By BRUCE HARDT
This summer saw the release of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the swan song to director Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed trilogy that not only reinvented Batman but also the notion of what a superhero film could be.
First-entry “Batman Begins” was a spectacular reboot whose grit and realism have since found their way into many similar films that followed. The two sequels have both been marked by real-life acts of violence and death.
The second film, “The Dark Knight,” changed things forever. Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker has grown to be regarded as one of the best onscreen portrayals of villainy. Ledger’s death before the film’s release inducted it into the blockbuster pantheon.
The overarching theme of Nolan’s trilogy has been not only what it means to be Batman, but also what it costs. Mind you, this has nothing to do with Bruce Wayne’s seemingly bottomless wallet, but how Batman’s not-so-by-the-books methods inspire an equally audacious breed of villain.
The Joker spends his mania on ambitious, cruel acts of domestic terrorism that test the mettle and morale of Batman and the citizenry of Gotham.
The tragedy of the Aurora shootings at “The Dark Knight Rises” premiere calls to mind, with some irony and discomfort, the themes of escalating violence that worried Gotham’s heroes throughout the trilogy.
The attack once again called into question the age-old argument of whether a film irreparably desensitizes its audience.
Fantasy, no matter how real it may seem, is best treated as no more than what is. In the Aurora case, it appears that accused shooter James Holmes assumed the identity of the Joker.
“Rises” is an epic finale; a trilogy ender that successfully brings Nolan’s sweeping motifs to satisfying, emotional conclusions.
In addition to understanding how its prevalent themes of violence have ripped their way into our headlines, let’s also remember an even stronger theme that runs in tandem.
Batman represents hope and survival through tragedy. The character himself was forged through such means. His purpose is to inspire good and help all of us muster the strength to make a difference in the face of wanton violence and sadism.
Batman symbolizes the power of kindness and heroism. Don’t be afraid. Be the difference in the world.
Hardt requests that “Batman” be pronounced backwards as “Namtab” for the whimsical satisfaction.