Most things we write come out of a moment of enthusiasm
I watched Batman Begins and the Dark Knight today, both of them directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale as our batty hero.
Batman Begins annoyed me for a lot of reasons. The main one would be that Bruce Wayne has very little compassion. Kudos to him for not executing the murderous Chinese farmer but still, overall I don’t think Batman develops any commendable ethical judgements in this movie. He doesn’t really embrace his fear of bats in the way that is portrayed by the script, but they become more a vehicle for his anger. He uses terror to find his answers. Also, his parents were murdered by a homeless, hungry, destitute man and yet he is on a quest to find ways to “fight injustice and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful”. He doesn’t stop to question why this man felt compelled to commit armed robbery, or accept that not all justice can be found in courtrooms and jails or other forms of law enforcement. It bugs me that he has decided he is a superior person who is able to deal out his form of justice with no repercussions. The issue of fear and those who prey on the fearful: I have yet to meet, see, hear or read of a person who does not fear something. A little pain goes a long way, and I think humans have self-preservation on high priority. A little pain can become a lot of pain and eventually, the mind and soul can’t handle it. So people fear pain, and how that it can begin their own oblivion. Does Batman not also prey on this fear in his ‘enemies’? So how can he claim to be ethically any better than them?
It is interesting how Batman is visually portrayed as well. Without a mask he is Bruce Wayne, a handsome billionaire who takes at least two different women to every social event. As Batman, he is dark, uses some kind of voice changer (?????), and filled with anger. I think it is the anger that drives him more than whatever morals he might have that he is trying to protect. Murder is murder, irrespective of who or what the body was when it was alive. How can murder be justified with ‘he was a bad person’ or something to that effect? this is probably my main problem with Batman and his ‘crime fighting’. If this was addressed in the film then I might be able to forgive it, but it fails to do so. Granted this is only one perception of the Batman character (the original was much more light-hearted) and I have limited knowledge of him in his comics, so perhaps my opinion is skewed. As a film, Batman Begins was very well made and well acted, but I did not find it entertaining due to the moral and ethical sandstorm in creates in my mind.
The Dark Knight, in comparison, was far more entertaining. Heath Ledger plays the Joker, a mentally unstable character with a thing for knives, anarchy and blowing stuff up.
I personally love the Joker. Apart from the fact that he was brilliantly acted by Heath Ledger, he is an honest character. Unlike Batman, he doesn’t lie about what he believes in, or try and make up weak justifications for what he does. While I’m not sure he goes about it the right way, he has a point to make and he makes it well. Or rather, the film does. The ending portrays very well that while it is true that individual people can fall, become hateful and vengeful, lose sight of reason or logic or a sense of self significance, as a whole, as a society of emotional human beings, we cannot pull the trigger on another social group without a deep sense of guilt or betrayal. I feel this is an important message to be putting into mass media, and helps perpetuate love, compassion and forgiveness, at the very least to the subconscious mind. Even if this is just an ideal that might not really unfold the same way if it were recreated in reality, it is an important ideal.
Going back to the Batman character, he again lacks the ability or even the desire to understand people and how they work. “Criminals are simple Alfred. Just have to figure out what he’s after.” he has a distinct sense of segregation, of them and me, when really, as shown in Batman Begins, he’s no better than the criminals he so ardently hates. He still steals, murders and spies on people, but he just has different motivations and justifications for them. I also find the scene in which Batman is pulverising the Joker in prison interesting. I know it has been said before but it’s true, this scene shows how laws seem to only be applicable to certain people at certain times. Batman can get violent with the Joker in a jail, Batman is the good guy, he has a good reason, the Joker deserves to hurt for what he has done. The fact that Batman can do this while law enforcement officers watch on, and that Batman never has to answer for his crimes really pisses me off to be honest. It just puts out there that if you have a good reason, if you commit a crime in the name of a ‘greater good’, then that’s ok, go on your merry way. And again, Batman lacks any desire to understand or comprehend the Joker and his motives. “But the Joker is a schizophrenic maniac!” All very well and good to say that, but even insane people have a
reason for doing what they do, and it makes sense to them.
As I said, I love the Joker. He shows how very much we depend on our plans, and on order, and how inflexible we are as a society. This quote below is taken from the scene in the hospital between the Joker and Harvey Dent who now has half his face burnt off and is referred to as ‘Two-Face’
Two-Face: It was your men, your plan!
The Joker: Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it. You know, I just… do things. The mob has plans, the cops have plans, Gordon’s got plans. You know, they’re schemers. Schemers trying to control their little worlds. I’m not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are. So, when I say… Ah, come here.
[takes Dent’s hand into his own]
The Joker: When I say that you and your girlfriend was nothing personal, you know that I’m telling the truth. It’s the schemers that put you where you are. You were a schemer, you had plans, and look where that got you.
[Dent tries to grab the Joker]
The Joker: I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hmmm? You know… You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go “according to plan.” Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all “part of the plan.” But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!
[Joker hands Two-Face a gun and points it at himself]
The Joker: Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It’s fair!
As a film; The Dark Knight was well made, well acted, and entertaining. Perhaps having the Joker in there to counteract Batman’s painful narrow mindedness helped me enjoy it more.