Classic Reviews, Reviews, Theatrical Reviews — August 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm



“Ah you think darkness is your ally? You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding!”


Though not neccessarily a ‘Classic’ yet, this concluding analysis of The Dark Knight Rises analyses the film in detail, giving away spoilers, and is complemented by the previous two posts analysing Chris Nolan’s Batman series. If you want a spoiler-free review, Sebastian reviewed it here whilst many Man I Love Films writers discussed it here.

It turns out that my assumption about economic-inequality becoming a theme throughout the trilogy truly came to fruition in The Dark Knight Rises in an epic conclusion. Do I recommend the film, yes. Ten-out-of-ten. Five-Stars. Thumbs Up. But I would like to think that you read these posts for more than a mere rating. While I have the chance though, I would like to specifically highlight how fascinating Anne Hathaway was. After a second watch, my personal stand-out moment is after she fights-back against Stryver (Burn Gorman), Dagget’s (Ben Mendohlson) employee, and switches from martial-arts expert to shrieking ‘innocent’ victim. That scream, in and of itself, is what establishes Anne Hathway as an incredible incarnation of Catwoman. But the themes of the film is what we are here to disect, so without further ado…

Relevant and Inspired

The set-up is inspired. Batman (Christian Bale) is retired and, effectively, is not needed due to the Dent act giving the police complete control over the sentencing of criminals involved in organised crime. 8-years is a long time and I doubt it is a fair judgement for many inmates. For the Western World, we are 11 years away from 9/11. We are 7-years away from the London bombings on 7th July 2005. Osama Bin Laden is dead. Saddam Hussain is dead. Qaddaffi and Kim Jong-Il. All have passed on. Terrorism is far from over, but we are in a different world now. The crazed-belief system of ‘The Joker’ is not as relevant – and the gaze turns inward. We look underground to the foundations and the sewers beneath our own societies.

Sequences within The Dark Knight Rises almost step into wish-fulfilment territory as we see an attack on bankers in an iconic stock-trading centre. The Occupy-Movement continues to argue it’s case to seek justice. Justice to hold responsible those who created the deep debt many Western countries find themselves within. The question is how – How do we achieve equality? Alfred (Michael Caine) begs Bruce to use his power as an influential, wealthy and technological-power to assist and directly help with the police, rather than use Batman, to ensure peace. Right-wing attitudes to crime, as portrayed in Batman Begins, we see is problematic: Capital punishment has no place in Gotham. Understanding and fairness has to be balanced by definitive action and consequence. But now, the end of The Dark Knight is undercut as the lies and false-figure in Harvey Dent has established a corrupted set of ideals. A power and (another theme of The Dark Knight) trust in the police-force has created corruption within the force – and the morality of Police Comissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) is mocked by other officers. Ironically, the lie of Harvey Dent is what corrupts Gordon himself.

Truth and Hope

Indeed, it is ‘truth’ that is at the forefront of The Dark Knight Rises. The truth behind Harvey Dent. The truth Alfred reveals to Batman about Rachel’s letter to him. The true background to Batman. The theme of Fear from Batman Begins is brought up again, as it is fear that (originally seen as a vice in Batman Begins) becomes a virtue – a fear of death. The theme of trust in The Dark Knight is thrown back in Bruce Wayne’s face, as he trusts Miranda Tate (Marion Coitillard). Indeed, without truth and honesty, it is inevitable that trust (in a lie/liar) is misplaced and fear (of the consequences of a lie) will spread. The Dark Knight Rises dictates that governments need to be transparant and honest. Hope for the future, in times of struggle, can only be achieved through uncomplicated, clear politics that everyone can clearly understand and appreciate.

Economic Advantage

One thing which is incredibly complicated is the recurring theme of economic separation as established in the previous two installments. The ‘Now Playing’ and ‘/Film’ podcast seem to highlight how you could interpret the film – and I’m paraphrasing liberally – as an example of how “if the poor people fought back against the rich people it wouldn’t work and is clearly wrong”. ‘Now Playing’ imply that the film highlights Nolan’s right-wing attitude whilst Devindra and Adam, on /Film, tackle Dave’s ‘quote’ from film-director Joseph Kahn by clearly arguing that we are expected to somehow ‘relate’ to Bane’s (Tom Hardy) goals. I am sure by now, even with the understanding I gave to The Joker’s belief-system, you can guess where I stand.

I firmly believe that characters – especially Selina Kyle – are clearly created to show how the support and army that Bane manages to muster is because people do agree with his stance. The villainous element is portrayed as Bane – and Talia Al Ghul – lie about their message. The ‘truth vs lie’ issue is raised again. They use the anger and frustration of criminals (people who are products of the economic-inequality) to turn others against the system. Afterall, they are well-aware that the bomb will detonate killing everyone anyway – their end-goal is not about equality. It is about complete destruction and genocide – killing everyone in Gotham as it is a city that “needs to be destroyed”, in complete allegiance to Ra’s Al Ghuls exceptionally right-wing, even fascist, position. The only reason we wait 5-months before the bomb detonates is so that the city torture themselves into thinking there is hope. Furthermore, for Bruce Wayne to truly appreciate the challenges the underclass face, he himself has to lose all of his wealth, lose all his power and be placed into a prison. Only through this direct-experience does he understand the desperation of poverty. In that regard, it is a very similar situation to how he becomes Batman in Batman Begins.

My favourite lines in the film – and this is down to flawless acting from both Tom Hardy and Ben Mendolsohn – is when Bane confronts Dagget after Miranda Tate manages to control Wayne Enterprises.


Bane: Do you feel in charge?

[open hand resting comfortably on Daggetts expensive suit dressed shoulder]

Dagget: I paid you a small fortune-

Bane: And you think
this gives you power over me?

This small exchange portrays how helpless a Capitalist-Gotham is towards Bane’s power. He is powerful because, akin to The Joker, his belief system does not come from a financial-desire or any care for wealth. He was “born into” a world without money, and therefore doesn’t need it to survive. He is an animal who survives through brute-force. The back-breaking defeat of Batman is due to Batman’s assumption that this ‘animal’ can be tamed by western-gadgets and skills. Batman only defeats Bane after he has gone back to becoming an animal himself – forced to literally ‘fly’ like a Bat - to escape the prison.

The Finale

The scale of this film is simply fascinating. Set over 6-months – we see Gotham become a wasteland. This time-frame, which Nolan happily ensures we are clear on, give an indication as to the horrors of the society. The montage showing the deaths and riots almost hark back to the Summer of 2011, whereby London had three-nights of riots which spread across Britain. Imagine if these riots continued? Imagine the state of London after 1-month of riots? after 3-months? It is unbearable to think about. But it is important to consider this context.

This is why John Blake (Jospeh Gordon Levitt) is such an important character too. He is the constant source of hope – hope for the orphan boys in the home and hope for Gotham itself. We see how his morals stay intact – and he doesn’t compromise. He is shocked about the lie Gordon led others to believe and ensures that he does not do the same. We see how, rather than merely showing a pay-off to a ‘threat’ of police destroying a bridge, he understands the ‘shackles’ police are bound by to protect the society. He is angered by their decision to destroy the bridge – but see’s how they are following orders. But he cannot follow orders himself because he doesn’t believe in this expectation dictated by a police-state; he works outside the law. He knows that he is expected to provide hope to the city - so that the children, and citizens, know that they are safe in the hands of a hero. Whether it is Batman or not.The constant theme of ‘Truth’, I believe, is what Nolan wants us to take away. Not a ‘truth’ in complicated-details about police-control or the definition of justice. Not even the ‘truth’ to determine what defines a true villain in society. But the simple fact that there isinequality. Take out all the details and red-tape, and akin to the lack-of-funding for the Orphanage, there are innocent children who are losing out. There are those who are born into poverty who are not being supported or helped. We cannot live in a world whereby your future is dictated by where you are born – or the financial-circumstance of your parents. To think that it is simply ‘luck’ whether you gain a good education and whether you have access to a healthy life is a tragic outcome of a capitalist society.

The truth is the world – and indeed, the Western world – is lying about equality. And the struggles we face will continue unless we acknowledge this falsehood.

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  • Interesting take. I thought the movie was more about hope and acceptance, but your thoughts are interesting as well.

    But I do have a question for you– what is the movie saying when it ends with a big lie? The death scene at the end creates a pair of duel myths about Bruce/Batman dying, and, in doing so, again reaffirms that a lie can be a valuable tool– it saves Bruce’s soul and ensures Batman’s legacy.

    Just curious. Thanks for the good read!

    • I do believe that ‘Truth’ is an important theme running throughout, so I have it at the forefront of my mind when analysing the meaning of the film.

      It argues that society should be true and be honest with itself. It doesn’t argue that individuals can be controlled to be honest – they invariably aren’t.

      The issue with Selina Kyle – like Batman – is how they should be given another chance. An opportunity to change; this is a personal character arc rather than an all-encompassing theme. I wouldn’t be suprised if the dichotomy between the two – a government and social-system that is honest and true about its intentions DESPITE the flaws, mistakes and lies of its citizens – is the interesting ‘finale’ Nolan leaves us with.

  • The film’s big lie completely undermines any discussions of its political subtext. As soon as Nolan explains, through Bane and Talia, the depths of the League’s plan, every single thought the movie musters on the plight of the common man goes out the window. Like its villains, the film does not care one iota about what the lower classes must deal with on a daily basis, and it is not interested in wresting power from the elite and returning it to the masses so much as it is interested in…well, just wresting power from the elite.

    Which leaves the thematic thrust the movie builds upon completely inert. Bane and Talia do not feel any empathy toward the poor; that their intention is to build false hope doesn’t mitigate what the full scope of their plan does to the film’s explorations of the conflict between the 99% and the 1%. The League isn’t interested in class equality. They just want to destroy Gotham and Bruce, so their mission is never for a second about social strife– and therefore neither is the film.

    If TDKR truly had any interest in examining these themes, then Bruce would actually go through a common man’s experience, Selina Kyle wouldn’t be living in a small but comfortable flat, and maybe we would see some actual poor people in the film. But all we see of the lower class is a bunch of orphans, and while it’s suggested that Bane has been recruiting the homeless into his army, we only ever see that force represented by League thugs and common criminals. Absent of that class perspective, every political and social flourish in the film rings as false.

    • The whole reason Bane is supported is BECAUSE of the very clear desperation of the lower-classes. The depths of the leagues plan reveals that Bane and Talia are the villains because they lie about their intentions (and, in fairness, as soon as Bane puts him in the prison, he reveals that every socialist stance he argues is complete rubbish as he just wants Gotham destroyed. Indeed, the whole Paval/Energy-turned-to-a-bomb sets up a nuclear bomb at the start – so clearly, with a bomb as a weapon, he is hardly trying to gain equality. He wants power, control and death – and crucially, we know this from the start.

      But what Nolan does so well is show why he is supported – and it is because the society he claims he can create is the HOPE people want – indeed, I believe most audiences probably relate to that. We all hope for a better society – whereby kids are all educated to a high-standard, whereby we can all gain access to healthcare, etc.

      Unfortunately for Gotham, he is lying. (I would argue this is akin to a political party promising something to win an election and then, upon winning, double-backing and not following through on their promises)

      But you’re right – its not about “wresting power from the elite and returning it to the masses” – it is just about gaining power. Akin to a guy back in the forties named Adolf. Bane, differently, uses Left-wing ideals to gain a right-wing agenda. (Indeed the league of shadows is ALL about right-wing ideals- capital-punishinment, etc). I think you seem to think I believe Bane/League of Shadows are liberal – I don’t think this at all and none of the the films have ever played that perspective.

      BATMAN BEGINS ‘shows’ the poor people. The organised-crime gangs under Falconi and Moretti are clearly depicted as characters who are desperate and turn to crime as a way of life because of their stance in Gothams society. Selina Kyle, the orphans, the criminals who are broken free are victims of a social state that is unfair (indeed the Dent Act is clearly argued as an unfair abuse of power by the police).

      “Bruce would actually go through a common man’s experience” – He does! He understands a fair bit in BATMAN BEGINS when he explains what it was like to first steal to not starve, etc. Here he loses ALL his money and he is placed in a prison – forced to break his way free. Isn’t that going as far as it can to put him into a ‘common mans’ shoes? Everything else is semantics. Why else does he lose all his money? Bane could get the money from anywhere – but here Nolan chooses to [albeit temporarily] have Bruce Wayne suddenly penniless.

      • What desperation do we actually see from the lower classes? This is entirely my problem. The people Bane is speaking for aren’t represented in the film, not wholly at least; his gang is totally made up of League bruisers and, eventually, prisoners. Where is this mysterious Gotham lower class? Ms. Kyle and the orphans are their most clearly defined ambassadors, but they aren’t stooges, cronies, or hard-pressed people who, down on their luck, see Bane as a potential savior. Again, the only people on Bane’s side are criminals, so unless Nolan is trying to suggest that the lower class is the city’s criminal element, that crucial bit of support necessary to fully realize Bane’s crusade is 100% absent from the film. There’s no lower class here whatsoever. I understand why someone in the lower MIGHT drink Bane’s Kool-Aid, but I don’t see anyone in the lower class he DOES– certainly not in any meaningful way.

        (I don’t, by the way, think that there’s a clear distinction between one side representing liberal politics and the other representing conservative, so I’m not suggesting you see the movie one way or the other. That said, I would agree that everything about this film’s politics feels very, very right-wing.)

        Bruce having a common man’s experience in Batman Begins is meaningless. He doesn’t have a common man’s experience here, more than eight years after assuming both the mantle of the Wayne name and the Batman. What he experiences before stepping into those roles in Begins differs very much from what he (ostensibly) experiences here. In a movie where Bruce has everything taken from him (TDKR), he really doesn’t; he loses his possessions, but he still gets to go back to Wayne manor and sleep in far better comfort and security than most while simultaneously bagging Marion Cotillard. It’s not really the same thing.

        And regardless of what Begins shows, TDKR is the film about class strife where Bruce has the rug pulled out from under him. For him not to be forced back into the “common man” role in tangible, palatable ways is sort of a missed opportunity, and I don’t think that the first film in this accidental trilogy doesn’t remedy that omission. Just like Begins depicting the lower class doesn’t mean TDKR doesn’t have to. They’re separate movies.

        • Well, the film isn’t ‘about’ desperation so I wouldn’t want some some extended sequence showing the poor of Gotham, but I think the dent act putting so-o-o many people behind bars was unneccessariyl harsh and highlights/represents the injustice in the soceity established. We are supposed to semi-agree with Selina (a) she steals only from those who have too much and (b) she wants it to end/start a fresh.

          Again, I think that Bruce losing his money and forced to re-train and break out of the prison REPRESENTS him going back to his roots and that is all.

          Yes, they are all separate movies with very different themes – as my posts explain – but they also flow well together. I don’t think Nolan is going to be so brash as to say that these are about social-realism – they’re not, ultimately, they are comic book films and thats the end of that. Action, good-guy winning etc is the type of film it is. But it is clear that he is making a clear gesture as to how he feels through these represented elements.

          Maybe he hasn’t spelt it out – and thats going to go over most peoples heads – but I think my analysis highlights the deeper issues. Some will walk away enjoying the action of Batman whilst others will walk away fascinated at how critical it is of the Western world.

          • So much is made by Bane of the lower class that to not have them in here at all feels antithetical to the point, and his point– at least, the lie of his point, because he’s being deceitful– is that the moneyed people of Gotham are corrupt and should be overthrown. By the poor. So I think the poor should have been better represented here. I especially think that would have worked well in the context of Bane’s pretense.

            The Dent act is interesting because it’s never clearly defined. We just know that it’s there and it’s led to the erasure of organized crime in Gotham. It’s another element that could have been cooked up slightly more, though I don’t know if it bothers me so much that it’s left kind of vague– and I agree, I imagine that its terms are completely unconstitutional in the way that they handle and approach law enforcement. It whiffs of fascism.

            I understand what you mean about Bruce going back to his roots, but that just raises structural issues I have with the movie that I won’t go into here.

            I’d also disagree about Nolan’s intentions here. He’s gone on record saying that humanity and realism are the basis for these films, which all clearly (apart from Rises) show Nolan pushing away from the comic book origins of the character (until necessary). I think this series is very much about how a figure like Batman fits into a real world of crime, societal mores, and politics, so when the movies make comments about the Patriot Act and the 99% and the 1% (not in such explicit language, of course), I’m see such ideas as the motivating forces of the films.