What an odd day.

Yesterday, I bought a ticket to see The Dark Knight Rises and was enthusiastic about the fact that my movie-going companion is an expert in comic book heroes.  I knew I’d learn something from him, that conversation after the film would help me see things in a new way.

Early this morning another friend called to ask if I’d heard the news about the attack at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado in which a shooter, apparently inspired by the villain of other Batman movies and comics, killed 12 people and injured 59.

Once again the national conversation turns to a tragedy as people try to make sense of the incomprehensible.

The Winston-Salem cinema where we went to see the noon show today was not swarming.  Our screening room had about a half dozen viewers including us.  My friend, who had not heard the news from Colorado until I told him, noted that all of the preview trailers before our film were stories about vengeance.

That comment, which added to the surreal experience of seeing the film while thinking about the implications of it and the tragedy so far away (yet in our living rooms and on our mobile devices), has stuck with me all day.

On some level, we do become what we consume, and too many stories about vengeance – like too much junk food – crowd out stories that privilege compassion, cooperation, and grace.

Before I heard the news today, I was thinking about Rush Limbaugh’s bombastic (nice word for it) commentary on the fact that the villain in The Dark Night Rises is named Bane, which sounds suspiciously (to Rush) like Bain Capital, the company Mitt Romney ran before he didn’t (whenever that was).

In truth, the Batman films have often felt a little rightwing to me.  After all, it doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to think that The Dark Night makes a case for rendition, and it is equally easy to make a case that Bane’s followers are the disenfranchised on steroids — some amalgamation of radical lefties and hardened prisoners, which on some level is just weird.

Not that the rich and powerful come off much better in the film because most of the elites are corrupt and even Batman himself is deeply flawed, but it is a matter of scale in this film.  Rightist values — the importance of nature over nurture, absolutism over relativism, individualism over communitarianism, and so on — dominate the narrative.

So, forgetting all of previously discussed context (which I could never do), how’s the film?

For a picture that runs two hours and 44 minutes, the pacing is surprisingly good.  Great production values are expected, and the film does have a good look to it with strong actors reprising their roles in the first two installments.  I don’t think fans will be disappointed.  It’s a good movie.

My favorite in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy is still the first one; Batman Begins the most thrilling of the three to me.



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