The Film Itself

by Michael Potemra

Coincidentally, I was at an Upper West Side Manhattan movie theater watching the same film; there were at least three showings starting at around midnight there, and the showings had the ambiance of a buzzy “event.” The Colorado shooter(s) probably chose that Aurora movie theater precisely because there was certain to be a large crowd of potential victims. Thinking of the screening I was at, I’m surprised the death-and-injury toll wasn’t even greater.

The film was impressive on an aesthetic level, with powerful performances and far more emotional resonance than the typical action movie. Nathaniel Botwinick has correctly pointed out here on NRO that it’s not a political film; I think the closest it gets to politics, conventionally understood, is in its depiction of the left-populist revolutionary state the villains establish. (Its imagery is derived from the French Revolution, in the darkest possible sense: The revolutionary violence is shown as cruel, cynical, and unjustified.) But the film is remarkably sophisticated in its depiction of police, because it points out that, in a just state, the government’s police should have a monopoly of force. It’s easier these days to make works of art (movies, novels, etc.) that are either right-populist or left-populist in their depiction of cops as corrupt and malign — The Man oppressing either the Brave Individualist (right-populism) or the Exploited 99 Percent (left-populism). The Dark Knight Rises does something rather more difficult: It tries to understand the role of police in a legitimate system. I don’t mean to suggest that the film is didactic in this regard — it works as an entertainment, with what I require of an entertainment (i.e., a few laughs and a few tears) — but I do think the importance of this point is sadly underscored by the events in Aurora. 

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