I didn’t grow up on DC comics and there’s a part of me that wistfully wishes I was more familiar with the franchise because there are some great characters there (and some pretty dumb ones but that’s Marvel, too).
But Christopher Nolan’s reincarnation of Batman has forced me to write my opinion regarding his last two caped crusader movies.
My rudimentary knowledge of Nolan was that he is a Brit but, according to Wikipedia (which I like for the amount of money I have to spend on the information—nothing) states that Nolan’s mother is a Yankee. Interesting. Is that the connection of interest or are Batman comics big in the U.K.?
Found a great interview that had Nolan answering questions like “Why another Batman?”
Conventional wisdom is that Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) was just “it” but Jack Nicholson “stole” the movie as the Joker, creating the problem of who would be heavy enough to outdo him as Bruce Wayne/Batman.
Um, certainly not George Clooney. Liberal putz.
But I wouldn’t even go to the extreme of calling that 1989 Batman “it” in the first place. OK, it was good entertainment but, compared to Batman Begins, it is ludicrously superficial and buffoonish.
I’m curious about Nolan’s motivations because he has done such a stellar job with both of his movies. My experience has been that, to do such a good job, requires passion. Does Nolan have a passion for the character of Batman and, if so, why?
What I really enjoyed in The Dark Knight was Nolan’s topical comparisons to Western civilization’s war against fundamentalist Islam. What I wasn’t able to pick up on, was that he apparently did the same with Batman Begins;
Wilson Morales of blackfilm.com: According to the press kit, Gotham City is described in a way that [a] terrorist would described New York. Were you thinking that?
Nolan: Well, in the comic books, Ra’s al Ghul is often described as a terrorist. I would put him down as an extremist. What was important to me in creating an incredible frightening villain is that everything he says is true and at some level reasonable that also makes sense. The extremes to which he is prepared to go; to achieve what he believes is very threatening and very frightening.
Why does Batman Begins introduce “Ra’s al Guhl” and “Scarecrow” as Batman’s enemies instead of the more well-known villains? Because they fit the intelligent, realistic script Nolan worked on with screenwriter David Goyer. I may have liked a little more flair and even outlandishness with how they were portrayed but they were very “real”. Very little “suspension of disbelief” was necessary.
This is in radical contrast to the excellent script writing Tim Burton did in, for instance, Batman Returns (1992), where Michelle Pfeiffer becomes Cat Woman because she fell 50 stories onto pavement but was brought back to life by cats all showing up and licking her blood.
Great stuff. Moron.
Nolan and his producer/wife (convenient, no?) Emma Thomas said that they wanted a score that would be “classy”, “sincere” and “epic”. I think it’s fair to say that the final product, composed by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard was just that.
And then there’s casting.
In Batman Begins, Liam Neeson once again takes up the part of learned, bad-ass mentor, much as he did in the anti-Christian propaganda movie Kingdom of Heaven, and George Lucas’ puke-fest The Phantom Menace.
He is an iconoclastic Ra’s al Guhl (the audience is surprised when it learns the truth of who he is). And a relatively believable martial arts bad-ass, even though I’m sure he hasn’t had any formal training.
And I have to say that I liked his work in Taken. A few rough spots but, overall, a very enjoyable revenge movie.
I follow most of Nolan’s attempt to make Ra’s al Guhl believable-yet-maniacal but when it came time to turn him into a “bad guy” by the simplistic proclamation that “Gotham city’s time has come”, and slaughter of the entire city was the best way to go, it was a little bit of a leap for me.
Certainly there is great merit to the idea that, when a city or country reaches “the pinnacle of its decadence”, something must fall. Even though it was a stretch, it wasn’t a long one.
There are several developmental moments for the Wayne character that are meant to take you through how he walks the balance between sickening goody-two-shoes and The Punisher.
Much to my disappointment, he leans heavily towards goody-two-shoes, refusing to execute a murderer that Ra’s places before him in his training. Good ole’ Frank Castle wouldn’t have thought twice!
And what was with the Himalayan ninjas?! Chris! Brother! Ninjas are Japanese.
Oh well. Had to stretch reality somewhere, I guess. Certainly, if you had to categorize the caped crusader’s ass-kicking ability you’d say it was at the “ninja” level and at least we have some believable route to how he got there.
Michael Caine as the endearing servant “Alfred” was a little odd for me at first. Obviously Nolan wanted to go heavy for that role, and not just make Alfred a quaint side-show. But my first thought was that he went a little too heavy. A cockney accent does not a butler make.
But Caine did grow on me and he actually owns my favorite scene in both movies and, for that matter, one of my all-time top 10 favorite scenes of all time.
As I noted before, the comparisons to today’s fight against Islamo-facism were much more clear to me in The Dark Knight.
Nowhere was this more poignant than in a mid-film discourse regarding who the new nemesis was (“the Joker”) and why he wasn’t fitting any known criminal patterns—
Wayne: “Criminals aren’t complicated, Alfred. We just need to figure out what he’s after.”
Alfred: “With respect, master Wayne, perhaps this is a man you don’t fully understand, either.
A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government and they were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in 6 months, we never met anyone who traded with him.
One day, I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.”
Wayne: “So why steal them?”
Alfred: “Well because he thought it would be good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with.”
*whispering close to Wayne*
“Some men, just want to watch the world burn.”
I’ve watched it at least 25 times, I’ve recorded the sound clip from it and listened to it a hundred times. And almost without fail, every time I watch or listen, the hair stands up on my arms and neck.
—Because I don’t see or think of a fictional character when I listen to Caine’s flawless delivery.
I see something else…
Gary Oldman as “Jim Gordon” was another surprise but he, too, has grown on me through the 2 movies.
The first downer was Katie Holmes as “Rachel Dawes”. Holy crap was she annoying! Too young, and too pop-ish pretty, her frequent, righteously indignant diatribes made me contort in writhing knots of pop nausea.
You see, young, comely people don’t know the first thing about “justice”, “revenge” or “harmony”.
Ew! A little hippie mantra there, Chris? Have you been hanging around George Lucas? Well, I’ll forgive a minor slip-up.
Maggie Gyllenhaal was much more palatable as Dawes. I’m told by my pop culture advisor (my lovely wife) that Gyllenhaal is also a pop queen but I’ve neither heard of her nor seen her before and, to me, she looks much more like a regular woman than Holmes does and I like that for the role.
Morgan Freeman has got to be one of the most over-used actor in Hollywood. Good grief I think that guy is in every other movie. Hollyweird loves him.
However, as “Luscious Fox”—Wayne’s techno-godfather—Freeman is mostly enjoyable.
Unfortunately, he had an annoying moment, too.
During The Dark Knight, the Batman took an R&D gadget (a “sonar cell phone”) and brought it to the next level by making the cell phone of everyone in Gotham City a listening device for him. When he brought Freeman’s character “Fox” in to help him operate the command center, Fox told him the many displays were “beautiful…dangerous…unethical” and then he said that, as long as that device existed he would not work for Bruce Wayne.
The purpose of the command center was to find and stop the next Joker plot because his arch nemesis had taken his hijinks to the next level of mass slaughter and Batman couldn’t wait to be reactionary.
The parallels to the “War on Terror” are just short of hit-you-in-the-face.
And I must say, given the outrageous Left-wing slant of anything that comes out of Hollyweird, this was surprisingly gentle, perhaps even a little approving.
Of course we couldn’t go all the way. We had to have “Luscious” get righteously indignant and get immediately placated by Batman with how the faithful, trustworthy Fox would be the only one able to utilize the surveillance and, the moment the danger was passed, the righteous Luscious could 86 the whole thing.
Because, Heaven knows, Batman would only face this level of threat once in his lifetime.
Even in the dramatized parallel, we see the inconsistent illogic of this dilemma.
On the one hand, it is a bit disconcerting to think of any power, governmental or superhero, that can so easily look in on your most intimate moments, conversations, etc.
But, on the other hand, the vast majority of the whining about such Bush Islamo-facist fighting measures as “The Patriot Act” have overwhelmingly come from the Left. And, if you specify “the immoral Left”, that would include all of the “libertarians” who sit in the middle and agree with the Right on government abuse but tacitly agree with the Left on immorality by saying “What I do on my own is none of your concern.”
Such people, being moral reprobates, carry the quiet guilt of their secret (or not-so-secret) behaviors. And the thought of an outside source looking in on them bothers them very deeply.
But, if you have peace of mind and heart that your “sins” don’t include treason, or radical hedonism, then “Big Brother” doesn’t scare you all that much.
Ultimately, the common sense world view (the Judeo-Christian world view) that says, “man is basically evil”, makes it a mute point just as quickly as it destroys the idea that “gun control” will affect crime.
You see, technology is merely an extension of the human heart. And the human heart is mankind’s problem. Indulge me if you are neither Christian nor Jew whilst I prove my point;
9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?”
New American Standard Update
16 Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also?
17 Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated?
18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man.
19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.
20 These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
You can’t stop technology any more than you can perfectly hold water in your cupped hands. It’s going to get out. As long as people are evil and self-centered, they will look for an advantage of power over their neighbors.
So those that disarm themselves or force others to get disarmed are only making easier victims of them.
But back to the movie.
I thought it was really cool how Nolan did a little homáge to the white eyes of the comic Batman by turning them into lenses for his “sonar”.
What a great lesson in how love for the original product and intelligent creativity can make the most outlandish believable and bring them to life!
And then we have Heath Ledger.
Previous to this, my only knowledge of who Ledger was, was through snippets of obnoxious pop culture blather. And that he was one of the two cowboy homosexuals in the wonderfully “senthetive” Brokeback Mountain. More than enough reason for me to keep clear of him.
And then, to my shock, I found him redefining Batman’s arch-enemy.
Between Nolan’s genius and Ledger’s acting, the Joker has forever been undone.
In fact, I can’t help but think that there were spiritual forces behind Ledger’s freak death in January of 2008. There can be no doubt that Ledger got the homicidal darkness of his character very right. It is satanic evil. The same evil that motivates Islamo-facists.
Nolan knows this. And he wanted his audience to know this—
It was with breathless relief that the morons in the news media told us, “Nope. You all thought he was another depraved coke addict, but it was just a prescription accident.”
Toxicology tests have now confirmed the cause of Heath Ledger’s death. He was killed by a deadly combination of FDA-approved medications prescribed to him by his doctors. The drugs found in Ledger’s system were OxyContin (a painkiller), Valium, Xanax (an antidepressant), Restoril, Unisom and Vicodin. This toxicology report ends any speculation that Ledger might have been killed by taking recreational drugs. The cause of death is now clearly FDA-approved pharmaceuticals. ~ Heath Ledger Cause of Death Confirmed: Prescription Drug Toxicity, Mike Adams, 06 February, 2008, NaturalNews.com
Why in hell was he combining multiple forms of “uppers”?
Why in hell, indeed.
My theory is that he got too close to the truth of what really motivates evil. He uncovered the reality of a hidden nemesis. And having no spiritual armor, he was easy prey for satanic entrapment.
A truly tragic story to the bitter end.
How you wrap a story up can be the difference between an audience walking out going “wow…” and saying to their friend or spouse, “They’ve got to do a sequel!” and “are you kidding me?!”
Both of Nolan’s Batman movies ended with “wow…”
In the case of Batman Begins, Gary Oldman’s “Lieutenant Gordon” takes a cue from how Batman tied a mob boss to a spotlight and brings the caped crusader to his rooftop with the archetypical Batman beacon. Gordon then tells the Dark Knight that he really shook up the crime world, but that there’s still much more to be done.
Gordon: “Take this guy. Armed robbery, double homicide. Got a taste for the theatrical, like you. Leaves a calling card.” *shows the Batman a Joker from a deck of cards*
Batman: *solemnly* “I’ll look into it.”
Gordon’s smile becomes serious as he stops the Dark Knight from walking away completely: “I never said ‘thank you’.”
Batman turns back and pauses before saying: “And you’ll never have to.” Then jumps off the rooftop.
Great stuff!! Scenes like that make actors like Oldman well worth the acquisition.
But, in the Dark Knight, the Joker seems to be our hero’s match. To the point of killing off poor Rachel and turning Batman’s hopes of retirement through the hard work of prosecutor Harvey Dent into ashes.
In devastated depression, Wayne turns to his mentor Alfred and asks—
Wayne: “That bandit. In the forest in Burma.”
Wayne: “Did you catch him?”
Alfred: *pausing* “We burned the forest down.”
Awesome! Most definitely not something you’d hear from the current American president. Or, for that matter, anyone in his administration.
And if the metaphor isn’t clear enough, Nolan ends the movie by turning our hero into a hated and hunted enemy. The Dark Knight colludes with now Commissioner Gordon to keep alive the myth of Harvey Dent as a hero to the public, and not the psychotic murderer that the loss of Rachel—his love interest as well—had turned him into.
Much the same way that members of our intelligence community and, yes, despite all of his faults, even George W. Bush, were/are maligned falsely as they soldier on keeping us safe…trying to hold together the “myth” of what makes America the greatest country in the world. Perhaps it is a myth that we are a melting pot. Perhaps it is a myth that we are the most moral country to ever be a super-power. But they are “myths” that we must believe in if we are to survive as a nation.
And not be dashed into balkanized eddies of depraved self-interest.
 Director Christopher Nolan Talks About “Batman Begins”, Rebecca Murray, About.com
 “puke fest” because there was a lot of good material there that was pissed away with outrageous amounts of money and effort put into a race of floppy-eared Reggae things and automated dog robots. Oooo…ssscccaaarrreeeyyy. Arrogant ASS.