Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises: A Jacobin's Knightmare

Christopher Nolan has given us a not-so-friendly film to the Occupy crowd. If the Occupiers are the newest version of proletarian Jacobins, then Nolan is our Edmund Burke or Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Not that Nolan compares in greatness to Burke or Solzhenitsyn, or that The Dark Knight Rises is on par with Burke's Reflections or Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago, but just as these works condemned the iniquities of The French Revolution and The Bolshevik Revolution, so The Dark Knight Rises puts the ugliness of Occupy ideology in the spotlight by showing what happens after storming the Bastille.

The blockbuster hit commits to French Revolution and Marxist revolution motifs throughout. As Selina Kyle, or Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), dances with the bourgeois Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), she justifies her theft by stating "I take what I need from those who have more than enough." Then she states, "There's a storm coming Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches because when it hits you're all going to wonder how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us." Two statements which summarize the bitter feelings of those who would have us institutionalize envy. She might as well have pulled out some bongo drums, camped in front of Scott Walker's house and made them into a chant. Later in the film, "the storm" comes and Wayne Manor is overrun by "the rest of us." One of Selina's friends notices she isn't drunk on the chaos or celebrating their victory over their perceived oppressors and asks, "What's wrong? Isn't this what you wanted?" She doesn't respond. The leveling effect is carnal and ugly, but she realizes too late.

The brains and muscle behind the revolution are (spoiler alert!) Bane (Tom Hardy), Miranda Tate (Marion Catillard) and Miranda's father Ra's al Ghul (Liam Neeson), which translated from Arabic is Demon's Head. Ra's al Ghul's plan in its simplest form is to rid Gotham City of its evil by destroying it. The plan is thwarted by Batman and Ra's al Ghul dies in Batman Begins, but his daughter Miranda is set on fulfilling her father's dream. If Miss Tate were to write a memoir it may be titled something like Dreams From My Father. Bane is in cahoots with Miranda and the first step in their plan, as in any brilliant revolutionary plan like these, is to destroy the foundations of the city. Yep, sounds about right. Bane then releases the prisoners of the city, which I'm sure made Occupiers giddy since most of them were probably non-violent offenders whose only crime was smoking a little weed, man...Once the city is in disarray and the thugs are in charge, they set up a revolutionary tribunal, which Nolan portrays as almost comical in its excesses. The judge is the demented Scarecrow and he sits upon a heap of debris. The defendants are brought arbitrarily before the judge and have no legal representation. The sole penalty is death. Due process is guillotined and a reign of terror takes her place. The similarities between the The French Revolution and Marxist revolution are all over the place, and Nolan makes them all look really bad.   

Nolan stated about the film, "What we're constructing here is a very, very elemental conflict between good and evil." As Ra's al Ghul would seek to rid Gotham of its evils by destroying it, Batman seeks to rid Gotham of its evils by redeeming it. He saves the entire city through a demonstration of sacrifice. Nolan does not view evil the same as Susan Sarandan or Michael Moore. Sarandan and Moore would have us hollow out the foundations of the city in a fit of proletarian fervor or else destroy it. Nolan says this is evil. Batman seeks to redeem things that are evil, not destroy them, even though these things deserve to be destroyed. At one point, Batman refers to the people of Gotham as thousands of innocent people. Miranda Tate (or Selina Kyle, I can't remember) responds with, "innocent is such a strong word." So there's this idea of people who are messed up and yet Batman is still willing to fight for them. Nolan and the Occupiers agree that a city can be evil, but Nolan's method of correcting the problem is redemption not destruction.

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