Dark Knight of the Soul

Batman resurfaces to protect a city that has branded him an enemy.

July 18, 2012 by Geoff Moulton

Batman is all that stands between the city he has vowed to protect and those that seek to destroy it

“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends had better batten down the hatches.…” That’s the warning Selina Kyle, a.k.a. Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), has for Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), alias Batman. And what a storm it is, as filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s epic conclusion to his Batman trilogy arrives in theatres.

Though he’ll be riding the wave of enthusiasm for The Avengers, Nolan’s vision is a lot gloomier than other comic-book franchises. Everything about this film is dark, from the streets of Gotham City to the black abyss from which the titular hero must emerge.

Gotham’s New Threat
The Dark Knight Rises is set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight. Gotham City is at peace and prospering, but Bruce Wayne is still recovering physically and emotionally from the tragic battles with the Joker and crusading district attorney Harvey Dent, who after a gruesome accident became Batman’s dreaded nemesis Two Face.

At the end of the last movie, Batman voluntarily took the fall for Dent’s crimes so Gotham could remain inspired by the lawman’s former idealism. Still reviled as an outcast, the Caped Crusader is missing in action as the final chapter begins.

That is, until a new threat arises in the form of terrorist leader Bane (Tom Hardy) who overwhelms Gotham’s finest. Sporting a muzzle worthy of a pitbull, Bane is a career criminal who demolishes a prisoner transport plane to spectacular effect and escapes to wreak havoc. In his distorted voice, he menacingly proclaims himself “Gotham’s reckoning.”

Bane revitalizes the disbanded League of Shadows, releasing and rearming the prisoners Dent had prosecuted. Together, they devastate Gotham City’s police department and citizens by strategically planting a series of bombs across the city.

It takes Bruce Wayne’s trusted butler and confidant, Alfred (Michael Caine), to convince the Caped Crusader to resurface to protect a city that has branded him an enemy. His old ally Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), who runs Wayne Enterprises, once again provides Batman with high-tech equipment to get the job done. As expected, stirring battle sequences ensue, including collapsing bridges, exploding tanks and a football field that disappears into thin air.

Reluctant Hero
What we learn from this string of Batman movies is that being a superhero is not all it’s cracked up to be. Batman is a reluctant hero. He keeps trying to retire, but the world won’t let him. There is always one more villain to subdue.

What’s so disturbing about the villains in Nolan’s films is that their only motive seems to be the desire to generate chaos. Recall Heath Ledger’s mesmerizing and unhinged performance as the Joker—the very embodiment of anarchy. The Dark Knight series plays on the fears of terrorism and senseless violence that has been lurking in our minds since 9-11.

Of course Nolan is not afraid to throw in some moral ambiguity. Let’s not forget that Bruce Wayne is part of the one percent—a billionaire with a mansion, fancy suits and fast cars. “You’re going to wonder how you could ever live so large and leave so little for the rest of us,” Catwoman mocks. Echoes of the Occupy Movement perhaps?

Batman must struggle with his desire to be left alone and his calling to defend Gotham City.

“You don’t owe these people anymore,” hisses Catwoman. “You’ve given them everything.”

“Not everything,” replies the Batman. “Not yet.…”

Of course, there is only one thing left to sacrifice.

“I won’t bury you,” declares Alfred. “I’ve buried enough members of the Wayne family.”

But will he?

When All Else Fails
Evil is all around us. We need only turn on the news to see its devastating effects. The Bible promises that “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Fortunately, Jesus follows this up with some good news to believers: “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

We cannot ignore evil. Poverty, homelessness, addiction, human trafficking, injustice … these are our battles to fight. If we don’t, who will? The Apostle Paul urges, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Sometimes it means overcoming our own “dark night of the soul”—depression, exhaustion or fear of the unknown. That’s when we realize we cannot do it in our own strength. God is our secret weapon—someone we can call upon when all else fails. That is when we, too, can rise to fight another day.

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