The best, most fascinating, and most exhilarating thing about Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s writing and film making is that they tell such human stories through intricately crafted metaphors that are paradoxically subtle and blatant. Inception is all about the creative process, film-making, and the film industry. Intricate, subtle, and innately human.
The Dark Knight trilogy is not about creation. It is about destruction. It is about how we pick ourselves up and remake ourselves after a force has acted upon us and caused us to break down.
“Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up again.”
Batman Begins focuses on conquering fear. A heroic twist of the emotion of Fear into strength and drive. In places deep down and ever so dark and lonely, we all have a fear. I hate snakes… I’m a complete ophidiophobe. That is not what I fear. My biggest fear is that one day, I will wake up and be completely and utterly alone in the world, devoid of purpose, friends, family, love, and my own identity. And so I run. I use that fear to drive me faster and faster and harder and harder to be the best son, brother, friend, mentor I can be. I write every day because I cannot say for certainty I’ll be able to the next. I pack every line with meaning so that someone has something to hang onto and keep the ideas – my ideas, my very identity – alive. Every day. Every keystroke, word, paragraph, page… it’s all for that. I try and make every single interaction as if it would be a lasting impression – a 9th symphony. And still… that’s not enough…
Too often we can become driven to madness. We can reach a point where we are so burnt out, so hurt, and so tired of hiding that we become embittered. My attempts at conquering my fear often lead to falling. The scrapes pile up, the broken limbs (metaphorically) all make the world shake its collective head and wonder why I bother. And the scary part is that there are times when I’ve had it with hurting, with failing, and with being judged… and I sit here and think to myself “Wow… what would it be like if I could take this world apart with my bare hands? I just want to see them squirm.”
“You either die a Hero or you live long enough to see yourself become a Villain.”
There’s a delicate balance between Hero and Villain. In the real world, we live within that balance. Very few people are pure evil (though they do exist and the list is extensive spanning through history). The thing is, it’s not just about being good. Harvey Dent was a good man. He was a good man who lost something and who broke. And so he became a bad man. Chaos met Chance and the coin did not flip in favor of the Hero. The true Hero took the fall when no one else could. The cowl of Batman became reviled, hated, and resented, and Bruce Wayne’s most powerful tool – his fear turned power, embodied in a black suit with ears and a cape – was left to burn in the ashes. And as Bruce Wayne had so long defined himself as Batman, he sacrificed a part of himself for the common good – for the city and people he loved.
8 years. 8 years between the end of The Dark Knight and the beginning of Dark Knight Rises. I won’t pretend to have seen it already or anything and I can honestly say that I’m as eager as anyone else to watch it and understand it. The masked visage of Bane, even for the casual viewer, serves as the pure embodiment of pain and suffering. Fear, Chaos, and now Pain all combine at multiple times in our lives but often it is the Pain that breaks our backs. It is what truly hurts that can paralyze us… but it is also that Pain that allows us to know we are truly alive. The cliché image of pinching one’s self to truly know if one is dreaming or awake comes to mind. Maybe we can’t always save ourselves from Pain… and maybe, just maybe, it is not about avoiding it but rather what we do after we are completely broken. When we are lying on the bathroom floor, clutching our stomach, and letting loose a giant sob-fest is only the beginning. And what is so easy to forget is that it is what happens after we are broken, not what breaks us, that defines us. It was never about Bruce Wayne giving up the cowl of Batman, and thus a part of himself, for “the greater good.” The story doesn’t end there. It is about the man who picks up that cowl, dons that armor once again, and finishes the fight. It is about the man coming back to life. It is about the Bat rising again.
“You see only one end to your journey… but sometimes a man rises from the Darkness.”
It is now that I shake my fist at the sky with a large smile on my face in admiration of the Nolan brothers for what they’ve created and the possibilities for how it could finish.
And so the time will come when we either pick ourselves up off that floor… or someone else picks us up. There’s always more to be written and more to be done. There’s more falls to take and more peaks to reach. Life is never truly defined by the fall… it is defined by how we Rise.