The Dark Knight Rises Movie Review

I took a young friend to see The Dark Knight Rises.  Afterward I asked him what his favorite part about the movie was and he said, “He came back.”  It was then that it hit me—not just the resemblance between Batman and Jesus in this film, but how beautiful the story of Jesus is, and just how hungry we are for it.

Batman has an enemy: Bane.  Bane and Batman come from the same place; they had the same master who taught them about character, about fighting, about discipline, and about life.  Somewhere along the way, however, they took drastically different paths.  Batman devoted his life, skills, resources, and power to saving others.  Bane devoted all of his to his own accumulation of power.  Naturally, these two forces came head to head.

Bane appeared to have the upper hand.  He defeated Batman and put him in the Pit Prison—a prison deep down inside a pit where escape was virtually impossible.

The Pit Prison where Bruce Wayne is imprisoned after his initial encounter with Bane is stated to have originally been a place where plague victims were sent to avoid contaminating the population.  In ancient times, such places were known as Lazarettes, referring to the famous Biblical leper Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead.  This is a literalization of the Lazarus Pit, which in the original Batman comics is where Ra’s Al Ghul bathes to keep his also literal immortality.  Thus, when characters escape the Pit Prison in the film, they are said to have “risen.”[1]

Batman is essentially in the grave.  Gotham is in mayhem, plagued by an evil far too great for their resistance.  They must have a savior if they are to have any hope…but Batman is gone, dead for all they know.  They are alone; defeat is imminent.

The Pit Prison is built a bit like a well.  There is a hole looking up to the sky which appears climbable.  This is the danger though—it teases men to try to climb out, and they have some success to a point, but when they are too high for mistakes, the way gets impassable and they fall to their death.  The prisoners have rigged a safety rope for those who want to try—it still hurts to fall, granted, but it saves them from death.  Bruce tries twice, with no luck.

The final time he takes off the safety rope; it’s do or die.  He has to get back to Gotham; he has to save them.  The prison sage tells him he’ll never get out unless he climbs free, unless death is really on the line.  Only then will he climb with the strength and power necessary to escape—only when he fears dying in the process.  So on the third try as the music swelled in victory, he arose, escaping into the light.  The tide turned.  He hasn’t fought Bane yet, and the last time they fought it went badly for Batman, but no matter.  We all know that in that moment Batman defeated Bane.  Bane threw his worst at Batman, and Batman overcame it.  Now it’s just a matter of working out that victory in Gotham itself.

Batman went back to the heat of the battle, to Gotham, to face Bane.  Bane of course was shocked to see Batman.  “I broke you.  How have you come up?” he questioned in rage.  Bane wasn’t the only one surprised to see Batman.  Catwoman expressed what so many of Gotham felt: “You could’ve gone anywhere, done anything, but you came back here.”  He came back to a place facing certain nuclear destruction when he could have fled to safety.  But he didn’t.  Even when Catwoman urged him, “Come with me.  Save yourself.  You don’t owe these people anything.  You’ve given them every thing.”—he didn’t.  He simply stated that he hadn’t given everything… “Not yet.”  He stayed until Bane and all his forces were gone forever, the bomb destroyed.

Do you see the similarities between Batman and Jesus in this?  Jesus has an enemy who came from heaven, just as He did.  They weren’t equals, but they served the same God, were trained by the same love.  Satan was jealous, however, and left God and Heaven with an army of followers.  He decided to wreak havoc on the people Jesus loved, in order to hurt Jesus.

The only way for Jesus to help mankind was for Him to leave His mansion in Heaven and come to earth.  Like Bruce Wayne, He could have gone anywhere, done anything…but He came to earth, to a place facing certain destruction from sin and death when He could have stayed in safety and beauty.  Here He fought against Satan.  He raised the dead, healed the lame, the demon-possessed, the blind.  Even the forces of nature obeyed His every command.

Satan fought back by turning mankind (the very ones He came to save) against Jesus.   They put Him on a cross and crucified Him…and then Jesus too found himself in a Pit Prison…the Pit of Hell.   Only no one, not even one, had ever before escaped from this prison.  Here is the thing, though—while Bruce ended up in the Pit because Bane bested him, Jesus ended up in the Pit because He chose it.  He wasn’t bested by Satan, not even for a time.  It only appeared that way.  Jesus had all the power to avoid the cross.  He didn’t have to die.  He didn’t have to go to the Pit.  He went there because He chose it, because that was the only way to truly rescue mankind.

After three days in the Pit, Jesus arose, or as my young friend had said, “He came back.”  In that one moment of resurrection, Satan was defeated.  He had thrown his worst at Jesus, and Jesus overcame it.  At this point, it would seem Jesus had given mankind everything.  He had given His life, after all.  One would think that at this point He would have returned to Heaven, but He didn’t, not yet.  He still hadn’t given everything, and there was still work to be done to set man free.  Jesus had the victory over Satan, but there was still much to be done to work out Jesus’ victory on earth and in mankind.  So Jesus returned to the people that He loved for a time…announcing His victory over Satan, lest man live a life of defeat, never knowing Jesus had won.  He then gave them something better than Himself, a helper, the Holy Spirit.

Here is the place where our two heroes go in vastly different directions.  After Batman defeated Bane and his forces, he faked his own death and disappeared so he could live his life in peace.  Jesus handled his departure entirely differently.  He announced that He had to leave; there was no mystery.  He wanted mankind to know where He was.  He didn’t leave for His own sake.  He didn’t leave so that He could live in ease and comfort as Bruce did.  He left for the sake of the people He loved.  He left because it was better for them if He left and the Holy Spirit came in His place.  Bruce left the people of Gotham behind.  Jesus left so that He could intercede on man’s behalf to God the Father.  He is readily accessible to man, eager to help, longing to be in close communication.  He didn’t leave man behind; He left to lead the way, to prepare a place for them, so that where He went they may come also.

Jim Gordon said, “There’s a point, far out there when the structures fail you, and the rules aren’t weapons anymore, they’re… shackles letting the bad guy get ahead.  One day… you may face such a moment of crisis.  And in that moment, I hope you have a friend like I did, to plunge their hands into the filth so that you can keep yours clean!”  Do you see that this is exactly what Jesus did for you and me?  When religion and rules and governments and all man’s structures failed us, He plunged his hands into the filth to pay for our sins so that you and I can keep our hands clean!  If you are like my young friend and something within you leapt for joy when Batman rose, when he came back…don’t miss out on the infinitely greater joy of knowing that Jesus rose, and He came back for you…because He loves you…and He will never leave you.  Batman is a great story, but how much greater is the story of Jesus!

Questions for Discussion: 

  • What was your favorite part of the movie?
  • Have you faced a moment of crisis where you realized that everything has failed you and you need a friend to plunge his hands into the filth for you, so you could keep (or get) yours clean?
  • How do you feel about the ending of the story?  Do you like that Bruce disappeared like he did?  Does it even undermine the affection he claimed for Gotham that he left it like he did?  Compare that to the way Jesus left…which do you prefer?
  • It wasn’t enough for Batman to rise from the Pit, he had to go and let Gotham know he’d won…and he had to help them kick Bane out of Gotham, just as Jesus had to come back and let us know He’d defeated sin and death and help us kick it out of our own lives.  Would you say that you are living your life as if Jesus is still in the Pit, or as if He has won?
  • Have you ever accepted the gift of salvation that Jesus offers?

-By Stacey Tuttle