By Matt Singer | Criticwire July 25, 2012 at 1:32PM
The following post, along with every single link it contains, includes SPOILERS for "The Dark Knight Rises." I'm not kidding around: SPOILERS will rise. Including this one: SPOILER -- Bruce Wayne is Batman. That's right; we're not messing around here.
After enduring the hate mail and death threats, we finally get to the good part, the reason we all want to see a Christopher Nolan movie like "The Dark Knight Rises" in the first place: to talk seriously and intelligently about it. Like every Nolan film, "The Dark Knight Rises" is a movie of great skill, craft, and intelligence -- and it features more than enough ambiguity to provoke some interesting debate. Though the early discourse around "The Dark Knight Rises" has been dominated by reaction to angry fandom's League of Shadows-like uprising and to the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, you can already find a lot of very good writing about the film online. Here are the ten best pieces I've read so far. We may revisit this subject in another week or two, as more voices rise to join them. Until then, here are:
The Best "Dark Knight Rises" Writing So Far (With Lots of SPOILERS)
"In the end, what really interests me is the notion the trilogy began with, that people can be inspired by (and lawbreakers will fear) a legend, a symbol, an abstraction, in ways they can't respond to a mere human being. 'TDKR' is a superhero movie that acknowledges 'heroism' is primarily a form of public relations, of marketing and branding. When Batman decides to take the fall for Harvey Dent's crimes at the end of 'TDK,' Jim Gordon delivers the movie's closing soliloquy: '... he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he's not our hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.' ...Like the magic tricks in 'The Prestige' or the dream architecture of 'Inception,' heroism is an illusion, a con designed to fool a willingly gullible audience. 'You want to be fooled,' claims Cutter (Michael Caine) in 'The Prestige.'"
"When you think about it, Batman’s final sacrifice is a reversal/redemption of Harvey Dent’s 'sacrifice' from 'The Dark Knight.' Gotham has been told that Dent died a hero at the hands of Batman, setting an example of rectitude and nobility that has been used to enact new laws that have kept criminals off the streets. This has eaten away at the heart of Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), not just because it’s a lie, but also because it has established a false sense of hope. In some ways, it’s almost as bad as Bane’s prison -- just as the prisoners live in a world where they’re confronted every moment by a freedom that doesn’t exist, the citizens of Gotham live in a world justified by a sacrifice that never happened. Batman’s final sacrifice is a correction of that lie, and it replaces that false hope with a genuine one."
"I honestly don’t know whether Nolan is some kind of furious right-winger, and I also don’t think it’s an especially important question, but in his Batman universe global warming seems to be a myth. Of course the ice around Gotham serves an allegorical as well as a narrative function. I’m tempted to argue that the real story of Nolan’s 'Dark Knight' trilogy is the story of its own creation, a dark, personal, auteurist spectacle on a scale never before possible and never before attempted, and an enormously successful mass-market entertainment to boot. If the central theme of these movies is the triumph of the will (to coin a phrase), then that triumph is not Batman’s or Bruce Wayne’s but that of solitary and devious superhero/supervillain Chris Nolan, as he imposes his bizarre obsessions on the entire world."
"There is no institution that works well enough for Batman. The League of Shadows is shown to be a demagogue-ridden den of fanatics. The Gotham police department is corrupt at best, ineffectual at worst (see the first half of 'The Dark Knight Rises,' where John Blake is continuously stymied in his attempts to do the right thing by a GCPD figurehead who only wants the glory of capturing Batman). The US government totally cops out in the face of Bane’s threat. Even Wayne Enterprises is, in the final estimation, a complete failure -- unable not only to bring clean energy to the world but basically incapable of maintaining services for the city’s most vulnerable."
"To the extent that one wants to read politics into the Wayne character, he is arguably an antilibertarian repudiation of Ayne Rand's everyone-for-themself philosophy, where wealth equates to virtue (especially since 'Rises' leaves Wayne financially ruined). Wayne and his family make a point of giving back. 'Gotham's been good to our family. But people less fortunate than us are suffering,' Thomas Wayne tells his son in 'Batman Begins,' a statement that would not only make Rand do cartwheels in her grave, but also implicitly buys into the notion President Obama inartfully offered when he suggested that successful business people don't operate in a void but are able to succeed because of the fostering infrastructure and atmosphere of society."
"'The Dark Knight Rises' bursts at the seams with the kind of urgent, vague political references that fall just short of being ideas. We are witness to secret black-ops prisons, Kafkaesque kangaroo courts, and a terrorist incident at a crowded football stadium that’s staged with the visual imagination Nolan is justly famed for. It’s clear the director and his brother Jonathan (a frequent collaborator with whom he co-wrote the screenplay) want us not just to enjoy the ambient mayhem, but to think about... stuff. Violence, justice, revenge, the human condition, and whatnot. Exactly what conclusions we should be drawing from this 164-minute cogitation on social issues is never clear, but maybe that’s of a piece with the moral ambiguity of Bale’s Batman, who’s always split the difference between idealist hero and nihilist vigilante."
"Action movies and video games are righteous and interventionist by nature -- the hero usually knows something not everyone else does, and he has to act on that knowledge decisively and violently. But by referencing Anonymous and Occupy, these two go beyond general jingoism to something more specific. They suggest that populism isn’t to be trusted, and will ultimately destroy America."
"We witness [Bruce Wayne] slowly sliding back into his addiction, tailing Selina and peeling back the layers of Bane’s plan for the city. The key to this whole thing comes when Alfred sees Bruce’s backslide and is absolutely devastated. Unable to appeal to Bruce’s logic, he stages what is essentially an intervention: he tells Bruce that if he continues down this path, he won’t be around to support him -- he will leave the manor. In so doing, he also reveals the folly of Bruce’s delusion that Rachel would have chosen him over Harvey, showing Bruce that his addiction had already destroyed the thing most precious to him. Alfred also expresses something that is key to the destructive system that surrounds addiction – he says that it’s time for the truth to be drawn out into the light. Addiction cannot thrive without secrets, and here we see that that secrecy is tearing Bruce’s life apart."
"There’s a further parallel to be found, perhaps, between that early well scene in 'Batman Begins' and Bane. The villain’s distinctive mask has been compared to the bared teeth of an angry dog... but Bane’s mask also bares a striking resemblance to the spiked aperture from which the hundreds of bats emerge to menace Bruce Wayne in the first movie. Bane, therefore, is a physical embodiment of everything Batman and Bruce dread the most -- a villain capable of breaking them both physically and mentally."
"Should you mash these three films together into one seven-and-a-half-hour story, the three main ideas themselves almost converge into a three-act story of inception (no pun intended), corruption, and absolution. But after, again, seven-and-a-half hours, such absolution rings a little hollow if [Batman] didn’t take that that final step for these people. Bruce Wayne was always innocent, and did an incredibly noble thing by letting Batman take the fall for Dent’s crimes -- but Gotham still saw him as the perpetrator. That’s what needed to be amended, and, to those who have lived under a lie for eight years, he could only show 'his true self' by making the ultimate sacrifice for them."