The Dark Knight has Risen! Blessed be the reborn hero!
In so many ways, and taking great pains to not commit the Sin of Spoiling, The Dark Knight Rises is about redemption and sacrifice and rebirth. It is about offering up everything one has for his/her beliefs, and living outward not inward.
But it is not a religious film; it is political. Christopher Nolan has used his considerable skills to create the ultimate hybrid; the thoughtful blockbuster, the super-hero societal essay, the reflective popcorn movie. Amid the breathtaking set pieces, the thrilling weapons and Batcycles and Batplanes, the exceptional fight sequences, is Nolan calling for social revolution? Is this gifted director suggesting we can no longer support the authority, that they’ve grown too corrupt and greedy to exist? It is possible to view the film in this way.
And if we do, what does Christian Bale’s performance represent? Yes, his story arc follows the classic Heroe’s Journey structure. We see him physically broken and rebuilt, spiritually renewed, and even emotionally released, but as what? Super-hero or social liberator? Rescuer or revolutionary?
If the classic American hero faces the villains alone at high noon in the center of town, and if the modern equivalent is the dark avenger of the night, then The Dark Knight Rises presents us with a new paradigm to consider: hero as Savior and Unifier of American Society.
And that is something worth considering between handfuls of popcorn…