Some Thoughts on TDKR (and a Few Review Recommendations)

I hadn’t noticed how intricate Batman’s armor was before this movie.

Since going to see The Dark Knight Rises this weekend with my brother, I have read more than half a dozen reviews, analyses, and reflections on the film. Some of them, I think, have been good, others not-so-good, and others have just been utterly ridiculous.

One of the best combinations of ridiculous and interesting that I’ve come across was a piece from JacobinMag. If the title of the website doesn’t tip you off, the opening line should: “By now you know that the new Batman movie is fascist propaganda…”

So yeah.

But anyway, besides saying a number of absurd things, the author made a couple of points that I found quite interesting. First, that Bruce Wayne should not be understood to represent capitalists – rather, he is an aristocrat. And second, that using Bane’s “revolution” as a representation of the Occupy Movement isn’t a fair assessment.

On the first point, I think the author is basically correct. He says

Yes, Wayne is rich, but that’s not the same as being a capitalist. They guy running the bodega down the street is more of a capitalist than Bruce Wayne. Wayne has no interest in profit, in accumulation, in investing his wealth to produce more wealth…The character of Bruce Wayne has been imbued with noblesse oblige, but let’s not get that confused with what a capitalist does. Wayne funds orphanages and renewable energy in distinction to the actual capitalist, Daggett, who is trying to pillage Wayne Enterprises, Bain-Capital-style.

Cutting through the nonsense that is the assertion that capitalists are incapable of any sort of charity or good-will toward others, I think the point is essentially true. Bruce Wayne as a character is an aristocratic character. But I think it is unfair to therefore assume that this means the Nolan brothers must be aristocratic/monarchically inclined at some sort of deep philosophical-political level. It’s clear that they are no fans of the Jacobin Occupy Movement, but this may just be some seep-through of the Tale of Two Cities inspiration of the movie.

The author writes “Using the French Revolution for inspiration, the Nolans have restaged the question of bourgeois revolution, but in reverse. They want you to side with the monarchists.” This is true. But is it such a bad thing? I mean, did you see what Gotham was like? Have you heard what happened during the Reign of Terror?

On the subject of the Occupy parallels, the article says

This “true believer” nonsense simply doesn’t resonate with Occupy at all…Bane’s authoritarian command violates the Occupy’s own prime directive of leaderlessness. There’s only the sketchiest indication that Bane has any appeal to the Gotham citizenry at all…

Two things on this.

First, Bane’s iron-fisted authority could be seen as symbolic of the tryanny that inevitably results from pure democracy/anarchy/leaderlessness/whatever you want call it. Second, I think there’s more of a populist movement in support of Bane than the author acknowledges. While it’s true that all of the men with guns are either mercenaries or convicts waving AK-47s, that is not the only picture we get of Bane’s mob.

For example,when Bane is making the speech in front of Blackgate Prison, right around the point where he says “the rich will be ripped from their decadent nests,” you see a mob of people. They’re dressed in normal street clothes, but that doesn’t mean anything – time is sort of iffy in that sequence. But there are women in the mob, and if you remember, Blackgate Prison was filled with men (and Anne Hathaway). As they are pillaging the rich apartment and office buildings, at one point you even see an on-duty doorman get involved. There are a number of other things too, but that’s all I’ll say for now on this point.

Coming into this movie, I was somewhat skeptical, much like Ross Douthat of the New York Times, of the supposedly conservative themes running through the previous two installments of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Afterwards, you can’t really get away from it. Douthat hits the nail on the head in his piece on The Politics of “The Dark Knight Rises” when he concludes that the movies message is much more Burkean than it is Randian. That’s another one worth reading, if you get the chance.

Another interesting one, though at times just as ridiculous as the JacobinMag piece was featured by Salon. At one point, the author says: “Maybe it’s an oversimplification to say that [the philosophy Nolan pushes in TDKR is] the purest form of the ideology that was bequeathed from Richard Wagner to Nietzsche to Adolf Hitler, but not by much.” That being said, he does give the movie a glowing review.

Another few pieces on TDKR thatI would recommend are a review featured by The Gospel Coalition, called Why Batman Doesn’t Know Jesus, one by Jeffrey Overstreet on Patheos, and one from the National Catholic Register. (The Gospel Coalition one was particularly good.)

But anyway, I thought TDKR was an epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. I didn’t know if was even possible to beat The Dark Knight, but they went and did it. And I know I tend to whine and complain about clichés and happy endings, but I can deal with this one. I’m just sad it’s all over.

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