Sunday, July 22, 2012

Order or chaos

John Podhoretz explains what it is that makes "super-hero movies" so popular and why this third Christopher Nolan Batman movie works so well:
.... What people adore about superhero movies is the signal quality of the Christopher Nolan films—their complete lack of irony when it comes to the portrayal of heroism and the need for heroes to confront evil. When they grab you, and the utterly riveting and entirely gripping The Dark Knight Rises grabs you as few movies do, it is because the filmmakers discard the knowing winks and go all-out, turning their stories into moral pageants dedicated to the elevation of self-sacrifice, selflessness, and heroism. ....

The Dark Knight Rises finally finds an epic story that fits the super-hero’s simple moral code—good people do right and bad people do wrong and good people must stop bad people. Because Batman has no special powers, the character is far better suited to fit this code than the supernaturally charged Superman or the genetically mutated Fantastic Four or X-Men....

This Manichean worldview goes very well with what one might call the quiet Tory perspective of Christopher Nolan. The theme running through the three Batman movies (the first, Batman Begins, was not very good, although Nolan and his co-screenwriter, brother Jonathan, mine it effectively for plot points in the new one) is the battle between order and chaos, with Nolan standing unambiguously on the side of order.

Nolan knows exactly what he’s doing when he puts the rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street movement in the mouth of his villain. The Dark Knight Rises is a Classic Comics version of Edmund Burke. Which makes its incidental role in the latest monstrous spasm of nihilistic violence, as the movie that was playing during James Holmes’s evil massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, all the more haunting. [more]
The Burkean connection seems to me a bit far-fetched, but Podhoretz gets what can make this kind of film work for me, and my tolerance for fantasy - especially comic book fantasy - is pretty limited.

Evil Undone | The Weekly Standard