Why “The Dark Knight Rises” is a propaganda film

Spoilers ahead, lots of them. If you haven’t watched Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” stop reading this post right away. The post may not contain significant plots but the analysis would pre-empt the surprise.

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With my sister watching the film for the second time because she said it was “great,” I entered the cinema screening “The Dark Knight Rises” for the last hour that day expecting a more action-filled and psychologically-showered movie more than “The Dark Knight,” but I went out of the theater brainwashed with political statements the movie has injected all over the plot.

But before the socially-inspired analysis, I must say it was a good movie based on its plot, story, and special effects. I agree with Rotten Tomatoes when it rated the movie with an over-the-top 87 percent.

Though it went a little bit far from the Avengers (92 percent), The Hunger Games (85 percent), and Dark Shadows (40 percent), it was by far the best movie I have ever watched this year — and probably one of the best movies I have seen since I first encountered films. Better than the Harry Potter series and better than the Titanic. Praises to Nolan which came in second to my list of favorite directors after Tim Burton. Well, Nolan still needs to prove himself more to be hailed as my favorite director.

For those who are stubborn and went on despite not watching the film, you can quit right now or go on. Those who chose to go on, let me give you a shock: Batman died. Yes, Batman died but Bruce Wayne remained alive. Batman’s aerial transport device was set to “autopilot” while carrying the nuclear bomb away from Gotham City. Enough said.

As I was saying, it was filled with political and social themes veering away from Nolan’s “Inception,” which was all about pyscho-science and personal identity, not to mention concepts of reality, dreams, and unreality.

I recommend “The Dark Knight Rises” to political activists who believe in the power of the people though they were presented in a bad light in the movie. Tell me you what you think of the film after you’ve watched it.

Nuclear war and its nuisance

Bane (played by Tom Hardy) was probably the character in the film who uttered the most quotable quotes, and I commend him for that. However, the character, like The Joker in the second installment, was bombarded with ironies and paradigms. At one side, his lines seemed to arouse the consciousness of the people and make them think twice; but we cannot ignore the evil lying behind Bane’s concern.

There was one point in the film when Bane spoke in front of hundreds of people making them realize the monster Gotham has created – the nuclear power. Situated under the Gotham City, this ball of nuclear power is used to provide energy and electricity to the Gotham’s people — until Bane and his team detached the nuclear “ball” from its reactor causing it to become an unstable nuclear bomb that would soon destroy the city.

This is the the first scene where I turned on my radar and told myself that this is going to be a propaganda movie.

The nuclear debate worldwide has been on since the late 90s. Proponents of  nuclear energy is a sustainable energy source which avoids air pollution, reduces carbon emissions, can increase energy security, and is said to be the only viable source to achieve energy independence for Western countries.

Meanwhile, opponents say that nuclear power has many threats to people and the environment such as health risks, uranium mining, risk for use of nuclear weapons, and the unsolved problem of nuclear wastes.

Looking at the movie’s plot, it advocates against nuclear power just like how the United States oppose the nuclear power of Iran and North Korea because of threats of them becoming nuclear weapons.

However, the irony is that it is the United States itself that has one of the biggest nuclear power in the world. According a review by the US Energy Information Administration, the country has is provided by 104 commercial reactors operating at 65 nuclear power plants.

So, seeing a country with one of the biggest nuclear power in the world, advocating against it makes us think more than once.

Crime and the Dent Act

Batman, created by Bob Kane,  actually came out of the mist in the middle of social and political issues in the 1990s. The original Batman comics was an answer to the rising crimes during the time as the Batman villains were mostly pyschopaths who have transformed themselves to be the city’s fearsome creatures. Bruce Wayne’s parents likewise died out of a crime and the character of Batman is partly a detective and hailed as the “greatest crime fighter of the world.”

In the latest Batman movie, the spotlight was placed on the Harvey Dent (who became Two-Face in “The Dark Knight”) Act.

According to a replica of the Dent Act published online, one of the features of the Act is “the creation of stricter penalties, including the denial of parole, for those who commit any crime deemed as a part or function of a larger criminal enterprise.”

The Act, in the film, has caused a quicker and more efficient way of imprisoning people – a disadvantage in the part of criminals such as Catwoman (played by Anne Hathaway) and Bane.

…Which brings us to the next issue.

The power of the people

Below is an excerpt from another speech delivered by Bane (wow, I love his being a “helpful” public speaker!) to a mass of people crowded by the press.

Behind you stands a symbol of oppression, Blackgate Prison. Where a thousand men have languished for years. Under the Dent Act, Under the name of this man. [Bane holds up a picture of a handsome young man.] Harvey Dent. Held up to you–and over you–as a shining example of justice and good. But they supplied you a false idol. To stop you from tearing down this corrupt city, and rebuilding it the way it should have been rebuilt, generations ago. [He reads the resignation attempt of Chief of Police James Gordon] Do you accept this man’s resignation? Do you accept the resignation of all the liars? All the corrupt? We take Gotham from the corrupt, the rich. The oppressors of generations who’ve kept you down with the myth of opportunity. And we give the city to you, the people.

I know, I know. This is perhaps the most controversial parts of the film. It sent my shivers. The reactions may be diverse but let me get things done in an organized way.

In the movie, the “oppressed” or those  imprisoned  by the Dent Act, including Catwoman, made a mass break out of Blackgate Prison carrying guns over their heads, an image we see mostly from countries tagged as terrorists.

You get the picture. Bane frees what he calls the “oppressed” and starts a revolution ruling the entire city with the “middle class,” the businessmen, government officials, and police officers either stuck underground or in thei hiding places waiting for a savior.

The film has shown the viewers how grim the result would be if the “oppressed” would come up and rule the society. It says it destroys the world balance. We see cars roving around Gotham everyday checking on possible dissidents and untoward incidents.

It might be communism or socialism but the film has not spoken of it explicitly.

Furthermore, we see a scene, a “pseudo-court” run by the what Bane called as “the people of Gotham” where a businessman, a capitalist, was seated on the hot seat. There were not due process and the “pseudo-judge” merely asked the crowd what punishment they would want the accused to take – death or death in prison.

When the decision was made, the judge said, “the people of Gotham has spoken.”

Bane added: “Gotham, take control… take control of your city. Behold, the instrument of your liberation! Identify yourself to the world!”

To summarize, the revolution caused chaos, disharmony, and disorder. The movie presented it as monster one should fear. I remember the Occupy Wall Street movement and similar revolutions that have occurred in the Middle East, and yes, you see the message.

I remember them thinking that the United States was actually formed as a country out of a revolution inspired by the French Revolution in the 18th century. So, why the sudden change of heart?

Which leaves us the question, where is Batman in all these? Is he a capitalist hero, with Bruce Wayne being one of the most influential persons in Gotham who has always been in favor of order, a person who simply wants to restore balance no matter what the odds are, or a Messiah who strives to save the city and die for its people?

Bane is seen as the leader of the masses, described in the film as a man who was able to rise out of the ashes because he was born and raised in poverty. Attempting to do the same thing, Bruce Wayne tried to rise out of the underground prison with a man telling him someone who is privileged cannot outdo what Bane* did.

Remember, like Jesus Christ, Batman sacrificed his image for the “greater good” in the second film and “came back” to save the world.

One line that caught me in the entire film was the one said by Catwoman when she was asking Batman to come with her and escape the chaos.

She said:

“Come with me. You don’t owe these people anymore. You’ve given them everything.”

“Not yet,” Batman answered.

Nolan: No politics in it

Director Nolan has reacted to questions asking if the film indeed has political meaning and said it has nothing of it.

“I’ve had as many conversations with people who have seen the film the other way round. We throw a lot of things against the wall to see if it sticks. We put a lot of interesting questions in the air, but that’s simply a backdrop for the story. What we’re really trying to do is show the cracks of society, show the conflicts that somebody would try to wedge open,” he said.

“I love when people get interested in the politics of it, when they see something in it that moves them in some way.”

Well, I might have seen the film the other way around. But that’s how I enjoy films.

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