The Dark Knight Rises: You’ve Seen the Movie, Now Read the Book!

The Dark Knight Rises: You’ve Seen the Movie, Now Read the Book! July 20, 2012

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done;
it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

This one of my all-time favorite lines from one of my all-time favorite novels, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

One of my favorite treasures: A leather-bound, antique edition of A Tale of Two Cities. It was a Christmas present from my son, who also loves this novel. The illustration of the front cover was added later.

It is also one of my favorite lines from a movie I saw early this morning, The Dark Knight Rises. I will not say anything about how this line functions in the movie because I am morally opposed to spoilers. (If you comment on this post, please don’t spoil the movie for others.) I will say, simply, that it is a beautiful, appropriate line, well used in the service of a stirring and disturbing film.

I was surprised that a line from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities figured so prominently in The Dark Knight Rises. I was doubly surprised in that I am right now in the process of re-reading this classic tale. I did not expect that my midnight-movie-going adventure would intersect with my effort to enrich my life by reading a great novel. Yet these two did intersect, and not just in a single quotation.

In fact, The Dark Knight Rises is a contemporary retelling of A Tale of Two Cities, now set in post-9/11, Occupy Wall Street colored Gotham City (appropriately filmed in New York). The Dark Night Rises screenwriters, Christopher and John Nolan, intentionally drew upon A Tale of Two Cities. I did not know this before I saw the movie. But once I heard the line from the novel, all the pieces fell into place.

Both The Dark Knight Rises and A Tale of Two Cities tell engaging stories. Both struggle with issues of justice, oppression, and poverty. And both destroy the romantic mythology that presumes that the world would be much better if only the poor and powerless got a chance to run things. Early in The Dark Knight Rises, Wall Street Occupiers might be cheering. But in this film, as in Dickens’ novel, the reality of human depravity destroys naive idealism.

I enjoyed The Dark Knight Rises. It kept me utterly engaged and utterly awake, which is really saying something for a two-hour-and-44-minute film that I watched from 12:30 to 3:14 in the morning. It’s not a perfect film, but it is substantial and entertaining.

However, if you like The Dark Knight Rises, then do yourself a huge favor and read the book. No, not the novelization of the movie, but the novel on which it is based, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. You’ll be glad you did.

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