Friday, August 3, 2012

More Top Films: "The Dark Knight Rises"

The conclusion to the Nolan Batman story is a great film, but it needs to be understood for what it is. Ever since “Batman Begins” it has been clear that this is not a comic book story. It is meant to approximate real life drama and it does make some powerful comments about things like society, cultural institutions and law and order.

The first film set these ideas up very clearly and exposed the Batman story as the very serious reflection on American culture that it is. How does one deal with corruption, greed and injustice in a society where things very close to those evils can be seen as ideals? How does one make a stand for what is right when the culture and its institutions won’t without stepping over the line between justice and revenge?

In that first film, Batman was contrasted with the League of Shadows to make the distinctions between right and might clear. In “Dark Knight” those ideas were temporarily set aside to show the other end of the spectrum: anarchy. Sometimes we think things are so far gone that we should just give up trying to have structure and rules in society, but the reality of such thoughts is truly scary.

Now in “Dark Knight Rises” we return to the debate of the first film, but in a far more pertinent and timely context. What happens when a society has found its way but become comfortable in its structure? What happens to a place like America when we forget how hard it was to get things right?

It is a bit shocking how much this film is NOT a Batman movie. It is too bright. It is not one man against evil, but a whole society split in two. It is a war story more than a Hero’s. It is also a story that needs to be entertained at this time in our culture.

It is almost unbelievable that the film industry would have the courage to present a story in this day and time where the “villains” are everyday citizens ransacking and attacking the well-to-do. Everyone thinks that they want a modern day change similar to the French Revolution where the “1%” get what is coming to them, but when you see it play out it is not as pleasant as one would think.

The best moment comes at the end, when the film does what ‘The Avengers” couldn’t, and it takes this story to another level. (As long as you interpret that very last scene metaphorically, which is something Nolan does do with his last shots at times.

For now, “Rises” comes in just below “Begins” and above “Dark Knight” with the whole trilogy among the Top Films. Looking forward to a reexamination.

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