In my view, The Dark Knight Rises is the best Batman movie of all time and one of the best films of the year. Christopher Nolan was the co-writer, producer, and director of the final installment in his “Batman” trilogy. In reviewing the film, I’ve chosen not to give away any of the plot. Rather, I’d like to focus on two theological themes running through the saga.
The first is simple: you never really know the good guys from the bad. Some of the characters we trust in the movie turn out to be villains; some of the villains turn out to help save the day. This complexity of integrity is one of the most appealing and realistic elements in the film.
Jesus knew this ambiguity in human nature. Early in his ministry, when crowds were impressed by his miracles, “Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man” (John 2:24-25). He knows the thoughts we hide from the world, and understands us better than we know ourselves. That’s why we need daily forgiveness for sin, asking the Spirit to bring to our minds whatever displeases God in our lives and confessing all that comes to our thoughts. Only in this way can we defeat pride and discouragement, two tools used by the enemy to defeat the children of God.
The other theological theme that interests me in this intense movie is the significance of hope. At one point, a character makes the assertion that despair requires hope—to break a man completely, his captor needs to give him hope that he can escape his prison while constantly defeating such ambition. When the prisoner finally abandons all hope, his soul dies before his body expires.
Our enemy would make frustrated hope the path to despair; our Father would make faith-centered hope the key to victory: “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 12:1). When we are confident in our Father’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” for his children (Romans 12:2), our hope for future provision sustains us no matter our present adversity.
If you feel trapped by your circumstances today, know that you’re feelings are lying to you. You are in Jesus’ omnipotent hand (John 10:28). If you’ll stay faithful to his last word while open to the next, he will lead you into a future that redeems the present and offers “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
The Dark Knight Rises is gripping and poignant. Despite its comic book origins, its most significant themes are remarkably true to life as well.