Nolan, meanwhile, has tried to stress to interviewers that A Tale of Two Cities was the conscious inspiration for The Dark Knight Rises , not Occupy. Indeed, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) reads aloud from the novel in the film, equating Batman with the self-sacrificing Sydney Carton hero. But in A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens wasn't just critiquing the Red Terror, he was issuing a warning, essentially the same as JFK issued: "those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable." Dickens doesn't get to the carnival of death of the French Revolution until after he has poignantly described the gross injustices suffered by the French masses under their oppressors -- so we can see how the violence perpetrated by the aristocracy came back to literally bite their heads off.
Catwoman in orange in a still from "The Dark Knight Rises"
By contrast, all The Dark Knight Rises has to represent the plight of the downtrodden is the Catwoman-origin-story of scrappy, slinky Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who makes class-conscious jibes at our billionaire hero. Kyle resents the wealth of Batman's alter-ego Bruce Wayne, makes statements about inequity, and has to cat-burgle to pay her rent. This sure doesn't justify a revolution the way Dickens did, with a nobleman callously running over a pauper's child, and aristocratic brothers hiding their rapes and murders by incarcerating an innocent physician, in solitary, forever.
Still, as in Dickens' classic, prisons are a prominent motif in Nolan's third Batman film. An aggressive new city ordinance has swelled the prison ranks of Gotham -- and when the doors open, those thugs hurry to exact revenge. Like many comic book superheroes and archvillains, The Dark Knight Rises is a model of Freudian theory: Batman certainly experienced an original trauma, and there's an excruciating origin story on the villain side as well, revealed in the climax. It revolves around an exotic, primitive prison where the inmates are dropped down to the bottom of a deep pit they can never escape, taunted only by a small circle of burning sunlight high above. This experience destroys the psyche, as indefinite detention did to the gentle doctor in A Tale of Two Cities.
However, it should be noted that the neglected prisoners in The Dark Knight Rises wear desert-climate robes and face-concealing head scarves, they live in a barren vaguely Eastern land, and oh yes, they claw and tear at each other, because the assumption is that's a region where there's always civil unrest, I guess. Perhaps that is why Batman cares only about Gotham, and doesn't try to get the prisoners out of their hell-hole; perhaps their lives are naturally barbaric, and they have none of the First World's right to a decent life.
A rope-and-pulley system to help them escape would be nothing to this billionaire with an engineering firm. Bruce Wayne uses, as his butler Alfred (Michael Caine) puts it, "air superiority" to defeat evil. (This joke is delivered in the middle of a taut action sequence; it's amusing unless, of course, "air superiority" makes you think of U.S. war crimes.) But if The Dark Knight Rises is going to lay messiah vibes on Batman -- he's got a little resurrection thing going on, and Les Miserables of the Asian prison feel it and chant for him worshipfully -- then it's unlikely the movie really sees him and them as fellow humans.
Rising Up from the Hell-Hole
A survivor of the terror attack on Colorado's midnight screening, but the friend of one of the twelve who were murdered, is suing Warner Bros., among other defendants, on the grounds that the 2008 Dark Knight film incited James Holmes to commit his heinous imitation of the Joker.
While lawsuits like this are understandable as a way to vent the rage and grief such a senseless loss engenders, what could the legal grounds be? And who would be more legally liable, filmmakers who create wooden characters and one-dimensional plots, or those who craft convincing films?
If movies or other forms of mass entertainment have content that is harmful to society's interests, we're going to have to use sociological arguments to make them change -- and when their profits are going sky-high, it will take an organized effort to be heard. When the Council on American-Islamic Relations campaigned against the title of Alan Ball's film Towelhead (coincidentally, a Warner Independent release), Ball met with representatives in a recorded dialogue, and heard their objections during a panel discussion. This airing of all sides was one of the bonus features on the DVD. It is consciousness-raising like that which we ought to embark on with the entertainment industry about violence.
The way media violence often defines the identity of "the other' -- justifying and encouraging racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and imperialism -- merits extensive discussion. It could be a kind of Truth and Reconciliation Commission between the industry and the audience. This process would educate both media-makers and the public in general -- including consumers, parents, and those in the helping professions who treat addictions. It could also put us on the road to eliminate some of the propaganda that makes a segment of the U.S. favor gun proliferation in the first place.
Ironically, the entity which knows best how to run respectful, attentive consciousness-raising sessions these days is Occupy. The entertainment industry should try asking them for some pointers.
Still of the Joker from "The Dark Knight" (2008)
Here are links to take action for gun control:
Credo Action petition; The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence petition; Mayors Against Illegal Guns website; American Friends campaign for assault weapons ban renewal; Petition by a MoveOn member for assault weapons ban