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If we were to judge only by the script, wading through the thick socialist mantras espoused by various characters in “The Dark Knight Rises,” we might conclude the newest Batman movie is an Occupy Wall Street dream: loaded with class warfare, “power to the people” and share-and-share-alike communist sentiment.

But a movie is far more than its script, and an honest examination of the film reveals a very different picture.

Consider the following conversations and scenes, which are not merely throwaway lines, but a prominent theme of the movie:

“It will leave them [the wealthy] wondering how they could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”

“This is a stock exchange! There’s no money you can steal here,” the victim cries out, to which the character Bane responds, “Then why are you here?”

After Bruce Wayne is bankrupted, he’s taunted, “How’s it feel to be one of the people, Mr. Wayne?” but after it’s discovered he gets to keep his mansion, it’s lamented, “The rich don’t even go broke the same as the rest of us.”

“This was someone’s home,” laments a woman when she realizes the mob has “occupied” a wealthy family’s house, to which her companion gleefully replies, “Now it’s everyone’s home!”

“The powerful will be ripped from their decadent rests and cast out into the cold world we know.”

The words sound ripped right from the placards of Zucotti Park.

But then consider: These words are spoken by … the movie’s villains.

Furthermore, the socialist revolutionary leading this “people’s movement” is motivated only by the vindictive and cruel desire to offer the teeming masses a false “hope” (his words, not mine, or, um … Obama’s – draw your own conclusion there) as a way of creating social chaos before ultimately slaughtering the entire city.

Finally, and most significantly, something goes very, very wrong on the way to this Occupy utopia.

Like the book “A Tale of Two Cities” – which the movie quotes and its director admits was a significant inspiration for the film – when the mass of angry citizens rises up to rip from the rich to give to the poor, to storm the Bastille, imprison the cops and sever Marie Antoinette’s head from her shoulders, all the noble promises of the socialist leaders are consumed in the terrifying fire of the mad mob’s jealousy and rage, the rage the socialists fomented to fuel their rise to power in the first place.

There’s something very dark and disturbing, and it grows through the film, in watching class warfare turn to real warfare, to seeing socialism stripped of its altruistic façade and its driving motivation – envy – allowed to run lawlessly wild, Occupy’s inherent anarchy run amuck.

Just like “A Tale of Two Cities” – in which I found myself initially rooting for Madame Defarge, only to gradually be horrified by the depths of her hate, only to see too late the terrifying consequences of her seething lust for revenge – preaching to the people their “oppression,” fueling their victimhood, only makes them all the more ready to become oppressors and victimizers themselves.

In “The Dark Knight Rises,” this enflamed mob is shown tearing the rich people from their houses, trying them in kangaroo courts and condemning them to torturous death. The French Revolution in Gotham plunges a thinly-veiled New York City into a third-world underworld of poverty, warlords and tyranny – in other words, exactly what every communist nation ever built on earth has become.

Batman eventually challenges Catwoman, one of the early socialist revolutionaries, insisting she’s “more than that,” more than the sum of her envy and lusts and selfishness. Her crisis of conscience becomes a key element in the movie, even overshadowing Batman’s own story arc, as the question – the ultimate economic and political question, one that was raised by the character Two Face in the last Batman film – emerges: Shall we base the system on fairness … or justice? The two are not the same. The former always leads to tyranny, but the latter can lead to freedom.

Against this dark philosophical conundrum “rises” the Dark Knight (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun), who at the film’s darkest hour presents an alternative that would be anathema to both Occupy and Ayn Rand: self-sacrifice. He gives up his wealth, his mansion and his life to save a sinful city from itself.

Rife with Christological parallels, Batman becomes – in the words of the second film in the series – “not the hero Gotham deserves, but the hero it needs.”

“The Dark Knight Rises” is filled with action and emotion, several surprise twists, excellent pacing and a few outstanding performances. Actress Anne Hathaway is surprisingly believable as Catwoman, giving her character depth and complexity; Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon shows why he’s such a solid chameleon in Hollywood; and Michael Caine as Alfred … wow. Just wow. Is he eligible for knighthood? His best performance in the Batman series yet, and he’s already delivered some doozies.

I’m not sure I like “The Dark Knight Rises” as much as “The Dark Knight,” but it’s still one of the best films of the year and among the best superhero films ever. Director and writer Christopher Nolan – now famous for the Batman trilogy, “Inception” and “The Prestige” – is one of the finest talents working in Hollywood today.

Content advisory:

  • “The Dark Knight Rises” contains roughly a dozen profanities and minor obscenities.
  • The film has some minor sexuality, including some shirtless men, some kissing and some body-hugging costumes. One scene suggests a woman was raped. Bruce Wayne passionately kisses a woman, and the two appear later partially clothed, implying sex.
  • The film is naturally quite violent, consisting of chases, explosions and several scenes of hand-to-hand combat. A few characters are shot and injured, but the film clearly avoids any depiction of gore or bloodshed, and the Batman character vocally eschews the use of guns in his “work.”
  • The film’s only significant religious element is a Catholic priest who cares for at-risk youth and orphans and who encourages them to gather for prayer when faced with a threatening situation.

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