Occupy: Gotham?

The Batman hype mill is churning at full speed this week as the first full-fledged trailer for The Dark Knight Rises makes its way across the Internet. While the clip doesn’t fail to deliver on the explosive action sequences that have been the hallmark of the franchise, it also hints that director Christopher Nolan may use the final film of the series to strike upon the day’s burning political themes of inequality, nationalism, and the abuse of government force.

These underpinnings are most evident in the lines uttered by Anne Hathway (Selina Kyle / Catwoman) during her dance with Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne / Batman) at an extravagant masquerade ball presumably reserved for Gotham’s upper crust.  Over the patriotic backdrop of a child singing the National Anthem at a football game, Kyle purrs ominously into Wayne’s ear:

You think this can last? There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. And you and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.

Despite the Wayne family’s traditional penchant for philanthropy, it seems that Bruce and his ilk are now being targeted as the one percent of Gotham City. Daniel Snyder of The Atlantic is dismissive of this contradiction, and goes on to argue that it could potentially distract from the primary conflict between Batman and the film’s main antagonists Catwoman and Bane:

Did Batman Begins not hinge a large portion of its plot on the assertion that it was the Wayne family whose magnanimous philanthropy derailed Gotham’s complete economic collapse? How very 1% of them.

Anne Hathaway at Occupy Wall Street

Despite filming at Zucotti Park and a trailer that seems to indicate a major uprising (be it of escaped prisoners or of Gotham civilians), it is doubtful that Nolan will be especially heavy-handed with the political tones – more likely, he will use these motifs as a tool for relating Batman’s world to our own, a technique that has worked well for the best superhero films of the last decade. Indeed, this would not be the first time that Nolan has weaved political allegory into the franchise to such effect; The Dark Knight at least dipped its toe in debates on the implications of the Patriot Act, with some reading Batman’s use of privacy-invading sonar technology to stop the maniacal Joker’s bloodshed as validation of the George W. Bush administration’s impingement on civil rights. Will The Dark Knight Rises aim to show us what happens when these tactics are pushed too far? Nolan’s film will at least serve to keep these discussions in the mainstream consciousness when the final act is released in Summer 2012.

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