The main antagonist in this movie is Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Shadows. Who are they and what do they want?
“The League of Shadows has been a check against human corruption for thousands of years. We sacked Rome, loaded trade ships with plague rats, burned London to the ground. Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance.” - Ducard/Ghul
“Gotham’s time has come. Like Constantinople or Rome before it…the city has become a breeding ground for suffering and injustice. It is beyond saving and must be allowed to die. This is the most important function of the League of Shadows. It is one we’ve performed for centuries.” -Ra’s Al Ghul
“You’re going to destroy millions of lives.” - Wayne
“No. Billions of lives. Gotham is just the beginning. The world will watch in terror as the greatest city falls. Anarchy and chaos will spread…mankind will ravage itself, the species will be culled and the balance of nature restored. The planet will be saved for all species.” -Ducard/Ghul
“Gotham is helpless without you. That’s why I’m here.” -Ducard/Ghul
“To kill me?” - Wayne
“To bring you back to us, Bruce. The world will need great men like you-” -Ducard/Ghul
“To take power.” - Wayne
“This is not about power…this is about saving the planet before man destroys it with his greed, with his pollution, with his weaponry…” -Ducard/Ghul
At first it sounds like TLOS are anarchists, but I'm not so sure about that. They still use "government," a form of fascism, which is more clear in The Dark Knight Rises. But I think TLOS has a lot of aspects of a secret society, because it's a bunch of guys with an agenda, hidden in the mountains, being mystical and educated, and infiltrating society by coopting and pretending to be a part of it.
The character of Ra's Al Ghul was created in the '70's, a time where several historians, investigators, politicians, military men, and whistleblowers have talked about plots to take over the world, or the "new world order," although definitely not the first nor last. I wrote about George Lucas, having made Star Wars in the '70's, talking about the NWO. I believe this theme is a key part in why these movies are successful and resonate with audiences, in addition to of course the film craft.
Like TLOS, secret societies tend to favor harmony and balance of the environment over the value of human life, as seen in their dark occult and pagan practices like in the Thule and Tooley societies influencing the Nazis (i.e. the expedition to the Himalayas, similar to the place where Bruce Wayne finds TLOS) and the Fabian and Theosophical societies influencing the Labor Party. Many are influenced by mystics, having traveled to the east and brought back mystical knowledge and eastern cultural views.
Secret societies meet and share the knowledge of the world; discuss how things have gone in the past, and where things should be in the future. They consist of the most influential people in society and thus arrogantly believe they know what's best for the rest of us. Eugenics was actually sort of popular a hundred years ago. They talked of culling the population. Basically a forced Darwinism. If you can't justify your existence, you're useless and deserve to die. Thankfully, not all "globalists" see eye to eye on ways and means (Japanese assassins are something interesting; talked about as vigilantes of sorts against the NWO globalists). But call them what you will. The Jacobins (Freemasons) and the French Revolution, Thule Society and the Nazis, the Illuminati in various coopted forms such as the Freemasons and the US, and of course the Bilderberger Group and the world. At the height of a corrupt civilization, they just go and crash the party, but the cost is usually human lives. The stakes are the absolute highest; which is why it makes for good drama.
“You are defending a city so corrupt we have infiltrated every level of its infrastructure.” -Ducard/Ghul
“When a forest grows too wild, a purging fire is inevitable and natural. Tomorrow the world will watch in horror as its greatest city destroys itself. The movement back to harmony will be unstoppable this time…Over the ages, our weapons have grown more sophisticated. With Gotham, we tried a new one: Economics. But we underestimated certain of Gotham’s citizens…such as your parents. Gunned down by one of the very people they were trying to help. Create enough hunger and everyone becomes a criminal. Their deaths galvanized the city into saving itself…and Gotham has limped on ever since. We are back to finish the job…” -Ducard/Ghul
So, TLOS isn't solely "shoot-em-up" destructive. Ducard/Ghul mentions they've used economics. If TLOS saw the charitable Waynes as in their way, TLOS must have been creating the poor and desperate to destroy Gotham. How? My guess, debt, taxes and bailouts transfer wealth, outsourced jobs, restrict growth, etc. (here's a great recent Bill Moyer's show). Create poverty, and when people are desperate, they turn on each other (which is why real modern day protests around the world were predictable. 1,2,3). They’ve manipulated the economic system, creating classes, then class warfare ensues, which is TDKR. So, TLOS attacks from both fronts; pressure from above and below. We eat each other up. The Wayne's tried to voluntarily spread their wealth, almost bankrupted them in the process, but it inspired the city to follow good example.
In the Batman Begins script, Ducard says, “When Gotham falls, the other cities will follow in short order.”
The global domino effect of protests was predictable. We are all interconnected [1,2,3,4]. What is the establishment's solution to protests? Martial law. Which is why martial law has already been set up, ready to go.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
Jonathan Nolan says the The Dark Knight Rises story was conceived before "Occupy," and was actually influenced by Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. I haven't read it, but the class-warfare divide-n-conquer method plays itself throughout history, so its MO is predictable if you learn the stages. Nolan could be tapping into the cyclical nature of these stages civilizations go through. America today has similarities to the economic collapse of Weimar Germany before fascism came in.
Christopher Nolan declines to say if he’s right or left wing, but says “the films genuinely aren’t intended to be political,” and “I love when people get interested in the politics of it, when they see something in it that moves them in some way. But I’m not being disingenuous when I say that we write from a place of ‘What’s the worst thing our villain Bane can do? What are we most afraid of?’ He’s going to come in and turn our world upside down. That has happened to other societies throughout history, many times, so why not here? Why not Gotham? We want something that moves people and gets under the skin.”
C'mon, Nolan. The whole movie was basically a modern day political drama -- there were hardly any superheroes in it. At any rate, hey, it's my blog. Having said that, I feel it's good to view things in a historical context -- these are not necessarily ever left or right issues, in TDKR movie or real world. There isn't any reason to pigeonhole into either, as mainstream media does, because this is just the ways things go.
I think what Nolan is saying, is that this movie brings up a lot of issues, and it does so epicly. It seems complex, but as a whole, straight forward. It has you think about them and recognize them in their various guises and say, "Y'know, I would hate for America to turn out like that Gotham City police state. It was brutal." There are historical precedents and patterns, the rise and fall of the great republic civilizations, I follow in it, but there’s not a one-to-one correlation here in TDKR, and that makes it so interesting to me. It's like someone saying they want to make a book/movie about buddhism and called it Fight Club. I say that's great art.
The trailers may make it seem like Bane is an anarchist and his army resembles the “Occupy” movements, beating up the rich 1-percenters. He says he's giving the city back to the people, but that's a politician's rhetoric. You see, the way TLOS controls the city is fascist, statist. How?
Dent act, a sort of USAPATRIOT act. Put into law, based on a lie, it seems to create peace. But is it really? How big did the prison population get? But this is the thing that constitutionalists warn about -- even if you think you’re current leadership is wonderfully perfect and has good-intentions, the successor may not be. Once overreaching laws become legal, it’s hard to reverse. Damn near impossible without a revolution. So, who’s the next guy in charge? Bane and TLOS.
Well, it looks like Occupy protestors, you say. It sounds like Occupy rhetoric. But it is fascism. It's control by fear. The whole city is corralled to control it better. The fear that any citizen has the detonator (a lie), that everyone’s a suspect, makes everyone complicit in allowing more security, welcoming this goddamn martial law police state. There’s no due process by Crane/Scarecrow -- he’s the judge, jury and executioner. It’s certainly not democracy. Not anarchy. We don't want poor old Com. Gordon tried under the same justice system. We don't America to be like that, but it's heading that way [1,2,3,4,5]. The government even complies to lock Gotham down. There’s a great scene on the bridge where Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character challenges the cops to let the kids on the bus through, but the cops are establishment stooges and fire on him. There are watchtowers like they have today. It perfectly represents when police and military blindly obeys their orders because they don’t know what’s really going on. However, there are a growing number who will disobey, as Com. Gordon rallies people who don't buy into the lie (the security theater on citizens), and actually protect the citizens from tyranny, like the valiant knights are supposed to. And then there are people who just don’t act, cowards like Mathew Modine’s character, so they are just as complicit in allowing tyranny in.
Bane's stock market crime scene was just a literal stealing of wealth, I suppose, whereas the real world Wall St. crime was more subtle [1,2,3,4,5]. Also, TLOS leader Talia al Ghul was a rich 1-percenter. So the TLOS had money. If the Occupy movements coopt anything from this movie, then they clearly didn’t understand the movie.
So, ultimately, my take is that it's a secret society coopting an impressionable movement (isn't that always the case?). And it is dangerous and brutal when the majority of people don't get it.
So, is forced redistribution of wealth the answer to a failed civilization, like Gotham? Stealing from the rich? Hey, the corrupt rich should of course be punished, but all people, indiscriminately? Or is the charitable rich an answer? Like the Wayne family. Allowing liberty and freedom to decide. Ralph Nader talks about trying to convince the rich to put their money where their mouth is. It seems like Nolan likes this idea. In Inception, the goal is to change the mind of the heir to one of the largest energy monopolies and break up his empire. And speaking of energy, The Prestige brings up the rivalry between Edison and Tesla, said to have made free energy. TDKR has a free energy device. I can't wait for Nolan's next.
[updated 7-24-12] This issue of surveillance is brought up in The Dark Knight as Batman takes Lucius Fox's sonar technology and expands it. Our hero is desperate, but fallible. Indeed it is the older wiser figure, Fox, saying that this is wrong and ultimately shuts it all down. It is a dilemma, but it does not become normalcy. In real life, the NSA listens to everything, and there are many opposed to this. [1,2,3,4,5,6]
Also, all Batman's gadgetry, especially ones made with military contracts, of course seem so wonderful and useful -- in the right hands. But in the wrong hands, uh, bad. Fox's whole consolidation of military projects in TDKR gets stolen right from under them, literally, by Bane. The energy core gets stolen by Bane. In BB, TLOS steals Wayne's water vaporizer machine. What's with Lucius Fox doing all these military projects and he lets it all get stolen? Technology being both useful and lethal is explored well, and I guess, I'll leave it at that.
There are a few bad apples, and they even can corrupt true white knights like Dent, but the majority of us are good noble people, as the two ferries in TDK proved when they didn't blow each other up. I think only one ferry voted, democracy didn't work (yes democracy is a fallacy), so good noble spirit prevailed. Like a herd mentality, the majority have their heads up the asses of the establishment status quo controlled by the elites. The majority can get to the point where it can be wrong, and the ones that are heroes may seem like rebels to establishment, like Harry Potter and his school and Luke Skywalker and the Empire, for they stand up for goodness and what's right. Blake/Robin literally throws away his badge after his standoff with the stupid cops blocking the bridge. Batman needs to be outside the system and be like the American patriots who rebelled against their British rulers. Our heroes stand for truth, basic human rights, and IMO common sense, regardless of a badge or not. Because the TSA has a uniform, does not make what they do right. Because cops at Occupy are in riot gear and have mace, does not make what they do right. Because we have such ingrained paradigms, the controversy over whether Batman is a good guy or criminal rebel will continue.