TDKR and (dis)respecting your subject matter


Alright, production on the feature I was on is over, so, as promised, lets talk The Dark Knight Rises.

I did not like the film. At all. I may be in the minority (the film has an 8.9 over on IMDb and a 78 metascore), but, and this isn’t coming from a Batman hater, I loved Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, I truly thought The Dark Knight Rises was a bad film. To get specific, I didn’t like the film for one simple reason: it did not respect it’s subject matter.

Along with the first two of Nolan’s Batman films, The Dark Knight Rises goes very dark places. That is good. The exploration of loss, grief, and revenge in Batman Begins and the exploration of chaos and insanity in The Dark Knight are part of what made those films so powerful. But the key word is exploration. Those films treated their subject seriously; they investigated it, respected it, asked questions and came to conclusions, many of which were not simple nor easy, but they were true.

The Dark Knight Rises did none of this. Although the film went dark places (a terrorist takeover of a major city, the threat of nuclear annihilation), it did not treat the subject with respect abd there was no investigation. It simply went there because it was entertaining to do so. Well, I’m sorry, but law enforcement powerless to intervene in a terrorist takeover is not entertaining (it’s also unbelievable. A city sends it’s entire police force underground? Not to mention that the US would not sit idly by as terrorists destroyed one of their cities). Likewise, innocent people being executed in one of the most painful, torturous ways imaginable is not entertaining (the film even made a joke about this, one of my least favorite parts of the film). And brutal beatings and mass murder, especially those occurring in front of children, are also not entertaining (when the scientist was murdered at the football game, the film didn’t even give us a reaction shot. Not to mention the dead referee, who was only included because Bane needed a microphone to address his audience. Human deaths should be treated with more weight than a plot note in my book).

As I said before, I’m not saying that films can’t go dark places. Filmmakers should go dangerous places, no subject matter should be off limits. But if you go there, respect it, treat it with dignity and give it the weight it deserves. There are people alive today, in North Korea and parts of Africa and the Middle East, who live in societies similar to that which was depicted in this film. I hate to think what they would think, knowing we create stories that parallel the fear and misery they live through everyday, for our own entertainment.

To end this post, I’d like to present an example of what I think is the correct way to approach a subject like this. Back in 1998, a film came out that many were up in arms about. It was a subject that could not be touched the way this film was doing it. It was a comedy about the holocaust; it was Life is Beautiful.

Life is Beautiful did it right. Sure, comedy and the holocaust don’t mix, just like torture under a terrorist/dictatorial rule and entertainment don’t mix, but Life is Beautiful was more than comedy. It was thoughtful, inspiring, and truly respected not only its own characters, but everyone who has endured such atrocities. The film had important things to say, about life, about sacrifice, about humanity. The fact that it was funny was just icing on the cake.

Another example is The Dictator. The Dictator is particularly interesting because it explores the same material as The Dark Knight Rises: the danger and fear that coincide with dictatorial rule. But unlike The Dark Knight Rises, The Dictator is a satire. The Dictator actually says something about the nature of dictatorships, those who run them, and those forced to live within them. The Dark Knight Rises does not.

I realize that I am looking deeper into The Dark Knight Rises than I am meant to, that I am connecting dots that aren’t meant to be connected. But the dots are there, whether they are meant to be or not. If you want to make turn off your brain entertainment, then choose a setting where it is appropriate to turn off your brain. Want to make a comedy about a dumb person and his even dumber friend? Set it in the great plains. Want to make a comedy about the holocaust? Don’t have it star a dumb person and his even dumber friend. Likewise, if you want to make an entertaining, turn off your brain superhero movie, set it on a giant helicarrier and battle fictional wormhole aliens. But if you want to make a superhero movie amidst the world of terrorism, dictatorships, torture, pain, fear, then respect your subject matter, investigate it, say something, and create something meaningful.


About Gabriel Bruskoff
I make movies! See for more information.

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