The Dark Knight Rises teaches us a very important lesson about forging one’s path in life, about learning to let go of whatever past baggage or shadows that are tying us down.
Major spoilers for TDKR. Don’t click if you don’t want to know.
This theme is metaphorically cemented during Batman’s disastrous fight against Bane. Bruce Wayne, the master of martial arts, trained by Ra’s Al Ghul, and who is supposed to be undefeatable in unarmed combat, is completely and soundly smashed. Why? Because he has lost his purpose in life, still unable to move on after the deaths of Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent. Alfred Pennyworth repeatedly warns Bruce against fighting Bane, because he knows that Bane will win, and possibly kill Bruce.
I can’t remember Alfred’s exact quote, but it was something along the lines of, “That man (Bane) fights with a purpose.”
What made this theme even better was that Bane never used his Venom drug at all. Throughout the entire film, Bane is a normal, ordinary human being, just like Bruce Wayne. However misguided Bane’s ideals were, his purpose and belief still allowed him to triumph over Batman.
I first encountered this theme while watching the anime series Canaan. It is a show about a highly trained gun assassin (Canaan) whose impressive Max Payne skills are amplified further by her powers of synesthesia. Yet Canaan is unable to defeat her adversary and former best friend (Alphard), who is an ordinary human with no special sensory powers. Alphard murdered their mentor, Siam, right in front of Canaan’s eyes, in order to be “free” from his shadows. This is equivalent to the Sith mentality from Star Wars, whereby the Sith student will eventually kill his master in order to break free and start becoming independent.
Canaan is unable to accept her mentor’s death, and lives the rest of her life in angry sorrow, vowing revenge against Alphard. And every single time that Canaan faces off against Alphard in a one-on-one fight, she is soundly beaten. Similar to Bruce Wayne in TDKR, Canaan finally manages to defeat Alphard towards the end of the series — but only after she has learned to completely let go of her grief, and starts fighting Alphard for her own reasons.
When you learn to forge your own path, and begin to carve out a goal based on what you want, unaffected by the shadows of others, you become a totally different person. Yes, your loved ones, your faith, your desires are what give you strength. But deep down it has to come from your own heart, it has to be something that only YOU want to accomplish. Only then will you become truly powerful.