The first thought that crossed my mind today while watching Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment in the Batman series was Gayatri Spivak’s seminal question – Can the subaltern speak? Though Spivak raised the question in the 1980’s and in the context of the postcolonial Third woman, the relevance of this question once again comes back to haunt the discerning film lover’s mind-space after sitting through an agonizing 3 hours.
In this final installment of the Batman series, Christian Bale reprises his role as the ‘Caped Crusader’ ofGothamCity with Nolan at the helm once again directing this super hero extravaganza. It seemed like another super hero film, till one realizes that The Dark Knight Rises can very well be re-christened as perhaps The Capitalist’s Guide to Repression. Everything that is obviously wrong with the world currently is what is subverted. Well, allow me to explain.
The creator of The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller stands vindicated in his political position of a blatant right wing capitalist. This film serves as one of the best vehicles of his political propaganda in collusion with mainstream Hollywood now. Miller, who created the visually stunning but extremely racist ‘300’ has displayed on celluloid his opposition to the Occupy Movement – the very movement which was aimed at the 1% accessing the riches while marginalizing the rest 99%. Miller a staunch opponent of the movement has succeeded in peddling the great American Dream once again throughHollywood.
No surprise that the antagonist in the film had to be Bane (no pun intended) – the one from the subterranean, subaltern state and identity, who has to be the bane of a perfectly civilized and capitalistic society. No wonder that all the ‘villains’ are the ones who live below theGotham’s well-planned cityscape. No wonder that all of Bane’s cronies look chillingly similar to the protesters from The Occupy Movement. No wonder that their first act of terror is to siege the city’s stock exchange. No wonder that for the politically sensitized viewer the events on the screen make them reach out for the barf bag. The film which is marked by lackluster dialogs throughout does offer a gem of political propaganda though when the siege takes place, a stock-broker offers Bane the solicitous and reassuring statement when he assuages – “but the money here is yours’ as well as mine” (or something to that effect). The subaltern’s existence and status in mainstream society is reasserted yet again whereby he has to remain part of the 99% who is peddled the dream of false cash and hopes (sub-prime crisis anyone?)
There is nothing about The Dark Knight Rises which suggests that it is not really different from the pimping genre of the great American hero and glory. The military might of the country gets a brief display while the most powerful man on the planet, the American President beams out war-time messages from his office in the White House. The dubious element here though is that the President is an actor who looks sinisterly similar to one named George W. Bush. The subaltern is erased here yet again and remarkably so. Whither Barrack Obama and the resistance of the subaltern to oppression.
Cinematically also, this film pales in comparison to its prequel The Dark Knight. Director Christopher Nolan who has some of the best contemporary Hollywood films to his credit like Memento, The Prestige, Inception etc, fails colossally in this installment. Nowhere is to be seen the ingenuity of his films ‘the puzzled script’ or the complexity of his characters or his play with cinematic time and space. The Dark Knight Rises is an epic failure with a linear almost melodramatic narrative – which is not something a cinephile expects from a director boasting of an oeuvre as his. True, one should refrain from comparing a film with either its prequel or sequel, but the comparisons here are inevitable. The Dark Knight is arguably one of the best superhero movies of all time. The complex script, the creation of immortal characters like The Joker and Harvey Dent, the stupendous action sequences, the inner conflict of Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego, all served to dish up one epic saga. The characters here are almost uni-dimensional, Christian Bale looks almost disinterested and in the first part appears to be a modern day Howard Hughes. Thespian Michael Caine is reduced to a melodramatic Alfred, nowhere resembling his comic avatar.
Anne Hathaway is the luscious eye-candy as the Catwoman and that is what she remains. The original Catwoman, a character who is as complex as Batman himself is reduced to such a linear character that it makes one cry. She isn’t the Selina Kyle that Bob Kane (original Batman creator) designed – she is a typical Hollywood heroine who falls into the patriarchal trap of mainstream films. She is the bad girl who gets her redemption after falling in love with Bruce Wayne and helping him. It is true that even in the comic series she does eventually marry Batman and separates. But she is a woman of will towards who Batman isn’t patronizing but a worthy foe. Nolan has made Bale the perfect patronizing male figure that women need so much. So much for feminism!
This may be the era for post-feminism, but I felt like reaching out for Spivak’s dainty hand while seeing this film. I wanted to hold her hand and cry –My lady, how relevant thou art in positing this query? The subaltern cannot speak. Nolan and Miller just delivered one of the most emphatic stamps in crushing any form of assertion by the subaltern. One cannot be more literal than showing the resistance army camping inside the city’s sewers. They have succeeded in implanting an insidious fear against resistance groups like Wikileaks or the hackers group Anonymous into our consciousness. Anarchy, as a form of overthrowing a repressive state depicted so poignantly in the graphic novel and film ‘V for Vendetta’ is skillfully subverted in The Dark Knight Rises. Resistance here leads to anarchy which is fascist and is what the world must fear.
Messrs Nolan and Bale, you have been a massive disappointment for any cinephile. I wanted some epic dialogs like “Why so Serious?” I wanted some epic characters like The Joker. In short, I wanted some epic Batman. And all I could think of while leaving the theater – Heath Ledger, you were sorely missed.
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.ignitink.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/338078_10151148709610464_370043980_o.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Shaheen Ahmed is a Delhi based art critic. She was also an anchor in The Social Road Trip MTV[/author_info] [/author]