There aren’t many movie sequences worthy of a trilogy. Most of the time the third movie is not able to live up to the previous movies. That’s not the case for this trilogy at all. The Dark Knight Rises is an excellent closer to the Batman story of Christopher Nolan. Besides the fact that it is an incredible movie and extremely entertaining to watch, it contains a ton of very valuable lessons that you and I could learn a lot from.
The Dark Knight Rises is besides being an action film, a psychologically layered movie, filled with deep, emotional, and thought-provoking moments and ideas.
The plot of this movie was mostly based on that of the French Revolution, where the French people stood up against oppressive elites and put them under the guillotine. The idea in the movie is that Bane provokes a kind of social revolution where he provides the opportunity for the people to take back control of their own city, and take it from the elites and corrupt. He is, like many of the big revolutionary figures who got things moving, an enticing and smart public speaker who can trigger emotions in people through his words, and as we know, emotions make people act, so if you want them to do something, you need to be able to trigger their emotions.
But as a reference to the previous movie, Bane’s revolution is based on a lie, just like the preservation of Harvey Dent’s name was based on a lie. Bane lies to the people that they will survive and that they can take control of their city, he says that they have all the power. But he doesn’t mean any of this, he himself holds the trigger, and he is not planning on letting anyone live, he just wants to torture the city by giving them hope. He explains exactly what he plans on doing and why when he brings Bruce to the pit. The concept that he explains is the main theme of the movie: Hope and despair.
Main theme: Hope and Despair.
I’ve heard many people say that the main theme of this movie is pain, but I would disagree. I get where they are coming from, it’s the pain Bruce felt when he lost Rachel and decided to give up being Batman, the pain that made Bane that made him have to put on a mask, the pain Ra’s al Ghul felt when he lost his wife to the pit. A large portion of this movie is about pain, but there is a larger concept that describes the movie a lot better.
"There can be no true despair without hope,” is what Bane says when he puts Bruce in the pit. What he meant by this is that you can’t really feel despair if there is no hope. If you know everything is going to end, you’ll just give in to the fact that all is lost and this makes it less difficult and less torturous. But when you know that there is a slight chance that you’re going to make it, that you could get out alive, then there can be true despair, especially when you come a lot closer to the realization that you’re not going to get out, that there is no way out. You’ll start to feel true despair when you realize that there is a way out, but you’re never going to make it through there.
Later on in the movie, we see Officer Blake scribble little bat logos on the streets of Gotham, and he does this because he still has the hope that Batman will save the city.
It’s also a story about hope getting rewarded, they hope that Batman is coming back, and even though they may not logically think that it would be possible, they still have the hope. Just as Bruce in the pit still has the hope that he can save his city and that he can climb out of the pit. Eventually, through the power of hope, he succeeds.
Like Batman said in the previous movie:
“Sometimes people deserve to get their faith rewarded.”
And the premise of this movie is, people who keep their faith and keep their hopes high, will eventually get their hope rewarded.
The importance of your purpose:
At the start of the movie, you see Bruce Wayne completely broken and closed off from the world. He has lost his purpose, he feels like the Batman isn’t needed anymore, so he just locks himself up and goes into hiding. He used to get his purpose from fighting criminals and saving lives. But after a long period of peace and prosperity, he felt like he wasn’t needed anymore and couldn’t find anything else to do. This stays this way until he finds out that there is evil rising in the form of Bane, he knows that he needs to stop him and decides to put his mask back on. But he realizes that he isn’t the Batman he used to be anymore. By losing his purpose, he became weak, unprepared, and miserable, which made him unable to take on Bane, a man of true belief and strength of mind and body. By losing his purpose he became weaker, and because he was weaker, he didn’t have any evidence to believe that he could win, and without belief, he had no chance at all.
When Bruce rediscovers his purpose in the pit, which is saving Gotham, he rediscovers the necessary strength to get out of the pit and save his city. He derived this strength from finding his purpose again. This exemplifies how incredibly powerful purpose can be, and how powerless you are without it.
Humans are goal-oriented creatures and we always will be, we’re constantly working towards goals, whether big or small, and we’re always doing everything for a reason that makes sense to us. You can see this on a micro or macro scale: when you pick up a glass to drink, your goal is to hydrate yourself, that’s a small goal, but when your plan is to buy a house within five years, that is a big goal. Life is all about these goals and we’re always working towards them.
We humans must have a bigger goal to strive for. If our behavior is completely purposeless, if we don’t know what we’re doing it for, we believe we might as well not do it at all. A life without purpose is not a life worth living, so it is of the utmost importance that you find your purpose in life. This purpose will be different for every individual, so you have to find it within yourself. It's something you enjoy doing or working towards, something big, something that lies there waiting for you in the future, something that fits the person you are and want to become.
Eventually, your purpose will be the only thing you’ll derive true happiness from. What happiness really is is a feeling of pride mixed with the feeling of enjoyment when you’re doing something. Happiness is not a fleeting, childish thing you experience when getting drunk at a party. Happiness, the long-lasting kind, is something you derive from living your purpose, and the beautiful thing about this type of happiness is that as long as you keep living in accordance with your purpose, this happiness stays with you.
Instead of the short and fleeting feeling of happiness you get from a night out, watching some entertainment on Netflix, or playing video games. Once the screen is off, once the party’s over, you go back to your default state, which is miserable. Unlike the person who is living his purpose every day, because he lives in a constant state of happiness.
The dream life you seek is in finding your purpose and living in accordance with it, so find what you’re put on this earth to do, and give it your all.
It’s the simple things that matter most:
“A hero can be anyone, even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy's shoulders to let him know the world hadn't ended.”
This is one of the final moments of the movie and it exemplifies the humility of Batman, and the importance of being a good person, no matter how trivial the situation may seem.
For Bruce, when his parents had just died, being comforted by Jim Gordon while in complete distress meant a great deal to him, because of it he felt a lot safer and he felt that people recognized his pain. To Gordon, this was probably a simple thing that he never really thought much about, but for Bruce, it probably changed the whole trajectory of his life for the better.
This type of occurrence is nothing unusual, you probably experience moments like these every single day without you even knowing. You even experience these moments yourself, when some compliment, some type of sympathetic gesture, or some comment can make you instantly feel a lot better, or even push you in a certain direction that changes your life. To the people who make these remarks or gestures, it may seem like absolutely nothing or just what he/she was supposed to do, but they don’t realize that these simple things can make a huge impact.
You need to keep this in mind for the rest of your life, because it shows how important is to just be a nice person, to compliment others when they are doing something good, and to comfort them when things are not going well. These things that seem insignificant to you can have a massively positive impact on their lives. This means you can already make a really big impact on other people by simply being nice, and just being a good person.
So a hero really could be anyone, it can be something small you say that you don’t even think about that can have a massive impact on someone's life.
So remember that to be a hero, it’s not only about the big things that you do, but the little things can make a massively positive impact as well. Think about it, you can truly change somebody’s life by giving them a compliment, or telling them everything is going to be alright when things are not well. This way everybody can be a hero if you pay attention to the little things in life and treat everybody well.
So always take the extra effort for the small gestures that don’t really cost you anything, but could mean the whole world to the other person.
“Make the climb without the rope, then fear will find you again”:
When Bruce tries to climb out of the pit, he believes that he can get out by using his anger, and that just putting this energy towards his escape would be enough. He was wrong.
He needed another emotion, one that was not so pleasant to experience and one that he had lost after everything that had happened to him. He didn’t fear death anymore, and he thought this made him stronger, but he found out it didn’t. He needed this fear to stay alive long enough to save his city.
The doctor told him this, and he made a really good point about the importance of fear:
Blind Prisoner: You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak.
Bruce Wayne: Why?
Blind Prisoner: How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death?
Bruce Wayne: I do fear death. I fear dying in here, while my city burns, and there’s no one there to save it.
Blind Prisoner: Then make the climb!
Bruce Wayne: How?
Blind Prisoner: As the child did. Without the rope. Then fear will find you again.
How can you do more than is humanly possible to maintain your life without having a fear of losing it? If you didn’t care about losing your life, you wouldn’t fight as hard to survive and you’d never get to the edge of your capabilities.
Right now I don’t want to necessarily talk about the fear of death, but more about the use of fear in itself, by putting yourself on a sort of, as Sun Tzu called it, death ground. The premise of it is that by putting yourself in a position where it would be impossible to fail, or where the repercussions of your failure would be too great and you would have to succeed, so you will.
I’ve gone in-depth about the strategy and the process behind ‘death ground’ in a previous blog where I talked about two of the most important strategies of war. So if you want to know more about the mechanics of it be sure to check that out, but for now I’m going to talk more about the importance of putting yourself in a position where it would be impossible to fail.
Most of you have a safety net, you can try doing things that are a little risky, or even very risky, but you know that when things don't immediately work out, you can always fall back on your safety net. Maybe it's your parents or family who will take care of you if you fail, maybe you have enough cash locked away for another year. What matters is that you have a safety net for when you fail and, as the doctor says, this makes you weak.
This safety net results in you not feeling any real fear of failure, you don’t fear the thought that you don’t know how you’re going to eat if this doesn’t work out, you don’t fear letting down all of the people who are depending on you for their livelihoods. When everything goes wrong and you fail, you know you’ll always have somewhere comfortable to go. This in turn makes you go less hard on the thing you’re undertaking because you don’t feel like you have to.
What you need to do is make the climb without the rope, without the safety net, then fear will find you again. You will feel tremendous fear when you know that winning is the only option and that the consequences of failure will be so terrible that you don’t even want to imagine what that would be like. Your fear of failure should be enormous, it should be so large that you don’t see any other possibility than succeeding, and this should drive you to give it all you’ve got.
Sacrifice yourself for the well-being of others
For the principle of sacrificing yourself for the well-being of others, I want to use an example that I believe exemplifies this concept. It’s about fame and how not wanting to be famous is extremely narcissistic. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Now I may not be famous, but I do believe my opinion holds value and that it’s something that illustrates the point of sacrifice perfectly. Here it is:
I believe people who don’t want to be famous are extremely selfish and self-centered. This is because the argument most people use for not wanting to be famous is always extremely self-centered: “I don’t want to have people come up to me all the time, have no privacy, not be able to go and do normal things like going to the grocery store.”
All of these are extremely selfish arguments, just because YOU want to be a normal person you don't want to be famous. Do these personal negatives really outweigh the societal positives? I don't think so.
But to be clear we first have to differentiate the types of famous people. There are the famous people who do nothing, who just are on tv or make shit music, have nothing of any substance to them, and are a bad influence on society at large. This is not the type of famous person I’m talking about, and I hope that if you’ll ever become famous you won’t be one of them.
I’m talking about the famous person who is a positive influence, who has something to teach others, who has lived through experiences and can tell others about them, someone who can entertain others and make them feel better and genuinely improve their lives.
These types of people can have an enormous impact on society by exerting their positive influence over the world. You can literally change the world for the better if you are a person like this and become well known, with a large platform and a lot of people to speak to.
This is about sacrifice, and I believe that you need to sacrifice something to be a positive influence on a lot of people. Yes, your privacy will be intruded upon, and yes you won’t be able to just go outside and do normal things, but did god really put you on this earth to do that? Or do you feel a bigger calling, something larger than yourself, some type of legacy you want to leave behind? Are you really that selfish that you saw you had the opportunity to change the world by making a positive impact on tons of lives, but you thought it was more important to be able to go to the grocery store without anyone recognizing you?
Do you understand how extremely selfish this is? You just let other people drown in their misery and you don’t make a positive impact on their lives just because you’re too much of a narcissist?
Yes, fame can be tough, but everything worth it is difficult and uncomfortable. Don’t you think the sacrifice that you would make by being famous would weigh far less than the positive impact you’ll make on perhaps millions of lives?
To come back to the movie, in the end, Batman makes the ultimate sacrifice, he sacrifices his life to save the city from being blown up. Now yes he eventually survives, but that is not the point of this ending. The point is that there is something bigger and more important than himself, and for that, he has to make a sacrifice. In this case, the sacrifice would be his life.
When you really want to do something important with your life, there is always a sacrifice you have to make, Batman gave his life. Perhaps you should give your life for some big cause in a metaphorical way, by spending all of your time on it and not having much time left to enjoy yourself. Perhaps that's the sacrifice you have to make as a hero, but in the end, the positive impact you make on the world will far outweigh the negatives you get to experience. God didn't put you on this planet to just live a normal life, he made you in his image, and because god is extraordinary, you are as well, so stop being so selfish and dedicate your life to making a positive impact on the world.