The Dark Knight Rises

I recently watched the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. It offers an interesting exploration of notions of good and evil and the possibility of redemption. If you have not seen it, be aware that some minor spoilers lie ahead.

Batman fits into the category of the broken hero, the individual who fights evil, but who does so as one whose own methods and approach seem at times to skirt the boundary, gaining him opposition not just from criminals but from the law.

Which raises the question of whether sometimes one has to ignore due process and indeed any principles an individual or society holds dear, in order to fight evil.

Martin Luther King Jr. was of the view that the answer is no. One cannot defeat evil with evil, but only through means that renounce evil in principle. It could cost you your life, but the alternative costs you your very claim to being one of “the good guys.”

The movie follows in the footsteps of the previous Christopher Nolan films, which focus on the League of Shadows, which seeks to serve humankind by bringing about the collapse of empires and cities when these become too corrupted.

That sort of eschatological vision is not entirely unlike the one found in Revelation, in which Rome is judged, found to be corrupt, and so her fall is brought about.

Christian viewers of the film might therefore, if they are insightful, refrain from making quick and easy assumptions about whose side God is on in the movie, if anyone’s.

There are several moments that explicitly raise issues of salvation and redemption. For instance, when Miranda Tate tells Bruce Wayne that “if you want to save the world, you have to start trusting it.” And when members of the League of Shadows say that Gotham is “beyond saving.” And when reference is made to the problems of the city only being fixable “from the inside.”

The movie does a wonderful job, I think, of doing what comic books have also tended to do, namely offering a backstory to villains as well as heroes. When we learn about Bane’s life, or that of Talia al Ghul, we understand them better, just as we understand Bruce Wayne better knowing his story, or anyone else’s for that matter.

A child born into a hell of a situation, one crafted by other human beings to bring about despair, and then made even worse by others, cannot but be shaped by such experiences. When we judge them, according to Jesus’ teaching, we condemn ourselves, because we are presuming that, just because we perceive ourselves to be morally superior, if we had had the experiences that they did, we would have turned out differently than they did.

And so the characters themselves raise the same question as the city of Gotham does – is there ever a point at which an individual or a society is “beyond saving”?

Fans of Batman may have different views on this subject. But it seems to me that a Christian ought to answer “no.”

And if we answer in that way when given the opportunity to reflect in conversation with the Batman movies, ought that answer not to also be reflected in our actual interactions with other human beings? Ought it not to permeate any eschatology we might formulate?

How, if at all, can one not merely defeat or kill but win over to goodness a Bane, or a Talia al Ghul, or the League of Shadows, or a city like Gotham? Instead of spending so much time debating ethereal doctrines and dogmas, more Christians ought perhaps to spend more of their time watching Batman movies, and reflecting on the real and practical questions they raise.

Because the issue is not only how one wins over someone like Bane with love – although that is a serious question, as he is depicted towards the end of the movie as an individual who loved and cared deeply, even self-sacrificially. The question is how we end up becoming agents of destruction rather than redemption ourselves.

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  • ezekiel_trinity

    sATaN aM I,

    Am I here, bcause U want me here & invited me long
    ago. Throughout infinity Man truly represents the word “kiLLeR” the BEST. NOT cOoK
    iNleT killer Beluga whale or killer mama bear or killer wolf or kiLLeR wolf pup.
    kiLLeR MAN IS TOPS. Why Do U MuRdER Animals & DEsTROy the EArtH? They are a
    Creations of XXX. U Do My Work 4 Me!!! A rare place 2 find between infinities.
    My Legion prepares 4 war against the warriors of XXX. There is no other place where I can walk with so much freedom. What a
    super place this dEaTh camP is 2 take. XXX has 3 creations: (U, AM I, wE R 1),
    the animals & Earth. EVIL has always been here with Man, thus, Am I, here.
    But now U attack the planet and animals of XXX 2 genocide other creations. THIS

    I did not even have 2 TAKE the Gulf. It was HANDED 2 me. 88 days, 20,000 psi,
    21 inch diameter pipe =DEAD SEA. Drill & drill in water 4 my blood strengthens
    my Legion. kiLL & kiLL the animals of XXX, NRA, mY aNti-eXistEnce strengthens HERE. I PREACH
    “Patriotism” 2 my disciples and U USE that slogan well 2 mUrDeR Wolves. SUCH
    GREATNESS IN America. You fiLL MY sOuLeSs. Once U take out the Earthly animals &
    creations of XXX:

    Then U PIGGS R my targets. Finite. U R easy & U starve 4 End Time.

    U R THE PIGGS that Worship Me & fulfill me with the amazing cRuElty that
    ONLY U CAN PROVIDE. It JUST GETS bEtTer EVERY DAY. U take Joy in creating new
    born. SO DO THE ANIMALS and U take that away with weapons and transportation
    and drilling for oil deep into the chambers of my home!! OUTSTANDING!! THIS
    PLACE WAS CREATED 4 ME. YOUR PETTY SELFISHNESS & eeriesponsibilty brings
    out the goose step in sAtaN wE tRuST. Chasing animals 2 DEATH using helicopters
    iDeAs that not EVEN I COULD HAVE dOPeD 4. BRILLIANT!! U mUrDer XXX predators
    like wolves & replace them with EVIL Man 2 obliterate animals because U R so
    sneaky taking out the primaries. – U all have turned this IN2 MY Heaven. XXX gave
    U Heaven 2 build on with the Earth and animals, but U came 2 your SENSES &
    bcame MY DISCIPLES. Each day U litter
    the Earth with trash & rOaD kILL, As if NO VALUE. SO MUCH JOY FOR ME HERE. So
    many mountaintops stripped of Life. sO much wAter bittered. Love Each other,
    take care of the Earth & the animals; but NO, NOT HERE. Instead, U spread
    hate & contempt, mutilate the animals & plunder the Earth. U ALL HAVE

    Satan Am I and this is NOW SATAN’s WORLD –

  • F IveStar Ranch

    Wow, great article. And I loved the movie.

  • Bob Patterson

    Here’s another view…

    • James F. McGrath

      That’s excellent!

  • Bob Patterson

    And I will add one that they missed:

    How did Catw0man do martial punches — much less kicks! — while in high heels?

  • Dmoney

    cuz hathaway is awesome