The Dark Knight Rises: A Fitting End

This is probably too late for the masses who’ve seen it, but last night I got to go see The Dark Knight Rises. Here’s the short version: I liked it a lot, but my wife hated it. If you’re a Dark Knight fan it’s a must. If you’re a comic book fan, it’s a good movie. If you’re just a casual movie-goer, make sure you’ve watched the first two movies in the Dark Knight Trilogy (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight) before seeing this one or you’ll be lost. If you dislike violence or psychological suspense and darkness, skip this one. There’s a good plot synopsis on Wikipedia, and I always appreciate the movie reviews on PluggedIn.

 

There are plot spoilers in this review, so caveat emptor.

 

The Good

 

I appreciated the redemptive message of the movie. After The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne goes into hiding and Batman retires. Bruce is seen as a husk of his former self who must rekindle his love for Gotham and find the strength within himself to return to the Batman persona and once again save Gotham from the evil plan of Bane.  His selflessness and willingness to do the right thing when he has every reason not to is inspiring. I especially appreciated a scene when Selina Kyle (Catwoman) tries to get Batman to come away with her and escape the bomb blast that is coming. Batman chooses to stay and save the city. He also repeatedly offers Kyle opportunities to redeem herself.

 

I love the themes of loyalty in the movie as well. Alfred is loyal to a fault, even going so far as to leave his job with Bruce Wayne in the hopes of saving him. That is admirable. John Blake is a character who starts as a beat cop and through the movie becomes a detective and is later prepped to become Robin in possible future movies. He is loyal and has great integrity. He is a great character in the movie.

 

I also think that there is a great theme of consequences in the movie. Commissioner Gordon is haunted by his inability to tell the truth at the end of the previous movie, and his lie bears the terrible consequence of bringing so much pain to Gotham and to himself. Bruce Wayne withdraws from society and the world around him falls apart. He loses much of his fortune, his health declines, and even the philanthropic work he was doing stops because his business loses money. Worse, since he is gone from Gotham as Batman, the scheme of Bane is allowed to take shape.

 

I also thought that the plot twist at the end was great.

 

The Bad

 

This movie is a Christopher Nolan movie, based on a comic book series that is in itself quite dark. If you are naïve enough to think, ESPECIALLY after The Dark Knight, that this movie wouldn’t be very violent and dark then you get what you earned. It is violent, and anyone with an aversion to violence should stay away. There is lots of death in this movie, mostly from gunplay when Gotham degenerates into mob rule overseen by Bane. Several times Bane snaps people’s necks, though thankfully the camera cuts before he does it so it’s off-screen.

 

More than the physical violence is the psychological violence. Bane is cruel and hateful. He wants to torture Bruce Wayne before killing him because Bruce killed Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins. (it’s an admittedly long plot arc) Wayne spends significant time in a prison pit they call “Hell” while watching Gotham under siege on a TV that Bane puts there. Wealthy people are made to walk across thin ice to their own death as a form of punishment during mob rule in Gotham.

 

This is also the first Dark Knight movie where we actually see Bruce Wayne have a liaison with a woman. It’s not done too terribly (Nolan cut the scene just right), but it was only hinted at in previous movies. As a redeeming feature, I felt that the way that Catwoman was presented was not ridiculously sensual, though she definitely showed off her curves in her cat burglar suits.

 

On a slightly more “who cares” note, if you’re a gun-lover this movie will drive you nuts in parts. Just about everyone who touches a gun does something stupid with it at some point in the movie, and weapons-use and handling is ridiculous in points.  When Gotham’s cops march down the street toward a gang of Bane’s thugs holding automatic weapons, the fight should have been over in a hail of bullets. Instead they all close and have a fistfight brawl that looked like it was choreographed by the writers of West Side Story.

 

Finally, a portion of the dialog is really hard to understand. Even in the theater with a quiet crowd there were several lines that I missed because they were garbled or too quiet.

 

Conclusion

 

Like I said before, if you are a Dark Knight fan then you’ve got to see this movie. If you are a comic book fan it is a good one, too. That said, the downsides to me keep this from being a kids movie. I would definitely say that it could easily have earned an R rating, so be careful taking your kids to see it. 15 would be the minimum I would consider, personally. And even for adults, if you’re sensitive to violence or psychological violence this is one to probably skip.

What’s Heaven Like?

I was driving home from picking my two youngest daughters up from Kenpo this week, and we had a hilarious exchange that got me thinking:

 

My 6-year-old: When I get to heaven, the first thing I want to do is go swimming.

Me (trying not to laugh): Really? Why swimming?

Her: Because swimming is awesome and it will be awesome in heaven!

My 10-year-old: Well, when I get to heaven the first thing I want to do is hug Jesus!

My 6-year-old: Okay, hug Jesus first, then swimming!

 

First of all, it was hilarious. Kids can be so funny!  Secondly, though, it amazes me what kids think about God. Specifically, her thoughts about heaven and what eternity will be like amaze me.  And you know, she could be quite right that there will be swimming in heaven; if there is, I bet it will be awesome. (yes, I know Revelation 21:1 says there is no sea…it does not say that there are no swimming pools!)

 

Revelation 21 says that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and that the new Jerusalem will be amazing. In Genesis 1:31 God says that the creation was “very good,” so I am betting that the new one will be even better! But notice that there is not only new heavens, but a new earth. It seems that in eternity there will be an earth, and it will be populated. In Luke 19:17 the returning master gives his faithful servant authority over cities (plural), meaning there will be government and apparently an economy. There will be jobs! (not sea-based jobs, apparently) 

 

This reflects the perfection of the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve had vocation and responsibility. It seems this is how eternity will be as well.  That encourages me, even though when we’re all perfect and holy and filled with God’s grace without sin, I will have to find a new vocation! It doesn’t seem that heaven is sitting on clouds and singing in an angel choir for many. If not, and if we will have vocation there, then my job today can be a reflection of the kingdom of God if I will commit it to Christ and work at it like it is His plan for me.  And that, I will do, as well as I can.

 

How about you? When you close your eyes, what does heaven look like? What are you most looking forward to doing when you’re in the perfect eternal state of joy?

Single-minded Focus

1434140008I love riding my motorcycle. I love to ride because it requires focus and concentration to ride safely and effectively and to have fun doing it. Motorcycle riding doesn’t allow for multitasking! I can’t answer my cell phone or eat or listen to the radio while on the bike; every bit of attention has to be focused on my surroundings, what other cars are doing, anticipation of what is ahead of and beside me, what gear I am in and throttle position, lane space, etc. It takes single-mindedness to successfully ride and not end up as street pizza!

 

Don’t get me wrong; I have seen people riding their motorcycle while smoking, while talking on the phone, listening to an iPod and more. For me, though, I can’t do any of that stuff and ride in a safe manner. For me to enjoy the ride and get there safe, I have to have single-minded devotion!

 

As I rode in to the office this morning, I got to thinking that this is a great analogy to the Christian life. This is the same kind of devotion that Paul talks about with regard to our Christian life: it takes focus and single-minded devotion to do it well.

 

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” (Philippians 3:12–16, ESV)

 

No distractions, no other priorities, no competing ideas to keep him from living for Christ. That’s the path to keep from wrecking our faith and being unfruitful for the kingdom.

 

How about you? Are you single-minded in your devotion to the Lord, or are the distractions of life keeping you from being all that God wants for you? How do you deal with distractions and temptations? What helps you and what hurts your focus on Christ?