“He’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight.” ~Jim Gordon in The Dark Knight
The Batman from the Dark Knight Trilogy
Over the past week, I watched the Dark Knight Trilogy—just one of numerous times I have done so. I find it an exceptionally well done movie trilogy. And if I was to select a favorite comic book super hero, it would most likely be the “Dark Knight,” Batman. Those who follow the comic book universe are aware that many comic book series periodically “reboot,” as the ever-growing stories become convoluted, eventually losing plot continuity. Characters’ stories will often be revised to more reflect the times; though, the core elements of comic book characters are often treated sacred–unchangeable. However, these slight changes in a character’s development allow for story reinventions—introducing new themes within the stories. In such a way, Christopher Nolan’s presentation of Batman—and the story told within the trilogy—leaves his version as my favorite incarnation of the Dark Knight.
(Please note: if you have not watched the trilogy, you will encounter spoilers by proceeding)
The Fact that Superman is in the Sun, Leaves Batman in the Dark
When discussing comic book heroes, and their biblical allusions, none are more obvious and discussed as those portrayed in Superman. A father sends his son to our world—and as one of Superman’s antagonists, General Zod, shares with the people of earth in the movie, “Man of Steel”:
“For reasons unknown, he has chosen to keep his existence a secret from you. He will have made efforts to blend in. He will look like you, but he is not one of you.”
Superman is invincible and all powerful. Yet, he is loving, humble, meek, and willing to sacrifice himself for his adopted people. In his thirties–the same age as it is believed that Jesus began His ministry—Superman ventures into the artic to meet the spirit of his father. This alludes to Jesus’ baptism and spiritual journey into the desert for forty days. The forty days is meaningful in salvation stories. The great flood lasted forty days (Genesis 7:4, 17); Elijah was provided food from God during his forty day journey to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8); while Moses stayed up on Mount Horeb with the Lord for forty days and nights without food and water (Exodus 24:18; 34:28). And don’t forget the forty days of Pentecost where the disciples hid before being endowed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-26). As it did for these biblical characters, Superman’s trek into the artic wilderness linked him to his people. He is wholesome, well-spoken, and never swears. And one could make the argument that his love interest is supposed to convey some characteristics of Mary Magdalene—some of biblical reference and others based on inaccurate rumor. But alas, enough on the Man of Steel. With such blatantly present biblical allusion in the character of Superman, less common has been thought as to how the Dark Knight exemplifies characteristics of Christ.
Shining Light on the Dark Knight’s Resemblance to Christ
The sections below will break down some of the commonalities that I see in the Dark Knight resembling those of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Some are not exact, and a few could possibly be considered “stretches,” but I found those “stretches” interesting enough to include. Quotes from the three movies (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises) will be included where appropriate. It is important to state that while Batman is a fictitious character, it is my belief that Christ was, is, and will forever be the Son of God. While many fictitious characters (e.g. comic book heroes) represent characteristics of Christ–they are not Christ. That being said…
…like Jesus Christ (JC), the Dark Knight (DK) possesses the following:
1) The Dark Knight and Christ possess a human existence:
While this may initially may seem contradictory to my stated beliefs above, scripture tells us that Jesus is fully God and fully man (1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Timothy 2:5). Batman is not an alien from another world (Superman), or genetically enhanced (Captain America), but a man. It is something that I truly appreciate about the character. Bruce Wayne, while a billionaire, is still only a human being–he suffers and bleeds. While we may all want to be able to move faster than a speeding bullet and leap tall buildings, we can’t. Neither can Bruce Wayne. This makes it easier for us to relate to him than it does Clark Kent.
2) The Dark Knight and Christ are tempted towards an evil path by a powerful adversary (their journeys following ‘baptism):
As mentioned earlier, following His Baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, Jesus ventures out into the desert to face temptation—He immerses Himself in the presence of His enemy. Similarly, in Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne experiences a Baptism of sorts—a baptism of true reality. Long wanting vengeance on the man who murdered his parents, Bruce is denied the opportunity by Gotham crime lord, Carmine Falcone. When he shares his intentions of killing Joe Chill, the murderer of his parents, his long-time friend, Assistant District Attorney Rachel Dawes, confronts him with Truth—she opens his eyes to the reality of the world in which he lives:
Bruce Wayne: Maybe I should be thanking them.
Rachel Dawes: You don’t mean that.
Bruce Wayne: What if I do Rachel? My parents deserved justice.
Rachel Dawes: You’re not talking about justice. You’re talking about revenge.
Bruce Wayne: Sometimes they’re the same.
Rachel Dawes: No, they’re never the same, Bruce. Justice is about harmony. Revenge is about you making yourself feel better. Which is why we have an impartial system.
Bruce Wayne: Your system is broken.
Rachel Dawes: [Rachel makes a sharp turn] You care about justice? Look beyond your own pain, Bruce. This city is rotting. People talk about the depression as if its history, and it’s not. Things are worse than ever down here. Falcone floods our streets with crime and drugs, preying on the desperate, creating new Joe Chills every day. Falcone not have killed your parents Bruce, but he’s destroying everything they stood for.
[She parks in front of a building]
Rachel Dawes: You wanna thank him for that, here you go. We all know where to find him, but as long as he keeps the bad people rich and the good people scared no one will touch him. Good people like your parents who will stand against injustice, they’re gone. What chance does Gotham have when the good people do nothing?
Bruce Wayne: I’m not one of your good people, Rachel.
Rachel Dawes: What do you mean?
Bruce Wayne: All these years I wanted to kill him.
[reveals his gun]
Bruce Wayne: Now I can’t.
Rachel Dawes: [Rachel slaps him twice] Your father would be ashamed of you.
Rachel’s words and physical response to Bruce’s vengeful intentions “slap” (yes, pun intended) some sense into him. He disposes of his gun in a nearby river and walks into the shady establishment to confront Carmine Falcone. While Jesus was pronounced as the son of God by two authorities during his baptism (John, and God), Bruce Wayne is made witness to the reality of Gotham and Himself by two authorities. The first was Rachel Dawes (The Legal Authority). The second was Carmine Falcone (The Criminal Authority). These individuals baptized him into his ministry of justice as the Dark Knight. While Rachel adjusts Bruce’s perspective on the problem, Carmine educates Bruce as to what he must first understand in order to confront it:
Carmine Falcone: You could’ve just sent a Thank You card.
[Bruce Wayne is frisked in the restaurant] No gun, I’m insulted.
Bruce Wayne: I didn’t come here to thank you. I came here to show you that not everyone in Gotham’s afraid of you.
Carmine Falcone: Only those who know me, kid. Look around you: you’ll see two councilmen, a union official, a couple off-duty cops, and a judge.
[points a gun at Bruce]
Carmine Falcone: Now, I wouldn’t have a second’s hesitation of blowing your head off right here and right now in front of ’em. Now, that’s power you can’t buy! That’s the power of fear.
Bruce Wayne: I’m not afraid of you.
Carmine Falcone: Because you think you got nothing to lose. But you haven’t thought it through. You haven’t thought about your lady-friend down at the D.A.’s office. You haven’t thought about your old butler. Bang!
[Falcone pulls the trigger, but the hammer falls on an empty chamber with a click; he puts the gun away]
Carmine Falcone: People from your world have so *much* to lose. Now, you think because your mommy and your daddy got shot, you know about the ugly side of life, but you don’t. You’ve never tasted desperate. You’re, uh, you’re Bruce Wayne, the Prince of Gotham; you’d have to go a thousand miles to meet someone who didn’t know your name. So, don’t-don’t come down here with your anger, trying to prove something to yourself. This is a world you’ll never understand. And you always fear what you don’t understand. Alright.
So Bruce takes Falcone’s advice and ventures an (implied) 1,000 miles away from Gotham to learn what it is to be desperate, and experience the “ugly side of life.” He involves himself in criminal activity—but never truly becomes a criminal (given he “stole” Wayne Enterprises cargo). While in a foreign prison, Bruce is approached by Henri Ducard, who knows Mr. Wayne’s background, informing Bruce—who was surprised to be recognized–that “The world is too small for a man like Bruce Wayne to simply disappear. No matter how deep he chooses to sink.”
In many ways, Ducard is a symbolic representation of Satan—the Great Deceiver. Satan is a manipulator of truth, twisting it to serve his needs. So too is Ducard. He approaches Bruce as a friend, and implies that he can provide him with what he has been seeking, “A means to fight injustice. To turn fear against those who prey on the fearful.”
Henri Ducard: …A vigilante is just a man lost in the scramble for his own gratification. He can be destroyed, or locked up. But if you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can’t stop you, then you become something else entirely.
Bruce Wayne: Which is?
Henri Ducard: Legend, Mr. Wayne. Tomorrow, you will be released. If you are bored of brawling with thieves and want to achieve something, there is a rare blue flower that grows on the eastern slopes. Pick one of these flowers. If you can carry is to the top of the mountain, you may find what you were looking for in the first place.
Eventually, we learn that Ducard is actually the international criminal mastermind, Ra’s Al Ghul—just one of many deceptions he plays on Bruce. Unlike Jesus, at this juncture, Bruce is deceived into pursuing membership into the League of Shadows. Ducard trains him…and in the following quotes you can see the influence his words have in developing Bruce’s alter ego of the Dark Knight:
Henri Ducard: You have learned to bury your guilt with anger. I will teach you to confront it, and to face the truth. You know how to fight six men. We can teach you how to engage six hundred. You know how to disappear. We can teach you to become truly invisible…
Henri Ducard: Men fear most what they cannot see…
Henri Ducard: You must become more than just a man in the mind of your opponent…
Henri Ducard: Theatricality and deception are powerful agents.
Throughout Bruce’s training, Ducard continually imparts upon him a combination of truths and twists that subtly serves as an allusion of Jesus being tempted by Satan in the desert. But ultimately, Bruce—identifies the false truth, the deception about “true justice”—understands that he must remain compassionate when imparting “true justice.” Not vengeful.
Ducard: You’re stronger than your father.
Bruce Wayne: You didn’t know my father.
Henri Ducard: But I know the rage that drives you. That impossible anger strangling the grief, until the memory of your loved one is just…poison in your veins. And one day, you catch yourself wishing the person you loved had never existed, so you would be spared your pain…Your anger gives you great power, but if you let it, it will destroy you, as it almost did me.
Bruce Wayne: What stopped it?
Bruce Wayne: That’s no help to me.
As Bruce completes his training, he is given one last task before membership into the League of Shadows—execute a farmer who murdered his neighbor for his land. This scene brings to mind Satan offering Jesus what isn’t his (the world), if only Jesus will bow down and worship him (Matthew 4:8-11). Similarly, Ducard/Ra’s Al Ghul is offering Bruce a justice that is not his to offer:
Bruce Wayne: Who is he?
[implying the man imprisoned in a wooden cage]
Henri Ducard: He was a farmer. Then he tried to take his neighbor’s land and became a murderer. Now he is a prisoner.
Bruce Wayne: What’ll happen to him?
Henri Ducard: Justice. Crime cannot be tolerated. Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society’s understanding.
[Bruce is refusing to demonstrate his commitment to justice by executing a criminal]
Ra’s Al Ghul: You cannot lead these men unless you are prepared to do what is necessary to defeat evil.
Bruce Wayne: And where would I be leading these men?
Ra’s Al Ghul: Gotham. As Gotham’s favored son you will be ideally placed to strike at the heart of criminality.
Bruce Wayne: How?
Ra’s Al 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. Gotham… must be destroyed…
Henri Ducard: Your compassion is a weakness your enemies will not share.
Bruce Wayne: That’s why it’s so important. It separates us from them.
[Bruce Wayne begins to burn down Ra’s Al Ghul’s temple]
Henri Ducard: What are you doing?
Bruce Wayne: What is necessary, my friend.
What I find especially interesting about Bruce Wayne/Batman, is that he learns how to use that which he was taught to him for evil purposes as a means for justice. While the devil does not train Jesus Christ, our Lord uses that which was used for evil and death–crucifixion and the cross–to bring life. In this manner, both Jesus and Batman turn evil upon itself for good; both are compassionate; and both understand the need for “righteous” authority. Which leads us to our next Dark Knight characteristic alluding to Christ…
3) The Dark Knight and Christ act with an authority that the “authorities” do not recognize:
While Jesus was a Jewish rabbi (teacher), He spoke with an authority (Deuteronomy 18:18-19, Luke 4:32, 36; John 7:46, 14:24) that the other religious leaders of that time questioned (Matthew 21:23; Luke 20:2), because it superseded their authority. Ultimately, with His teachings speaking from a greater position of Authority than that of the Pharisees and scribes (that of God), Jesus was crucified under the claim of apostasy (leading revolt).
The Dark Knight protects the citizens of Gotham during the evening hours, but does so as a vigilante. He doesn’t use a gun, nor does he kill criminals, but the police consider him a threat. When Officer Jim Gordon points out to Commissioner Loeb that, “This guy [Batman] did deliver us one of the city’s biggest crime lords,” he responds as one whose authority is threatened by replying, “No one takes the law into their own hands in my city. Understand?”
In the second movie, The Dark Knight, District Attorney Harvey Dent suggests that the people of Gotham appointed Batman and granted him authority—he was necessary:
Harvey Dent: When their enemies were at the gates, the Romans would suspend democracy and appoint one man to protect the city. It wasn’t considered an honor, it was considered a public service.
Rachel Dawes: Harvey, the last man who they appointed the Republic was named Caesar and he never gave up his power.
Harvey Dent: Okay, fine. You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
Harvey’s words, in many ways, serve as prophecy, foreshadowing Batman’s public perception as a hero eventually becoming that of a criminal. Ironically, Harvey’s words come true after he falls to his death—Batman saving Jim Gordon’s son in the process.
While Batman should be recognized for his heroism, he recognizes the need for Harvey’s reputation to remain intact; thus, he allows himself to be portrayed as a murderer:
Gordon: … The Joker won. Harvey’s prosecution, everything he fought for, undone. Every chance we had at fixing our city dies with Harvey’s reputation. We bet it all on him. The Joker took the best of us and tore it down. People will lose hope.
Batman: They won’t. [speaking tiredly through intense pain] They must never know what he did.
Gordon: Five dead, two of them cops. You can’t sweep that up.
Batman: But the Joker cannot win. [kneels down next to Harvey, whose burnt left side is facing up] Gotham needs its true hero. [turns Harvey’s head so that his unmarred side faces up]
Gordon: [immediately understanding, whispers] No.
Batman: [quoting Harvey Dent] “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” I can do those things because I’m not a hero, unlike Dent. I killed those people. That’s what I can be.
Gordon: [visibly hurt at Batman willingly sacrificing himself] No, no! You can’t, you’re not!
Batman: I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be. [hands Gordon his radio] Call it in.
So too, was Jesus’ public portrayal from hero to villain prophesied:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your king coming unto you; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon a donkey, even upon a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
On what is now called “Palm Sunday,” Jesus was cheered as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (Matthew 21:1-11); yet, shortly thereafter was crucified as a criminal by the same people who had cheered him.
Harvey also serves to foreshadow the escalation of evil prior to a time of restoration and peace with the following statement:
Harvey Dent: The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.
And the night does darken throughout the remainder of the trilogy, up until the very end.
Beginning with the introduction of the Joker…
Jim Gordon: What about escalation?
Jim Gordon: We start carrying semi-automatics, they buy automatics. We start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds.
Jim Gordon: And, you’re wearing a mask. Jumping off rooftops. Now, take this guy.
[pulling out a file]
Jim Gordon: Armed robbery, double homicide, has a taste for the theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card.
[shows Batman a plastic evidence bag containing a Joker card]
Batman: I’ll look into it.
[turns away and walks to the edge of the roof]
…and then becomes darkest…well…we’ll get to that later. Right now, let us discuss their social circles. The bible, which is the word of God—which basically means it’s about Jesus—emphasizes the importance of associating with ‘good’ people, and being wise with the friendships into which one enters.
4) The Dark Knight and Christ accept those with the unlikeliest backgrounds into their circles:
Jesus called Levi, the tax collector, to follow Him. Jews who worked as tax collectors for the Roman Empire during the time of Jesus were despised by their fellow Jews. They were considered traitors and cheats—and they generated significant financial profits in their role. It is believed that fishermen were heavily taxed during that time—given the dependence on fish within the local diet—which makes it even more surprising that Jesus calls him as a disciple. For those not up on their disciple-ology (yeah, sad attempt to be clever), four of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen—Simon (Peter), John, James, and Andrew. It would be interesting to know what their initial feelings were on Levi’s acceptance into the flock. How did Matthew do as a follower? Well, many Christians know Levi better as “Matthew,” who is credited for writing the Gospel of Matthew.
Saul of Tarsus was even more unlikely to be accepted as a disciple of Jesus, given that he was on a mission to kill Christians following Jesus’ crucifixion! But Jesus came upon him on Damascus Road, and—it could be said–opened his eyes (cf. Acts 9, 22, 26). Following his conversion to Christianity, Saul became known as Paul (his “Gentile” name), brought the Gospel message to the Gentiles, and wrote much of what Christians call the New Testament.
These name changes have purpose, and align with the concept of authority which was discussed previously. If you are interested in reading more about the relationship between naming and authority, CLICK HERE.
Selina Kyle/Cat Woman is likely the last person one would think of as an ally of the Dark Knight. But He sees that she needs what Levi and Saul needed—a fresh start. He saw that Selina felt trapped, and needed forgiveness, and an opportunity to start on the right path.
Selina Kyle: You think I care what anyone in this room thinks of me?
Bruce Wayne: I doubt you care what anyone in any room thinks of you.
Selina Kyle: Don’t condescend, Mr. Wayne. You don’t know a thing about me.
Bruce Wayne: Well, Selina Kyle, I know you came here from your walk-up in Old Town, a modest place for a master jewel thief. Which means that either you’re saving for retirement, or you’re in deep with the wrong people.
Selina Kyle: You don’t get to judge me just because you were born in the master bedroom of Wayne Manor.
Bruce Wayne: Actually, I was born in the Regency Room.
Selina Kyle: I started out doing what I had to. Once you’ve done what you had to, they’ll never let you do what you want to.
Bruce Wayne: Start fresh.
Selina Kyle: There’s no fresh start in today’s world. Any twelve-year-old with a cell phone could find out what you did. Everything we do is collated and quantified. Everything sticks.
Bruce Wayne: Is that how you justify stealing?
Selina Kyle: I take what I need to from those who have more than enough. I don’t stand on the shoulders of people with less.
She, like Saul, had a misguided view of what is “right,” justifying their wrong behaviors. But upon being repeatedly shown trust, and love, and mercy—seeing that she was not living in a manner which she believed to be right—and seeing the opportunity presented by Bruce Wayne/Batman to start fresh…you can say that she is redeemed. All of them received new names–or in Selina Kyles case, a clean record. They became different people. What was always present, but hidden behind their past sins, was brought to light–and it shined bright.
There is a beautiful thing about those redeemed from despair—they understand the need to be compassionate. They understand the importance of forgiveness and mercy. And in exemplifying such characteristics to Levi, Saul, and Selina; Jesus and Bruce bring forth followers that do great things for others. All of their lives changed upon meeting Christ or Batman.
For Matthew and Paul, it was writing and spreading the good news of the Gospel. For Selina Kyle, it was saving Batman from a death at the hands of Bane, and reclaiming the city of Gotham from annihilation.
5) The Dark Knight and Christ are denied by those closest to them:
Speaking of Selina Kyle/Cat Woman in a slightly different context, let us compare her actions to those of the disciple Peter.
She betrays Bruce Wayne/Batman three times, whereas Peter denies Jesus three times. In her last betrayal, Selina Kyle/Cat Woman betrays Batman out of fear. She may trust Batman to some degree, but she fears Bane more. This is confirmed later in the movie when she is speaking with John Blake (Robin):
John Blake: Bane? What do you know about him?
Selina Kyle: That you should be as afraid of him as I am.
As Bane pummels Bruce Wayne/Batman—breaking his body and spirit—you can see the intense feeling of guilt visible in Selina Kyle’s/Cat Woman’s face.
Also from fear, Peter denies Jesus three times. He is afraid of being recognized as one of Jesus’ disciples, because he is afraid of being tried and crucified like his Rabbi. It is amazing to think that the disciple that earlier acknowledged that Jesus was the foretold Messiah—the Christ—could be willing to deny Him out of fear! As a friend once told me, “Fear is not from God,” and it can often compel us to refrain from acting in righteous accord.
Subsequently, another way of explaining the fear held by both Selina Kyle/Cat Woman and Simon (Peter), is that they are both not ready to do what is necessary to follow the leadership of Bruce Wayne/Batman and Jesus Christ respectively. They identify a significant risk in following, and neither yet have the necessary level of trust to follow either person’s leadership. They continue to think as they have their entire lives, prior to meeting JC and DK. For Selina, her modus operandi has been to survive by any means necessary, and keep a low profile:
Selina Kyle: There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because 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.
Bruce Wayne: You sound like you’re looking forward to it.
Selina Kyle: I’m adaptable.
For Peter, he still holds an incorrect scriptural interpretation of what Jesus is to do in the world as its Messiah. It is apparent from the following verses in Matthew 16:21-23 that he still sees the Messiah as becoming a great political figure to free the Jews from Foreign oppression—man’s view. Not God’s. Not the Truth:
21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” 23But He [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
Selina also has trouble accepting that the Dark Knight will need to make the ultimate sacrifice to save his people:
Cat Woman: Come with me. Save yourself. You don’t owe these people any more. You’ve given them everything.
Batman: Not everything. Not yet.
It takes both Selina Kyle / Cat Woman and Simon (Peter) time to understand the Dark Knight and Christ respectively. Even when coming to their aid, they do so in a manner counter to their respective leader’s approach. Selina with a gun (killing Bane). Peter with violence (cutting off a guard’s ear).
Eventually, both Selina Kyle/Cat Woman and Simon (Peter) gain the courage to do what is necessary to follow the leadership of the Dark Knight and Christ respectively. It is my belief that both these characters (Selina/Peter) come to realize that they truly love the Dark Knight and Christ respectively. Selina saves Batman from Bane, and helps him save Gotham, while Peter becomes the leader of the Christian movement—he too, dying on a cross (albeit, traditionally held the cross from which he was crucified was upside down). It could be said that Selina dies too—but her death is one from her past (and criminal record).
6) The Dark Knight and Christ exhibit grave fear, yet overcome it:
It is my held belief that faith, hope, and love are all stronger than fear. It is a message that I see communicated throughout scripture:
…16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.(1 John 4:16-18)
As it pertains to this comparative, overcoming fear is also a major plot line within the Dark Knight Trilogy. In the first movie, Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne seeks membership into the League of Shadows so that he can truly understand fear in its entirety, so that he can use it as “a means to fight injustice. To turn fear against those who prey on the fearful.” Yet, fear is also used by his nemeses (Ra’s Al Ghul, the Joker, Bane, and Talia) to turn people upon themselves—to create chaos, and for evil intent. And the character of the Joker illustrates the fact that fears can many times be irrational. Alfred Pennyworth, Mr. Wayne’s butler (and adopted father) shares such wisdom with Bruce when speaking about men like the Joker:
Bruce Wayne: Criminals aren’t complicated, Alfred. Just have to figure out what he’s after.
Alfred Pennyworth: With respect Master Wayne, perhaps this is a man that *you* don’t fully understand, either. A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So, we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anybody who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.
Bruce Wayne: So why steal them?
Alfred Pennyworth: Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
On the evening that He would be taken away and wrongly tried for blasphemy by the Sanhedrin council, Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, sweating tears of blood (Luke 22:44). A rare medical condition, “Hematidrosis,” can cause blood to effuse into the sweat glands when under extreme anguish. Jesus’ “soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38; Mark 14:34). As the son of God, Christ knew “all that was going to happen to Him.” (John 18:4). His fear was so great, that he prayed that, if possible, that there was another way to accomplish His will. Yet, He also shows trust in the Father, acknowledging that no matter the cost, the Father’s request of Him would be done:
… “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42)
For those unfamiliar with the metaphor of “drinking from the cup,” it refers to the cup of God’s wrath:
17 Awake, awake! Rise up, Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes people stagger… 21 Therefore hear this, you afflicted one, made drunk, but not with wine. 22 This is what your Sovereign LORD says, your God, who defends his people: “See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. 23 I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, ‘Fall prostrate that we may walk on you.’ And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked on” (Isaiah 51:17, 21-23).
15 This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them” (Jeremiah 25:15-16)
There may only be one legitimate fear, biblically speaking, and–if so–it is the wrath of God. And for Jesus to know He was going to endure the full force of God’s wrath, it would not be a surprise if He did suffer from a case of hematridrosis. No one before or since has suffered as Christ. Yet, with trust and love for His Father, he overcame that fear.
In the two earlier movies of the trilogy, Bruce claims to not fear death (though, he does claim a fear of bats). It is his belief that lacking a fear of death makes him strong. Yet, after being beaten near death by Bane, he is thrown into the Pit—a prison that provides its captives the hope of escape by climbing out. Only the child of Ra’s Al Ghul was known to have actually succeeded in escaping. The purpose of the Pit’s design is to create additional suffering—psychological tortures—as its prisoners hold onto a hope of escape. After numerous attempts, and failures, the former prison doctor—a blind man—helps him see how fear of death can be his ally:
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 with no one there to save it.
Blind Prisoner: Then make the climb.
[Bruce laughs dryly]
Bruce Wayne: How?
Blind Prisoner: As the child did. Without the rope. Then fear will find you again.
Only upon realizing the need to acknowledge the fear, so as to overcome it, does Bruce escape from the Pit to save Gotham.
Both the Dark Knight and Christ feel intense fear, a fear of a death that takes them from what they love (Gotham and God respectively), which demonstrates that we too should expect to experience fear. Yet, unlike the rest of us who sometimes allow fear to deter us, both the Dark Knight and Christ overcome their fears, possessing greater trust and faith in their purpose. The Dark Knight loves Gotham. Jesus loves His people.
Again, both demonstrate that love and conviction (belief) can overcome fear.
If interested in reading more about overcoming fear through love and conviction, you can read a prior posting HERE.
7a) The Dark Knight and Christ are a substitutionary sacrifice–becoming symbols of salvation and hope:
“People need dramatic examples to shake them out of apathy, and I can’t do that as Bruce Wayne. As a man, I’m flesh and blood; I can be ignored, I can be destroyed. But as a symbol… as a symbol I can be incorruptible. I can be everlasting.” – Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins
Both the Dark Knight and Christ sacrifice their lives (at the time) for those they loved. The Dark Knight sacrificed two lives—that of Bruce Wayne, “billionaire orphan,” and Batman, evening vigilante of Gotham. He did so to give the people of Gotham a renewed hope—renewing their faith. Jesus sacrificed His life as a man on earth, receiving the wrath of God; providing those who believe in Him eternal salvation.
At Bruce Wayne’s funeral, Commissioner Gordon reads the following, the last part a quote from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens [in bold]:
“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, though long to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.”
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
Three days following His crucifixion, Jesus rises from the grave. Christians (myself included) believe He will return one day to judge the living and the dead. Like Jesus, Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle (we’ll call her his follower of sorts–in some ways reflecting the salvation provided to the criminal at Jesus’ right side) are resurrected into a new life—the final scenes of The Dark Knight Rises implying that they both used “the clean slate” to erase their records and start fresh.
Like the cross before it, the statue of Batman unveiled in Gotham serves as a symbol of salvation and hope. Both the cross and the Dark Knight are no longer vilified. While Batman’s sacrifice saves a city for an indefinite period of time, Christ’s sacrifice saves the souls of those He loves for all eternity. Batman’s sacrifice ends a war of man against man. Christ’s sacrifice ends a war between God and His elect.
7b) The Dark Knight and Christ have disciples that continue their mission:
16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. 18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20).
Before leaving His disciples, Jesus commanded them to continue His ministry. The results of His sacrifice and the work of His disciples are visible. The good news, or Gospel, continues to be shared to the nations that Jesus died for us. That He provides us reason to hold onto faith, hope, and love—as He is our Lord for all eternity.
In a lesser but comparable context, Bruce Wayne commissions John Blake (aka “Robin”) to continue His ministry of justice—to don the cape and cowl and take on the identity of the Dark Knight—through His will. He provides Robin the coordinates to the Bat Cave…implying a lasting legacy—that Gotham will always have “a silent guardian, a watchful protector.”
This posting is written primarily for a Christian audience. Moreover, I am but a man and fallible. Nothing that I have written is intended to conflict with scripture; though, I encourage anyone who sees where I have written egregiously regarding Christian values and beliefs—as found in scripture, and not through personal or cultural practice—to communicate that to me.
As stated earlier, this is more of a thought-starter, meaning that some of the associations are somewhat of a “stretch.” For me, however, I see those “stretches” when I watch the trilogy, and it brings more meaning to me whenever I watch the Dark Knight save Gotham from Ra’s Al Ghul, the Joker, Bane, and the like. The Christ-like characteristics that I see when I follow the Dark Knight’s comic narrative allow me to place it within a more founded reality. Whether intended or not, when I can see my Lord’s message of love and sacrifice for me and those who believe in Him, it brings me joy.
May you seek joy in Christ. May you glorify God and enjoy Him.