'Dark Knight Rises' hits economic inequality theme

The new Batman film is an action flick spiced with an undercurrent of economic inequality. Bruce Wayne, after all, is a one-percenter.

Kai Ryssdal: If you're among the fantasy faithful who're gonna go see the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," when it opens this weekend, you could go about it two ways. You could just enjoy it as a darkly entertaining superhero movie. Or you can give some thought to the deeper themes.

We, naturally, are intrigued by the economic subtext. Because Bruce Wayne is, after all, a 1-percenter.

Marketplace's Mark Garrison has this spoiler-free story.


Mark Garrison: The movie is loaded with the mandatory explosions, fights, Batman biceps, Catwoman curves. But Wall Street Journal film critic Joe Morgenstern says an economic inequality theme is there too, right from the outset.

Joe Morgenstern: It’s the one powerful speech in the film, Anne Hathaway as Catwoman, or Selina Kyle, whispering into Bruce Wayne’s ear.

Anne Hathaway in "The Dark Knight Rises": There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches ‘cause when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.

There’s also the attack on Gotham’s stock exchange by the villain Bane and his thugs. Pundits are musing about the movie’s point of view. But finding the film’s politics isn’t easy, Morgenstern says.

Morgenstern: The movie is a Rorschach test. It’s so expert in handling the themes that are in the air and in the culture without committing to any program about them.

The last Batman film pulled off a similar trick, handling post-9/11 themes of wiretapping and torture. Hollywood Reporter staff editor Jordan Zakarin says people on the right and left will see the Batman they want.

Jordan Zakarin: You can see someone who’s doing extraordinary things to fight terrorism or you look at it as somebody who is a, you know a rich guy who’s very charitable, the sort of big money donor to the Democratic Party if you want to go that far.

Not everyone’s going that far. I talked to the manager of a comic book store a block from Zuccotti Park, birthplace of Occupy Wall Street. He wasn’t thinking about economics. He just hopes this movie’s as awesome as the last. Decide for yourself Friday.

I'm Mark Garrison for Marketplace.

About the author

Mark Garrison is a reporter for Marketplace and substitute host for the Marketplace Morning Report, based in New York.

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