Posts Tagged ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

For part one, click here

Just a quick quote from St. Paul to start:

For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now… (Romans 8:19-22 — bold mine)


Throughout the Old Testament, we see that while Israel is indeed the nation of the Chosen People, God gives the advantage to the nations surrounding Israel whenever the latter strays from its divinely appointed mission.

It is interesting to think of what it would look like if God were to go a step further.  What if He were to respond to the failure and sin of humanity, His true Chosen Race on earth, by giving the advantage of reason and en-soulment to the animals, or to anything else in creation?

Certainly, if He were to do so, the apes would seem to be the most logical choice.  They are, after all, the closest to us on the “Chain of Being” among all creatures in this world.

KobaMatt Reeves’ “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” shows us what this scenario might look like.  In the film, apes have effectively dismantled human society, reclaimed nature for themselves, and basically taken charge of the earth.

Beyond that, their very attitude toward human beings is a kind of judgement.  We can say this particularly in the case of the antagonist ape Koba (Toby Kebbell), who learned hatred from humanity after years of being subjected to torture in their laboratories.

What does this have to do with the opening quote?  Well, that goes back to the Orpheus analogy in Part one.  Creation relies on us to exercise good stewardship; if we fail to do so, we will learn about it one way or another.  Science fiction and fantasy scenarios that explore this reality in extra-ordinary ways are worthy of our reflection.

movies-dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-jason-clarkeAs for humanity itself, it is interesting to note that its trajectory from “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” to “Dawn” is not all that different from the trajectory of mankind in the Book of Genesis.

Confusion_of_TonguesHumanity’s sin reaches its height at the Tower of Babel, which men envisioned as a way of reaching heaven itself.  Likewise, the scientists in “Rise” — and many in today’s society — show forth a modern day Babel in their overreaching of ethical bounds in scientific and technological advancement.

The aftermath of Babel is well-known just about everyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the Bible:

…there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. It was from that place that he scattered them all over the earth. (Gen. 11:9)

In “Dawn,” the human community to which we are introduced is isolated, cut off from whatever remains of humanity.  That, in fact, is why Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and his team go into ape territory in the first place: They are sent to gain access to a hydroelectric dam that could potentially bring electricity and, by extension, contact with other surviving communities back to their own.

Jason Clarke _ Andy SerkisSo how does it end?  I won’t give anything away, but I will say this: We do not easily learn from our mistakes.  Throughout the Bible, throughout human history, in current events, in our own communities, families, and lives, and alas, in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” we see something resembling the Orpheus story: It is much easier to turn around then to forge ahead, to turn to the darkness and to oneself in defensiveness or despair than to turn toward the light, so that our “works might not be exposed,” and lest we “be converted, and (God) heal (us)” (John 3:20, 12:40).

“Babel” image from Wikipedia; movie images obtained through a Google image search

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So we come to the final chapter in our exploration of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.”  In part one, we looked at evil as presented in the form of the villain Bane, who capitalizes on people’s hope.  In part two, we looked at what hope is all about and how it comes across in the movie.  Finally, in part three we looked at how humanity’s final hope must be in a life beyond this world, not in any notion of an earthly utopia.

But common sense — and, indeed, the Christian faith — will tell us that we cannot cease to care for the present world.  So how do we reconcile living and working in the world with our ultimate trust in a transcendent hope?

Let’s look to Batman for a clue.

batman vs bane

Bane’s plan is to destroy the city of Gotham with a neutron bomb.  At the end, Batman tows the bomb out to sea in an airplane-like vehicle that doesn’t have autopilot.  There, the bomb explodes.

Now to be fair, the question of whether or not Bruce Wayne/Batman died as a result of this incident is left open.  The film ends with a scene in which his loyal butler and former guardian, Alfred (Michael Caine), sees him at an outdoor café in Italy with Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who has presumably become his wife.

Whether this is real or a form of wish-fulfillment on Alfred’s part is, in my view, debatable.

But whatever the case, it is clear that the hero of this story serves his people not by false promises or by flashy displays of power, but by self-sacrificing love.  He puts himself at greatest risk for the good of others.

Arguably, this sort of self-sacrifice is pointless if human beings are to place their hope entirely in this world.  Only if we have some kind of hope that goes beyond what this world has to offer can we make ourselves capable of this kind of service.

Anyway, that’s how we persevere in the world in hope — through love.


Of course, this doesn’t mean we are all called to martyrdom.  But our job is to effect the “Christification” of the world — that is, bringing Christ to the world and the world to Christ.  And self-forgetting love is what Christ’s very life is all about.

So we are to passionately care for the world and for the communities and cultures in which we live; but our care for these should be directed toward a higher hope, rather than our higher hope being forced to fit into the narrow confines of this world.

And that higher hope is Love Himself.

And now, if it’s all the same to you, let us hang up the bat cape.

Image of Batoni’s “Sacred Heart” from Wikipedia; other images obtained through a Google image search.

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Dark Knight_Bane

This is the third installment of my commentary on Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.”  Here are the links to the first and second posts, respectively:




I left off with a discussion of hope among the prisoners who watch Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) climb the dungeon wall and escape through the round window far above.

But imagine for a moment that someone was able to take the prisoners’ attention off of the light that shines from above.  Imagine someone getting them to focus instead on the reflections of that light on the prison walls.

Pushing the envelope even further, imagine this nameless intruder taking advantage of their love of these reflections and persuading them that they can actually turn the prison cell into the equivalent of what is outside — that is to say, a place that can generate its own natural sunlight, its own oxygen, its own sources of natural sustenance, etc.

Fix this scenario firmly in your mind, and you will get a sense of the great evil of Bane’s (Tom Hardy) project.

This world is not a bad place, nor is the Christian vocation to escape from it.  God created the world and everything in it, and all things remain fundamentally good.  But at the same time, as St. Paul says,

…creation was made subject to futility (Romans 8:20).

Happily, that’s not the end of the story.  St. Paul continues…

…not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  For in hope we were saved” (Romans 8:20-24) (italics mine).

That last sentence is particularly important.  As mentioned in the previous post, man’s ultimate hope lies not in this world, but in the “new heavens and new earth” to come.

Far from bringing out the best in humanity and what this world has to offer, the movement toward an earthly paradise actually arrests the journey toward fulfillment in Christ and perverts the here-and-now by forcing the present world to take on a role it cannot possibly fulfill.

Hence, you have the dystopic vision of society — a vision to a certain extent realized in Communist and other totalitarian societies in the past half century.


Only those who know they are in prison can truly have hope.  Only those who know the realities of sin and death, and of being part of a world “subject to futility,” are ready to receive the peace that can only come from a Divine Savior.

But if you can take the prisoners’ focus off of the light that shines from above, you can warp even that most fundamental human hope for deliverance.  And that’s exactly what the devil, the supreme enemy of mankind, would like to do.

Thankfully, our world has a savior infinitely greater than Batman.  Let us therefore be vigilant in…well, hope!

But how do we do that?  What does this mean concretely?  I think I’ll need to do a fourth post to address that one (and I should warn people that there is a major spoiler ahead).

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DarkKnightRisesPrisonThis is my second post on Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.”  For part one, go to http://www.intothedance.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/dvd-review-the-dark-knight-rises/

Hope is a powerful thing.  The villain Bane (Tom Hardy) takes advantage of people’s inner sense of hope with his hypnotizing promises of a utopian society run by “the People” and free from the corruption of public authorities and bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, a “de-suited” Batman/Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is held captive in a dark, dingy, primitive-looking underground prison in an unidentified foreign land.  What’s interesting about this particular prison is that there is, high overhead, an opening.  At the height of the weird, spiraling wall extending upwards from the pit to which prisoners are consigned is a tiny glimpse of the outside world, of freedom…of the possibility of escape.

In other words, this is what you might call a round window of hope.

But in order to get to it, the prisoners have to climb the wall.  How easy is this?  Well, in fact, it’s very nearly impossible…so much so that only one person is known to have successfully escaped in the past.

Nevertheless, people keep trying.  Not only that, but the prisoners wait in fervent hope that one day, one of their own will climb to freedom.

I took this as a symbol, in its own way, of the universal (if unnamed and often unclear) hope that has lived in the heart of every person from the making of the world, and will live in the heart of every person unto the breaking of the world.

That hope cannot be described as anything other than the hope for salvation, the hope for deliverance from an existence in which the reality of death and decay seems to have the final word.

BeowulfI think that in some ways, this takes us to the root of humanity’s perennial fascination with hero figures.  Throughout history, peoples, nations, and cultures have celebrated individual persons — fictional or historical — who somehow embody their hopes and dreams.  By overcoming obstacles against all odds, by attaining honor and glory, such figures give shape to people’s hopes and keep them alive.

This reality casts light on the chanting of Wayne’s fellow prisoners: “Rise! Rise! Rise!”  Having been in darkness for a very long time, they yearn to see someone escape into the light.  Whoever that person is, he will give them — and I apologize for being redundant — hope.

And so when Wayne finally escapes, there is much rejoicing.


While watching the prison scenes in “The Dark Knight Rises,” I was reminded of Jesus Christ almost immediately:

No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man (John 3:13).

Mankind, like the prisoners in Nolan’s film, wants to know at least one person who has “escaped” — one person who has ascended beyond death, through the “round window of hope” into a new life.

To this day, the Church proclaims the One Who has realized man’s hopes.  At the same time, She reminds the world that this hope is transcendent in nature.  We sinful human beings are in a trap against which we and the resources that are available to us in this fallen world are totally powerless.

Having “come down from heaven” as God and “gone up to heaven” as both God and man, Jesus Christ raises us to a new life, instilling in our hearts even now the “first fruits” of a transcendent hope that will be fulfilled at the end of our lives and at the end of human history, beyond this present world and beyond all of our expectations.

In fact, by His sacrifice on the Cross, He has turned death itself from the ultimate doom of mankind into the very “round window of hope,” the very place of passage, whereby we will come to freedom.

But does this mean that the world, the physical body (from which our souls depart at death), and the concerns that pertain to the here-and-now are bad, irrelevant, or insignificant?

As St. Paul was often fond of saying, “By no means!”

But I think I’ve rambled on long enough for one night.  I’ll come back to this issue in relation to “The Dark Knight Rises” later.  It should be ready within a week’s time, so keep your eyes peeled.

Top photo obtained through a Google image search; “Beowulf” painting by J.R. Skelton and “Ascension of Christ” by Garofalo from Wikipedia.

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I finally got around to seeing Christopher Nolan’s third Batman movie over the weekend.  This final installment takes place eight years after the events of the previous film, “The Dark Knight.”  Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become somewhat of a recluse, but is inspired to take up the cape, mask, and suit once more when Gotham is threatened by the masked villain Bane (Tom Hardy).

And that’s the point from which I want to take off.  Having seen all three movies, I am struck by the many faces of villainy in the Batman trilogy.

Ra's al GhulRa’s al Ghul (Liam Neeson), head of the League of Shadows and the antagonist of “Batman Begins,” represents a sort of right-wing totalitarianism that seeks to impose order and justice using force.

JokerThe Joker (Heath Ledger) represents evil in the form of nihilistic anarchy in “The Dark Knight.”

BaneFinally, Bane is the incarnation of a left-wing totalitarianism that “hooks” people through false promises of establishing an earthly utopia by toppling corrupt power structures and returning all power to “the People.”

In due course, we learn that Bane was once part of the League of Shadows, but was eventually exiled for differences with Ra’s al Ghul.  Bane’s relationship to the League struck a chord in my mind.  It seems to suggest, in its own way, that two supposedly polar realities — namely, right-wing and left-wing tyrannies — are much more closely connected than one might think.

Hitlermusso2_editThe middle part of the twentieth century saw the rise of various forms of totalitarianism from both the right (most notably, Fascism) and the left (most notably, Communism).  Although I am an expert neither in history nor in politics, I think we can safely say that both styles of dictatorship proved to have the goal of reducing society — perceived to be all wrong and unredeemable — to ashes so as to build something new and better from scratch.

But herein lies the problem: We live in an imperfect world, and any “system” of society or government is going to have its problems and, sadly, evils.

Bane2Turning from any attempt at political commentary back to the Batman films themselves, I would have to say that Bane strikes me as the most dangerous of Nolan’s villains.  Although he is not blatantly oppressive (at least not to the masses) like Ra’s al Ghul, nor unprincipled and totally unpredictable like the Joker, Bane is dangerous precisely because he plays off of one of the strongest, deepest, and most innate elements of the human psyche — hope.

Hope is a powerful and dear thing.  If you can get a hold of people’s hope, there isn’t much you won’t be able to do with them and to them.

I will return with reflections on hope in “The Dark Knight Rises” by the end of the week.  Thanks for reading, and stay tuned.

Image of the Joker and second image of Bane obtained through a Google image search; remaining images from Wikipedia.

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