Sunday, June 19, 2005

Batman Begins and The Hegelian Dialectic

Bruce Wayne's inability to resist the forces surrounding him, driving him inevitably to don the mantle of the Dark Knight is expounded skilfully in the new film "Batman Begins". The film is an exposition of the Hegelian Dialectic, which frames social growth as a progression in which each successive movement or action emerges as a solution to the contradictions of the previous movement, before itself falling prey to it's own contradictions. In short, this can be termed "action-reaction-solution".

The League Of Shadows appear as masterful manipulators of world events, as well as human lives. Although some of their claims are a little hard to stomach, such as the masterminding of the fictitious Depression (out of place in the timeline of our universe), let us assume that these are valid in the fictiverse where they are set. Thus, the timeline of the film has them create an economic depression with the objective of social upheaval, and an overall cleansing of society, and then when the society they are trying to 'fix' reforms itself, as an indirect result of the charitable acts of Bruce Wayne's father, the League retreats to plot physical destruction of Gotham, hoping thereby to build anew.

They train Bruce Wayne with the hope of molding him to their interests. His basic ethos is too strong, however, to submit - primarily as a result of the nurture provided by his substitute father, Alfred. He is influenced to the extent of being able to control his deepest fears, and resolves to make a difference to society.

Bruce is caught up in two currents, one intensely personal, and another affecting Gotham. His need to prove himself to the memory of his father, and show, through his actions, that his father was not a coward in failing to protect the family, are contrasted with his desire to cleanse society of it's evils and excesses. The two streams intertwine, until he learns in the end that his father's courage was in standing up against the darkness, and helping others stand fast.

The film itself is predictable in its story arc - the bad guys are foiled, he embraces his destiny, and becomes the defender of Gotham. Yet within this simplistic tale lies great depth, and insightful social commentary. Bruce Wayne questions the historical materialism that drives his fellow oligarchs, and through his actions proves himself better than them. This is a tale too, of the inability for sons to fathom their fathers' hearts. That is a different dialectic, however, and perhaps not apposite for Father's Day.

Superlative acting by Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine & Liam Neeson complement Christian Bale's alienated Bruce Wayne. The film seems to dovetail into the first Tim Burton Batman, with the threat of the Joker looming over Gotham, and the Batman soaring over the darkened city.

Batman Begins (TM)/Dennis O'Neil Batman Begins/James Newton Howard Batman Batman Returns Phenomenology of Spirit (Galaxy Books)/A.V. Miller Batman Begins Deluxe Batmobile Batman Begins Action Cape Batman Figure The Art of Batman Begins/Mark Cotta Vaz Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon/Will Brooker Batman : No Man's Land (Batman: No Man's Land)/Greg Rucka

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