The Dark Knight Rises: with a clean slate

“A girl’s gotta eat.” – Selina Kyle.

She’s good at what she does, one of the best, but her crimes are slowly and inevitably catching up with her. Insisting she’s only doing what she has to survive, she speaks as though she’s justified, and yet she wants a new life, a clean slate, a “fresh start”. Achieving this, howevever, is something Selina Kyle wants to obtain on her own.

We talked about the overarching themes of The Dark Knight Rises in our spoiler-free video review, but now we’ve careened into SPOILER territory with these follow-up posts by looking at Alfred, Bruce, Gordon, Blake and – finally:


“I’m adaptable.”

Although I remained uncertain she was the right choice, Anne Hathaway nails the role of “Catwoman” from the moment she burgles Wayne Manor and demonstrates her character’s ability to shift disposition and personality to best fit the occasion. One minute she’s a house pet, the next feral and deadly. As the movie progresses we see her as a virtual chameleon, showing people what they want to see in the way that best forwards her unfettered advance. Adding a touch of film noir and necessary levity to the otherwise heavy narrative – adept and deceptive and opportunist – she may not seem like the character most viewers would identify with. In some ways, though, both who she is and who she becomes are great representations of our nature and need.

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud… ungrateful… treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” – 2 Timothy 3:2-4

From the moment Bruce shows up at the party and Ms. Kyle realizes he’s not a helpless cripple, she doesn’t trust him, she can’t believe he can possibly understand her. Selina equally distrusts Batman when he shows up and offers her the “clean slate” program that will give her the new life she desires. In both his guises Bruce calls the young woman to nobler intentions, insisting she has it in her even when she doesn’t believe it herself. She can be more, he insists: part of her wants to be.

Despite all this, her seeming moments of “falling in line” with the Dark Knight wind up simply to be another deception: Selina betrays Bruce, gets the Batman broken, and nearly killed… just to save her own neck. As she watches him being brutalized we see guilt in her eyes, a hint of regret, yet she makes no move to help or change. She doesn’t know how else to live.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. – Romans 7:15-19

When Bruce strolls down the street toward her in act three, miraculously returned from the grave, he extends grace, unconditionally giving Selina Kyle that new life she desperately wants and needs. She still resists, suggesting that perhaps she likes Gotham the way is is now. Bruce, however, reveals the truth she’s ignorant of, that Gotham is doomed for destruction: it’s not just a fresh start he offers, but escape from death. The “clean slate” is given freely, without any obligation to come back once she clears the tunnel, as well as the equipping her with the means to knock down obstacles in her way and overcome.

Like Han Solo in A New Hope, Selina wants to simply take this reward and run, and even invites Bruce to go with her.

“You don’t owe these people anymore! You’ve given them everything!”

Batman’s sacrifice, of course, isn’t just for her… he has a similar sacrifice he’s going to make for the entire city. His character, his actions, and his free gift all inspire “Catwoman” to turn and emulate him, to serve and sacrifice for others like him. Even more poignant is that, in the end, we see her enjoying new life with him.

Hathaway and the character have been called some of the strongest parts of the third film, and I think this goes even deeper than her performance or the well-crafted screenplay by Goyer and Nolan:

  1. We ALL want our slate wiped clean for something we’ve done.
  2. We try to do this in our own ways to no avail, and know our sins will ultimately hang us.
  3. Christ offered forgiveness, a new life, a clean slate before God our Creator
  4. Even his first disciples betrayed or fled, abandoning him to death.
  5. He returned, literally, from the dead and offers the free gift of grace.
  6. Receiving that new life inspires response, to imitate him, to seek and serve others and show them the way.
  7. The story ends with a joyous life eternal, happily ever after.

The story arc of Selina Kyle is a mirror for the story arc of the Christian life, saved not by our own merit but invited to and offered a new life while we’re still in our weak and willful ways, while we are still criminals: not because we are good people, but because we’re called to be the people we COULD be if we’ll accept the gift, sacrifice, and walk in the example of our Savior.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5:6-11

  • Do you see the ways your life parallels Selina’s?

  • Are you tired of trying to find/buy/steal/merit your own absolution?

  • Is it coincidence this tension and transformation turns up so often in our stories?

  • Do you know the clean slate offered through the true story of Jesus?

  • Does it inspire you to emulate, serve, and share in that joyous reality?

It’s been a joy and pleasure to review this film, to sift the story and see how many facets it has that reflect our true narrative, how the trilogy as a whole grapples with empty philosophies and struggles to portray something higher, something nobler, something to bring true and lasting hope. My hope is that as we see how The Dark Knight Rises, it raises our eyes to something truly incorruptible and everlasting.

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