Ktismatics

17 August 2008

Batman Begins, 2005

Filed under: Movies — ktismatics @ 12:43 pm

“You’re not the devil. You’re practice.”

“A vigilante is just a man lost in the scramble for his own gratification. He can be destroyed or locked up. But if you make yourself more than just a man… if you devote yourself to an ideal… and if they can’t stop you… then you become something else entirely.”

“Which is?”

“Legend, Mr. Wayne.”

* * *

“The training is nothing! Will is everything!”

“Crime cannot be tolerated. Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society’s understanding.”

“Only a cynical man would call what these people have ‘lives,’ Wayne. Crime. Despair. This is not how man was supposed to live. The League of Shadows has been a check against human corruption for thousands of years. We sacked Rome. Loaded trade ships with plague rats. Burned London to the ground. Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance… Time to play. I took away your fear, and I showed you a path. You were my greatest student. It should be you standing by my side, saving the world.”

“I’ll be standing where I belong. Between you and the people of Gotham.”

“When a forest grows too wild, a purging fire is inevitable and natural. Tomorrow the world will watch in horror as its greatest city destroys itself. The movement back to harmony will be unstoppable this time.”

“You attacked Gotham before?”

“Of course. Over the ages our weapons have become more sophisticated. With Gotham we tried a new one. Economics. But we underestimated certain of Gotham’s citizens, such as your parents. Gunned down by one of the very people they were trying to help. Create enough hunger and everyone becomes a criminal. Their deaths galvanized the city into saving itself, and Gotham has limped along ever since. We are back to finish the job, and this time no misguided idealists will get in the way. Like your father, you lack the courage to do all that is necessary. If someone stands in the way of true justice, you simply walk up behind them and stab them in the heart.”

This Batman movie is even more explicit than the next one.

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8 Comments »

  1. Surely you read Bordwell’s “Superheroes for Sale.” *crawls back under rock*

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    Comment by Seyfried — 19 August 2008 @ 2:32 pm

  2. I have indeed, Seyfried. Is there something in this article to which you’d like to call my attention? Is it that Bordwell doesn’t think this is a fascistic franchise under the new helm, or that these new installments are purposely ambiguous in their politics, or that they’re just comic book stuff for God’s sake so get over it already? I was struck by how many more comic books were being sold back in my peak comic-reading age compared to nowadays, such that maybe most of the audience for the newBatman movies has never even read one of the comic books.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 19 August 2008 @ 6:11 pm

  3. I didn’t mean to sound so dismissive of the Bordwell. At the end of the Movies We Deserve post there is some discussion of his thoughts on acting. On that post too I agree with some of what Bordwell has to say about the superhero genre being just and only that rather than some deep reflection of the zeitgeist. On the other hand, I think a zeitgeist need not be a structured unity that affects everyone in the culture. Multiple strands traverse the field, intersecting in various ways — this is where I’m trying to go in my empirical psych posts, and is more in keeping with Deleuzian emergence and immanence.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 20 August 2008 @ 6:05 am

  4. I’ve never read a Batman comic. I was also rather disinterested in the previous Batman movie and television installments. They all seemed to be imitations of comic books (that I have admittedly never read), kind of cartoon-ish.

    What was interesting to me when comparing the first and second Batman movies (in the current series–Batman Begins and Dark Knight) is that both villains (Ra’s Al Ghul and the Joker) have the same methodology: destroy Gotham from within by creating chaos. But there are two obvious differences. First, the Joker is much better at creating chaos b/c he seems, at his core, to be a chaotic and absurd person. I don’t think he is really driven by evil, he’s just insane. But that’s another difference with Ra’s Al Ghul. The Liam Neeson character is an idealist; essentially, he sees himself as a keeper of goodness, justice, and balance.

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    Comment by Erdman — 24 August 2008 @ 8:19 am

  5. From David Bordwell’s piece:

    back in 1959, at least 26 million comic books were sold every month. In the highest month of 2006, comic shops ordered, by Miller’s estimate, about 8 million books (and this total includes not only periodical comics but graphic novels, independent comics, and non-superhero titles). There have been upticks and downturns over the decades, but the overall pattern is a steep slump… the audience for superhero comics is far smaller than the audience for superhero movies. The movies seem to float pretty free of their origins; you can imagine a young Spider-Man fan who loved the series but never knew the books.

    I was a devoted reader of comic books when I was a kid, so I always see the movies through that filter. Consequently I have a harder time taking them as seriously, or perhaps regarding them as critically, as others seem to.

    In Al Ghul we get the explicit link between Batman and his foe. Al Ghul was Bruce’s mentor, teaching him not just the skills but the ideology of the Batman vigilante ethos. Al Ghul blames the collapse of Gotham not on chaos but on fear: fear to confront criminals, fear of one another, fear of themselves. Al Ghul presents a cartoonish Nietzschean superman position: the fearful weaklings don’t deserve to survive and must be purged. His WMD is an airborne drug that enhances the populace’s already-debilitating fears. Bruce subscribes to the superman theory — he becomes the Batman to betoken his ability to overcome his great fear of bats. But he thinks it’s not too late for Gotham to save itself. I think the implication is that the criminal element can be identified, localized and defeated. Its home, for both Al Ghul and Bruce/Robin, is the Narrows, which is clearly the poor part of town. There’s a sense that poverty breeds criminality, or that poor people tend also to be criminally inclined — this is the scene of Bruce’s parents’ murder. And the fact that crimefighter Batman is also billionaire Bruce demonstrates a connection between “legitimate” money and solid citizenship. Al Ghul is a combination of Asian inhuman violence and European posthuman decadence; Bruce is All-American.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 24 August 2008 @ 10:23 am

  6. Well I’m curious, then, about your take: compare and contrast film with comic book.

    I have nothing against comics, but they just don’t hold the appeal of the screen. If I want printed word, then I will read a book. If I want to combine images with narrative, then I would see a film, not read a book. It seems like films in this era can dwarf comic books in their capacity to entertain and also in their ability to develop characters/plot/etc. I can see, though, how comics could be popular in the days before cinema was as developed as it is now, particularly back when people had more time to invest themselves in their entertainment and put more effort into it. In this era, I don’t know that there is the patience to put into a comic or graphic novel. I also assume that in the past, comics probably had an economic advantage over the movies: for less than a buck you could get a comic that you could read over and over again.

    It would make sense to me that superhero movies are detached from their comic book origin. When the medium changes, the message usually changes as well. Still, the mythological element remains, and this is what seems to inspire people and connect them with their own potential (real or imagined) for greatness.

    What’s the draw in reading a comic for you? Do you still read comics? Did you keep your collection?

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    Comment by Erdman — 24 August 2008 @ 11:54 am

  7. I’ve never thought of the Nietzschean will-to-power connection. Good point.

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    Comment by Erdman — 24 August 2008 @ 11:56 am

  8. Back in my day there were no Batman movies or TV shows — only the comic books. No graphic novels either. A comic book cost something like 12 cents. I used to swap with a pal down the street, so I got access to twice as many for the same price. I was like 8 years old at the time, about the same age as I was buying and trading baseball cards. I’d pretty much given up on both of these hobbies by the time I was 10 — pre-adolescent entertainment. I gave away my last few old comics to a friend for his birthday.

    I mentioned this on somebody else’s blog: In the comics the Bruce Wayne alter-ego was definitely lame. His effete lifestyle — the mansion, the servant, the fancy clothes — were not at all manly. In the latest movie version Bruce is a much more attractive metrosexual rich dude — reflects both a change in attitude culturally and the age difference of the comic-versus-movie audiences: young boy versus young man.

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    Comment by ktismatics — 24 August 2008 @ 12:16 pm


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