I used to see Christ symbols everywhere. It drove my mother crazy; no matter what film or book, I'd find some kind of symbol in it. And Christ symbols were fashionable then (Ingmar Bergman, Robert S. Heinlein.) So I guess it's no surprise that I found implanted meaning, this time political messages, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (the loss of Hogwarts students' freedom and rights to Dolores Umbridge) and the Lord of the Rings - listen to this:
"It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing. The shadow even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those are the stories that stayed with you. That really meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why, but I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. The folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding on to something." "What are we holding onto Sam?" "That theres some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for"- The Lord of The Ring- The Two Towers
Now The Dark Knight joins my array of political films. Think about it. Irrational evil -- the Joker (the late Heath Ledger,as good as the reviews but somehow a bit Al Franken-esque)-- drives Gotham City to such anxiety that its citizens are willing to surrender freedom and privacy and even to turn on their Bat-benefactor, to return order to their streets. Sound familiar? Throughout the film members of the community at large, as well as Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale), his beloved Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal,) DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and even the sainted Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) face -- and often fail -- deep ethical temptations (including abusing prisoners -- sound familiar?) -- and, surprisingly, those who face the most horrendous choice are criminals and civilians whose behavior is far more laudable than that of any of us (including me) who know what's been done in our name in Iraq and have mourned but not acted to stop it.
[SEMI-SPOILER ALERT] This gigantic challenge, issued from the Joker himself, is a formidable and hopeful moment in the film. Many have written that the film is dark and without humor but I don't think so. This scene, in particular - and I don't want to be too much of a spoiler -- seemed to me to be there to remind us that there is always the potential for good. Even so, the film is crammed with talk, as in Sam's speech to Frodo, and especially from the wise Albert (Michael Caine) of the pain and sacrifice required in the battle against the troubles ahead.
Maybe it's a reach, and I can hear your saying "Hey, it's ONLY a movie!" but there you are.