Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Themes in "The Dark Knight Rises"

     There has been much turmoil surrounding the subject of the final film in the "Dark Knight" trilogy.  The shootings in Colorado have put a dark cloud over this movie.  Yet I do not think we should allow tragedy to be the only thing we remember from this film.  It has much to say and many themes in common with the Scriptures.
     That being said, I wish to explore a few of those themes and how they are similar to a Biblical worldview and Christian faith.

(This could be a potential "SPOILER", so I shall tread carefully.)

Sin and Despair: At the beginning of the film Bruce Wayne is "not Batman anymore."  He is a shell of the man he once was.  The state of his soul is reflected by the state of his body: weakened, battered, and broken.  Alfred comments that Bruce can only see one end to his story as Batman.  In other words, he has lost all hope.
     Commissioner Jim Gordon is racked with guilt over the lie he has perpetuated concerning Batman and Harvey Dent from "The Dark Knight".  While he has achieved the highest rank in his profession, and he has led his city to eliminate organized crime, Gordon is being eaten away in his soul for his sin of deception.  He even attempts to make public confession of his sins. 
     Gotham City itself, while everything looks good on the surface, is quite literally being subverted from below.  This brings to mind the depth of human corruption.  Evil is not something that we can always see on the outside.  It is not something we can eliminate by changing our outward appearance or actions.  There is always an evil that lurks beneath the surface in every man ready to take charge at a moment's notice.
     Eventually Bruce Wayne puts the cape and cowl back on, yet one gets the sense that this is more for himself than for the people of Gotham City.  Alfred accuses him of wanting to die, not wanting to save people.  Alfred suggests that Bruce Wayne could help the police without becoming Batman again.  He is confronting Bruce with his sin and despair, pulling it all out to the surface.  But Bruce will hear none of it.      
     During this portion of the film I was reminded of Saint Paul's words in I Corinthians 5 about the man committing adultery: "Deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord."  Without giving too much away, this is exactly what happens to Bruce Wayne.  It is what happens to Gordon and to Gotham.  Only when they are brought to the bottom of their broken condition can they begin to be renewed.
     This is what Christians call contrition.  It is what happens when we realize the we are truly sinful, sin-filled sinners.  We are broken, completely without hope in the world, apart from Jesus Christ, that is.  God allows us to hit rock-bottom, to fall, not so that we can pick ourselves up, but so that He can pick us up.

Repentance and Renewal:  Once Batman/Bruce Wayne has been brought as low as he can go, once he has been "handed over to Satan", then he is ready to be built back up. 
     And he is.  Almost with a supernatural power coursing through him and/or watching over him, Batman/Bruce Wayne is able to "rise from the darkness" and be renewed. 
     I won't give away the climax or the ending, but suffice it to say that Batman comes back with renewed conviction and strength.   
    Yet past sins still plague him.  He is not yet free from their consequences.  He is renewed, yet makes mistakes.  He struggles in this life fighting to do the right thing.
     This reminds me very much of the forgiven and renewed Christian life.  We rise from the darkness of death in the waters of baptism.  We are called to new life by the Word of God, yet we are not yet made perfect.  Our past sins can rear their ugly heads.  We make new mistakes and commit new sins.  Yet we do not despair.  We "press on toward the goal" knowing that it has already been granted us in Christ.
       Once Bruce Wayne has been renewed, he wishes to pass this along.  He gives to Selina Kyle a computer virus called "the clean slate" which will erase her crimes, her very existence, from the digital world.  She will receive a fresh start from someone else who received a fresh start.
       What better picture do we have in the secular world of Matthew 18?  We are forgiven and renewed by the work of Christ.  We are called to pass that forgiveness on to others.  

Death and Life: One of the keys to Bruce Wayne's return as Batman is learning to fear death.  He cannot become Batman again until he learns that life (his own life)is something to be cherished, even if it is not the life that he wants.  Once he learns to fight for all life, including his own, then he is able to do what needs to be done.
     Scripture teaches that death is evil, and not something that we should seek out.  It is the enemy to be fought against, the enemy conquered in the cross.  A person who fears death, who knows that it is evil, will see the world very differently from someone who sees death as a positive force in the world, or at least their life. 
     This is not only a Christian idea, but carries through even for those in other religions or philosophies.  If death is to be welcomed, then why work so hard to make life better for other people, or even yourself?  But if death is evil, the enemy, then we certainly have great motivation to avoid it, and to help others avoid it as well.          

Faith and Reality:  While Director Christopher Nolan tends to end his films with characters in general believing a lie, this film has a few comments about faith in what is real.  Officer John Blake is asked if he really believes in the Batman.  He answers in the affirmative.  He is then told to put his faith in "something more real".  But Batman is real.  He returns to make just such a point. 
     It is frustrating for Christians to have such strong conviction and to have others question the validity of their faith.  But we believe in something real, a real man, the real God, not a fantasy.  Batman comes back to prove himself, and so shall Jesus Christ.

     I am perhaps just scratching the surface here, but I wanted to start opening up some of these themes.  And the more I dig the more I find.  While I doubt the point of this film is to uphold Christian beliefs, it does have points of congruence.  It was certainly worth the watch.

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