Thursday, August 2, 2012

Heroes Rising: Why I like the Dark Knight Rises the Best

The great thing about Mormon Geeks is that all of us bring something different to the table.  We have our own opinions and respect and love one another despite our views.  Joe wrote a great review last week on his review of the Dark Knight Rises.  I cannot say I agree with him.  Although this post is not technically a review it does explain why I like the Dark Knight Rises the best of the three Christopher Nolan Batman movies.  Before I get into the Dark Knight Rises let's look back at the central themes of each movie leading up to the finale. (Spoilers up ahead for the entire series.)

Batman Begins is the awakening of our hero.  Bruce goes on a journey to travel the world to learn martial arts and essentially find himself.  He runs into Ducard, a mysterious vigilante who introduces him into the League of Shadows.  It is important to note that the League of Shadows is a crime punishing organization.  They aim to stop crime and evil by punishment.  Bruce, in order to join the league, must kill a local thief.  Bruce responds, "I will stop men like this but I will not be an executioner."  Batman is born.  Batman has one rule to never kill.  The league then turns on Bruce for knowing their secrets and refusing to join.  He also learns of their intention to destroy Gotham City.  Why?  Because Gotham is a seedy and wicked place.  Gotham isn't much better then Sodom or Gammorah.  Thus, the League of Shadows seeks to simply destroy it and let civilization restore itself.

The central theme of Batman Begins is the idea of one man restoring an entire city.  Batman tries to convince the League, the organization that demands justice, that Gotham is worth saving.

The Dark Knight is where Batman meets his match, the Joker.  The thing about the Joker is that he is chaotic evil.  He isn't motivated by power, sex, or money.  The Joker is motivated by chaos in of itself.  "Some men just want to watch the world burn."  The Joker is scary because that's the realest evil of all of them.  Power, sex, and money can actually be good motivators, acquired in healthy ways, and used in ways to help uplift ourselves and others.  Evil for the sake of being evil is the most dangerous.  The Joker seeks to spread his chaos into the minds of others like Gotham's daytime hero, Harvey Dent.

Harvey is a good, respectable man.  He's handsome, likable, and puts a ton of Gotham's baddies in jail.  Batman hopes to someday put away the Batsuit forever due to Harvey's zealous pursuits as the District Attorney.  Then Rachel, Harvey's fiance and Batman's love interest, dies from one of the Joker's bombs.  The Joker uses this to reach down inside and unleash the villain in Harvey Dent, Two Face.

Gotham's white knight, their hero in shining armor, is now a villain.  Two Face kills some people and holds Commissioner Gordon's family hostage.  Batman stops Two Face but is unable to save him from a fall that breaks his neck and kills him.  Here comes the theme of the second movie.  How can they save Harvey's Reputation?  Gotham believed in Harvey Dent.  What would happen if they knew he became a villain.  If they knew that he succumbed to the evil that the Joker enticed him with?

Batman saves his reputation.  He takes on the wrongdoings of one man.  Gordon lies and says that Batman did all the things that Harvey did.  He does this to restore Gotham's faith in its leaders--in the heroes that it wants but by so doing becomes the hero Gotham needs.

Before I go onto the Dark Knight Rises I want to point out how these themes correlate with the Atonement.  Christ takes upon the sins of all mankind.  The power of the Atonement is both Universal and very personal. Batman, like other DC superheroes, is very much a Christ figure by saving others through sacrifice.  The reason why these movies are so great is because of this message.  The story of the Atonement is the most beautiful and wonderful story that is ever told.  It's why it is told again in Narnia, Spiderman, Lord of the Rings, Superman, and so many other wonderful works of fiction.

Now that we understand this, let's talk about the Dark Knight Rises.

In the Dark Knight Rises we have a new villain travailing Gotham City.  His name is Bane.  He is Batman's equal in every regard and perhaps even his superior in many ways as well.  He was kicked out of the League of Shadows for being too intense.  He comes to Gotham to essentially finish the job Ra's al Ghul started.

Bane ups the stakes and breaks Batman's back to force him to watch as Gotham eats itself apart.  The main character in this movie isn't so much Batman as it is Gotham City itself.  Gotham has experienced 8 years of nearly non existent crime up until this point.  It isn't the same city it once was.  It hopes that Batman returns and until then does everything within it's power to save itself.

But it isn't enough.

Just when Gotham has tried everything it can to save themselves Batman returns with a healed back to save the city.

So why do I love this movie so much?  Why is it my favorite of the three?  Because the theme of this movie is that anyone can be a Hero.  There are plenty of heroic characters in Gotham.  Batman even puts his faith in a cat burglar named Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) that helps transform her from a crook to an anti-hero to a heroine.  He inspires a beat cop to become a detective and then into something more.
The reason why I love the Dark Knight Rises the best is because the hero wasn't only Batman.  The first movie was about saving a city, the next was saving a man, and this one was about bestowing a hero energy on everyone to inspire them to become heroes themselves.  If we look at this in terms of the Atonement allegory, this is when I love the Atonement the most.

I'm so thankful that Christ died and suffered for me sins, afflictions, emotional pains, and trials.  I don't even want to imagine where I would be without his sacrifice.  Yet, I appreciate that transforming power even more.  The idea that I can be a hero--that I can be Christlike--is something that makes me feel even more love and even closer to my Heavenly Father.  Not only am I saved but I'm trusted too.  Even when Gotham's best wasn't good enough, Batman came in and made up the difference.  So too when we do our best and we've given our everything, when we've spent ourselves, our Savior comes in and makes up the rest.

This is why the Dark Knight Rises is such a great movie.  This is why it's my favorite.  Because Batman isn't the only hero it's Gotham City as well and therefore we the audience feel the potential to be heroes.  I left the theater feeling like I can make a difference even though I'm not a billionaire with a lot of stamina and crazy martial arts moves.
"A hero can be anyone- even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting their coat around a young boy's shoulder to let him know the world hasn't ended." --Batman



    I also like this movie the best!

    In the Dark Knight, lying plays a huge role. EVERYONE lies in that movie. The corrupt cops in Gordon's unit lie. Dent lies to the people of Gotham in a way, by reneging on everything he's ever stood for. Batman lies, to cover up Dent's lies. Gordon lies for the same reason. Alfred lies to Bruce about Rachel's letter. The only honest person in the movie was Rachel, and she was blown up. Also, she dies as a result of the lies of others (the corrupt cops in Gordon's unit).

    In the Dark Knight Rises, those lies are not ignored. They have consequences. Alfred and Bruce fall apart, Bane uses Gordon's lie to further his own purposes, etc. And at the end of the movie, even though Batman has staged his own death, the people closest to the situation discover the truth: that Bruce Wayne is still alive. And so is Batman.