The Dark Knight Rises: Is Batman in the 1%?
In the context of the Occupy Wall Street protests, is Batman in the 1 percent? The most recent trailer for "The Dark Knight Rises" suggests that he is. Reuters reported Tuesday that reactions among fans to the upcoming Batman flick directed by Christopher Nolan "ranged from euphoric to philosophical after the sneak peek [of 'The Dark Knight Rises'] went viral Monday".
Does the new Batman film reference global protests and the Occupy movement? From the trailer, the answer appears to be a resounding yes. You can see the trailer here. At one point in the trailer, Catwoman (played by Anne Hathaway) warns Bruce Wayne/Batman (played by Christian Bale) that "You think this can last...there's a storm coming." Catwoman continues, "You and your friends better batten down the hatches because when it hits, you're all going to wonder how you ever thought how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us".
According to Reuters, Catwoman's comment seemed to strike some critics as "evidence of distinct Occupy undertones". Slate's David Haglund wrote, "Even if Nolan decided against filming at Zuccotti Park, it seems he may in fact depict Batman as the 1 percent." Where the character of Bruce Wayne is a billionaire, it makes sense that he should be depicted in the story as part of the 1 percent.
Fans may recall that the film "The Dark Knight" also took on quite a philosophical tone that reflected sentiments regarding ethics and human nature. In "The Dark Knight", the character of Joker (played by the late Heath Ledger) sought to demonstrate that "when the chips are down", common morality goes out the window and people will "eat each other". The scene with the two ferries loaded with explosives had to be a field day for not only philosophers, but also economists and game theorists.
Even further, "The Dark Knight" reflected some political undertones as in the scene where Bruce Wayne/Batman was able to invent a system where the cell phone of every citizen in Gotham City became a sonar device. The sonar surveillance system is eventually destroyed by Lucius Fox (played by Morgan Freeman) after the Joker had been found. The sonar surveillance scenario in "The Dark Knight" raised questions regarding the balance of privacy, freedom, and security in a society.
Aside from political issues, it is significant to note that the character of the Joker in "The Dark Knight" embodied the Nietzschean Übermensch in creating and living by his own code of morality while discarding any sense of common values. Even at the end of the film, Batman had to come face to face with the question of whether one must die a hero or live long enough to see himself become the villain.
As fans of Nolan's films and those who have followed Batman stories all their lives may not be surprised with "The Dark Knight Rises" taking on a more philosophical tone, criticism of the Occupy movement may not be welcomed by many in the audience. At first glance, the portrayal of Catwoman assuming the voice of Occupy protesters seems to suggest that the Occupy movement's perspective will be unfairly cast in the role of the villain. (Likewise, the characterization of the 1 percent as the story's redeeming hero seems to paint a grossly distorted dichotomy of the individuals and issues behind the Occupy movement.) Even so, in the context of the greater Batman storyline, though traditionally a supervillain, Selina Kyle/Catwoman is more or less a neutral character as there is a romantic component to Batman and Catwoman's relationship. We will have to see how the story unfolds.
It is interesting to note that the prospect of Batman's getting thrown into politically-charged conflict ironically comes not longer after Batman actor Christian Bale got into trouble with Chinese guards while trying to visit rights advocate Chen Guangcheng. The tussle, caught on video by a CNN camera crew, showed Bale getting roughed up by guards while trying to visit Chen at his home in eastern Shandong Province.
As a lifelong Batman fan, though I can understand philosophical commentary as part of the storyline in "The Dark Knight Rises", I do have to wonder about Nolan's choice of villains. Where many fans may have been expecting the Riddler to make an appearance, Catwoman and Bane appear to be the major villains. As Bane is a relatively more recent character, one cannot help but feel that bringing Bane into the story so early in Batman's career is a bit out-of-place.
Nevertheless, we can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that neither Shia LaBeouf nor Daniel Radcliffe will be playing the role of Robin in the upcoming Batman film. Not having Halle Berry play the role of Catwoman was also most likely welcomed by fans as well. That being the case, if Nolan really wanted to introduce the Occupy element into "The Dark Knight Rises", perhaps he should have chosen the character Anarky to be the primary villain in the film.
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