Tag Archives: awesomeness that is Christopher Nolan

Ambiguously Bad Things Happen to Superman: My Take on Both #MOS trailers

Superman: The Animated Series

Superman: The Animated Series (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.”

As much as I love DC Comics, there is probably one character I have learned I have a problem with. Superman/Clark Kent. This is coming from a guy (me) growing up, (without any knowledge of what a good movie was) who liked the Superman movies starring Christopher Reeve, whose family watched Superman: The New Adventures of Lois And Clark every Sunday in the 90s, watched the ugly little brother of Batman: The Animated SeriesSuperman: The Animated Series,  had an on-again, off-again, on-again relationship  with the CW’s Smallville, and somehow, I just have lost my taste for him for now. I think the problem lies in the underlying science fiction trope behind the Superman mythology.   In the old days of science fiction, when there was actually good writing and theory behind it 😉 , one myth set forth was the Enlightenment story of human progress, that humanity would progress through the sciences, for example. Ignored in this narrative is the story of struggles and conflict, as well as a critical take on technological advancements.  In short, I think Superman has too cheery of a view of the future, almost utopian in its ideals embodied in the stories of the Legion Of Superheroes.

It seems to me, ever since the greatness of Batman Begins, every comic book hero who has had a movie the past decade gets the “Batman Begins” treatment: The X-Men, Spiderman, and with the failure of Superman Returns and both Fantastic Four movies, the reboots will probably be the same. I could care less about the latter, but Superman’s reboot/Batman Begins treatment is the Man Of Steel, an introduction of sorts into the Justice League movie universe for 2015. I don’t know how I am supposed to take MOS seriously with Zak Snyder, director of SuckerPunch as well as the watered-down movie version of The Watchmen, oh, and that whole problematic orientalist 300 movie. I am not as excited about MOS as I am Iron Man 3 for some reason; I admit it, I’m a sadist, and I want Tony Stark to be brought down to earth.

From the teaser trailer and the movie trailer, Man Of Steel reads like a Christopher Nolan production (The Dark Knight/Inception/The Prestige). I’m rather surprised Michael Caine wasn’t cast in a starring role. The teaser has the message of progress I have that small disagreement with. At the same time, it feels sorta Batman-Begins gloomly, instead of climbing the cold mountains in a Pacific Asian country as Bruce Wayne does, it seems like Clark Kent is off shore somewhere fishing, depressed white males seeking their life’s mission through moments of solitude. I always saw Spider-man of Marvel, and Batman of DC as the tortured souls for those who love realism in the comic book world, while Superman was more of a source for escapism and science fiction loving types.

 

The latest trailer gave me much more to hope for this film, particularly the last 50 seconds which feature the antagonists (Zod and friends), Lois Lane, as well as confrontations with the military.

It’s just going to be difficult for me to see Supes as a suffering servant/scapegoat character, maybe Nolan/Snyder’s interpretation can change my mind?

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#TheFireRises: Batman Begins And Religion

RESTORING A TEMPLE BRICK BY BRICK

Batman Begins

In 2005, Christopher Nolan introduced us to his version of Batman in Batman Begins. I was among the cynics who had been burned by the last 2 Burtonverse Batman movies. What could Nolan have to offer that was any different? Fortunately, a close friend of mind corrected me of my leery ways, and after first viewing Batman Begins six years ago, my world has not been the same. Nolan’s realism as well as his addressing the moral relevant questions of justice versus revenge during the early years of the War On Terror struck a cord with me.

Fire operates as a religious metaphor in my interpretation of Nolan’s Batman Trilogy. The meaning of fire changes with each piece of art that Nolan produced. In Batman Begins, fire represents the human capacity to create and to destroy. Like the mythological Promotheus who brought down fire from the Greek gods, so does fire remain a symbol of human creativity in Nolan’s first installment of his trilogy.

We are first introduced to Bruce Wayne as a prisoner, who engages in fights with the criminal underworld. Bruce has been “arrested” for stealing Wayne Industries’ technology. Bruce has found a way to cope with his anger by creating a new self while in chains. One of the first (but very brief) pieces of dialogue we get from Wayne is his encounter with a thug larger than him, who wants to play the bully. “You are in hell, little man, and I am the devil.”-the criminal informs him. “You’re not the devil. You’re practice.”-Bruce Wayne

Bruce is trying to re-create himself from being a hot-headed rich Ivy-League boy (he drops out of Princeton) to a fighter for justice, as well as understand the criminal element that took the lives of his parents. Bruce goes on to meet a Henri DuCard, who invites Wayne on a spiritual journey, to a monastic-like lifestyle of practicing the martial arts as a way to bring about “true justice.” Bruce accepts this invitation, because like Ducard, he has a “hatred of evil.” Evil in the context of Batman Begins is the political corruption and greed that oppresses Gotham. The League of Shadows is a group with a “devotion to an ideal” so that in the end, they can become “Legend, Mr. Wayne.”

Not everything is what it seems, though, as Bruce finds out. The League of Shadows executes a man simply because he stole food to provide for his family. The League is a group of cold-blooded assassins, with no time for mercy. Bruce realizes what he has gotten into, and just as the journey that he takes to reach the mountain top, he overcomes his naivete and the League of Shadows, burning their headquarters to the ground, but sparing his mentor Ducard.

Chronologically speaking in the story world of Batman Begins, that first fire that appears is that of a homeless man trying to keep himself warm. Bruce’s first act of mercy after he sees the error of his ways (the desire for revenge on Chill for killing Thomas and Martha Wayne) is to give all the money he has on him, as well as his jacket to the homeless man in exchange for the unnamed homeless man’s trenchcoat. Bruce Wayne makes a vow of poverty like the monks of old, to experience what the exiles of Gotham’s bottom rung feel. In one scene, he shares food he had just stolen with a young boy who was also starving.

Turning fear who prey on the fearful was the goal of the League of Shadows. However, exactly who’s fear are we talking about? Ducard, who we discover to be later, Ra’s Al Ghoul, wants to prey on the fears of Gotham’s ELITE classes. The League of Shadows terrorizes and targets those on the upper echelon of Gotham’s classes. It is not the fear of the poor to be manipulated, for they do not have the power and influence that the League seeks to possess.

Meanwhile back in Gotham, Stephen Crane/Scarecrow, one of many secret agents inside Gotham’s political class, is executing the League plan to incite fear into the heart of Gotham through the use of chemical warfare. Crane, responsible for the 3rd fire in Batman Begins, is burning evidence to keep the Gotham City Police as well as the new vigilante Batman from uncovering their scheme. “Torch the whole place” says Crane, since fire is an element to be controlled, for destruction or creation in BB.

The fourth fire that we see as an audience is the burning of Wayne manor. Now, earlier in the movie, Bruce referred to Wayne Manor as a mausoleum that ought to have been torn down brick by brick. This statement is one of high class privilege, anger, because destruction is Bruce’s aim. Would the homeless man wanted to have seen Wayne manor destroyed by its owner, or would the impoverish, the orphans of Gotham need a place to sleep at night?

As Ra’s Al Ghoul is leaving Bruce Wayne’s birthday party back at Wayne Manor, as the mansion is being burned to the ground, he leaves Wayne with these words, “When a forest grows too wild, a purging fire is inevitable and natural.” […] “Justice is balance. You burned my house and left me for dead. Consider us even.”

Fire is a force of nature that is naturally brought forth, and a forest that gets too big, in Al Ghoul’s mind, is gonna destroy itself. This tells us about the mission of the League of Shadows more than about Henri Ducard. Ducard sees vengeance and violent evils as necessary ways of controlling humanity. “It’s the will to act, not anger that changes things,”-Ras claims, but according to Ras’ own theory, he has no choice but to act. The decision is not his, it is human nature that has decided for him that Gotham must burn.

Bruce Wayne/Batman wisely sees through Ra’s Al Ghoul’s hypocrisy, however. Ra’s and the League of Shadows are the ones who have made the decision to invade Gotham, not the people. Ducard/Al Ghoul is blaming the victim because he only knows how to go into the spaces where the well-to-do reside. Like many politicians during the War on Terror, Ducard plans to profit from the fears of those at the top. “You must bask in the fear of other men. And men fear most what they cannot see.”-Ra’s Al Ghoul.

Batman may be a vigilante (an unofficial enforcer of the law at this point), but because of his cooperation in the mission of the Gotham City Police, Ra’s recognizes Batman as a police power.”It ends here.”-Batman “For you AND the police.”Ras promises. But in the end, it’s the members of the League of Shadows who meet their demise.

In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne refuses to play by the rules set forth by both the Gotham wealthy (sit back and do nothing about the poor) as well as the League of Shadows (execute lethal violence against enemies, make yourself judge, jury, and executioner). Batman, by turning in Falcone to the police, working with Commissioner Gordon, and his rejection of gun violence, is taking action on different terms than what society expects. In Batman Begins at least, the Batman refuses to give in to the politics of falsehoods, and rather chooses creativity (the fire), and just as Wayne refocuses his anger towards assertive action, restorative justice, and compassion. What Christians, and really people of all religions could learn from Batman Begins, is that the best way to view human wickedness is as something that is unnecessary (ala contra Henri Ducard), as something that is the result of human choices, and as something that is best overcome through acts of mercy and nonviolent political action.

For our discussion of The Dark Knight in the next post of this series, I will refer back to Batman Begins.

What other religious themes are there potentially in Batman Begins?

 

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More Reasons To Love Christopher Nolan!

When I first saw this news on Twitter, I was jumping up and down like a kindergarterner. Joy and Adulation. They finally released the names of the villains for the Dark Knight Rising film: Catwoman & Bane.

TOM HARDY WILL PLAY BANE

ANNE HATHAWAY WILL PLAY SELINA KYLE/CATWOMAN

Here is the official story from the New York Times.

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