The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan (Director)
2hr 45min, Rated M
From Kane’s unprecedented comic to Frank Miller’s renewal of the character in the 1980s, Mr. Nolan continues the legacy of Batman, cultivating the definitive finale to the old familiar romance between good vs. evil. It is a contemporary tale that explores terrorism, corruption, the surveillance state and organised crime lead by fascist vigilantes.
Our new orchestrator of chaos, Bane a.k.a. ‘Gotham’s reckoning’, questions foundations of Truth, Justice and Freedom, bringing these abstractions to the highest judgment in his ‘new era of Western civilization’. Sentiments alluding to the notion of ‘American Exceptionalism’ sound poignantly alongside Hans Zimmer’s composing prowess, yet still there is a void where there should be an avid belief in the exceptionalism supposedly championed by Gotham City.
However in The Dark Night Rises there is no real evidence to justify the salvation of a city countlessly deemed god-forsaken. Why save ‘the great people of Gotham’ and their ‘beautiful city’? Are we merely meant to accept the fact that Gotham is Manhattan (yes) and therefore force an alignment of our moral compass with the deliverance of the people of New York City? It’s certainly a more plausible campaign in lieu of the fact Gotham lost its ethics somewhere in the depths of a quasi-fanciful realm in Batman Begins, regained some in The Dark Nightthroughout the boat mêlée but then sadly lost in the apex when 12 million people are physically absent, and by choice silent, in the face of revolution and annihilation.
The multiple running plots of politics within the movie created a paradigm that echoed scenes from the French revolution (with direct allusions to Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities), 9/11, the Holocaust and, of course, annexed countries of Africa. As such, there were contradictions that arrested an understanding of the anarchy on screen, leaving unnecessary gaps in the narrative. For example, save a few, the police almost always play a role among the corrupt antagonists, resulting in the victimisation of both Batman and the wider citizenry. However, trap a few thousand police underground for three months and apparently they will emerge redeemed. Similarly, we see Dent martyred in the opening scene; in turn realising Batman has withdrawn to his cave, humble in his adherence to the belief that Gotham needs Dent to be its ‘hero with a face’. Towards the end though, when the delinquent city is most vulnerable, they applaud Batman without question, like a war hero. All of this serves only to compromise the film’s integrity.
In saying that, it is nevertheless a powerful film that delves deep into the psyche of any viewer with its provocative special effects. In many ways, Nolan’s endeavour is a social experiment in itself. He challenges us with radical extremists, political rhetoric and absurd regimes in order to confront our assumptions of what it truly means to be with or without law and order. Furthermore, he brings into play the complexities of power and what constitutes it, captured compellingly when a physically domineering Bane places his palm on a man who symbolises old power and says in honesty, ‘Do you feel in control?’
A film riddled with meditations on the possible eras awaiting our own civilisation, The Dark Night Rises ends with what we love best: good indeed triumphing over evil. In a nihilistic wasteland void of reasoning, morality and hope, the figure of Batman transcends and ultimately redeems what is lost.
In our current climate, with instabilities and injustices around the world breeding conditions for terror and uncertainty, it is reassuring to see the good man rise as society’s victor, even if it’s all just a story.