Rebirth of Reason

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Batman Begins (2005)

Starring: Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine
Director: Christopher Nolan
Sanctions: 57
Sanctions: 57
Sanctions: 57
Sanctions: 57
<B>Batman Begins</b>
Folks, you know this film has a lot going for it on a philosophical level when a leftist Boston reviewer complains that it isn't altruistic and collectivistic enough. Here's what he wrote under the review titled — believe it or not — "Batman Shrugged": 
What if Ayn Rand and Mussolini got together to write a Hollywood movie? The result would look something very like Batman Begins — the new blockbuster prequel to the Batman screen franchise... Now, admittedly, the Batman worldview — be it in comic, graphic novel, or movie form — has never been very progressive... Still this latest Batman film outing leaves much to be desired... The best hero Hollywood seems to be able to propose is a good capitalist... The very idea that crime is often largely a byproduct of economic inequity is literally mocked in the film, when the guy that kills Batman's parents is let off due to a combination of stooling on a mobster cellmate and his defense attorney bringing up his impoverished background. The idea that people organizing collectively can change much more than the crime rate of a given city, but can eliminate much poverty and suffering in entire societies (or even, gosh forbid, in the entire world) is totally absent from Batman Begins, and from the entire Batman universe... What's perhaps most disturbing is that Batman ends up in full-control of a multi-national corporation with a state-of-the-art defense division...rather than pull a Bill Gates and at least devoting lip service and some inoffensive chunk of his fortune to alleviating some poverty and helping some people with AIDS somewhere in the world -- or better yet, giving away his fortune to organizations fighting the corporate behemoth that sits astride this globe... [F]ilmmakers need to think a little more carefully at what kind of action heros [sic] they throw up as models. Because the Batman of Batman Begins is probably not the kind of hero we need in a fin-de-millinneum [sic] world...
Oh yeah?

Folks, now you might understand exactly why I loved this film. In reply to this scum reviewer, let me say this: 

You're absolutely right about one thing, fella — this Batman is the antithesis of your entire sick, parasitical, eat-the-rich, blame-the-victim-not-the-criminal, sacrifice-the-individual-to-the-collective-gang view of human nature and society. In the form of a mythic pop hero, Batman Begins presents a heroic, self-assertive and unapologetic view of human potential, individual self-responsibility and larger-than-life entrepreneurship. Batman is a fantasy archetype of heroic American individualism. So stick it in your ear, pal.

Other reviewers have, for once, left their politics at the door of the screening room and given the film the raves it deserves. Here's what Roger Ebert says:  "This is at last the Batman movie I've been waiting for...more correctly, this is the movie I did not realize I was waiting for, because I didn't realize that more emphasis on story and character and less emphasis on high-tech action was just what was needed. The movie works dramatically in addition to being an entertainment. There's something to it."

And what is that "something"?  Thomas Hibbs of National Review online explains it beautifully in a review under the title, "A Liberal Mugged."  Describing a world gone to corrupt hell, he writes on the transformation of rich heir Bruce Wayne into the crime-fighting icon, Batman:
The generation gap between the Wayne parents and son, Bruce, marks a transition from detached liberal philanthropy to engaged conservative crime fighting. Bruce’s generous parents live at a safe distance from the city in a protected mansion. Bruce converts to conservatism the old-fashioned way — a liberal mugged, not so much by reality, as by, well, a mugger who kills his parents. Delicate, liberal philanthropy collapses in the face of violent evil; Bruce is left with fear and nihilism, the pointlessness of his life. His response is to create a purpose for his life by exploring and striving to overcome his fears...

That Batman-style justice is the best we can do in such a context is made clear in a terrific scene where Batman seizes and interrogates a criminal. To convince Batman that he’s telling him the truth, the criminal screams, "I swear to God." Batman gets right in his face and angrily demands, "Swear to me."
This is pop entertainment that — for once — takes itself completely seriously. There is no cowardly, campy cynicism here, no self-mockery. Director Christopher Nolan approached this project with the innocence and seriousness of a child still enraptured by his hero, and with the guts to remain true to that vision as an adult. A terrific cast, led by the intensely earnest Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Michael Caine as the loyal butler Alfred, with sterling support from the likes of Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Tom Wilkinson and Katie Holmes, attest to the seriousness of purpose.

Like the great Lord of the Rings trilogy, Batman Begins manages the rare feat of being hugely entertaining as a fantasy film because of the total artistic integrity of the filmmakers: their steadfast loyalty to their source material, and their unapologetic childlike innocence in taking the whole thing seriously. In the process, they have resurrected for young people — and the young at heart — a noble and inspiring image of one of the great pop icons of American individualism.
Added by Robert Bidinotto
on 6/25/2005, 9:48am

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