With Batman Begins (2005), director Christopher Nolan (Memento) resuscitated this comic book saga with a credible and well-wrought drama. In The Dark Knight (2008) he upped the ante by exploring the morally complex subject of doing wrong while fighting wrong, a familiar ethical dilemma in our time.
The Dark Knight Rises is the third and final work in Nolan's poignant and incisive examination of the role of heroes in our culture and consciousness. It is blessed with a substantive screenplay by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan from a story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer. There are also spectacular special effects that bombard the senses like Fourth of July fireworks.
In The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes, bestselling spiritual author Deepak Chopra, spins out his own idiosyncratic interpretation of the wisdom that is available to us in the words and deeds of these larger-than-life figures in comic books and blockbuster movies. He salutes them for their empathy for the downtrodden and the underdog and for taking on the suffering of others and constantly putting themselves at risk. He observes that they are wonder workers who sometimes doubt their own powers; they also conquer almost every challenge and menace that they face. Chopra concludes: "The superhero is the exquisite combination of dynamic action and stillness of mind."
For much of The Dark Knight Rises, the mind of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), a.k.a. Batman, is burdened with regret and restless confusion. For the past eight years, he has struggled with the words uttered by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) who said: "Batman is the hero Gotham deserves but not the one it needs right now."
Accused of being the cause of D.A. Harvey Dent's death, Batman/Wayne has sagged under the weight of this lie. Bereft of his action-packed mission of looking after and protecting the good citizens of Gotham, he has lost his ardent and animating sense of purpose. Wayne has deteriorated physically and isolated himself from everyone. His only contact is with Alfred (Michael Caine), his loving and loyal butler and right-hand man who has known him all of his life. He believes Wayne has done enough and should retire from saving Gotham. His other mentor, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), is ready, willing, and able to assist his boss in the creation of any invention he needs for his adventures as Batman.
Four diverse characters, each with their own agenda, seek to bring Wayne back to public life. Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway in a humorous and scene-stealing performance) is a cat burglar who runs off with his mother's pearl necklace and then plunks herself right down in his consciousness. John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an idealistic cop who sees Batman as a true superhero with his people-serving heart in the right place. Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) is a wealthy woman who is willing to resurrect Wayne's flagging company with a clean-energy project.
But the most formidable person who wants to get the attention of the reclusive billionaire and Batman is Bane (Tom Hardy), a malevolent terrorist with a cumbersome mask who wants to put an end to the eight year reign of law-and-order in Gotham. Stealing a nuclear bomb, he is bent on destroying the police force and eventually the city. He liberates the criminals from prison and, in the spirit of the French Revolution, gives the underclass a chance to avenge themselves on the rich and the powerful with charade trials and grim executions.
Here the filmmakers hit a hot spot that is sure to resonate with the anger millions of poor and financially abused Americans feel towards the affluent and greedy minority who have taken so much of the wealth and left them with no hope. Nolan also taps into our nightmarish memories of 9/11 with images of the top of buildings on fire and a city caught up in fear.
Wayne's fiercest battle of all is not Batman's man-to-man combat with Bain or how to avoid the possible annihilation of Gotham but his own inner struggle to discern the purpose of his life when the past is defined by guilt and regret and the future is nothing but a mystery. He had once seen himself as fearless and invincible, but during this dark night of his soul, he has been reduced to doubt and the crucible of possible self-destructiveness. To use the key discernment question, is ending Bain's reign of terror "his to do"?
In an interview about this character, co-writer and director Christopher Nolan observed:
"The reason I have always gravitated to the character of Batman is that, as often noted, he is a man with no super powers, apart from his wealth. His extraordinary nature has always come down to his extreme motivation and sheer dedication, which makes him a very credible individual."
Most of the spiritual teachers from all traditions agree that purpose is what gives life its meaning. The Dark Knight Rises is the crowning achievement of this Batman trilogy and it will speak volumes to those seeking goals and looking for a mission to fulfill. Here are just a few take-aways:
• While growing, it is important to know what one is growing toward: that is the quest of every person whether young or old.
• Don't take your eyes off the goals you have set. Sticking to them changes you and changes everything.
• Don't be a piece of driftwood: discover your purpose and go with the flow.
• Channel your energy, focus your attention, open your heart, and fulfill your dream.
• And last, but not least, from Robert Byrne: "The purpose of life is a life of purpose."
Special features on the DVD include "The Journey of Bruce Wayne."