The Dark Knight Rises II: Now What?

Yesterday, we looked at some of the problems with the way The Dark Knight Rises handles corporate law. Today we’re looking at, not so much problems with the movie, as issues the movie raises that are going to be problems for somebody, almost right away. We’re going to be doing some speculation here, but it’s all in good fun.  Major spoilers ahead.

Specifically, we’re looking at who’s going to pay for all the damage to Gotham City, similar to our analysis of The Avengers, and some of the legal issues raised by Bane’s occupation of Gotham.

I. Who’s Gonna Pay for That?

When we talked about The Avengers back in May, one of the first things we asked was who was going to pay for the massive amount of property damage done to Manhattan during the battle with the Chitauri. Here we’re asking a similar question, but because the facts are different, the analysis is different. With The Avengers, we concluded that this was probably an act of war, i.e., a large-scale military action by some sort of organized foreign power with state-like qualities. We concluded that this wasn’t likely to be covered by insurance, as acts of war are generally excluded from most insurance policies. The government, likely the federal government, was going to need to pick up most of the tab.

But an alien invasion isn’t what happens in The Dark Knight Rises. Rather, we’ve got about as perfect an example of “civil unrest” as can be described. Bane himself may or may not be foreign, it doesn’t really matter, but he’s explicitly aiming at what amounts to a revolution, and he sets off riots, prison breaks, and widespread looting and vandalism, all with a political motive (or so Bane claims). And guess what? “Civil unrest” and/or “civil disturbance” is also excluded from most insurance policies. This is going to turn out to be really problematic, because the potential insurance claims in The Dark Knight Rises are worse than those in The Avengers by quite a bit.

The estimate for damage to Manhattan was $160 billion, including things like business interruption, debris removal, the works. Well in terms of straight-up physical damage, Gotham looks like it’s been at least that beat up. Those bridges alone are going to cost a few hundred million. Then there’s all those explosions that went off all over the city when the cops got trapped underground. Then there’s all the damage caused by rioting, looting, vandalism, squatting, etc. So if all Bane had done was attack the city and go home, we’d be looking at a situation at least as bad, if not worse, than Gotham.

But it’s going to be much, much worse than that. Gotham City has a lot of people. Where it is and how big it is are pretty explicitly ambiguous, but Lucius Fox once commented that there were 30 million people in the city, approximately 12 million within the 6 mile blast radius of the bomb. That would make it more than twice the size of the largest city in the country, New York, so it’s not clear whether Gotham is supposed to be New York, or what. Regardless, there’s a ton of people. But from the look of the scene where the bridges blow, Gotham seems to extend itself on both sides of the river/bay, sort of like New York does (which is appropriate, since those scenes were filmed in Manhattan). Let’s keep things small and say that Bane is only occupying the central island. Manhattan has about 1.6 million people living on it, but the population about doubles during business hours because of commuters and tourists. So let’s pick a number and guess at there being 4 million people on the island when Bane takes over.

This is hugely problematic. We’ll just take as read that some way is worked out about feeding them all—more on that in a minute—but the death toll is going to be catastrophic. In the Avengers, there was a battle, but it didn’t look like the Chitauri were going out of their way to kill people. Not as such. They were just smashing the place up. Bane and his lackeys are holding Kafkaesque kangaroo courts—conducted by Scarecrow, no less—and it seems to be more-or-less open season on anyone who did well under the old regime or is less than thrilled with the new one. Not to mention the fact that all of those commuters and tourists are now homeless. But the death toll over the three months of Bane’s “rule” could easily have been in the tens or hundreds of thousands.

This means that life insurers are going to have a really lousy quarter. War and civil unrest are excluded from property insurance policies. They are not excluded from life insurance policies. Even soldiers, who have access to life insurance through the Pentagon, can buy it on the private market. Life insurance pays pretty much no matter how you die (other than suicide within the first few months or year of the policy). And in April, the estimate of the number of people with life insurance was down to 44%, a historic low. If 200,000 people die, and half of them have life insurance with an average policy value of $250,000, that’s $25 billion in losses in a three-month period. That’s bad.

But the real kicker is going to be business interruption insurance. Not only is pretty much all of Gotham itself going to be shut down for the duration, but tons of businesses that do business with Gotham are going to be out of luck. Businesses that supply Gotham, like food services and utilities, will probably see their stuff seized by the government and paid for at slightly less than they’d like. Bane’s not gonna pay those bills, so the government’s going to have to. That’s not really an insurable loss. But there are tons of businesses with critical pieces of their logistical or corporate chain which run through New York, and we have to assume that Gotham is the same. New York City has a GDP of $1.2 trillion. This part of Gotham’s is presumably at least that big. That’s not quite 10% of the entire economy, by the way. Call it $1.5 trillion. We’re knocking out a whole quarter of that, upwards of $379.5 billion. Plus countless jobs that depend on Gotham operating for their raison d’être. The damage to the economy is going to be full-on catastrophic. And business interruption insurance isn’t going to pay for any of it, because, again, civil unrest and civil disturbance aren’t covered perils.

II. What Next?

So what happens? Well… it kind of depends on how you want to write the story. There are a number of potential solutions. A major, global depression is one option, and while it would seem to fit with the overall tone of the movies, this one seems to end on a happier note. Rather than speculate as to how things might turn out, we’re simply going to point at some issues that, either because of the legal system or just because, will need to be dealt with.

First, organized labor. Gotham has suffered some pretty catastrophic property damage. Enough to soak up the entire construction workforce of the country for the better part of the next decade, in all likelihood. If Gotham is anything like New York or Chicago, a significant portion of the local construction industry is going to be unionized. The AFL-CIO and related unions aren’t going to be very happy about bringing in non-union labor to do the work that needs to be done, but they’re likely to have significant trouble meeting the demand for labor. This could go one of several ways. A Republican-minded administration might use the opportunity to do significant damage to organized labor, using the enormous public demand for recovery as leverage to smack down the slightest hint of recalcitrance on the part of any union at the hiring of non-union workers. Indeed, there might be sufficient leverage to radically scale back the ability of organized labor to even exist, depending on how things go. On the other hand, a Democratic-minded administration might use the opportunity to radically strengthen the position of labor, insisting that all work be done with union labor, and facilitating the rapid expansion and revitalization of organized labor. Either option would be made possible by the fact that the federal government would likely be picking up the tab. What Congress pays for, Congress can regulate, as a rule. There’s also a middle ground, where companies might be offered an incentive to use organized labor, but no one is required to do so. Some might well chose to go for non-union help if it meant getting their job done faster. Organized labor might be willing to accept that, as they’d be pretty much guaranteed full employment for the next decade regardless. But no matter how it works out, this is something that’s going to need to be dealt with.

Second, displaced persons. Remember, we’re talking about an island with 4 million residents that’s just been essentially shut down for the better part of three months. It’s not going to get going overnight. The government’s likely to need to keep shipping in food for quite a while, as logistical systems reassert themselves. But even assuming that can happen fairly quickly, the rebuilding effort is going to take months, even years. What are people going to do in the mean time? Many of them will have seen their jobs completely gone. Businesses no longer exist, as their capital has been destroyed, their customers are in complete disarray, their employees are scattered to the four winds, and their principals may well be dead. There’s also the million-strong homeless population. Something’s going to have to be done about that. We could be looking at a human exodus that makes the outflow from New Orleans after Katrina look like a school field trip.

Third, criminality. There’s tons of it during the Ninety Days (or whatever). There’s going to be a lot of pressure to enact some kind of justice for those crimes, whether property damage, assault, or murder. Given that the city was basically in anarchy, it seems likely that the authorities would simply decline to prosecute anything less than murder. Figuring out who did what would be almost impossible. But the one thing that isn’t likely to happen is for it all to be ignored. Some kind of official amnesty or prosecution is almost certain to follow.

III. Conclusion

It turns out that basically destroying a city is a Big Deal. Not only is the damage, both physical and economic, going to be immense, but the human cost is almost unimaginable. While nuking the city would obviously have been worse, the difference between a nuke and three months of anarchy might not be as big as might be imagined. The one thing that isn’t going to happen is a return to the way things were. Not for a long time.

33 responses to “The Dark Knight Rises II: Now What?

  1. You could make an argument that nuking Gotham into flinders would have less impact long term than what happened in the movie (ignoring the purely human devastation). The disaster response would be obvious and immediate, without any questions arising such as the criminal conduct you described.

    • Actually… I almost did. Thought it was just a tad too morbid though. It’s analogous to a tort defendant recognizing he’d be better off if the plaintiff had just died. True, but in questionable taste.

    • Considering the absolute lost productivity of everyone who died, the incredible costs of cleaning up and/or quarantining the city, the impact of a nuclear weapon being detonated in an American city on the stock market* and the definite demand for a rise of domestic defense spending the amount saved probably wouldn’t be that noticeable.

      *And if Gotham is intended to be a stand-in for New York then you’d have the entire stock exchange off for at least a day until it could be set up elsewhere (probably Philadelphia).

      • Ryan Davidson

        Actually, I think that after 9/11, both the NYSE and NASDAQ have implemented emergency preparedness measures which will let them continue operations at another location almost immediately. There was some news coverage of this when Hurricane Irene threatened New York in 2011. Apparently, the NYSE has a system called Arca which currently handles a lot of trades and can actually take over for the whole operation if necessary. It’s completely electronic.

        Regardless of what the plans are, they’re in place now and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

  2. Mister Andersen

    So, how would this compare to your assessment of No Mans Land?

    • I think No Man’s Land was one of Nolan’s inspirations (e.g. blowing the bridges, keeping the residents in by force, a small contingent of police left behind, Batman disappearing for a while). But the reason why Gotham was cut off was completely different, and I don’t think the government ever stopped considering Gotham to be part of the United States. So the analysis is necessarily different. That said, we will have another post dealing with whether and how the government could be justified in using the threat of lethal force to keep the residents of Gotham from fleeing the city.

  3. Shorter timespan – 3 months, compared to NML’s full year – and a smaller geographical “footprint” as well: in the movie, Bane is apparently focused on the southernmost of Gotham’s three main islands. NML had all three main islands, plus Arkham, isolated.

    • You could reasonably argue that all three islands are shut down. While bane may only directly control one, anyone living on the other two is likely not going to hang around given that they know there is a nuclear weapon on the other that may go off at any time. The government might even forcibly evacuate them in that event. And certainly few major businesses are going to want to keep shop set up there. You should probably consider the entirety of Gotham City shut down for all intents and purposes.

  4. Melanie Koleini

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, so forgive me if this is answered in the movie.

    What did the people of Gotham eat for 3 months? Four million people eat allot more food than would be stored on the island.  Was food shipped in by sea? If so, who paid for it and who were the sailors on board the ships that delivered it? Did the US navy deliver the humanitarian aid?

    Feeding the people of Gotham would seam at least as big of a challenge as feeding the North Korean people. Why weren’t people dying of starvation?

    Given the circumstances (armed insurrection against the government),  does international or US law require the government to send food to the people trapped in Gotham?

    • Some federal agency is feeding Gotham. (I think FEMA) I don’t know if it would be required by law, but I’m betting the executive would be keenly aware that Presidents who let Americans starve to death in such a grand scale do not get reelected.

  5. In the movie, I think it was pretty explicit that 12 million people were trapped by Bane’s group. In the meeting on the bridge between his lieutenant and the army guy, the army guy says there was no way they could stop 12 million people from walking off that island.

    I think it’s probably an attempt to keep true to the Gotham city limits in the comics, where it’s just the island portions, and the rest of the surrounding area is Gotham County, which may be built up, but isn’t incorporated into the city.

  6. I thought Gotham was cut off for 5 months, as that was the time given that it would take the core to become unstable and explode.
    Bane Tells the US government to send supplies in or he will blow up the bomb.
    There are scenes of disaster response lorries crossing the one open bridge to deliver food, with Gothamites queueing for it.

  7. The logistics of supplying 12 million people for 5 months (numbers stated in the film) using one bridge seem rather out of whack, so unless there are large food storage facilities in the city somewhere (certainly possible) starvation would seem to be a problem.

    I found the “nuclear bomb under city (complete with red display timer!)” device to be rather lame from a practical standpoint and as a plot device. We have these things, they’re called nuclear power plants, and most of us have enough sense to put them somewhere away from the center of the city!

    • Yeah, I wondered about that myself. It seems to me that Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox if not Wayne Enterprises could face charges for building the reactor in the first place. They already talked about this issue in another post regarding the Avengers and Tony Stark’s arc reactor. However because Tony Stark’s reactor was publicly known (at least the one in the Avengers, maybe not so much the one in the Iron Man movie) we can assume that Stark got permission to build it. But this reactor was 1) built in secret and 2) proved to be dangerous. Maybe Bruce had the right idea when he faked his own death!

      • (moving away from core topic, and alert: I wasn’t a big fan of the movie…)

        Someone remind me why Bruce Wayne was dead in the movie? At lease, what was the published reason for his demise? Obviously everyone at the grave knew the truth, but what did they tell the public? And, hey! Shouldn’t this have been a death-without-body case? Doesn’t’ that take a great deal of time, especially with the amount of assets involved?

        That is a large number of question marks in one paragraph.

      • The death in absentia issue may not be that big of a hurdle. A look at Wiki indicates that in cases of disasters (Titanic, 9/11, etc.) someone can be declared dead after a relatively short time if the circumstances indicate they are probably dead. Presumably Alfred would have had Bruce declared dead, and Bruce would have used a false identity to escape to Paris. I think we’re left to assume that as a billionaire caped crusader, assuming a false identity to leave the country is no sweat.

        I was kinda so-so on the movie. I enjoyed it as an explosive, beat-em-up sort of movie, but thought most of the dialog was nonsense and, as we’ve covered, the clean-energy-goes-wrong-and-might-kill-everyone has been pretty well beaten to death.

      • Bruce Wayne may have been declared missing and presumed dead based on Selina Kyle’s testimony. Selina Kyle saw Bruce Wayne beaten by Bane. She didn’t see him get up. In fact, he couldn’t get up. Detective Drake could have left out the fact that Bruce Wayne was Batman, the official story being that Bruce Wayne was personally investigating what happened to the orphan that was killed in sewers when he encountered Bane: this is completely true. So Bruce Wayne may have been declared dead early on but for obvious reasons they didn’t have a funeral until after everything ahd blown over.

    • James Pollock

      Andy, in 1947 we supplied (half of) Berlin with food and coal with NO working bridges.

      • Using planes, right? Maybe the movieleft that out, but the impression was hat low altitude flyovers were a no-no under Bane’s rules.

  8. I’m not sure if you covered this entirely in the last post or not, but is Wayne Enterprises effectively shielded from liability for the various criminal acts and torts of its board members (Wayne, Fox, Talia Al-ghul, among others)?

    I know corporations aren’t generally liable for criminal acts or torts of their shareholders, board members, or employees — especially when they obtain the position by fraud, as Talia Al-ghul has done. However, considering this entire mess seems to be the result of a battle between these actors who all happen to be shareholders and board members of this company (which btw decided to stick a nuclear power plant under the city with no apparent security other than the flooding device) , and with company assets being used to subdue the people on at the direction of a board member (Al-ghul), I would imagine that a public outcry seeking damages from WE would be a distinct possibility.

  9. First of all, even Wayne Industries is not going to have a chance of getting fissile material. The government regulates that very carefully, especially highly enriched uranium or plutonium, the kind you would need to have to make a bomb. They also regulate the development or use of enrichment technologies with equal care.

    Now Wayne Industries could certainly build a reactor, but the permitting process would be rigorous. An extensive review of the design by engineers and lots of public comment sessions where the Greens will show up to stop you. Then, you will have to have another process to get an operating permit for the plant, just as rigorous. All of these processes would categorically reject a design that could create a nuclear explosion.

    It’s actually kind of funny. If there was a nuclear power plant under Wayne Industries, it would have the standard security measures – including multiple layers of security and heavily armed guards. I wonder Bane’s revolt would have dealt with soldiers with assault rifles and snipers in a fortified position (which includes bomb barriers)?

    • Wayne’s reactor was supposed to be a “new source of energy” so that rules out uranium or plutonium. At at least one point, it was actually referred to as a “fusion reactor” but they said it “didn’t work” and yet there were was a news report that the bomb was “radioactive” which is all very contradictory: a fusion reactor that isn’t working or even online is not radioactive because deuterium is not a radioactive element. You also need fission bomb to create the heat to cause a fusion explosion. I actually think Nolan might have been inspired by the movie Angels and Demons which had a similar plot with an antimatter bomb which was also on a timer and which was eventually flown out of the city in a helicopter.

      • James Pollock

        Point of order: Not all fusion processes use deuterium, or even hydrogen at all. There are energy-producing fusion reactions all the way up to iron.

      • True but if we are looking for a radioactive element lighter than iron then that limits us to Be7, Be8, Be10, C14, Ca41, Ca46 or Ca48. Be8 will decay in a matter of seconds and Ca46 and Ca48 are metastable so it would be hard to detect their radiation. That leaves Be7, Be10, C14 or Ca41. Be7 has a half life of only 53.12 days which means that by the end of one year less than 1% of the sample would still be around which means that if the reactor was using Be7 and it had been sitting around for years then there would be none of it left. That still leaves Be10, C14 or Ca41. Let’s say that they use Be10 as fuel: they could try fusing Be10 and He4 to make C14. Would that work? I’m not sure.

        So I did a google search. I found one interesting tidbit: Dr. Rubbia, former director of CERN, has proposed something he calls an “energy amplifier” which would be “a sub-critical fission reactor driven by neutrons from a particle accelerator” that could be used to “burn the majority of waste produced in conventional nuclear reactors”. Apparently “there are a number of companies right now trying to commercialise this” so if the writers of TDKR had done a bit of research they could have used the term “energy amplifier reactor” and everything would have been okay and the vast majority of people watching would have thought they had just made it up. 🙂

      • James Pollock

        hand wave:
        The reactor uses a process that creates a heretofore-unknown isotope.
        That’s the “new” part of “new source of energy”.

        (Also, just because fusion processes involving nuclei larger than iron consume more energy than they release, doesn’t mean they can’t be a waste product of the reaction… just that they can’t be the majority of the product.
        Or perhaps the generator fuses two different nuclei, in a reaction totally unknown to us because it doesn’t occur in nature. (It’s the technetium reactor.)

  10. Okay, these two links are cool.

    ADTR = Accelerator Driven Thorium Reactor

    Apparently Thorium can be made into U233 which can be used to make bombs. Thorium itself is not considered dangerous even though it is radioactive.

    Oh here’s another cool link.

    Apparently it is much harder to produce a bomb using U233 than U235. “This is because the gamma radiation is much higher than with U235, making material handling much more challenging.” So it’s not something a scientist could do in a few minutes but it’s possible.

    Oh, one more.

    India has a nuclear reactor that uses thorium as fuel and it plans to have it go on line inj 2013.

  11. With regards to the possibility of depression, I think that could easily be averted on a global scale because the amount of spending required to rebuild Gotham would be so high that it should boost the economy and employment of the rest of the U.S. in the Nolanverse…..imagine if this was the present day US, all of a sudden the rest of the country would gain a big boost as construction, agriculture, food-processing, manufacturing, etc. all suddenly rise dramatically in demand.

    The economy in Gotham will have problems for a while, but a global or even national depression is unlikely – the opposite is more likely.

    • That’s known as the broken window fallacy in economics. Imagine two alternate universes (not hard to anybody who reads this blog). In universe A, billions of dollars go into rebuilding Gotham. They rebuild Gotham to it’s original state in X years. In universe B, these billions of dollars have gone into all sorts of other economic ativity. They have Gotham city and all the other things that got built during that time.

  12. Metropolis is New York by day. Gotham is New York by night.

  13. I’ve always imagined Gotham as having a more “conservative-leaning government policies” (contrasted with Metropolis being more “liberal-leaning”). If so, I imagine unions’ power might already be greatly diminished in Gotham.

    I think one might also imagine a future where Metropolis steps in and helps Gotham, taking in refugees, providing financing, etc.; much to the embitterment of Gothamites.

    • Assuming that the movie-makers on this project wanted to acknowledge/use any elements of the wider DCU line of properties as part of the backdrop of these three movies…which they didn’t seem interested in doing.

  14. Not to mention that at the end everyone is cheering about Gotham being saved from the blast…. er, until they start doubling over with radiation sickness? Where is all that radioactive steam going to go? Nobody has ever suggested that an H-bomb is “clean energy”. (Then, at one point, Fox equated the device with a “neutron bomb”… whether or not that makes sense…. but then it wouldn’t be the blast people worried about in the first place.)

  15. Hey yall, just stumbled onto this site as I was researching the science behind the bomb in the movie.

    I’m nerding out hardcore, and writing an alternate storyline for the film. As much as a enjoyed the film, I felt the prologue and first fight between Bane and Batman had a grit and swagger that I wanted to permeate more of the film. Batman Begins was a big part of my youth, and this is my way of saying goodbye in a way, remembering an idealized version, more than how it was…I guess?

    So, this storyline will be keeping the basic beats of Bruce’s exile, the bomb and Gotham falling into anarchy. But characters’ motivations will change to streamline things, the military and US govt is more heavily involved, and there will be more parallel’s to Dante’s Inferno, rather than a Tale of Two Cities, as this is Wayne’s story of being completely physically and emotionally destroyed and eventually ascending from those hellish depths to truly become “more than a man” as the Batman now transcends the existence of a single individual.

    Any way, that’s all kinda irrelevant to my post, I’m not a writer and it has a long way to go, the question I wanted to post here have to do with the engineering of the reactor.

    So, my understanding is that the fusion reactor, which is not radioactive, is turned into a neutron bomb, which is radioactive.

    I’m curious if this is fantasy science, but it’s not really a big deal in itself as the whole trilogy as relied of fake technology to move the plot forward .

    The main question I have concerns the decay of the bomb, resulting in it’s eventual detonation. First, how accurately can scientists predict this decay? Was the timer plausible?

    Also, as the core decays, does this mean more and more radiation would be emitted? Or is it possible to more or less contain the radiation until the bomb detonates?

    And, as I’m really unfamiliar with nuclear devices beyond what I’ve looked up on wiki, would physical jostling or damage to the protective casing of the bomb increase the likelihood of detonation, or a large emission of radiation?

    That’s all I got for now, any help with this would be much appreciated, thanks!

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