Wednesday, July 23, 2008

'Dark Knight' of the American soul

Believe the rumors, fellow right-wing travelers. Batman is one of us.

Just got back from The Dark Knight last night, a film as deep as it is spectacular. I won't use much space dissecting it since others have already put it better than I could. (Links below.)

Suffice it to say, I take comfort -- as should George Bush -- that the wild success of this movie is de facto vindication of his lonesome leadership since 9/11, offering a none-too-subtle salute to our vilified Commander in Chief and every war-weary trooper currently engaging the enemy abroad, choosing to "endure" in an unpopular war -- as Alfred, the film's moral standard bearer, urges -- for the greater good.

In other words, as movies like Gladiator and Braveheart have been taken into combat in remote deserts, reportedly screened on the hoods of Humvees from Fallujah to Kabul, Dark Knight is destined to join the fighting man's DVD collection.

Not that things play out as easy or (horrors!) jingoistic as that may sound. Mainly because conservatives aren't as simplistic as the mainstream media usually posits. The movie wrestles with the reality that there are no easy answers when confronted by those who ask no quarter and want nothing but to "watch the world burn." It asks hard questions... Is Batman's presence helping Gotham? Or merely provoking more violence and chaos? And does he have a choice, let alone the right, to stop fighting regardless?

The film's clear but imperfect answer is no.

In other words, sure it's an action film with a '24'-like take on terrorism, but there's a philosophical debate at its core more in line with the disturbing visionary brilliance of A Clockwork Orange. (Far better, and more watchable, because Knight offers answers with a heroic moral counterweight in figures like Bruce Wayne, Jim Gordon, Alfred -- and us.)

I long ago gave up trying to decipher the politics of the people who make movies. Christopher Nolan could come out and declare his allegiance to Barack Obama tomorrow, and while I'd be disappointed, it wouldn't surprise me in the least. Liberal critics are certainly praising the movie as much as I am. But there's just no way to put a Leftist spin on the subtext here.

There's even a John Ford "print the legend" tone to the ending which is a definite throwback to classic Hollywood -- and something liberal Boomer filmmakers have declared anathema since they took over in the '70s.

The fact Knight is setting box office records, while liberal movies opining on terrorism have flopped by the dozen, must gall to no end those liberals who have picked up on the message.

But check out Dirty Harry's Place here for a better look at the politics of the film. And for a thoughtful take on the spiritual implications, don't miss Craig Detweiler here.)

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