The politics of Batman

The politics of Batman
The politics of Batman

The Dark Knight Rises shows that Hollywood blockbusters are precise indicators of the ideological predicaments of our societies. Here is the storyline. Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the previous instalment of Chris­topher Nolan’s Batman series, law and order prevail in Gotham City. Under the extraordinary powers granted by the Dent Act, Commissioner Gordon has nearly eradicated violent and organised crime. He nonetheless feels guilty about the cover-up of the crimes of Harvey Dent and plans to confess to the conspiracy at a public event – but he decides that the city is not ready to hear the truth.

No longer active as Batman, Bruce Wayne lives isolated in his manor. His company is crumbling after he invested in a clean-energy project designed to harness fusion power but then shut it down, on learning that the core could be modified to become a nuclear weapon. The beautiful Miranda Tate, a member of the Wayne Enterprises executive board, encourages Wayne to rejoin society and continue his philanthropic good works.

Here enters the first villain of the film. Bane, a terrorist leader who was a member of the League of Shadows, gets hold of a copy of the commissioner’s speech. After Bane’s financial machinations bring Wayne’s company close to bankruptcy, Wayne entrusts control of his enterprise to Miranda and also has a brief love affair with her. Learning that Bane has also got hold of his fusion core, Wayne returns as Batman and confronts Bane. Crippling Batman in close combat, Bane detains him in a prison from which escape is almost impossible. While the imprisoned Wayne recovers from his injuries and retrains himself to be Batman, Bane succeeds in turning Gotham City into an isolated city state. He first lures most of Gotham’s police force underground and traps them there; then he sets off explosions that destroy most of the bridges connecting Gotham to the mainland and announces that any attempt to leave the city will result in the detonation of Wayne’s fusion core, which has been converted into a bomb.

Now we reach the crucial moment of the film: Bane’s takeover is accompanied by a vast politico-ideological offensive.

[Extract. Appeared in New Statesman, on August 23rd, 2012. (full text).]

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