Do I trust Christopher Nolan or his Batman?

Posted: July 28, 2012 in Joe Giambrone
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Must say I haven’t yet seen Dark Knight Rises. Perhaps I’ll find a free version somewhere, so as not to support it financially.

What I’ve seen of the story disturbs me: the blatant exploitation of current political realities to rake in bucks. The people’s protest is yet another tick on a list of items to twist into a plot point. The rule by billionaires is included — but in what context, and with what message? That only a weirdo billionaire can save us poor dumb rabble who are so easily manipulated into being evil?

ROLLING STONE has a new interview with Nolan, and asks him some of these questions. His answers are to be expected (all big Hollywood types resort to these stock answers about politics), and feel quite disingenuous. By the way, this is the cliche Hollywood response throughout history to all such questions of propaganda and political messages:

NOLAN: We put a lot of interesting questions in the air, but that’s simply a backdrop for the story.

Nothing to worry about here; just buy the damn ticket.

NOLAN: What we’re really trying to do is show the cracks of society, show the conflicts that somebody would try to wedge open. We’re going to get wildly different interpretations of what the film is supporting and not supporting, but it’s not doing any of those things. It’s just telling a story.

Repetition is key. Go back to sleep.

NOLAN: If you’re saying, “Have you made a film that’s supposed to be criticizing the Occupy Wall Street movement?” – well, obviously, that’s not true.

Really? The people’s uprising in the film is easily hijacked by a demagogue warlord. Perhaps as could, and has happened in real life. To say that this plot development is meaningless? The man is lying.

NOLAN: If the populist movement is manipulated by somebody who is evil, that surely is a criticism of the evil person.

And says nothing about the people who create and participate in the movement? Nothing about the concept of protest? The legitimacy of popular uprisings? The rights to assemble and demand change? In the real world version of these movements, we have the movements attacked by organized, militarized, unlawful police violence. That has been the real world result of popular struggle over the last year. To put his head up his ass and pretend it’s all a story with no bearing on the world, despite looking a hell of a lot like the TV news is disingenuous in the extreme.

I had a major problem with Nolan and his Batman in The Dark Knight. He thought it would be fun or “interesting” in his parlance, to have Batman torture the Joker in the police interrogation room. The hero, the champion who tortures? That is an infuriating immoral aspect to a lot of Hollywood films today, a sign of the debauchery and immorality of those in power to edit the scripts that become the films shoved down our collective throats. When the “hero” Batman resorted to torture, I was quite disgusted in the extreme. For all its budget and and technical wizardry, The Dark Knight left me worried at the current state of comic book films and their power to alter and affect young minds.

This fear was solidified as The Dark Knight okay’s the total surveillance of Gotham — NSA spying on us all — to save us, of course. Every police state is saving us. Every totalitarian is saving us. Every fascist regime is saving us. It’s all for our own good, according to Christopher Nolan and his Batman. As Dick Cheney found it easy to identify with the “Dark Knight,” who apparently got the memo and was operating in “the shadows,” we should be very wary of the propaganda threaded throughout these films.

Not everyone is as sophisticated at analyzing them as you and me. They’re called children (and a lot of the poorly educated public).

Christopher Nolan is of course a brilliant filmmaker.* No one could deny that. He’s also well on his way to becoming a billionaire and joining the ranks of the 1%. To do this, he must rake in the money of the 99% while appeasing his 1% paymasters. That’s his game. That’s his motivation.

As should have been painfully obvious on the opening night of this film, the messages and the ideas thrown against the wall matter. The spree-killing “Joker,” with bright red hair found quite a bit to chew on in the previous film. It was he whom The Batman tortured in the cell. It was he whom he idolized and modeled his behavior on. The real-life Joker wired his apartment with bombs, much as the on-screen Joker would have done. The real-life Joker had similar nonsensical motivations for his actions. They were pointedly pointless.

When you play with fire, you get burned. But in this case, it was a lot of innocents getting burned, and not those responsible for putting those ideas out there.



* Leni Riefenstahl (Hitler’s propagandist) was also an undeniably brilliant filmmaker, as was D.W. Griffith (Ku Klux Klan proselytizer). It’s not enough.


  1. Editor says:

    I got some flak for this from Breshvic Penicillin, on OpedNews, which you can read in its entirety here.

    This is my response, which bears on the above article.


    Nolan has taken a concept (people’s protest) and twisted it into something evil and easily demonized. The timing is only important as to how it will be received by people today. The concept of protest and people’s struggle against the rich obviously predates all of this by a wide margin. It is the exploitation and scripted triteness of Nolan’s I wish to call out. The “Occupy” movement is irrelevant to the points made about he legitimacy or delegitimizing of an uprising against this type of plutocratic tyranny.

    I’m accusing Nolan of playing with fire for less than noble reasons. He claims, repeatedly, that he’s only ‘telling a story,’ the defense of intellectual cowards. He’s not ‘only telling a story.’ He’s telling it with big events: big ideas that affect entire societies and millions of people in the real world. He’s doing it with particular contexts and playing fast and loose with class and class struggle.

    “At no point in the movie is anyone seen legitimately protesting, assembling, petitioning, or doing anything to suggest that there was an endemic populist movement in Gotham that was anything other than Bane’s manufactured one.”

    Well, again, I haven’t seen the film yet. I have quite solid reasons for rejecting Nolan’s Batman, based on the previous film and his crass exploitation of terrorism and theft of civil liberties, not to mention the use of torture.

    “[Batman] represents the civic-minded, socially conscious “engine of the economy” that conservatives would like to exist, but remains mythical.”

    So, you’re basically telling me Nolan’s peddling a nonsensical conservative myth, but that’s okay for some reason. No further discussion required.

    “Also, it’s a pretty dubious point to compare Christopher Nolan, or anyone for that matter, to Leni Riefenstahl or D.W. Griffith.”

    Well, maybe if you understood the context of the point, rather than just have a knee-jerk predictable response to a hot topic. Intelligence in art is irrelevant to morality. One needs both. My take on Nolan is that he’s very cold, calculating, distancing and potentially dangerous. He uses his art to exploit audience perceptions and to manipulate ideas for questionable intentions. Your mileage may vary.

    And yes, I know for a fact that Nolan was playing with class conflict from Catwoman’s dialogue in the trailer:

    “You’re all going to wonder how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”

    This was one of the hooks used to bring people into the theater. As I said, in the title, it’s a matter of trust.

  2. sapteuq says:

    Very very good points. The film is definitely a commentary on class conflict and it’s clear as day what side Nolan’s on!
    It’s so weak to pretend there’s no politics in the film. I wish I had access to millions of dollars with which to “Only tell a story”.

    my review which links to one or two other very good ones

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