cheek by jowl

The Dark Knight Rises vs. Step Up Revolution: How Do This Summer’s Movie Protests Stack Up?

Photo: Summit Entertainment

Though the Occupy Wall Street movement has been relatively quiet the last few months, the 99 percent can still be heard loud and clear at your local movie theater, where two of this summer’s biggest movies (okay, one of this summer’s biggest movies and a Step Up sequel) feature very vocal grassroots movements. The Dark Knight Rises includes a violent uprising against the wealthiest citizens of Gotham; Step Up Revolution, the fourth movie in that franchise, hinges entirely on a dance crew’s battle against crushing corporate interests. So what can we learn from these fictional protests? And which movie presents the most effective model for taking on the Man and winning? Let us compare! Warning: Spoilers for both movies (that means Dark Knight!) await.

  The Dark Knight Rises
Step Up Revolution
Does the movement have a clear objective? To end the financial tyranny of Gotham's super-wealthy (and also blow stuff up). To prevent the development of a major hotel–real estate complex.
How is this objective explained to the masses? With dramatic speeches in public places (football games, fancy bank buildings). With dramatic dance sequences in public places (office buildings, art galleries, Ocean Drive).
Do they have a catchy tagline? "Do what you please." "Enough with performance art. It's time for protest art."
And spectacular displays of force? Yes — they raid the Stock Exchange and rob most of the people on Park Avenue. Yes — they bust up a swanky investor party and do some backflips.
What about the Internet? Is the revolution viral and whatnot? Not sure; seems like they broke the Internet. It is so viral. Ask the crew how many YouTube hits they have, they'll tell you, over and over.
Tell me about the movement's leader. He's Bane, a hulking vigilante who gains power through unintelligibility and brute force. He's Sean, a handsome vigilante who gains power through anonymity and snazzy dance moves.
Is there a beautiful brunette who secretly controls the entire revolution? Yes! Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a.k.a. Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ra's. Yes! Emily Anderson (Kathryn McCormick), daughter of hotel developer Bill (Peter Gallagher).
Does she have Daddy issues? Clearly. Why else would she be leading the revolution?
Okay, but is she using them for good or evil? Evil! She wants to destroy Gotham with an atom bomb. Good! She wants to save her boyfriend Sean's neighborhood.
How does the revolution actually pan out? They lose. Batman steals the bomb and saves Gotham. They win! Peter Gallagher is persuaded by the power of dance and agrees to move his development.
And then what do the revolutionaries do? They … die. They … go to work for Nike. (Seriously.)

Winner, on the basis of objectives achieved (and not trying to blow anyone up): the dance crew of Step Up Revolution … and their new corporate sponsors. The American Dream lives on.

How Do This Summer’s Movie Protests Stack Up?