Novelist Andrew Klavan on “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises”:
The movie is a bold apologia for free-market capitalism; a graphic depiction of the tyranny and violence inherent in every radical leftist movement from the French Revolution to Occupy Wall Street; and a tribute to those who find redemption in the harsh circumstances of their lives rather than allow those circumstances to mire them in resentment.
None of these themes necessarily arises out of filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s politics, of which I know nothing. Whatever his politics, he is an artist committed to creating, in Shakespeare’s words, “abstract and brief chronicles of the time.” This is where Mr. Nolan’s honesty comes in.
There are, after all, no socialist filmmakers in Hollywood. There are only capitalist filmmakers (Michael Moore, for one) who make socialist films. Likewise, none of the coiffed corporate multimillionaires who anchor the network newscasts can honestly support the Occupy movement which, taken to its logical conclusion, would result in their being hanged from lampposts.
Yet while repeatedly tainting the free-market tea party movement with a racism it doesn’t espouse and linking it to violence it doesn’t commit, many creatives and journalists lend moral support to the socialist “occupiers”—underplaying the widespread vandalism, lawlessness and grotesque anti-Semitism characteristic of their demonstrations.
“The Dark Knight Rises” is a stinging, relentless critique of that upside-down and ultimately indefensible worldview. And why not? Our chattering classes frequently tell us that art should speak truth to power and shock the bourgeoisie. It just never seems to occur to them that “the power”—and the modern Babbitts of the bourgeoisie—are themselves.
Mr. Nolan’s response to them—the perfectly cast, brilliantly choreographed conclusion to his Batman trilogy—is a sophisticated vision of the way economic systems actually work and don’t work. The essence of that vision is encapsulated in two scenes that purposely echo one another.
In the first, the embittered villain Bane, mouthing revolutionary bromides, stages an assault on the stock exchange. In the midst of the uproar, we hear a police officer say of the stock market, “That’s not my money, that’s everyone’s money”—a recognition, in other words, that the 1% and the other 99% do the work of free trade together.
Later, after Bane’s revolution has destroyed the investment class with mob violence and show trials and thus plunged Gotham City into chaos, Catwoman and her fellow thief enter a ransacked house. “This used to be someone’s home,” mourns Catwoman, her conscience awakening. “Now it’s everyone’s home!” exults her unrepentant colleague, gloating over the ruin. …
But the heart of the film is not money. It’s people and what they choose to make of the injustices of their lives. Catwoman is the linchpin of that theme. She is the link between those like the heroic capitalist Wayne, who allow hardship to temper their souls, and those like Bane, who cling to their hurts and demand to be repaid in societal destruction. Catwoman begins as a thief making revolutionary proclamations: “There’s a storm coming.” She ends up confronting the true nature of that storm and a choice between that and freedom’s better way.
Free markets lift us all. People’s “revolutions” inevitably result in tyranny. Forgiveness and self-betterment redeem society while embittered extortions in the name of “social justice” poison it. None of these simple truths is hidden in the film. That is why left-leaning critics on both coasts have reacted to the movie with the same willful blindness with which they view history.