CINEMA: News Weekly
Caped crusader's righteous anger against anarchy
, August 4, 2012
The Dark Knight Rises, rated M (Violence), reviewed by Symeon Thompson.
Riveting. Poignant. Harrowing. Mired in controversy. Dark. Violent. Absolutely not suitable for children. These terms and more rise up to engulf the latest Batman movie from Christopher Nolan — The Dark Knight Rises.
It has been eight years since either the Batman or his alter-ego, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), has been seen in public. The Batman is wanted for the murder of Gotham’s White Knight, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart, only seen in flashback), and Bruce Wayne has become an unkempt recluse.
The murder of Dent gave the city the reason to pursue extreme zero-tolerance anti-organised crime laws, and, as a result, a great many criminals are behind bars, lacking any chance of release.
Into the mix steps the sophisticated, but monstrous, mercenary Bane (Tom Hardy, but you’d never guess) who has his own plans; and the captivating cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway, channelling Hedy Lamarr) who manages to catch Bruce Wayne’s eye.
Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman in The Dark Knight Rises
From its intense, eye-popping opening scene to its final frames, The Dark Knight Rises is a superb essay in the power of cinema and the significance of popular culture, especially superhero stories as morality plays. The visuals visit the eye in a free and easy way, with a deft touch more common in the golden days of Hollywood than today.
The Hans Zimmmer score stirs and drums its way through the ears, beating the heart in time with the action. And the acting is excellent with Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman reprising their roles with aplomb; as well as Joseph Gordon-Levitt expertly portraying a “hot-headed” young cop, and Marion Cotillard as a wealthy investor.
A spate of criticism was levelled at the film’s predecessor, The Dark Knight (2008), claiming that it promoted the Joker to such an extent that he was the hero of the piece, and that it further promoted his nihilistic philosophy. In light of the tragic shooting in Colorado at a recent midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, some of these same critics have declared this as proof of their contention, as if somehow, without Heath Ledger’s Joker, there would’ve been no massacre.
This is absurd. A person who decides to engage in such a despicable act is no more inspired to do so by a movie, than the young men who gave up their lives shielding their girlfriends at the shooting were inspired by Batman. The Joker and the Batman represent two primal forces in human nature — sadistic, amoral chaos, and a righteous anger against anarchy and injustice. It was these things that inspired the men in the theatre, not the movies they’d been watching.
These are the archetypal and unsavoury truths that lurk in our hearts, the ones that our modern technocratic, democratic world seeks to flee from — the violence and darkness that is as much a part of our fallen humanity as our capacity for heroism. They date back to such as Loki and Lucifer, David and Gilgamesh; and it is here too that we find the subconscious truth of Batman and superheroes.
Batman is not — as was claimed by one daft and incoherent article, typical of the neo-conservative modernists who claim to be the “Right” — a caped capitalist out to prove the superiority of the marketplace, or the wondrousness of wealth. Batman represents something terrifying to the modern, money-grubbing pseudo-con — the concept of nobility and hierarchy.
The Dark Knight Rises is one of the most ruthlessly reactionary, or counter-revolutionary, movies ever made. Bane’s coup is clearly modelled on the French Revolution, where the “voice of the people” was a cover for mass murder and carnage — and where the fuse was lit by the failure of the aristocracy in their duty to God and Man.
It was not for nothing the father of counter-revolution, Joseph de Maistre, saw it as Providence’s bloody punishment for the compromises made by those in power to keep themselves comfortable while the masses suffered.
This movie shows that systems easily become shackles, especially when they are built on lies and injustices; and that the failures of those who have the power — Batman/Bruce Wayne, Commissioner Gordon, etc — to fulfil their responsibilities to the eternal law, inevitably lead to horrendous suffering. It shows that what matters for society is not some perfect sort of system, for no such system can exist, but good men beholden to well-formed consciences acting for the good of all.
It is about the lasting power of symbols to present eternal truths, truths that may be unpalatable to our scientific selves that seem to think that humans exist to fit some sort of structure.
But most of all it is about monsters, the monsters that haunt our hearts and the violence we’d like to forget we possess within us; and how they are slain, not by mechanistic methods but by men — by knights rising from the darkness for the light.