Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

     Yeah, you all knew this was coming. A year ago, I wrote on “Reel Christianity” about “Batman Begins”, planning to write in six-month increments about the other two movies in Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking Dark Knight trilogy. And last week, I got to see “The Dark Knight Rises” at a midnight premiere in Ohio (and I praise the Lord that He protected mine, as I continue to pray for those hurt in Colorado), and it was hard to believe that this franchise of movies that have meant so much to me as an amateur filmmaker was over.

     And what did I think of “The Dark Knight Rises”? Well, I’m still not really sure. Right now, I think the other two are better… but maybe that’s just because I’ve seen them many times. But I can safely say that “TDKR” was the darkest of the three movies, the slowest-paced of the three, and (don’t hurt me) the worst of the three. That may change when I see it a few more times, but as of right now, I like the other two a lot better. But one thing that “TDKR” did satisfy for me was my predictions for it. I didn’t really tell anybody (mostly because I didn’t think they would come true), but I had two main predictions for what would happen in the film. They both came true, and because of that, I can continue to make the analogy between Batman and Jesus. But more on that later.

     (Oh yeah. HUGE SPOILER ALERT.)

     “The Dark Knight Rises” starts out having what I like to call the “Toy Story 3” syndrome: there’s a lot of talking in the beginning about how things are different than they were in the previous two movies. We see in the beginning, which finds us eight years after “The Dark Knight”, that Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), not unlike the latter years of Charles Foster Kane, is living aloof in his newly built Wayne Manor, having been away from the world since Batman took the fall for Harvey Dent’s sins—err, faults at the end of “The Dark Knight”. Batman, as far as Gotham is concerned, is an outlaw that killed Ramirez, Wuertz, Dent, and other innocent people, and then ran away and was never heard from again. And under a new law called the Dent Act (named after you-know-who), the criminals who Dent charged in “The Dark Knight” and put in prison have all apparently been kept there for a long time.

    But at the same time, there is still pain in Gotham. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), who has kept the truth about Batman hidden for many years, has now been abandoned by his wife and kids, and is on the brink of retirement. Alfred (Michael Caine) is still with Bruce, but he longs for Bruce to move on with his life instead of just hiding from the world. And Wayne Enterprises, which has apparently been inactive for several years, is losing a lot of money. So many others around Gotham are starting to lose hope. One woman, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), makes her way through powerful people in order to get what she wants… or just steal stuff, including Bruce’s mom’s pearls. One man, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is a rookie cop in Gotham who still wants to know who Batman was and where he is. And another woman, Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), is starting to make her way to being the new CEO of Wayne Enterprises with the help of Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman).

     But there’s still one man that is going to change everything. The film’s first real scene takes place on some plane heading somewhere, which this man basically hijacks so he can bring a scientist with him to Gotham to put an atomic bomb in the city to completely destroy it. The man is Bane (Tom Hardy, making this a full-out “Inception” reunion), another man with a mask, but this mask only covers his mouth and helps it to speak because of some attack on him years before. And once he gets to Gotham, his attack starts.

     I won’t go into much more in-depth detail about the plot now, because if I do, it’ll take too long. So I’m just going to tell you what I predicted for this movie. One: this movie was going to feel like the apocalypse. What I mean is, if Batman took on Harvey Dent’s sins in the last movie, like Jesus died on the cross for our sins, the only way for this saga to end would be an end-of-the-world kind of situation that would force Batman to come back, just like Jesus will come back at the end of the world to save His followers that are still on the earth. “The Dark Knight Rises” doesn’t have any allusions to the kind of visions that John writes about in the Book of Revelation (at least, I haven’t made any connections to that yet), but it still uses Bane’s character and his actions to turn Gotham practically upside-down. He messes with the stock market and makes Wayne Enterprises bankrupt, as Tate is getting ready to take over (spoiler: she’s in cahoots with Bane). Bane then puts Gordon in the hospital, kills the mayor and his assistants, and reveals publicly the truth about Batman and Dent. Because of this, the criminals in prison under the Dent Act are gotten out of prison and join Bane in taking over Gotham.

     My second prediction: Bruce Wayne would die in this movie. In my article on “Batman Begins”, I talked a little about how Bruce Wayne is striving to be something more, someone beyond himself as Batman. So in being this figure, he sacrifices the fortune and fame of his billionaire lifestyle. And this sacrifice is what truly tests him at the end of “The Dark Knight”, when he ends up taking the fall for Harvey Dent. After thinking about it, I thought that the only way for Wayne’s transformation into Batman to be complete would be for Bruce Wayne to die, or even fake his death. Whatever would happen, Bruce Wayne would be no more, and Batman would be all that was left.

     And hallelujah, that’s exactly what happens. After Wayne puts on the Batman suit for the first time in a long time, he fights Bane and gets his butt kicked… and his back broken. And after taking off Batman’s mask, he somehow gets Wayne into an underground lair of sorts where Bane actually was trained as a youth… by none other than Ra’s al Ghul! Nice twist. Anyway, Wayne eventually gets his back repaired (which is pretty painful to watch), and he is able to perform the ultimate challenge of that lair: climb up. Tied to a rope, he must climb a very thin rock wall up a hole to the surface, which no one—except Tate as a child—has done. But Wayne climbs up, gets back to Gotham, dresses in Batman again, and works with Gordon, Blake, and Kyle—who’s Catwoman, by the way—team up to fight Bane, Tate, and the prisoners. Kyle, who knows the pain Batman has endured, tries to convince him otherwise:

CATWOMAN: Save yourself. You don’t owe these people anymore. You’ve given them everything!

BATMAN: Not everything. Not yet.

     You probably saw that in the trailer, and even seeing that scene there started to confirm for me that the allegory would be complete in this film. So Batman and his team go to fight and kill Bane, and they are running out of time before Bane’s nuclear bomb goes off and destroys Gotham and everyone in it. So Batman uses his new “transportation vehicle”, which Fox has named the “Bat” (it flies), to carry the bomb toward a faraway body of water, where it explodes and saves Gotham—but not Bruce Wayne. And Gordon, Fox, Blake, and Alfred join for Bruce Wayne’s private funeral, where he is buried next to his parents.

     (However, after writing the first draft of this article and then talking to some friends about the film's ending, it's more probable that Bruce, having the Bat set on auto-pilot or something, may have jumped out in time and just faked his death. I haven't really made up my mind yet. Either way, I'm satisfied.)

     Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 16:24, “‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” I think it’s safe to say that Bruce Wayne was following this commandment, even if it was just his own way. He denied his identity as Bruce Wayne and put on the mask and the suit, fighting crime, taking the fall, and sacrificing even his life to save the lives of Gotham, which he always believed was not beyond saving.

     My prayer for you this week is that in whatever situation you find yourself in, that you would take up your cross and follow Jesus daily, denying yourself and letting Him have all of you. And I also pray, on a side note, that if you’re like me and you look for spiritual connections in the world around us—in movies, books, music, whatever—that you would continue to do so. I truly believe that is a good thing. How powerful it is to know that in this sinful world, there are people making art that asks questions that a Christian may be able to answer! And my prayer for you and me is that we would indeed be able to answer.

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