The new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, is a triumphant conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy..
It compares favourably with the recent Marvel franchise, Avengers Assemble. Instead of gauche, puerile, superficial humour, “The Dark Knight Rises” recounts an epic, mythic, tale of the wounded hero: darkness and light, good versus evil. The movie is the more powerful, because Batman is one of the few ‘super’ heroes to have no ‘super’ powers. He is merely a human being who rights wrongs.
There is even an attempt to engage with recent economic problems, contrasting the millionnaire lifestyle of Batman alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, with the poverty of the majority. Within the motivation of bad guy, Bane, there is also a yearning for justice. All this in fulfilment of vaguely prophetic words from Catwoman, that “a storm is coming,” which will sweep away this unequal social system.
However, the portrayal of the regime set up by Bane also effectively serves to discredit any revolutionary activism, through the use of stereotypes from French and Russian revolutionary courts, dispensing summary, arbitrary, (in)justice to their class enemies.
When the evil is finally expunged from Gotham City, however, the solution is a restoration of the ante-bellum social order; the salvation of the city for the rich to continue their indulgences.
There is only one concession hinted at, before and after the conflagration, which might mitigate the condition of the poor. This is the personal charity of the wealthy themselves, such as Bruce Wayne’s donation of his mansion to some orphans at the film’s end. And this charity, as the Butler, Alfred, observes, is dependent on continued profits.
It’s a nice touch, that the policeman ally of Batman turns out to become Robin, who will take over Batman’s role as defender of the city. But Bruce Wayne himself escapes the havoc of crime-fighting to continue his millionnaire lifestyle in Italy with Catwoman beside him.
I do not claim to know what was in the mind of Christopher Nolan when he made the movie. But it actually functions ideologically as a conservative construction designed to discourage radical challenges to the status quo.
None of the recent Batman movies, directed by whomever, have come close to the dystopia depicted in the original 1986 graphic novel, “The dark knight returns,” by Frank Miller.
This portrays Batman as a bitter, twisted, old man, rendered angry and powerless in retirement. It should be played by Clint Eastwood (today’s grizzled version) in any future film.
In this finale, Batman is accompanied by a teenage, female, Robin, for whom he is a most inappropriate role model.
Together, they gather a band of punks and gang members, and retreat deep into the bat caves, to form a ragtag army of vigilante rebels in a permanent revolution against a decadent system of corruption, privilege and exploitation.
This is the film that needs to be made. Batman as an all-too-human renegade from the human race, in perpetual opposition to our sin-sick political establishment.