The Dark Knight Rises

Directed by Christopher Nolan, 2012

Year
2012
Director
Christopher Nolan
Cast
Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman

The Dark Knight Rises Summary

The Dark Knight Rises completes Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It is set in the extremely messed-up city of Gotham, which is clearly modelled on the less fictional, but equally messed-up, New York.

The Dark Knight Rises Review

We were running late for the cinema viewing, which didn’t put us in a great mood to start with. When we discovered that the tickets were over £8 EACH this didn’t help. When we discovered that the bottle of cinema water (that we’d paid £2 for) contained fluoride, that put the tin hat on it. And then, as we were late, the only seats left were right down the front meaning we had a very skew-eyed view of the film, you can imagine that we weren’t in the most forgiving of moods by the time the movie began. So here begin’s the grumpy cynic’s view of The Dark Knight Rises…

Where on earth do we start? This movie is heavy-hitting, with its relentlessly dark visuals and soundtrack, crass violence, and disturbed main characters. Many reviewers have waved this off as simply an earnest exploration of personal struggles and character development, but to be honest, by the end of it my brain felt like it needed a shower to wash away the psychological grime.

Suspension of Disbelief

Technically, the movie is superb. Any qualms about the credibility of movie incarnations of comic-book characters are swiftly dealt with, especially as ‘Batman Begins’ has already set the scene in a competent fashion. Christopher Nolan’s preference for live effects and props rather than CGI also give the visuals a rock solid sense of reality. However, the utterly dismissive attitudes of the villains towards human suffering, the almost nonchalant way in which numerous people are murdered, and the deep vein of cold ruthless violence that relentlessly floods the entire film, made it very uncomfortable viewing for me. It had the effect of causing me to mentally ‘back away’ just to protect my brain from this amoralistic pounding. And that broke the suspension of disbelief somewhat, simply as a matter of ego-survival.

Secret Societies

The movie picks up the trail of the mysterious League of Shadows, an ancient and clandestine organisation obviously meant to represent some strain of the ‘Illuminati’. This group is hell bent on destroying Gotham, “for it’s own good”, which it sees as the latest incarnation of Babylon.

Democracy

The destruction comes in the form of ‘Bane’, who wreaks havoc on the city in the name of ‘democracy’. He describes his actions as giving the city back to the people (even though it is nothing of the kind). Not too many million miles away from the US/UN allied forces’ campaign over recent years to ‘spread the fires of democracy’ through the undeveloped world (their designation).

There is a further subtext to the film which is that, yes, perhaps there is something wrong with our society, but that the way out inevitably involves the path of violent revolt, be that in the unsubtle form of Bane terrorism, or in the hubris-laden self-assigned reluctant ‘saviour of the everything’, Batman. That, somehow, the only way is to forcibly cure the world ‘out there’. The only soul searching going on here is in Batman’s failures to ‘save his city’. Does it really come to that? To find meaning in the world do we really have to blow it up, or fix everything by force? What happened to real life, humility, human interaction, creativity, beauty?

Military Industrial Complex

Far more so than the rest of the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises comes with very heavy militaristic overtones. From the Bond-esque plane hijack opening sequence, through to Wayne Enterprises’ secret technology stash, and culminating in the military lock down of Gotham’s borders and the final sequence, the military industrial complex is there front and center, along with its sidekick: the Police State. Maybe not too surprising, seeing as this intended to be reminiscent of modern day New York, but its an in-your-face reminder of the dystopian times we are supposed to be getting accustomed to.

Anarchy

Much like the previous films in the trilogy, anarchism is a central theme. Chaos is the only just system because it is indiscriminate – this seems to be the justification. What enthusiastic anarchists sometimes fail to realise is that anarchy is most often used as a tool of mass manipulation, and is not the pathway to unfettered freedom that it is portrayed as. In The Dark Knight Rises, we see exactly that: Bane uses the cover of anarchy, ‘living without the confines of law’, to stir up the revolutionary mob into helping him further his own personal agenda. It seems that these people are the opposite of free. In fact they are less free than before because now they enthusiastically carry out the task laid before them without even suspecting that they are totally being used, and will just as readily be discarded once their usefulness has expired.

Revolution

Bane incites revolution in the hope that Gotham will tear itself to pieces. His expectations are fulfilled as the impoverished underclass rushes to pull the rich out of their comfy homes, and throw their belongings onto the street. This is straight out of the notorious ‘Protocols’ and its description of the calculated destruction of the middle classes. This brings everyone down to the same level, creating a huge gulf between the now powerless masses, and the astronomically separated elite who reach the point of being untouchable.

Holocaust

Without totally giving it all away, the spectre of holocaust hangs heavy over Gotham. We’re back to fears of armaggeddon: ‘end-times’ paranoia like nothing you’ve known. As Dr. Robert Lifton tells us, such rhetoric features strongly in brainwashing propaganda – what he calls a thought reform program.

Religion

There is so much going on in this film, so many intertwined themes of social currents, of establishment versus anti-establishment, of personal journeys, and moral mazes, that I only realised afterwards: Religion is totally absent from this film in any form. There is no God, there is no Devil. There is just a huge gaping void where ‘the people need a hero to look up to’, and that vacancy is filled by the lie of Mr. Dent. Has God been exterminated? Forgotten? Has man risen up and been placed above the divine, (as per the old testament prophecies of Daniel)? Is Batman now that God?

Death

Death is the most prominent feature of this film. Although Batman himself is a self proclaimed proponent of non-lethal action, the film works hard to acclimatise us to constant, relentless death on all sides. This is done in the worst possible taste, death is trivialised, the dead are meaningless throwaway avatars.

The Anti-Hero

Batman epitomises the current Hollywood penchant for anti-heros. “And what’s wrong with that?” you cry. “It’s more honest, showing human nature warts and all”. What’s wrong is that the anti-hero isn’t billed as ‘one of us’, he is billed as an aspirational dream; the dizzing heights of human glory. Well it’s a very thin line. A favourite ‘flawed hero’ of mine, would be Boromir from The Lord of The Rings. His vulnerability and weakness is shown, but also so is the depth of his humanity and remorse, and at the end the astounding side to his bravery and sense of honour and self-sacrifice. The flaw is a low-point from which he learns, and grows, finally finds something of real value to fight for, and he becomes even more than he could have been before. That is something to aspire to. Batman however carries his flaws as a sort of festering wound, and gradually descends to further extremes of something that I don’t even have a name for. Is it self indulgence? Self importance? Vanity? None of these quite fit, but neither does genuine humility or compassion. It’s a very strange mix of self-righteousness and ambiguous non-conformity mixed with lapses into complete deference towards the establishment in the form of the rather trite moral compass and certainly broken legal system that struggles to prop up Gotham’s ailing dystopia.

Batman is not the only anti-hero of the film. We also have the Catwoman, who lives in a reality ruled by self interest. There always lurks the chance she may do the ‘right thing’, but only because it excites her to dabble in the ‘crazy’ world of non-profit motive. She certainly has no commitment or sense of importance towards anything other than herself. This is portrayed as glamorous and sexy: “What could be more appealing than an attractive woman who doesn’t give a sh*t about anything? “, the film whispers into your ear.

Conclusion

Can I recommend this film? I certainly don’t think Alfred would.

Many who have seen it seem to strongly identify with it, no doubt their strong relationship has built up throughout the trilogy, but this is a far cry from Batman Begins. The fans’ identification seems to blind them to the dark psychological alleyways we are being led down in the culmination of the story. They find themselves strenuously defending Batman, taking any criticism personally (well that’s a warning sign right there), and trying desperately to explain why the story illustrates honorable principles, but that it does so in an ‘obscure’ manner. Others simply laugh it off as a Hollywood action extravaganza that shouldn’t be taken seriously. I beg to differ. This film is a sign of the times, and the message is clear. The aesthetic and moral reality being rammed into our brains under the guise of fiction by this film is ill; the world which authored it is ill; the world which seeks to be entertained by it is ill. This is one of the most depressing films I’ve seen all year. What makes it worse is I’m almost certain that you’ll disagree. I guess you’ll have to watch it yourself and see what all the fuss is about.

Ok, the grumpy cynic is finished.


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