Sunday, September 30, 2012

Christopher Nolan's Kangaroo Court

The latest Batman movie carries the burden of being the occasion for the murderous assault in Aurora, Colorado, in July. A deranged graduate student named James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 59 in a shooting spree in a suburban theater during an opening-weekend screening of the film.

As the legal process for Holmes takes its course, the film itself is winding down its theatrical run. With video and other distribution channels in the pipeline, films don’t stay very long in theaters these days. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the theater in Burnsville, Minnesota, where I saw The Dark Knight Rises was one of the smallest I’d ever been in.

It was so small that the disparity between the large screen and the tiny room was quite incongruous.

Rather incongruous, too, is director Christopher Nolan’s plotting of the film. Strangely enough, in a movie featuring such over-the-top violence, Nolan at times seems on the verge of raising the question of whether violence is ever justified — even when responding to violence.

Unfortunately, that theme never really crystallizes. But the film contains some memorable individual scenes. Naturally, for purposes of this blog, I was struck by the sessions of the kangaroo court that is capable of issuing only death sentences.

Ostensibly, prisoners are given a choice: exile or death. Exile, however, turns out to be over the not-quite-frozen river, and therefore a de facto death sentence.

What was the context, I wonder, in which the term “kangaroo court” was coined? It dates, according to Webster’s, to 1853.

The larger question, however, is whether the entire film is a type of kangaroo court. One definition of such a court, after all, is of "a judgment or punishment given outside of legal procedure." In effect, the entire film comprises that kind of court.

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