Monday, July 21, 2008

BATMAN: A DICUSSION OF MORALS

Andrew and I have had a conversation.
I think it is valuable enough to be put here. I need to put it here, I don't want it getting suppressed in the back of my email box. It is spoileriffic. DOn't go into it if you haven't seen the movie. As a matter of fact, I am not asking you to read it. I just have to get it out of my currently compacted email box.

Andrew:
Now that I've seen it again, I know the climax was magnificent.Dent is an embodiment of Gotham city, and through him the Joker predicts what will happen. Joker's speech leading into Dent's final scene is truly frightening. Dent is us, and the Joker is "uncontrollable forces" driving us over the edge, while Batman is like our Conscience keeping us from going over the edge, have to find that balance between control and chaos. And now can our conscience keep us from falling over the edge.

Also I can only compare this movie to something like it, on it's intellectual level. Perhaps Godfather, Heat(when I re-watch it), M, Departed, Bladerunner(what rules are ok to break), other crime movies, Law and Order, Psycho.Forget Spiderman or the old Batmans, they aren't on the same level, but you'll just have to take my word for it until you see it again.

Peter:
BATMAN, TDK is one of the bleakest films I have seen in my adult life.The climax just about made me break down and cry. It is too intense and too chock full of truth. The fact that Batman willingly takes the sins of Harvey Dent in order to reward Gotham was almost more than I could handle. Batman becomes the Christ/sacrificial lamb. In his innocence (of those crimes) he delivers all of Gotham into a realm of religious faith and hope (that is much less than accurate).

"Sometimes faith needs to be rewarded."

Batman is willing to become an outlaw so that Gotham might be able to rebuild itself in its inner-consciousness. My issue is this: Gotham has no hope. If Harvey Dent was the best that morality had to offer and he failed in a hubristic mental trap set by the Joker, then all is just about lost. The morals of the people were tested with the bombs on the opposing ferries, but that doesn't show that there is leadership capable of morally guiding such a corrupt city.
"Can I trust him?"

In Gotham, no one is trustworthy. No one is above suspicion. Lies and deceit pave the way up to the DAs office. Gordon faking his death and putting his wife and kids through that show that everything is on its ear and deception is the only way to get a hell-bound city into a livable condition.

"I'm playing this one close to the chest."

In Gotham, you have to keep all of your (assumed) goodness and altruism deep inside of you and cannot reveal it to anyone else. If you do reveal it, it will be exploited and used against you. What kind of world is that? A very bleak world at best.People will say, "Batman is capable of guiding the city." I contest with the fact that Batman was willing to make his Patriot Act cellphone tap and give all of the power to one man to run it. This was the most hubristic act in the entire film. It is obvious that it is complete hubris because it is based on our current political climate here in America. That was no mistake that it was written in that way. Sure, Morgan Freeman didn't go out like Cesar did (as was referenced earlier in the film) but that doesn't mean that he wouldn't have later if more power were bestowed upon him. Power corrupts. Too much power brings too much corruption. Morgan Freeman was put in a position of too much power. Fortunately for Gotham, Bruce understood what Freeman was about...wheras he had no idea what The Joker was about (and neither did anyone else) but it did make a butt-load of sense.

My point is that I have no point. Mankind is corrupt. Hope is in place only when the powers that be will it to be in place is the message that I got out of TDK. This is a horrible place to be in if what was posited was even remotely close to the truth.

Andrew:
Man oh man, I had to really think this reply through before I could even start to write it.

This movie is about survival of the population of Gotham, and might as well be 'people' in 'civilization'. Will civilization stand or will all out survival kick in? Putting it into a Nash equilibrium style game, what is the best beneficially mutual choice? Obviously according to the rules, the best choice for one person at a time is to choose survival, even if it means killing other people. However, people need to see beyond their limits and try to trust that there are decent people. Played thousands of times in Gotham, sometimes between two people, sometimes with hundreds of people, sometimes with an entire city against itself, what choices will these people make? Will they see the there is another way to survive? Will they believe in each other and cling to hope from Batman in a hopeless situation?

Those people on the boat resigned themselves to death, but it can be argued this is not the right choice, as they heard the Joker assure with absolute truth he will kill everyone if both are still around. Within the rules, the Nash equilibrium breaks down into one answer, one boat must live, one boat must die, however if they don't let the joker place his rules on them, if they don't let themselves become corrupted, perhaps there is another answer, a hope for survival despite having given into death. A very Buddhist idea.And cutting in for a moment, the role play actors really did a wonderful job for every part, no matter how minor. The attention to detail is incredible, credit to the Nolans and their staff.

Love is harmony in discord. When love is removed, chaos is all that is left. But if there is other love, then perhaps healing can occur. What happens when trust is placed in love despite the incredibly horrible world around it and then suddenly love is removed. Does it only leave the dark world, a reflection of everything in their heart? Should a man even believe in the healing power of laughter anymore? Or should he mock laughter and twist himself until his grin is so terrifying he can remove hope just with a glance?

They continue right off the first movie, 'you find yourself wishing you'd never known this person, so you'd be spared your pain.' Harvey certainly is a new spin on this incredible idea of the horrific nature of humans, with batman stimulating him to be good, and the joker forcing him to be evil.I'll stop there for now, this is hard stuff to mull over. It may be, as you say, the bleakest reflection of our species in a movie so far.

Peter:
Indeed, Gotham is a metaphor for greater humanity. And the ferryboat sequence is truly an intricate puzzle. The people had to put their faith in all sorts of directions at once and make sure that they adhered to it. The prisoners had to hope that the common man wouldn't blow them away as the common man had to hope that the prisoners still had a shred of conscience. Underlying all of this had to be the faith that the powers that be that watch over them would stop the joker from pushing his button. This whole paradigm is what makes TDK entertainment because it is impossible. This is not the result that would have been achieved in a true social setting. Of course, it is subjective, but it is what I think. I also think that the Nolans realized how dark they were being with this script and had to throw the audience a bone. And then they had to sort of pull it back by doing the whole "sometimes faith must be rewarded" move.

In essence I am echoing what you have said. The people, it can be argued, did not make the right choice.You say a possible other hope which is the hope for survival after having given into death. This is interesting, because it teeters upon the very brink of sanity that the Joker himself has fallen over.

You said:What happens when trust is placed in love despite the incredibly horrible world around it and then suddenly love is removed. Does it only leave the dark world, a reflection of everything in their heart? Should a man even believe in the healing power of laughter anymore?

My response to this: If one has loved in this life, then one knows that it is all about trust in a horrible place. One also knows that as they get closer and closer to the core of the one that they love, the more horrible the world will seem if it is to be taken away or betrayed in some way. And yes, a world without love is dark and a reflection of a blackened heart. Furthermore, the blackening is solidified because to achieve such a trust and love again will take that much more work.

The underlying truth here is a Christian one. It is that God is love, and without God, it is complete chaos. I believe that the Nolans were aware of this factor (how could they not) and that was why the Christ allusion to Batman is placed over him with such incredible precision.The story of Batman is not original, it is the same passion play we have heard our entire lives. The beauty of it is that they were able to take a creature completely corrupt (Bruce Wayne) and assign Christ-like responsibilities to him while allowing him to maintain his corruption. Batman is a psychopath. He beats people within an inch of their lives for the greater good. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one Italian mobster dropped from the second story. Batman is aware of this. In essence, Batman is a compromised God. A bad-God concept. He metes out old-school/Testament justice and makes arbitrary decisions for all of mankind...out of what? Some money based decisions, it seems. He has the cash to do it. Yes, he has a love for Gotham, but he is driven by forces that I personally believe aren't entirely altruistic. The entire movie is a forcing of his hand. He doesn't want to go down this road, but he is pried out of his place by protecting the one(s) he thinks he loves.

I suppose that what the Nolans have brought us is an acceptable fairy tale where we can look at one who is completely corrupt and find a shred of decency in that person. The only way we can accept that decency is to see him give of himself. Hence, Bruce Wayne/Batman taking on Harvey's sins of murder. But yes, this is a bleak view of humanity. It is bleak and hopeless, because we as a society aren't embracing any Christ figure. There is none. We need a sacrificial lamb yesterday. We need someone to blame. I have more, but I have to get back to work.

Andrew:
ps I lol at people on imdb or RT who are all fanboy on this movie.'Omg 9.7/10 higher than godfather'If you look Wall-E is still higher than Doctor Strangelove and 2001. How's that for a reality check on short term ratings?Just give it a year, Dark Knight will drop off sooner or later, although I do honestly hope it stays on their top 100 list or however long it is.

Peter:
It is a good film. There is no denying it. It is just that we as a culture are so conditioned to mediocrity. We are so used to swallowing shit and trying to find out what was good about it, that when we are presented with a superhero movie that isn't the Fantastic Four, we gush uncontrollably. It will fall off, as Batman Begins did.

Andrew:
Oh here's a quick one,Dent dies at the end. That means Batman killed him. Hmmm. As dent watches his coin flip up into the air, carrying the judgement of whether Gordon's son lives or dies, Batman jumps him and they all fall over the edge. Batman hangs on to the son, Dent falls to his death, and batman just falls

Peter:
Hmmm.Batman has his "indifferent kills" Like in the first one, where he doesn't save Qui-Gon. So long as he isn't there squeezing the life out of the victim; I guess in his psychopathic head, he catches a pass.

Andrew:
He had to let Qui-Gon die so he could join the force.And that's the moral boundary that batman has crossed. His solution is to let people die 'because of their own fault', if he's not good enough to capture them.I mean in real time you just want to save your own skin and the lives of innocent people. But what if he's your friend, someone you trust, such as Harvey Dent or Ra-zzzz, doesn't he feel bad? They haven't covered this at all.And if he doesn't really feel bad, holy shit he's crossed outside of the displayed sanity of the people of Gotham. He could share a cell with the joker :0.

I'm not giving up on the Riddler just yet."That makes him the ultimate narcissist. His brain doesn't comprehend the fact that he could be caught, because everyone else is an worthless insect. Take the indignant and prideful version of The Riddler and give him a dark and violent treatment and you could make some scary ass shit."I got an idea from this.The Riddler really believes he can control anyone. Make him out to be a Cult leader. 'Converting' people by warping their minds. He could even convert someone who knows the true identity of Batman, such as Wayne's big shot accountant joker targets in the dark knight. Maybe even Lucius or Alfred.This would play into his favor. Since Batman is now a believed murderer, he can toy with Gotham by offering it the true identity of Batman as bait.All the while the Gordon isn't buying into it. Trying to find out where are the Riddler's cult member's 'disappearing' to. Why are there so many suicides suddenly? Why are known normal functional members of society suddenly becomes criminals, murderers? Why is the Riddler's new 'church' so popular?The whole religious fanaticism can play well into our modern society. A lot of people really are scared of 'radical Islamics', when in fact it's just a small fraction of the Islamic population, and many Islams believe these radicals' methods are wrong.

Andrew finished off by putting this on my Facebook wall. He obviously had the upper hand in this conversation:

"Try to think of how often Batman and Joker mirrored the same actions, particularly in their pursuit of Harvey Dent. So far I caught:At the fundraiser party Bruce asks where Harvey Dent is, he spills champagne out of his glass. At the fundraiser party Joker asks where Harvey Dent is, he spills champagne out of his glass. Batman visits the hospital, hands Dent his coin. Joker visits the hospital, hands Dent a gun. It's a nice touch that in their pursuit of exploiting Dent for their personal interests, Dent ended up looking like what Batman and Joker wanted out of him (a lawful replacement for Batman/the incorruptible pushed to corruption), except split right down the middle. It's like two jealous girls tugging at some guy's arms."



Wow. If a movie came out every summer that moved me like TDK did, I think that the world would be a better place.