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Superhero Status Quo

In the summer of 2012, British director Christopher Nolan released The Dark Knight Rises, the third and final chapter of the big-screen Batman trilogy he started in 2005 with Batman Begins. Now that all three films are available in a single box set, it’s easy to see what ties them together: While previous cinematic portrayals of Batman focused on the freak-show aspect of the character and his world, Nolan has recast Gotham City’s most famous avenger as a defender of order, civility, manners, and common decency—a small-c British conservative in a mask and cape. 

In all three films, Batman plays the role of the anti-radical. Whether he’s fighting a religiously tinged order of authoritarian ninjas, the chaotic nihilism of the Joker, or the paramilitary people’s revolution of Bane, Nolan’s Batman is an establishment figure whose primary purpose is to fend off radical social change. Batman has no desire to reshape Gotham; he fights for it to be left alone. —Peter Suderman

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