Dark Knight Rises Review and Spoilers: Christian Nolan Batman Film is About the Tea Party


The Dark Knight Rises is a brilliant movie, well made and with masterful performances. For the serious-minded it also raises questions about the nature of social change, institutionalized aristocracy, plutocracy, and psychosis. But it does not challenge the Occupy Wall Street movement, despite the obvious references [SPOILERS AHEAD].

For much of the movie, Bane's army controls Gotham, at one point literally taking over their NYSE. During their occupation they hold French Revolution reminiscent kangaroo courts, sentencing Gotham's aristocrats to death and anarchically tearing apart fine art and furnishing. In one scene, a Madison Avenue doorman is seen throwing his wealthy, elderly overlords into a truck. Bane holds the city in a psychological prison of fear, not of him or his henchman, but of each other.

While the Occupy movement was also critical of banking institutions and the 1% wealth holders, the comparison stops there. First, while Bane superficially releases control of the city to the people, he clearly holds the reigns. Gotham becomes a fascist state. Compare this to the Occupy movement, which is/was leaderless to a fault, democratic in extreme. And while Bane succeeds by isolating the city through fear, the Occupy movement thrives on geographic decentralization and networking, with a variety of causes united worldwide.

Second, it should be clear that the people of Gotham are not gullible saps who fell into a plebian fervor. Not only did Bane lead them through personal magnetism and fear, he used an army of paid mercenary assassin cultists spread into every corner of the city. Once the prisoners were released, they apparently joined Bane's army, too. The average Gotham citizens hid inside for fear of the thousands of trained killers roving the streets. Gotham under Bane was a military occupation, not a democratic uprising. The Occupy movement made pains to show that they were plural -- with active members rising from every race and economic class.

Finally, although the aristocrats of Gotham were painted as caviar-swilling pigs, they apparently did a fine job. Nine years of low crime? Lots of jobs and economic growth? Upward mobility (Miranda starts at an Azerbaijani prison and becomes a socialite philanthropist in twenty-five years), Alfred begs Bruce to be a better corporate citizen. 

In Gotham, the corporate system effects change better than punching, not in NYC. In our world the comical ridiculousness of the 1%'s consumption is not the crime, the crime is actual crimes against the welfare of our cities, nation, and world on behalf of very few. At its best, Occupy is not about shaming the wealthy, it's about remedying systematic injustice so that our nation is more fiscally solvent and socially responsible so as to be both competitive and good in the 21st century. 

If anything, Nolan's final Batman critiques the Tea Party movement, which actively seeks to overturn our government while brandishing guns. Also, like Gothamites being whipped up under false pretenses for Bane's secret goals, the Tea Party movements are often sponsored by groups like Americans for Prosperity, who are funded by aristocrats like the Kochs, whose motives likely revolve around preserving their position and wealth. 

Go watch The Dark Knight Rises five more times this weekend so that studios will continue to throw money at Nolan to create serious, cerebral, beautiful blockbusters. But don't conflate images of Bane pushing around Wall Street twerps for Nolan hating on Occupy.