Tuesday, August 12, 2008

De-Bat-ed

The Batman is an all-time favourite Superhero. Mind you, he is not a Hero, but a Superhero. Although he has no super-power, being a mere mortal, yet Batman lore has always presented him as extra-human. This is so because his strength, perseverance, apparent oblivion to physical pain and his abilities spring from a scarred psyche, a scar in his mind so deep that does make him a psychopath, a maniac. He is not to be loved, but to be feared. Apart from his abnormal sense of justice – again manically enhanced – there is nothing to stop him from doing bad. He is a terror to criminals because he is more terrible, because he is unpredictable, because he relies on rumors and darkness. Through his psychosis he has cultivated an aura, a mystique which covers him, turns him into a shadow. He is not a man, he is the Batman. And when he appears, he makes things right, or he does not stop.


Bruce Wayne is the mask he wears. Repeatedly in graphic representations it has been shown that Alfred had had to teach him how to be normal. He has not succeeded. Bruce Wayne is abnormal. It is an act put up by the Batman. He does not call himself Bruce, he called himself Batman. That is all. This is a mind you should not disturb, it is already disturbed.

Neither the awesome, at the same time awful, nor the mysterious bit did I find in the latest movie. It is true that the Batman cannot do everything alone. He needs help. Alfred also cannot do everything alone. Expecting that would be idiotic. But even after all the help, in urban folk, the Batman remains the Batman. In this movie, sadly, he is no more than the people who pretended to be the Batman. He is just an ill-tempered, impatient but honest do-gooder who can only use brute force. The Joker-beating scene is fit for a mafia movie, not a Superhero one. It brings the Batman down to such mundane levels. The psychological edge, the fear, the intelligence are entirely missing. Nobody really is bothered about him – though we are told repeatedly that crime has become less in Gotham. Joker’s henchmen are unafraid; Moroni and his moronic mob remain unaffected. If the Batman is just a name to scare pick-pockets and muggers, then I think it is a sad state of affairs.
Joker, on the other hand, is everything one may expect. He is the epitome of what we are afraid of. Evil is too clich├ęd a term. He is unpredictable, he is homicidal, and he is sharper than a chainsaw. Against him this Batman is nothing. When against him you can take away the Bat part from our hero at any point of time. He can play the Batman like a homeless guy’s guitar. Heath Ledger, all my salutations. I am a great fan of Mr. Nicholson. He was scary. But so was the Bat. Here, you take the cake away. And regrettably, the Bat can but help. The White Knight of Gotham is also passable. He is not wimpy, he is not unwilling to look the other way for the greater cause, and he is the great American hero of now. He is also vain. He is also in love. Comic-book legend tells us that he could not tolerate his defacement, his defeat, and like the Batman became an extreme. Unlike the Batman, he became injustice. Here too he becomes that. He is a monster with a perverted sense of justice – a justice left to a coin. And as long he is human, not a super-villain, he is good. The moment he has the CGI-face, you feel the strain. Talk to the face – that becomes his attitude.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe it’s a wonderful film. Mr. Nolan had commented somewhere that he was inspired by ‘Heat’. I respect that. It was a gritty, very human, very hard-hitting film, as is Nolan’s. But – strictly my opinion of course – that’s exactly where the film fails. It’s a cop-versus mob film, and everything that you expect and do not expect happens. It’s a film where the mob is using the ultra-villain, a trump card they themselves cannot control. The Joker who does not bother blowing up hospitals, who tells different stories of how his face became thus, is an extension of the already hyper-villain terrorists we see everyday. But the hyper-hero, let alone the Superhero, is nowhere to be found. This Batman is extremely inadequate. Perhaps this is what Mr. Nolan wanted to represent. That such mystique, such illusions are no longer valid. But I object. The entire idea about the Batman is that he is a symbol, a symbol against all the evil, all the corrupt, and all the terrible that there is. He is not simply a fall-guy, a Christ-like taker of sin in a black suit. The Batman is the inspiration we all need to go on. In the present world that inspiration is more than necessary – it’s almost the lifeline with people being killed without rhyme or reason Right and Left. If Joel Schumacher lost it because he thought the Batman has been taking himself too seriously, because he wanted to give the guy a break, then Mr. Nolan should also think again. In all his sincerity is he killing the superhero and creating just a hero out of him? I am not asking for the Justice League, but I still want to believe that some of us can be more than human; some of us can be Super.

Michael Keaton was the best Bruce Wayne ever. I am sorry, but I feel that Christian Bale was a better Bat in ‘Batman Begins’. In this one, towering presences like Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Michael Caine has overshadowed the Bat. The Batman is respected, trusted and distrusted, but always kept at a distance by all others – he cannot be a pretty regular guy who tries. The feeling in this film was that just anybody with enough guts, goodwill and enough money could have been in that suit. It is not the suit that makes the Batman, the Batman is always, and that is why he is what he is. That is why he was not what he should have been in ‘The Dark Knight’.

1 comment:

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Sorry, I'm simply constitutionally unable to become batty about batman, or any other man wearing his underwear upfront....maybe it's a gender or generation thing, I don't know. But I enjoyed your dissection, of ripping the underwear apart (metaphorically, of course) to expose the....er, well, let's change the topic!

 
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