Monday, July 23, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises:
Review With Spoilers

Writer/Director Christopher Nolan's final 3rd part to his Batman trilogy is now playing in theaters.  Having seen it twice this weekend just as my own personal FU to the Aurora shooter, here's my review.  It focuses more on the philosophical themes of the film. 
The basic plot is easily explainable: A mysterious revolutionary named Bane shows up at the head of his own private army which he claims has been created from the poor and downtrodden living in poverty underneath Gotham. He proceeds to start a 'French Revolution' style takeover of the city after launching a series of devastating attacks, which draw Bruce Wayne's Batman out of retirement.  

John Nolte sums the film up brilliantly in one sentence in his own review over at Big Hollywood:
"Rises" is about many things, but it is mostly about a rousing defense of an America under siege by a demagogue disguising his nihilistic rage and thirst for revenge and power as a noble quest for equality.
Say...does that sentence remind you of a certain politician who's made it his personal mission to 'transform' America while talking about 'fairness' & 'equality' all the time?

When the film begins Bruce Wayne is a secluded cripple, needing to use a cane after too many injuries while helping to finally get Gotham cleaned up and safe.  
Thanks to the Harvey Dent Act, Police Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) has locked away the cities most dangerous criminals.  Peace and safety have been achieved, but we see Gordon struggling with having achieved this positive result based on a lie.  At a yearly commemoration of Dent he plans to finally come out and tell the truth, but changes his mind at the last moment, tucking his planned confession notes back into his jacket pocket.  

Through subsequent events, that confession falls into the hands of Bane, who decides to reveal the truth to the citizens of Gotham to further his own plans of causing chaos. 
Bane is a composite of a lot of leaders that promise an egalitarian utopia to the masses that turn out to be anything but what was promised.

Those who hold up the French Revolution as a positive thing don't know much about it. The French Revolution led to a horrific bloodbath that culminated in a military dictatorship that led to fun military conquests & wars all over Europe and extending down South as far as Egypt. Yeah. Real swell outcome there. France didn't get anything even remotely close to a democracy or a republic until all the French revolutions aholes were long dead. We're talking like 3 or 4 decades.  
"Hey thanks you French Revolutionary butchers! I'll take it from here!
You've been swell! Really!"

Like the French Revolution, Bane convinces many the rich in the city can't be part of their new order, resulting in show trials that are presided over by madman Jonathan Crane aka 'The Scarecrow', who obviously relishes his new role.  Having just left a century in which one class warfare demagogue after another turned it into history's worst bloodbath, we should all know this agenda quite well by now.  So WHERE things are going is no surprise, it's how they get there that Nolan excels in setting up and revealing his story.  
Bane does deliver what he promised - equality...but it's equality in squalor & misery. The rubes fall for it like they always do, easily talked into believing the present capitalist system that requires hard work to achieve success is inherently unfair because THEY didn't succeed in it.

Newsflash to the clueless: just because YOU did not succeed in the present system does not ipso facto prove it is unfair in any way. ANY system that does not guarantee equality of outcome by making everyone financially equal is inherently 'unfair' because SOME will ALWAYS work harder, longer and smarter than others.  And guess what? There has NEVER been such a system in all of human history.  Each new Utopian scheme is literally trying to do the impossible. 

There is no escaping this. It's human nature.

The only way you can create a system in which all are exactly equal financially is to remove all differences between people that cause some to rise above others through their own self-initiative. It results in a lowest-common denominator leveling of every one.

This is why each insane utopian scheme ever since the French Revolution has involved forcing people to dress & act & live EXACTLY ALIKE, with individual expression, freedom and 'wrong' choices all forced out or at least underground.  
Coming to America? your dreams. Half of us would die first.

Mad utopian schemes always result in elites at the top trying to rigidly force human nature into their little predetermined boxes.  And if you can't or won't fit into the little box the elites have prepared, then there's no place for you in the new 'utopia' they are building.  

It is arrogant beyond belief. People who try it need to be scorned, ridiculed, mocked and resisted to the last breath. It is a denial of what makes us all human, and it's the deliberate attempt to remove liberty and freedom of individual choice for the 'common good'.

Success in life & equality are NOT the same thing.  Progressives have made a cottage industry out of deliberately conflating the two.  
They know they will never get anywhere making the insane demand of "I demand the Government make me successful!" so pull a rhetorical trick by saying "I demand the Government make me EQUAL to the successful by pulling them down to my level.  Because it's only fair." 

Utopian elitists believe everybody should be 'guaranteed a sufficient living' by the State apart from their own efforts or abilities.  

But some people want MORE than a 'sufficient living'. And they have the intelligence, ambition and drive to put in the hard work and longer hours to make it happen.

Elite progressives always try to explain this crucial human difference in moral language that reflects badly on the successful.  That people who got wealthy some how cheated or robbed other people to get where they are, so it's only fair they be pulled down into 'equality' with those who never even tried for an exceptional life.

In his new film, Nolan does an exemplary job of truly displaying just how empty and stupid this kind of thinking is.  
Naturally he's being attacked in some quarters for doing so.  The movie reviews at and The Guardian both accuse TDKR of 'perpetuating a conservative agenda'.  [Wonder how many times those reviewers have accused a new film of perpetuating a LIBERAL agenda?]

In fact, the OWS-like 'create a fair utopia' scheme Bane uses to pander to people is shown in the final quarter of the film to be nothing more than a COVER STORY for his REAL intentions.
This is where Talia Al Ghul reveals herself and tells a stunned Batman that he's actually been fighting a reformed League of Shadows and that she's the daughter of his nemesis from the first film, Ras Al Ghul.  Turns out she & Bane's plan has ALWAYS been to destroy Gotham, just like her father intended, so this has really all been about paying Batman/Bruce Wayne back and fulfilling her daddy's original agenda.  

So while the film DOES make valid points about Utopian revolutionary movements, it also makes the point that people who use these kind of schemes always have a darker agenda working behind the scenes, but they hide this agenda from their adoring throng until AFTER they have the power they want.  
As for the film itself, the supporting cast is superb.  Anne Hathaway is so enigmatic as Selina Kyle, slinky, sexy thief extraordinaire, that it takes a very strong performance from Christian Bale to keep her from stealing the movie.  

Kyle's Catwoman is the moral center of the film, as we watch her go from believing herself to be assisting in a Robin-Hood-style overthrow of an unjust society by robbing from the evil rich to give to the simon-pure poor to realizing she's helped unleash a monster on innocent people and needs to make amends.  
Early in the film Kyle tells Bruce Wayne a statement that perfectly encapsulates class warfare thinking, in which she tells him the rich of Gotham had better batten down the hatches because a storm is coming, and when it arrives they'll all be wondering how they could live so well while leaving so little for everybody below them.  

This is a classic exposition of the 'zero-sum' belief about wealth creation; that if you earned $1,000,000 in wealth for yourself, that left a bunch of other people collectively $1,000,000 poorer.   Progressives know their class warfare BS can only be believed as long as people buy into the concept that success in life is a zero-sum proposition & the capitalistic system is rigged on the basis of gender, sex, race and class.  
If some guy never applies himself, barely graduates from high school, meanders around and takes low paying jobs and never gets more than $20,000 in a year, while one of his classmates who became the same high school's valedictorian, put himself through college while working a job, then put in 4 years in law school or 8 years of medical school, so that when they hit 40 years of age one is still pulling in $20,000 a year but the other is making $200,000 a year, can you HONESTLY say 'society' has been 'unfair' to one of them?  

Progressives actually believe that they can say this, that 'yes, society has been unfair to one of them.'
Damn. Empty safe = 1 unhappy kitty

Trying to build a society based on envy and resentment of those more successful than others always results in unleashing a monster that leaves nobody better off.  Kyle figures this out too late, but not so late as to help undo what she helped cause.  
Nolan handles the confrontations between Batman & Bane creatively.  There is a kinetic energy to the fights that many films try for and fail to achieve.  Tom Hardy as Bane has most of his face obscured by the voice projector Bane wears, and so makes good use of his eyes to convey the characters rage and fanaticism. 
Sorry, Batman. Paper beats rock!

As an action film it works if you choose to totally dispense with any kind of message or deeper themes, but Nolan does have much thought-provoking exposition in this film.  Is a society where it's up to individual choice in taking risks and effort to determine your level of financial success a fair society?  Or is a society where such things are determined for you by a strong leader  'better'?  

In his 3 Batman films Nolan has brought Gotham's Dark Knight face to face with 3 real threats to a societies well-being:  
A League of Shadows that turned out to be ruthless fanatical vigilantes who kill the innocent along with the guilty, who are convinced Gotham can't be saved,
An anarchist who just wants to watch the world burn, to tear down Gotham's moral core and replace it with chaos because chaos is 'fair', 
A Utopian revolutionary who claims he wants to sweep out an old order of inherent injustices & corruption and bring about 'fairness & equality'. 

Each threat forces the citizens of Gotham & it's dark protector to confront the basic beliefs that holds them together.  Civilization is a fragile thing.  It's not man's natural state and maintaining a society of just laws is hard work because there will always be people out there trying to attack it because they are convinced they have a better way.  

It always starts with convincing enough people the present order is corrupted and unfair to the point it can't be saved or fixed and just needs to be swept away and replaced with something new.  
At the end of the film we see the fight against such people never really ends, and Bruce Wayne knows this.  And so John Blake, the intrepid patrolman we see heroically putting his life on the line for others repeatedly throughout the film, gets rewarded with becoming Gotham's new Dark Knight.  

Nolan is a big enough film maker that while most of Hollywood is churning out nihilistic crap he's not afraid to explore and even defend the big themes that hold American society together.  And he pulls it off brilliantly.  

This is a film I can give the highest recommendation to anyone.  I give it a solid 9/10.  


  1. You honestly aren’t going to get any better than this when it comes to pure, summer entertainment, nor with superhero flicks. That is, until the new Superman flick graces the screen. However, this is Batman’s time to shine and he does it perfectly, especially for his last time with Nolan and Bale involved. Good review Brian.

  2. Thanks Dan.

    I was totally intrigued by the Superman trailer that preceded the new Batman film. Nolan is producing & Zack Snyder [300, Watchmen] is directing, which is a pretty potent combination. I had heard about the project but somehow did not realize Nolan was involved until I saw the trailer.

    If he can guide a Superman reboot with the same care & kind of 'realism' that he did with Batman, super hero flick fans will certainly have something to look forward to for the next 6-8 years that it would take for a Man of Steel trilogy.

    I liked The Avengers a lot, but Nolan has a way of doing 'comic book' flicks that Marvel Studios hasn't grasped yet; closest they've gotten was probably Spider Man 2, then they dropped the ball with Spidey 3.

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