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« on: June 18, 2005, 12:17:46 AM »

The Soul's Midnight Struggle -- Why Batman Begins Works

by Dr. Marc T. Newman
June 17, 2005

(AgapePress) - When my youngest son first viewed Spider-Man, his little wheels began to turn as he made plans to cause the screen fiction to become fact when he "got older." It took a lot of convincing on my part to persuade him that what he sought to do, in his feverish, mad-scientist dreams, he could not. Spider-Man was fun, we both agreed, and he represented many noble qualities: self-sacrifice, courage, perseverance, etc., but I had to help him see that he was also impossible. As boys turn into men, they soon discover that no one is coming from Krypton to save them, people cannot run at near the speed of light, or stretch their arms around a skyscraper, or force-push their enemies using mind power. As much as many of us would like it, people simply are not imbued with super-powers.

That is why I still like Batman -- Batman is possible. Okay, highly unlikely, but still possible.

His latest incarnation, Batman Begins, is perhaps the best to ever hit the screen. The reasons Batman Begins resonates so well with certain audiences are because the film is not afraid to make bold (and biblical) claims about the world, or struggle with the dual natures of his humanity. But perhaps Batman's most potent allure lies in the fact that while he is young, rich, smart, and highly trained -- he is not super-human. Batman is just a man.

(MovieMinistry.com's review continues below)

    Publication of this review does not constitute endorsement of the film. MPAA has given this movie a PG-13 rating for intense action violence, disturbing images and some thematic elements. According to PluggedIn, the film contains just over a dozen profanities, most of which it says are "mild" but three that families may find objectionable (two involving abuse of the Lord's name)

The Biblical World of Batman
No one, perhaps, has said it more effectively than G.K Chesterton: "Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin -- a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or not man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was not doubt at any rate that he wanted washing."

While films like Spider-Man, The Incredibles, and the forthcoming Fantastic Four posit an essentially good world that needs to be saved from an anomalous, encroaching evil, Batman is blunt. The world is not a good place -- it is seething with sin. Even when admitting that there are some people trying to do the right thing, as did Bruce Wayne's philanthropist father, it was twisted by his home town, Gotham City, into evil. Before I am set upon by people who think this view too bleak and pessimistic, it must be noted that this view is no stranger to the Scriptures.

Our world is described in the Bible as "a crooked and perverse generation" where no one "does good" (Phil. 2:15; Rom. 3:12). The people who inhabit it are enslaved to sin (Rom.6:6). Our struggle is described as "not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). But make no mistake -- these are forces that control those they have enslaved.

Gotham City is sin writ large. The niceties of "civilization" have been stripped away and what viewers see is raw motive. Like Abraham contending with God over Sodom, we are seeking at least some righteous to warrant the saving of the city. Enter the flawed hero -- Batman.

Batman and the Struggle of Humanity
Batman is one of the best comic-book representatives of the duality of human nature. There is a large part of Bruce Wayne who wants to do what is good -- an expression of the image of God in all humanity. But there is another part that simply wishes to use crushing power to eradicate evil -- operating outside the law -- an expression of the sin nature. Even in his dark pursuit he evokes the sympathy due a victim. As a young boy, Bruce was forced to stand in an alley and watch as his parents were brutally gunned down by a common thief. Bruce wants vengeance -- and, unlike most of us, he has both the means and the will to pursue it.

Upon his parents' death, Bruce inherits Wayne Enterprises -- a mega-corporation -- instantly making him a billionaire. Unsatisfied by wealth, Bruce seeks to understand the criminal mind so that he can best defeat it. Along with brains, he needs brawn, so Bruce treks around the world being trained in the martial arts. He is given an opportunity to join the elite League of Shadows -- a vigilante organization sworn to eradicate evil. Initially drawn to the League, Bruce discovers that it is nothing more than the flip side of the criminals it seeks to stop. The League, acting as judge, jury, and executioner, lacks justice and compassion -- traits, Bruce notes, that should separate those who bear the sword from the wicked they pursue.

The internal struggle Bruce faces is externalized in Batman. He wants to do good, to give the citizens of Gotham City hope for relief from the rampant criminality that besets them. On the other hand, Batman does not merely want to stop villains; he wants to see them suffer. Sometimes his sins are of omission. As he tells one particularly bad man, "I won't kill you. But that doesn't mean I have to save you." That many in the audience find his methods viscerally satisfying says a lot about our own spiritual struggles.

Identity in Humanity
Despite the gadgets, the money, and the costume -- under all of it is merely a man, grappling with his own demons, trying to make sense of the world. Few people are like Bruce Wayne in resources, but many of us are like Bruce Wayne in introspection. We see a world devastated by sin. If we are even the least bit spiritually sensitive, we recognize that something has gone horribly wrong with the world that needs to be put right. In whatever comparatively small ways we can, we try to do good.

Batman represents that part of humanity struggling in the flesh to fix the world. But even here Batman's creator, Bob Kane (and, later, Frank Miller even more so), gets it right. Batman can't do it. Fans of the comic book series understand that Batman tries to be an immovable object pressed upon by the irresistible forces of evil that overrun Gotham -- a microcosm of our world. There is no false sense of ultimate triumph. No sooner is one catastrophe averted than another arises. The one mood that pervades the Batman universe is weariness. And that bone-tired feeling of being a step away from a final blow is something that all of us, at one time or another, have felt.

We resonate with Batman, because he is us.

What are Christians to Make of Batman?
Batman is not the answer, he is the expositor. In a bigger-than-life arena, he explores and exposes what many of us expect is true about the world. What Christians know is that the world does not need a superhero, it needs a Savior.

Films like Batman Begins provide Christians with excellent opportunities to talk about the fallen nature of the world, and of ourselves. We can talk about the seductive call of vengeance that we feel, even when the wrongs we suffer are minor. We can discuss the darkness that pervades our planet; all the while we are unveiling God's plan to redeem us and it. We were made for something better. That belief is the only reason we are able to recognize our twisted world for what it is -- temporary.

Batman Begins may be fiction -- but it points to important facts. In that way, the bleakness of much of the movie is more useful than the artificially upbeat tone of other super-hero films. Instead of standing on the sidelines, waiting for a kindly mutant to save us, Christians can take part in bringing light to dark places. And ultimately we need not be satisfied with occasional victories, because we know that one day good will truly triumph, and evil will utterly wither away.
Marc T. Newman, PhD (marc@movieministry.com) is the president of MovieMinistry.com -- an organization that provides sermon and teaching illustrations from popular film, and helps the Church use movies to reach out to others and connect with people.

http://news.christiansunite.com/Religion_News/religion02884.shtml

Additional information on ChristiansUnite.com is available on the Internet at http://www.christiansunite.com/
Copyright 2003 ChristiansUnite.com. All rights reserved.

(My Note:  No, I haven't seen the movie. This is simply a Christian article that I thought was interesting.)
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