Ironically, this movie stands against the fears of Rush Limbaugh in an almost laughable way. If you remember, Limbaugh started the conspiracy that Bane was to represent Bain. Here’s the deal – Bane represents the false notion of Justice that governments often try to give.
The Dark Knight Rises rises above mere symbolism and semiotics to position for us two visions of Justice. One, Bane, is the one who would seek to bring ruin through a carefully orchestrated cathartic scapegoat. The rich are attacked, viciously. At times, I couldn’t tell if I was supposed to dislike Bane or not. Indeed, he goals of justice, equality, and spreading around the limited good is well played, but it is the hope that hides the despair. He allows the classes to be overturned, to put the last first and the first last. This is the justice that he gives the people, to hide the ultimate goal that society must face ruin to force progress. Yes, he is anti-capitalist, but in reality, Bane is an anarchist that uses fascism to conveniently cover up the fact that his change is not the change on should believe in. His justice is one of bloodletting, vileness, and the mob. His hope – that life will finally be fair because of a (governmental) force – hides the despair that we are animals.
Batman presents the version of Justice that is grim, realistic, and unfortunately based on laws. Bruce Wayne is the mask, as the character remarks in one scene. But this mask is one of the wealthy. He is the benefactor of justice, we might say. He feels that it is his obligation to protect his city. Protection doesn’t mean fairness, but a fairness before the law. His goal is only to provide the occasional guiding hand to ensure that crime – breaking the law, not abusing or stretching it – does not take place. His vision of Justice is one in which the laws act as a secure barrier. His justice is realistic, unlike Bane’s. Bane presents a hopeful justice where those who had destroyed the lives of others to make a fortune are finally brought to the law, but it is a murderous court, with only two choices. Batman presents a vision of justice that is more cynical, that laws need to be strengthened to insure that criminality, that which is only defined by the law and not by ethics or morals, should be prevented. But, there is something else. His hope is not one found in an outside force, but in the people themselves. All he wants is for everyone to be Batman – everyone together and individually to be the symbol of justice. That is the hope that is real, that everyone has a responsibility that goes beyond what the government can give us.
Harvey Dent is a ghost in the movie. His death, as the violent psychopath Two-Face, was used to present a symbol of hope, law, and order. This was a false symbol of justice, used by the mayor and the police commissioner to create tough laws that were used to clean up the streets in such a way as to make the city whole again. But at what cost? It was a fake peace, a fake security, a fake hope. This false image was revealed for what it was, and it helped to give Bane the moral authority to push his version of justice just that much more.
These symbols in The Dark Knight Rises are important. Justice, hope, equality are all themes shared by the various actors but defined differently. Matthew Modine plays an assistant to Gordon who forgets his symbolic duty that is of grave importance when society begins to crumble. His police uniform presents the symbol that he needed to remember – that of his duty, his oath. John Blake has a sense of justice that changes. His first sense is that of the police force, inspired by Harvey Dent. When the real Dent is revealed, his sense changes. By the end, he realizes that for some, the structure of the system gives justice, but to him, the structure is shackles. He goes off to find his own justice. Even Selena Kyle has her own version of justice, that of a Robin Hood type. To steal from the rich and give to the poor. The symbol that wins out, however, is sacrifice, as it always does in good Girardian fashion.
Another symbol is the use of New York City, outright. But, that is something else altogether.
The acting is excellent. I was a bit hesitant about Anne Hathaway, but as I reflect upon her character I believe she provided something different. The character had a certain strength through weakness. Her meekness portrayed a character at odds with herself, as we know the Cat(woman) is. She would have preferred to be in an office somewhere, but here, in this life, she was a criminal. She made use of her talents to work various shades of good, but it was not her. We see the real her in the end, however.
The performance by Michael Caine is perhaps the best of the characters. The scene when he tells Bruce Wayne about the lost love that would have never happened is tense. Morgan Freeman is underused, but there were plenty of other characters.
In the end, this was every bit the esoteric movie experience I thought it would be. I am not disappointed in it whatsoever.
On a rather sad note, however, is the murders in Aurora. Batman’s philosophy (not always so, but at least in the movies) is to not use guns. He makes this point with the Cat. We forget that violence is not the first resort, but the last, and that sometimes, winning by outside means is just not worth it.