On screen and on the page, superheroes have long offered insight into clashing ideas about justice and freedom. Should we work within the law to obtain justice, or go outside of it when conventional methods aren’t enough? Are courts and law enforcement the best judge of punishment? And what is the proper reaction when we’re faced with new, uncertain changes in our reality?
These are complex, important questions that, given the heightened political atmosphere these days, couldn’t be more timely. While Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice ought to be just the place to discuss them, in the hands of director Zack Snyder and writers David S. Goyer and Chris Terrio, that opportunity is wasted.
Superman was introduced on his first page as a “champion of the oppressed…sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need.” Those actions are a fundamental expression of his identity, an inalienable product of who he is. Lara and the Kryptonian scientist Jor-El loved him enough to help him break away from their planet, giving him a chance at life. The farmers Jonathan and Martha Kent raised him in a way that left him intimate with humility and human frailty. Combine those with the confidence that comes with knowing that great power is a simple fact of his anthropology, and Superman can't help but position himself alongside society’s powerless. Crime will always find him because he loves its victims.
Batman, on the other hand, does not act in response to people he loves. He acts in response to people he hates. At heart, he is still a child overwhelmed by loss and obsessed with lashing back against those that inflicted it upon him. Bruce Wayne (a name cobbled together by his writers so as to leave the reader with a fragrance of colonialism) created the Batman identity and fights crime in his home city so that he can re-shape the world as he sees fit. He was first introduced to readers as fighting a “lone battle against the evil forces of society,” and fighting that battle has always been the measure by which the character has justified his own existence.
For any Christian who cares enough about social justice to be reading Sojourner’s website, this raises a compelling series of questions: Are you working to make the world more just because you are confident that your Father loves the victims of injustice? Because your King voluntarily shared the plight of the humble? Because you know that the Spirit will make all things new and you want to be a part of giving people a foretaste of that now? Or are you pursuing justice because you’re afraid of what the world will look like if you don’t? Because you can’t see your own value if you aren't "fighting the good fight?"
No introductions necessary here, right? We all have been looking forward to this conclusion of the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman trilogy and I am happy to report that my excitement for the summer blockbuster has been satisfied.
The Dark Knight Rises takes the viewer to the eight-year anniversary of the death of Gotham's white knight, Harvey Dent. Despite knowing the dark truth about Dent's demise, Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) maintains the virtuous persona of the slain District Attorney while similarly honoring the reclusive behavior of the ailing and secretive heir, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale).
Batman, too, has been out of the spotlight in the years following Dent's death, having taken the blame for his demise in order to cover Dent's actions, but his absence is put to the test with the emergence of a new villain — the mercenary extraordinare, Bane (Tom Hardy), who brings the havoc and rage reminiscent of Wayne's former mentor, Ra's Al Ghul.
Batman is forced to re-evaluate his former relationships with Gordon, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), and his loyal butler, Alfred (Michael Caine). He also must learn whether to trust new people on the scene or not, including the successful (and fetching) thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), board member Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), and Gotham Police Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The rest you'll have to see for yourself.
In light of the tragic events which took place in Aurora, Colo., a few days ago, I feel uncomfortable providing a review of a film I was watching at the same time as the dozen souls who lost their lives in such an unfathomably awful situation. I’m sure that the emotions of excitement and anticipation that I felt in the days leading up to the film, as the previews rolled and as the opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises unfolded before my eyes, will forever be mixed with feelings of deep sadness and anger the senseless violence that descended in Colorado.
Through the lens of what happened last Friday, The Dark Knight Rises has, rightly or wrongly, taken on a new layer of meaning for me (and, I'd imagine, many other moviegoers). It is a film about the very darkest of times — when all hope seems lost, when there are no heroes — and what happens when we allow the worst of ourselves to take control.
But it is also a story about redemption. It is a tale of finding courage in the face of overwhelming adversity, in spite of overwhelming physical and spiritual suffering. Christian Bale’s Batman (and indeed his Bruce Wayne), is in some ways a more timid character, by comparison, to the Batman who saved Gotham City from The Joker's psychotic games in The Dark Knight.
Older, weaker, and yet not much wiser, in The Dark Knight Rises Batman/Wayne does not see the city that in which he has made himself a recluse, in the same way as its other citizens. We see a man out of touch with those he once had inspired, with many citizens of Gotham believing Batman to be a murderer (the ghost of Harvey Dent looms large throughout the film) or leaving him for dead.
He has nothing more to give to a Gotham where organized crime is a thing of the past, a city that no longer believes it needs a hero to protect it. Gotham, its leaders conclude, is doing just fine without "the Bat."
The video clip may be a bit grainy, but the message of a public service announcement about the federal Equal Pay law from 45 years ago feels thoroughly (and maddeningly) au courant.
Last week marked the 49th anniversary of the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
The vintage PSA, starring Batgirl (Yvonne Craig), Batman (Adam West), and Robin (Burt Ward) from the 1960s television series Batman, finds the "dynamic duo" in a familiar kerfuffle — tied to a chair in a "deserted warehouse on the outskirts of town" with a bomb ticking just out of reach.
BAM! Batgirl bursts through a door just in time to rescue them before the bomb goes off. But ... not so fast, fellas. First, Batgirl, resplendent in her purple body suit and mask, has a bone to pick with her male colleagues.
How many people wanted to be President of the United States when they were younger? I’d imagine quite a few. I certainly did, although I now realize that such an attempt would have resulted in something of a "birther" controversy.
As a kid, what made me want to be in such a position of authority wasn’t necessarily the power and prestige of the president. It wasn’t the White House, or Air Force One. It wasn’t even having the authority to pardon a turkey once a year.
It was the red phone.
You know the one. Commissioner Gordon has one for Batman. President Merkin Muffley has one in Dr. Strangelove (I’m pretty sure it’s red, even though it is shot in black and white). It was the phone you used to fix things. To call the superhero, or patch things up with an inebriated Soviet leader (what, you didn’t play Cold War when you were growing up?) That red phone was your hot line to solving whatever problem you were confronted with.
Today, I still want that red phone.
The Dark Knight, unlike many summer blockbusters, is actually an astonishing movie -- a stunning fusion of craft and entertainment, which manages to be both gripping in an edge-of-your seat fashion, and philosophically interesting. It's a violent film in which none of the brutality is played for the audience's pleasure, and although it's a comic book story, it takes place in a [...]