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Ah, The Dark Knight Rises. TDK is a tough act to follow, especially with Heath Ledger’s untimely death and Oscar-winning performance. As with most superhero films, the further the number, the more villains we get—and here we get Bane and Catwoman (and Ra’s al Ghul and Talia al Ghul and yes that is far too many villains).
So, if TDK had great themes and messages about humanity, what does Rises offer? And does it get its message through?
There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.
Rises really came out of the gates with a clear message: fuck the rich. The class imbalance that continues in Gotham, despite the “clean up” in the streets (I’ll get to that shortly), is still destroying the city from inside out. Talia highlights this at her charity event when she says she’s actually giving money directly to help people. Bruce has been a recluse for eight years, and still living high and mighty as the city suffers. He has big ideas, and no follow through, and when he gets robbed, he deserves it.
We also see the results of corrupt policing. Thanks to Gordon’s cover-up, thousands of people are wrongfully and forcibly imprisoned beyond regular laws in the city. Denied parole. Denied another chance. Because the cops lied. Because the truth doesn’t matter as much as throwing some “bad” people in jail. When the truth is revealed, when the prisoners themselves learn the abhorrent acts, they revolt. And they are right.
Those men locked up for eight years in Blackgate, and denied parole under the Dent Act, based on a lie?
I don’t think I have to explain how relevant that is today, or how relevant it was then. Americans especially live under the shadow of ICE, constant surveillance, and police brutality. And it’s the same where I live, too. Laws based on fears benefit the rich: the two go hand in hand. We don’t see the high-class criminals or mobsters in jail; we see the lower class who have no power to fight. What happened to those corrupt cops from TDK? Nothing, as far as we know.
Everything we do is collated and quantified. Everything sticks.
So, if there’s such a strong message about the problems of wealth inequality, the corruption of cops, why isn’t Rises as strong a movie as TDK?
BECAUSE OF EVERYTHING ELSE.
They don’t even try to push these messages—how could they, when the very film itself had a $250M USD budget? When Christian Bale himself is worth millions? When D.C. and Warner Bros. are massive corporations that benefit the most from these laws and wealth? They should stick to the messages of Catwoman, and Bane, and Talia: the rich are the problem, the cops are the problem, the lies are the problem, and we should take it back.
And Rises does nothing with it.
Actually, it says, Gordon should be forgiven for lying for eight years and causing thousands of people to be denied parole, because he’s a good man. Actually, it says, not all cops are bastards, throwing Blake in the mix as a major character out of nowhere. Actually, it says, the only person who can solve the problems of the city is the rich asshole who’s done nothing but wallow in manpain about a dead woman who didn’t even like him back. Rich people are the heroes! Having money is valid! You too can abandon a city after sparing them from an atomic bomb! Just move to Italy, who cares?
That doesn’t even touch on the other problems: doubling down on Ra’s al Ghul and his daughter as white people, how it took a murderous villain to make these supposed good people have morals, how the city hasn’t bothered electing a new mayor, how quickly the entire country refused to make a deal and free the innocent people trapped in Gotham. Watching this movie today is a horribly frustrating experience for what could have been, what should have been.
The movie we deserved.
Maybe it’s time we all stop trying to outsmart the truth and let it have its day.
Let’s be frank: Bane was right. Bane was always right. The Joker challenged Gotham and the city proved stronger than him. But Bane forced them to confront the actual need for change: real change. Change that never once happened after Batman, Gordon—after every good soul in Gotham proved they wanted to be good people. If you want to be a good person, you have to do good things. And nobody did. It’s so easy, so simple, but losing wealth? Losing prestige? What does that gain the billionaires, the politicians, the cops?
Bane forced change on them when they failed. And he was right to do so.
We take Gotham from the corrupt! The rich! The oppressors of generations who have kept you down with myths of opportunity, and we give it back to you… the people.
Literally the only thing he did wrong was punishing other innocent people. Trapping everyone in the city under the guise of freedom when so many people aren’t remotely involved is…bad? Bad. Like, so is the murder, I guess, but honestly my biggest problem is the underlying hypocrisy of “giving Gotham to the people” and then giving the tools of destruction to his hot girlfriend/boss/colleague, Talia. She has a brave line about being a citizen too but, like, it was her plan to destroy everything, so…
Batman: He was trying to kill millions of innocent people
Talia al Ghul: ‘Innocent’ is a strong word to throw around Gotham, Bruce.
Innocent is a strong word, sure, but not everyone is an oppressor just because they’re unable to act during a lockdown. Go for the cops, the rich, maybe a few scummy villains—punishing everyone for the crimes of a few isn’t equal to how the rich failed, but it isn’t great, either.
Rises could’ve been so powerful a deconstruction of class had they stopped to consider what they were making for 0.5 seconds, rewatched TDK with a mind for the moral, or, I don’t know, if it wasn’t made by rich people who only continue to profit off the rest of us. There are far too many villains in this film, but the most important of all to confront goes undefeated, flying an expensive war helicopter into the sunset.