6.16.2005

it is imperative: you go see batman.

I was going to finish up a post about truth conditions and philosophy of language (don't worry, it's saved as a draft), but i just saw Batman!

Also, the post that's contributed the most search-engine hits to our statistics is star wars quotes out of context, and particularly the phrase "light saber sound effects."

Batman! Batman... Begins! It's a parable, a classic American tale of power, responsibility, citizenship, ninjas, liam neeson(sp?)! Watch out, i'm about to spoil the plot, but not the endless play of readings it gives rise to:

Christian Bale has freckles, and he's cute, and his dad is an all-american hero, and then... tragedy. Fear! Seduced by the dark side of the force, Christian meets Raz... Adgool? or something?... it sounded Arabic. He teaches Bruce Wayne the power of an idea over the minds of men. But, Christian soon has to make a difficult decision between two competing loyalties: loyalty to his teacher and his cult; or loyalty to his city, his fatherland.

He chooses America, and returns home to fight off both the evil foreign ninjas and petty theives who do not value their citizenship in Gotham City. The City, though, is owned by corrupt cops and mob bosses who rule by fear, though they have not mastered their own. The bad guys (ninjas) too, rely on fear. Their style is random chemical warfare attacks designed to terrorize the general public.

Throughout the movie, those who wish to terrorize their enemies must become "ideas," "symbols," "bad thoughts." It's a stirring theme--become something to be feared, and you must lose your identity. In some cases, this is how the bad guys become even more demonic, but it's also the way in which Bruce Wayne sacrifices when he becomes Batman--a cause, and a symbol with more power than a man.

Finally, Christian must decide whether, dispite its sins, Gotham city is worth saving--in definace of liam neeson, the ninja master who offers him the chance to be part of the large, redeeming cycle of history. It almost comes as no surprise that Batman's father was the last person to defend the city's honor against the ninjas, but that his failure to act cost him his life. The choice for Batman, and for all americans, seems clear.

And that's just it: it's a great movie, and it's a great movie with absolutely conservative (somewhat christian) ideas about justice and responsibility. The bad guys want to spread terror, and it's Batman's (individualistic, but motivated by charity) job to make sure the people of his homeland get a second chance to lead good lives and appreciate their city. Batman, suddenly, is a real american hero: he believes in democracy, in self-determination, and he wins, and we love it. And what if that's ok? (plus, the bad guys are hijacking weapons and modes of mass transit to attack a building that is both physically and symbolically central to the (new york) city in order to release a cloud of terror gas on the general public and liam neeson dies proudly, a martyr for his eastern cause...)

Does Gotham City deserve to survive? This is the question the movie doesn't answer. But we rest assured that Batman has always made his choice.

p.s.-- my two hours, 14 minutes, was not wasted to the world of linguistic inquiry: one of my friends distinctly asked the other to please give him "a reesee peecee," and it was clear to all listeners that he wanted one of the many available "reese's pieces."

4 comments:

Marc André Bélanger said...

Just a quick comment: although that's what Ducard says, Wayne's dad didn't die because of his failure to act, but because he did act, he moved to stop the guy from getting at his wife's jewelry. But I like that fact that we're made to forget that, and so is Wayne...

Cristi said...

Thanks for the comment! If this is true, it does complicate the movie (and my allegorical reading) in an interesting way. I might make the argument, though, that there are other actions Mr. Wayne might have taken earlier/more decisively that might have saved him, but I guess the world will never know...

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