Christopher Nolan’s latest Batman film is a pacy, edgy and gripping summer blockbuster. It also a spectacularly reactionary fairytale for the 1 percent.
The Dark Knight Rises sees Christian Bale’s “eccentric billionaire” Bruce Wayne emerge from eight years of seclusion to beat a madman called Bane who is hell-bent on destroying Gotham City for no particular reason.
The two previous films presented a gritty take on Batman. They yearned for a mythical, bygone golden age of capitalism while accepting the necessity of repression in the face of insane and incomprehensible “terrorism”.
In The Dark Knight Rises, terror is embodied in a mob of discontents led by Bane. He orders the people of Gotham to take control of their city after trapping police in the sewers.
Before you know it, kangaroo courts spring up to pass sentences of execution, crooks are on the rampage and law-abiding citizens are left hiding behind doors.
This seems like a right-wing fantasy of what would happen if the Occupy movement took over the world. Bane is presented as a clever psychopath—a kind of Cold War-liberal caricature of Lenin on steroids.
If Bane is a liberal bogeyman who gives focus to the mob, Batman is a hero for the 1 percent, a symbol to inspire the “silent majority” to reject extremism and take a stake in society. The message is that, unfair as it is, the status quo is better than the alternatives.
But the film also offers us a window into the anxiety of the ruling classes. All around the world, the masses are stirring.
The 1 percent has always presented revolution as a shortcut to tyranny. But for those who have been involved and inspired by the movements of recent years, this cynicism will seem utterly ridiculous.
They offer a far more hopeful vision of the future than the one laid out by the caped crusader.
The Dark Knight Rises is in cinemas now