The Passion of the Batman

The Dark Knight Risesofficially premieres in a couple of hours here in Colorado—a late-night/early morning screening that’ll be seen by, oh, about three gazillion Batfans. My kids’ll be among them. My daughter’s even wearing a shirt complete with bat insignia and utility belt to commemorate the night. I’m so proud of her.
No midnight screening for me, though. I actually saw the movie Tuesday morning at The Mayan, a small, old-school theater in downtown Denver—a nifty place with a velvet curtain and kitschy 1930s décor and a curtain subbing for a bathroom stall. The place didn’t have an IMAX screen, naturally, and the sound system was a little outdated. When Bane tried to communicate through that weird, dead-spider-looking mask of his, he sounded as if he was threatening Batman through a mound of flannel blankets. “Mfffrgughh ruughhriighthuh!” he’d bellow. It was a little like hearing one of the Idea Men from the The Tick (greatest cartoon ever, BTW).
But despite this small drawback, I think I got the gist of The Dark Knight Rises—enough to appreciate director Christopher Nolan’s skill behind the camera and the storytelling ability of his team. I walked out of the theater appreciating the film more than loving it … but Nolan’s work has a way of getting under your skin. You think about it for hours, sometimes days afterwards, turning the themes over and over in your mind. It took a couple of hours for me to really appreciate the story’s multi-layered depth: The superhero story overlaid on the crime thriller shellacked over some socio-economic themes which rested on … well, you get the idea. In God on the Streets of Gotham, I spent quite a bit of time talking about the masks we see in Nolan’s movies. But this movie has its own set of masks—each showing a valid and true take of the film, but one that hides another underneath.
And in peeling off these masks, I came across something that kinda surprised me: A hidden, but fairly explicit, rumination on faith.
Weird. See, as much as I’ve written and thought about the spirituality of Batman, I’ve never thought that Nolan … or really, anyone involved with Batman’s most recent incarnations … was all that interested in telling a spiritual story: Nolan’s previous Batman movies weren’t akin to The Chronicles of Narnia. They were purely secular stories that still—almost in spite of themselves—reflected some spiritual truths that we could learn something from.
And then lo and behold in the final film, we find what appears to be an explicit Christ metaphor woven into the mix: The Dark Knight Rises was, in some ways, The Passion of the Batman.
I’d encourage you to check out my review at Plugged In for a taste of what’s there, but there’s a lot more to talk about. The catch: In order to really flesh the spirituality of Nolan’s climactic Batman movie, we might skate fairly close to a spoiler or two.
So with that in mind, I’m gonna postpone a heavy-duty discussion of The Dark Knight Risesfor a few days, and slowly unfurl what I think is a powerful rumination of faith over three or four posts—to hopefully give folks a little more time to see the film before I talk about it in a little more detail.
I hope you check back in, though. It’s powerful stuff, and I think right on the money. Look for the first installment early next week, when we’ll talk a little bit about the film’s pretty old-fashioned (and not-too-spoiler-sensitive) sense of morality. 

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