One cannot enter a cinema this week without thinking of the horrific events in Aurora, Colorado. This is especially true when one is going to see “The Dark Knight Rises.” As I entered my local theater in Burlington, WI for a matinee I paused to remember and thought of the words which Christian Bale wrote upon learning of the shooting at that Midnight showing kicking off what was to be the most anticipated movie of the summer. He later followed up his words by visiting the shrine in front of the theater adding to it his own flowers and also going to the hospital to thank its staff and offer encouragement to the victims. It is thus fitting, I think, to use his words to show that they speak for all of us, especially those of us who are about to reflect on the very film which so many would never see.
“…no words can express the horror that I feel. I cannot begin to truly understand the pain and grief of the families, my heart goes out to them.” (Christian Bale)
Waiting a week before seeing the film not only gave me the opportunity to honor the victims but also to witness the political furor erupting over Rush Limbaugh’s words which of course could hardly be expected to have been heard by the accused shooter. Having now seen the film, I can say that the reality is that its plot can be easily politicized or made into a social commentary.
Early on in the film in a scene in the Bruce Wayne Mansion, Anne Hathaway’s character Selina (The Cat Woman) says something to Bruce (Christian Bale) when he confronts her wearing a string of pearls which belonged to his mother. The words her character spoke ended with “…and leaving so little for the rest of us.” This set the tone as to where this story was going. She appeared to me as a Robin Hood type of character taking from the rich but without Errol Flynn’s noble reason of sharing with those who have less. There ends the similarity to the classic centuries old tale. For what follows is an attack on Gotham by forces which definitely portrayed a class warfare revolution so commonly talked about in the struggle to extend the Bush tax cuts. The political pundits might agree with that view but as for me it was more of a parallel to the French Revolution in which just because you were born wealthy and of a family of nobility you lost your head.
Of course this analogy regarding an 18th century revolt in which King Louis XVI and his Queen, Marie Antoinette lost their heads had a modern twist added to it. Even so, this former history teacher could not ignore those sentencing courts in Gotham. This class warfare theme continued as the newly privileged rulers of Gotham rounded up people of wealth and success and took all they had away from them. Not unlike a scene from “Schindler’s List” when the Nazis confiscated everything from those they sent to concentration camps. The scene showed fashionable people being dragged out onto the streets in their fur coats.
That backdrop of misguided revolution in which a band of anarchists take over Gotham is brilliantly conveyed, though a bit more development could have been made with the Orphan Boys Home. The twists and turns of the plot will surprise you. It certainly did that for me. For those few who have yet to see the movie, I shall leave further analysis at this point.
The action sequences were thrilling. The emotional struggles of Bruce Wayne and his faithful servant Alfred (Michael Caine) tugged at the heart. The Bane character (Tom Hardy) who wore the face mask simulating Darth Vader of Star Wars fame certainly conveyed evil and yet there is a point when that softens as well. Even Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) took center stage as he takes a young cop, Blake (Joesph Gordon-Levitt), under his wing. And that was a great take on the story for me as Blake had come out of that orphan home for “at risk” boys. He is the poster child of how one can rise above the circumstances of birth.
In the end, that distribution of wealth controversy so evident in our Presidential campaign, comes to the forefront again. Perhaps that is just my sensitivity to the issue having grown up on the near west side of Chicago. It doesn’t distract too much from the final sequences as the audience will be caught up in the climatic events.
For the surprises, thrills, visual effects, emotional impact and even the contemporary issues which some may recognize in the plot as how extremes can bring down what we hold most dear, that of our country being a land of liberty, “The Dark Knight” earns a grade of “A” from this former teacher.
(After Cola is the author of four novels. Producer/director Ron Kolman is developing his screenplay, “Ring of the Magi” into a Table Read event in the S.E. Wisconsin and Chicago area. Details at http://www.facebook.com/ringofthemagibyarthurcola. He will be appearing at Irish Fest, Dublin, OH Aug. 3-5, IBAM/Chicago from Oct. 12-14, Italian American Studies Association Conference at Hofstra University, NY from Nov. 29- Dec. 1).