The Dark Knight Rises And The Batty Right-Wing
When The Dark Knight first screened in 2008, many US conservatives were pretty chuffed about the themes within, one being that sometimes civil rights must be suspended to ably fight terror. Andrew Klavin claimed in the Wall Street Journal that the film is “at some level a paean of praise to the fortitude and moral courage that has been shown by George W.” See also: this Demotivational.
Upon the release of mega-blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises, the right-wingers have championed the trilogy once more. News Ltd’s millionaire shit-stirrer Andrew Bolt wrote a column proclaiming that Batman is his kind of hero because “Batman knows what history shows: that revolutions of the Left almost always lead to destruction – and ultimately tyranny.” It isn’t the first time Bolta has backed the franchise; he also agreed in 2008 that The Dark Knight implicitly endorsed the Bush regime.
Alongside Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne is a pretty fantastic candidate for Most Conservative-Friendly Superhero: born-billionaire socialite running a multinational corporation that spans chemical, medical, military and biotechnology industries, who secretly dishes out vigilante justice during his off-time. Oh, except for his aversion to guns. Well, guns in his hands. Every mode of transport he uses has more firepower than Iron Man’s suit.
Obviously, when we’re going into intricate analysis of plot points in The Dark Knight Rises there might be a spoiler or two. So SPOILER WARNING! Now let’s get on with it.
Firstly, conservatives are over the moon that the fascist villain in the film, Bane, commands the resources of the Occupy Wall Street-styled disgruntled masses of Gotham to overthrow the plutocrats running the city. And they do, ransacking the opulent abodes of the rich and successful, and dragging them through a Kangaroo Court presided over by a madman psychopharmacologist Dr Jonathon Crane AKA the Scarecrow from Batman Begins.
The police are helpless, of course, because they’ve been trapped under the city after a series of bombs blocked off their exits.
That might be enough nightmare fuel for right-wing ranters, except for the cherry on the top: Bruce Wayne is in self-imposed exile due to the failure of a hugely expensive clean energy project helmed by Miranda Tate, which has crippled Wayne Enterprises. Oh, those wackos and their costly, useless green energy initiatives. Chocolate sauce on the cherry: the languishing project is developed into a fusion bomb by Bane.
Occupy Wall Street protesters shoving businessmen out into icy waters? Sustainable energy turned into bombs? Terribly evil. We need Bush the Batman.
There was something unsettling about the prolonged final fight scene, as the audience are urged to cheer Batman and a horde of police beating armed civilians. Something sinister. Something… Syrian. Then again, those “civilians” are Bane’s criminal horde. While Bane proclaimed that the city’s populace should rise up against their oppressors, they only did under the threat of being blown off the face of the earth, and were conspicuously absent from the streets when the undercover cops led by Commissioner Gordon were sneaking around the city. Any tyrant can control a population by force with a highly-trained guerrilla army and a massive bomb.
Towards the end of this epic fight scene, with Bane and Batman mashing each other’s masks into a pulp, the penultimate twist comes. Miranda Tate is revealed to be Talia al Ghul, the daughter of Batman nemesis, the now-late (due to Batman) Ra’s al Ghul. And Bane is revealed as her lifelong protector. In a film of twists, this twist is inspired, but negates almost every previous motive the film’s villains had. Everything they’ve done is not for political points but for revenge, plain and simple.
This is where the conservative chest-puffery deflates. The Occupy-style revolution? Not only under sufferance, minimal, and mostly administered by Bane’s terrorising minions, but conducted solely to make Bruce Wayne cry when he’s stuck in prison watching his beloved Gotham City go up in flames. The reason why Wayne Enterprises’ sustainable energy project failed? Because the administrator created a ludicrously elaborate decades-long plan to manufacture a bomb disguised as a generator.
Every liberal-bashing plot point becomes moot the moment Bane and Talia’s motives are revealed.
What I don’t quite understand about this labyrinthine revenge plan is once Batman returns to Gotham, Talia and Bane do their damnedest to ensure he’ll be blown to smithereens along with the city. And themselves. How the hell could this be satisfying in any way? You spend your entire life planning to murder the man who killed your father (a motive Batman himself is familiar with) and you want to make it a murder-double-suicide? You want him to suffer by witnessing his city levelled, yet want him there when it happens? Perhaps the revenge is best served when you’re already dead and can’t enjoy it.
Maybe the conservative pundits couldn’t make it through the entire 165-minute running time and just nodded off to beautiful dreams of protesters getting thumped with batons. Or Christopher Nolan should’ve stopped the film before cutting every previous narrative thread with a simplistic twist. Then, of course, we’d have to agree with Andrew Bolt. And not even the Batman can make me do that.
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