The Dark Knight Rises: Ideology of Hope


So that was pretty good. Better than Dark Knight good? Not sure. It feels like a completely disconnected film yet familiar with its escalation. It’s like a lovechild between the two films actually, and this lovechild is beautiful. Okay that makes me sound a bit like paedophile. Rises is a different film from the previous two. I have some minor gripes with the moments of exposition (Nolan is not a natural writer, Inception already proved that), I disagree with the consensus that Anne Hathaway ‘stole the show’ (for me it was JGL, Caine, Oldman and Bale) and I also have some problems with some of the editing in the film. Other than that it’s a pretty solid feature and Tom Hardy defies all odds to command a stronger position than the Joker ever did. That’s not to say Heath’s performance wasn’t worse, it was miles beyond Hardy’s repertoire, but Hardy’s portrayal of Bane just has this raw physical presence which really can’t be articulated. The quirk on his voice, the physicality and the ideology that drive Bane make him, for me at least, the centrepiece villain of the entire trilogy and a fitting villain to finalize the dark knight legend.

So that’s it. No need to talk about anymore. Whatever! And in case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night!

Well we both know that this isn’t how my writings usually end; abruptly. If anything they’re long-winded attempts at some pseudo-intellectual incision into a film or something. The Dark Knight Rises is a politically intricate, morally messed and wonderfully woven masterpiece of cinema. I will probably discuss the trilogy as a whole someday, I could probably write a book about it (hint hint), but instead I want to focus on something. The ideology of hope.

I’ve heard slander towards the film that it’s Anti-Occupy, fringes on becoming fascist paraphernalia, a love letter to extreme capitalism and a raw defence of the ‘police state’. I don’t think it’s any of these things. I think what is portrayed is two extremes battling it out to save the livelihood of the world’s citizens. The Dark Knight was about the war on terror, Rises is more about a war on revolution. I think in the end Nolan settles for something more pleasingly ambiguous, and in fact seems to see that no matter what revolution we choose what matters is that we keep our humanity intact. A lot of this was taken from some abstract viewing of the film but there was a slice of concrete political thought that I took from the film. There’s a strong weight given to the separate ideologies of Batman and Bane, namely surrounding that of ‘hope’.

For the majority of the film Nolan decides to literally break one of the biggest genre conventions known to mankind; that of the hero/heroine learning to not fear death. In Rises, Bruce Wayne revolts against the trilogy’s status quo of ‘sacrifice’ and instead smashes into a whole new outlook on his very life: to fear death is not a weakness but a strength. The lack of a fear is used against him as he tries to break Bane, only to get torn in twain himself. When he comes back with the raw ‘want’ to survive he practically breaks Bane in every place possible. It’s interesting now we can see the trilogy as a whole: it’s about Bruce finding a way to sacrifice himself for the good for Gotham, about him losing any hope for his future life (with Dawes’ death) and then regaining it with the events of Rises. It’s in some flavours a ‘coming of age’ story, albeit with a near 40 year old protagonist by the end of the three films. It’s also about a realization involving ‘hope’.

Bane details that there can be no despair without even the slightest bit of hope. It’s why he has the bomb ticking away and hiding the tick-tock from Gotham’s ears. There’s still hope to survive. It’s why he breaks Batman, but doesn’t kill him, there can be no despair without hope. Batman’s compass points in a different direction, that without hope we have nothing. It’s an interesting ideological battle that spans the film and tears into other relationships and characters. Of particular interest is the way that John Blake still sends the kids to sit in the school bus when Bane looks to have won in blowing up Gotham, he’d rather the kids still have a little hope even when all is truly lost. That’s all we have. “Sometimes the truth isn’t enough, sometimes people need to have their faith rewarded.” There are so many callbacks to the previous two films, even with the score by Zimmer and some of the camera shots, it really is a true ‘curtain call’.

Once John Blake takes on the ideology of Batman then we can see exactly what will happen next. He will become the successor, a man willing to allow himself be shot and blown up to save Gotham’s smallest. Selina Kyle similarly tells Bruce that there’s no way he can defeat Bane, and Bruce tells her that he might be able to do it with her help, giving her the slightest bit of hope. It’s what changes her character from this moral mess into an ally for Bats, the giving of hope. Whereas Bane sees hope as a weakness, Bruce eventually sees it as a weapon. Without hope we have nothing.

It’s wonderful to hear that the lost words of Bruce’s Batman are given to Gordon and they detail what may be the most subtle plot twist of the entire trilogy. The “warmth” that a single cop gave to him on the night of his parent’s death made sure that his “world hadn’t ended”. That was where the hope came from, that’s where Bruce became Batman. Thomas Wayne’s morals and Alfred’s fatherly guidance all steered Bruce in the right direction, but from the moment there was a flicker of hope given at Bruce’s darkest hour (the night is darkest just before the dawn) he was reborn.

That’s what serves as the ideological battle between Bane and Batman. There’s an entanglement of hope and truth as Harvey Dent is unravelled as a false idol for the people of Gotham at the hands of Bane. The school children that went back to the school bus were, in Blake’s eyes, just seconds from nuclear destruction. To Bane, the truth is what drives us and to Batman it is hope. Who wins? Batman… surely?

Maybe that’ll take us on to the next discussion of Rises… at some point.

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