Film Review - The Dark Knight Rises
By Rob Horsley | Friday, August 3, 2012
Photo by marvelousRoland via Flickr
Whether you believe that art imitates life or that media inspires violence, The Dark Knight Rises will no doubt forever be linked to the tragic events at the midnight screening in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve dead and dozens more injured in one of the worst cases of gun violence in recent memory.
For that reason, some may already view Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises as a movie beyond redemption. Nothing more than inspiration for violence and glorification for psychopaths, fanatics, and vigilantes.
Disclaimers and general notes:
This movie is indeed violent. This movie is dark. This movie can be frightening. Maybe not Danny DeVito as "The Penguin" frightening, but still pretty frightening. There's also some limited foul language and sexual content. Nothing really coarse or explicit, but it's in there, just so you're aware.
The film features a tremendous cast, loaded with stars reprising their role from the previous installment. Included are: Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox. Newcomers to the cast include Tom Hardy as Bane, Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake, and Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate.
Truth or legend: does it really matter?
For a movie so wrapped up in darkness, The Dark Knight Rises actually has quite a bit to say in terms of redeeming values. There are the obvious: justice, purpose, and place in society. But there is also the question of truth: what it is and whether it's important for the good of humanity.
The Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years after the events of its predecessor, The Dark Knight (2008). Batman has disappeared, believed to be responsible for the death of Gotham City district attorney Harvey Dent, though we know that this is not actually the case. Batman took the blame for Dent's crimes so that Dent could be remembered as a hero. It is a lie, but one that has led to an ultimately safer Gotham City.
For Christians, this brings to mind the question of "how important is it that what we believe is true?" Presumably, if what we believed was untrue, it could still lead to good. There could still be positive things that come out of a falsehood. Right?
At a later point in the movie, Bane takes over Gotham City, and reveals that Harvey Dent was no hero, signifying that all the good that was done in his name was ultimately for a lie. This revelation has dire consequences for Gotham, as seen in the ensuing moments. Lies, no matter how much they may spread positive by-products, ultimately crumble and fall, bringing down any good they might accomplish in the process.
This speaks volumes into how we view truth. Pragmatic truths, ones that only exist to serve a purpose, ultimately have no real meaning, and eventually break down like so many of the 'houses built on sand' that we read about in the New Testament. Though the movie doesn't explicitly point us to the Truth of Christ, this should come to mind for Christian audiences.
Broken justice and long-awaited redemption
The Dark Knight Rises rightly points out that there is something wrong with the justice system of societythat, at the very least, it is incomplete, insufficient to properly deal with the pain and suffering of the world. The police are incapable of dealing with Bane's takeover of the city. A hero must rise to face the monster.
Throughout The Dark Knight Rises, there's a sense of eager anticipation. When darkness grips Gotham, the city cries out for a return of its caped crusader. Some dismiss these hopes, with one police officer telling John Blake to put his faith in something more real. But the faithful are not disappointed; the Dark Knight makes his return, saving Gotham City from certain destruction.
In much the same way, I think there's a longing that we have as Christians for the return of the one who will ultimately set things right. For us however, this is not a vigilante with a cape, cowl and fancy car. Rather, He is Christ Jesus, the one who will restore things to a state better than we could ever imagine. Even better than the imagination of Christopher Nolan, if you can imagine anything more wonderful than that.
It's easy to dismiss The Dark Knight Rises as nothing more than the latest ultra-violence glorification piece Hollywood has to offer. But there's actually a lot substance here, and much food for thought for Christian audiences. The Dark Knight Rises is a story about ongoing redemption, with Batman rising from the depths to become the hero the city needs.
There's an ongoing visual motif in the film, with both Batman and Bruce Wayne emerging from shadows, and coming into the light. This offers a small illustration into the ongoing saga of redemption in The Dark Knight Rises. In this we are reminded of how Christ is constantly at work in redeeming a world of darkness, bringing it ever closer to the light of God's glory.