And Michel Caine sells his sorrow SO HARD that we cry with him.

Immediately thereafter is the Rachel thread (pronounced RACHEL!!!!!!!!!). Michael “Austin Powers’ Fasha” Caine knows that before blowing up, she chose Two-Face over Batman, but out of respect and love for Bruce he keeps this secret. Throughout the series it’s all but spoken aloud that Alfred thinks of Bruce as his adopted son. Ever a faithful butler and father-figure, Alfred has supported Bruce through every seemingly-whacko endeavor thus far, even if he didn’t always approve. But after realizing how self-destructive Bruce has become, Alfred has no choice but to reveal Rachel’s intentions. Whether blinded by the threat of Bane, or the revelation that Rachel didn’t want to settle down and have Bat-kids, Bruce fires Alfred, which is comparable to firing your dad. In the words of Mike Myers, I’m getting a little verklempt.

Alfred’s implied fatherhood is immediately and savagely amputated. Not only is his “Son” rejecting him as a father, but he’s using Alfred’s professionalism against him. No matter how much they’ve been through, he will still always refer to his charge as “Master Bruce,” if anything to remind the young man that his parents’ legacy lives. While Bruce’s personal dismissal of Alfred is painful, his professional dismissal is even worse. He has severed Alfred’s ability to show his love through his work.

Even after that, Michael “Tangerine” Caine tries to warn Bat-Wayne that eight years of sulking might have softened his belly a bit, but Bruce is all “I’ll chug a Redbull and be done with Bane before dinner, brah.” Bane then performs a ca-ca-ca-combo breaker on Batman, dumping him in a prison pit with a TV so he can watch Bane touch his toys without permission.

At the end of the movie, after Talia al Ghul reveals who she is and immediately dies due to being stupid, Batman is left with a horrible choice. He must fly the McGuff-nuke away from the city in the Bat-plane, sans autopilot. Seriously guys, he doesn’t have autopilot, so don’t ask about it because he totally doesn’t have it. (He has it.) Everyone, including Alfred, sees Batman fly into the bay to irradiate the entire Eastern seaboard. The ending montage begins and they hold a funeral at Wayne Manor. A tombstone for Bruce sits next to his parents, with Alfred bawling his eyes out in front of them. “I’ve failed you,” Michael gurgles. Despite thirty years of his best effort to be a father, a mother, a brother, and a crime-fighting partner to the boy, Alfred has failed Thomas and Martha in his primary task: he has let tragedy consume their boy. Their deaths defined Bruce so much that all the love and respect and support from Alfred still amounted to a life of isolation and a violent death.

To fail so completely, to have been deconstructed so thoroughly, and to have such a classy actor crying like a baby at the grave of his friends and family…this is why this movie makes guys cry.

Like what you see? Secure enough in your masculinity for more? Dan also works on No Right Answer, the weekly debate show that knows what’s really important: Pointlessly arguing about geek culture.

Daniel Epstein
Father, filmmaker, and writer. Once he won an Emmy, but it wasn't for being a father or writing.

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