Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises [2012]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  Roger Ebert (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (1 Star)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

The Dark Knight Rises (directed and co-written by Christopher Nolan along with Jonathan Nolan, story assisted by David S. Goyer, based on the Batman characters of Bob Kane of DC Comics) is probably destined to be remembered primarily for the tragic killing of 12 theater goers and wounding of 58 others at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater on the opening night of the film.

This in itself ought to encourage some introspection by both film-makers and investors into what could have been done differently with regard to the making of this film and others like it so as to help prevent this tragedy and similar one's in the future.  The whole world's hearts go out to the victims of this tragedy and their families.  This is not the first Dark Knight/Batman picture marked by tragedy -- Heath Ledger, who played the character, "the Joker" in the previous film, The Dark Knight [2008], died shortly afterwards of a drug overdose.  Many people around Ledger thought that he had partly lost his mind as a result of playing the Joker's psychotic role all too well.  So one wonders if at least some reflection ought to be put into the question of whether these "Dark Knight" movies have been made _too_ "darkly" for the public's good.  

However, even aside from this terrible tragedy, I do believe that this movie had other problems with it that deserve airing.  For instance for better/worse, this current film,The Dark Knight Rises, forces us back to the origins and the ideological milieu out of which the Batman character arose.  Originating in the 1930s, the original Batman comic, after all, proposed that a super-wealthy "captain of industry," Bruce Wayne, would use his vast financial resources to save the populace of Gotham City from corrupt government and crime.

Now mind you, the United States had at that time recently survived the era of gangster Al Capone.  But it wasn't any billionaire/"captain of industry" who saved Chicago (or the United States) back then.  It was Eliot Ness and the Treasury Department/FBI.  Further, by 1939 when the first Batman comic was issued, the United States was well into the second administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal.  So Bruce Wayne/Batman was always something of a Republican-leaning counter point -- A mythical super-rich captain of industry would appear and paternalistically save Gotham from itself to the gratitude of all the "little people" (in the current film, literally "orphans") who could not possibly do this without the guiding hand (err guiding extra-legal fist) of the Darkly Armored Modern Aristocrat who "knew best ..."

Perhaps more than in any other recent cinematic incarnation of the Batman legend, this story plays out in Dark Knight Rises most clearly and in all its modern-day right-wing splendor:

The movie's villain Bane (played by Tom Hardy) vaguely RUSSIAN ACCENTED and with his mask even looking LIKE A "MOLE," burrows himself along with his initial gang of _foreign sounding thugs_ deep in the sewers and subway passages of Gotham until his gang rises suddenly from these deep recesses (of Hell???) to try to take-over Gotham City demanding the release of fellow ("comrades in arms") criminals locked-up in the years previous following the passage of the Patriot Act sounding "Harvey Dent Law" passed in honor of the crime fighting District Attorney who viewers would remember from the previous film, The Dark Knight [2008]).

Much often eye-crushing right-wing propaganda ensues ... making the film feel like "Batman meets Chuck Norris' Invasion USA [1985]."  Seriously, anyone who honestly believes that Hollywood is dominated simply by "left-wing ideologues/Communists" ought to see this movie, remember that Chuck Norris film (and others like it, like Red Dawn [1984], or Amerika [1987] and then recall that Hollywood is, after all, at its core _a business_ and thus will always be far more Conservative/Traditionalist and at times even Right-Wing than critics give it credit for.

And the ideological heavy-handedness in this last film is a shame because the performances of Christian Bale (as Bruce Wayne / Batman), Michael Caine (as his butler Alfred), Morgan Freeman (returning as Batman's gadget-man Fox) and Gary Oldman (as Commissioner Gordon) are excellent, as are those of Anne Hatheway (as Selina / Catwoman) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (as the once orphan, now Batman admiring Gotham City Cop ...).

So this movie, and indeed, this series of movies is now bound-up in tragedy, first on account of the loss of actor, Heath Ledger, following the release of the previous Dark Knight [2008] movie, and now as a result of the the Aurora, CO Massacre.  However even beyond that, Christopher Nolan reminded us in this film of the origins of the Bruce Wayne/Batman legend and asks us: Do we really believe that our actual Billionaires will care to "save us" like Bruce Wayne/Batman of this series saves people of Gotham?  And do we really want to be saved, so paternalistically, at all?

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