Last night, I read a review of The Dark Knight Rises titled “A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But A Knuckle Sandwich.” I opened the link because I thought it would be a commentary on how Batman defeated Bane purely through brawn and there was no brains involved at all. (I mean, come on, Batman! You did not consider in your first fight that maybe the mask could be a weak point?) However, that was not the case. The majority of the review is actually of Mr. Nolan’s cinematic style. The reviewer felt that Mr. Nolan’s shots are static and boring:
… a typical Nolan shot consists of one thing, isolated in the foreground, that is in the frame at the beginning of the shot and is still there at the end (unless, perhaps it’s an entrance or an exit from a scene). The point being that during the course of a shot, it is rare that something will enter or exit the frame, or that there will be significant interaction between the right and left, foreground and background.
He then goes on to say that Mr. Nolan is pretty consistent about this style, so he is probably doing it on purpose, not necessarily to bore, but because he is focused on other elements of the movie, specifically, plot and themes. In fact, he states that Mr. Nolan tends to beat us over the head with his themes over and over, so maybe the title of his review is referring to Mr. Nolan’s lack of subtlety. Or maybe the reviewer was playing off this book title and was commenting on Mr. Nolan’s treatment of the theme of heroism in the movie. It is argued that there is no true hero in the movie because Batman does not make the ultimate sacrifice.
No matter the reviewer’s intentions, one theme that does get some time in the review is economics, and it was fairly interesting to me. In Batman Begins, R’as Al Ghul mentions that the League of Shadows tried to destroy Gotham City using economic warfare, and It is hinted that the organized crime and corruption that runs rampant in the city can be traced back to these forces. Thomas and Martha Wayne fought back relatively unsuccessfully with their philanthropy and finally averted it by becoming martyrs and giving the city, particularly the city’s rich, a wake-up call. In The Dark Knight, the theme takes a back seat, but it does come up a couple of times, such as when Batman tells the Bat-Impostors to go home, and is asked what gives him the right to be Batman. His reply? “I’m not wearing hockey pads.” And economics comes back with a vengeance in The Dark Knight Rises, particularly when Bane takes over Gotham and encourages the proletariat to take from the bourgeoisie. It is highlighted when Catwoman says to Holly, “This used to be someone’s house,” to which Holly replies, “Now it’s everyone’s house.” Not to mention the scenes of looters taking property (or more) from the rich and then putting them on “trial.”
Obviously, the movies are meant to tap into the socio-economic tensions of contemporary society, namely the “Occupy Wall Street” or “99%” movement. Which is ironic, since Batman is part of the “1%.”
You do not see too much of it in the movies, but Bruce Wayne does just as much to help Gotham as Batman does. In The Dark Knight Rises, you see that the Wayne Foundation, which is the charity division of Wayne Enterprises, funded orphanages. In the comics and cartoons, this idea is taken even further – besides orphanages, the Wayne Foundation funded scientific and medical achievement awards, grants for fine arts, grants for teachers, free medical clinics, free schools, rec centers, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and halfway houses. Wayne Enterprises even hires criminals that Batman caught after they are released from prison. (At least the small-timers, not the full-on crazy Arkhamites.) Batman may have ulterior motives for these projects and Bruce Wayne claims he just likes to see his name on buildings, but it is very inspiring to see them done all the same because although it may be impossible to truly become Batman in real life, it is possible to become Bruce Wayne. Just look at what Bill Gates has done.